Turning The Tide Using Three Foundational Habits

The Gap.

The greatest gap in living a successful life is the habit gap, which is the distance between who you want to be and your routine. It is in this gap that we experience disappointments and frustration. This gap keeps us from our best performance by preventing us from tapping into our potential. The greater this gap, the less optimistic you face the future. I remember a few years ago, my credit card usage was through the roof. I was barely making the minimum payments. What was shocking was that I worked overtime in my regular job and had another part-time employment. My hard-working efforts to keep me from sliding into a financial turmoil seemed to gain no traction.

I was awoken by a report in my banking statement, which showed the earning-spending ratio. For the last few months, I had been spending way more than I was depositing. I wondered how that would have even been possible. I knew I had to do something before I got myself in deep and serious trouble. Upon examining and reflecting on my financial habits, I discovered a massive gap between what I did with my money and where I should have been financially. To close this gap, I had to pivot.

Pivoting

While my financial predicament provides a clear picture of the habit gap that was about to run me aground, habit gaps exist in all areas of our lives. I believe that we are either closing a habit gap or preventing one from forming. Think of habit gaps as weeds in a garden. A farmer must intentionally keep weeds out of the garden. We must also be deliberate about closing habit gaps. I believe the most effective way to way close any habit gap is through pivoting. Pivoting is making changes using specific skills to make a different experience. For a successful pivot to happen, we must clearly define the change we desire and choose the skills (tools) we must use.

Closing habit gaps and pivoting are extremely vital while facing a storm. They determine whether we come out of the storm better and stronger or worse and weaker. This is true as we face the storms of 2020, as it was true during the Great Depression, which produced many successful people. I believe that while we all have different habit gaps we need to close, there are three habits we must develop and maintain to be successful in the area of habits. I refer to them as primer habits. They are at the foundation of any habit we intend to make or break. Let’s look at each and see how we can apply each one in our lives.

1.     Asking for and giving help

“Until we can receive with an open heart, we’re never really giving with an open heart.” said Brené Brown.  Asking for help and helping others is the surest way to succeed throughout life. Despite being a person who loves to give, I concluded that not unless I learn how to ask for help and take it when offered, I will never be a good giver. I have also observed that many people fail to live their best lives because of rejecting help.

Often, we reject help because of fear. We fear being judged and worry about what people will think of us when we ask for help. The other thing that prevents us from asking for help is pride. But fear and pride only hold us back and make us captive of what we can overcome with a little help. Overcome any fear or pride of asking for help by reminding yourself that you ask for help because you want to be great.

I think that the first transformative questions that have the most significant impact on closing any habit gap and pivoting for a better future are, can you help me? Whenever you ask this question, you open up to new information and value locked in others. The second great question for closing habit gaps and pivoting is, how can I help? Frequently, we avoid this question because of a scarcity mindset. We assume we don’t have enough time or resources to change people’s situation. But what I have realized is that we reinforce good habits any moment we offer to help and follow through. For example, if you are struggling to save your money like I was, and you decided you will help others financially, you will soon realize that your money habits improve. Want to live a healthy lifestyle? Help someone have a healthier lifestyle. This works all the time. Try it.

It’s when you cultivate reciprocity by asking for and giving others help that you truly live a life of gratitude.

2.     Remaining grateful

I was surprised how quickly my income expanded when I became grateful for how much I earned. One major shift of attitude that helped reverse the downward financial spiral I was experiencing, was appreciating the little money I earned. Firstly, as a Christian (believing in God’s word), I remembered that I was a steward of the resources I received, including my income. I, therefore, honored God first by giving my tithe. And second, I promised I would show gratitude by giving to the needy. Remaining grateful enabled me to be mindful of my habits, break bad spending habits, and cultivate healthy wealth-building habits. Today, despite earning less because of being back in school, I am financially safe.

Being grateful opens the floodgates of other positive habits. Whenever you’re thankful for your body, you take care of it more; you often eat well and exercise periodically. Simply put, what you appreciate, appreciates. But it’s impossible to remain grateful if you don’t work on your faith.

3.      Feed your faith

Your level of faith determines your level of hope for a better tomorrow. People of faith build themselves up with good habits. People without faith self-destruct with poor habits. Feeding your faith is a major consequential factor when building or breaking habits. Without faith, you can’t be free from the cycle of bad habits. This is true in areas where we often don’t realize the vital role faith plays. Such as in personal finance.

To completely turn things around for my financial issues, I applied faith. I had to feed my faith continually. I fed my faith by finding people who had overcome financial setbacks. I believed and visualized a better financial future. And most importantly, I applied God’s word regarding money to my life. The approach of feeding my faith has worked for me in many areas beyond finances. It helped me develop healthy professional habits at work. Also, I have become a better person in my relationships because of it.

What habits do you want to break or develop? Start by having the foundational habit of feeding your faith. When your faith is growing, you will discover what I discovered, that you won’t be worried about facing challenges in life, since you will be focusing on getting better. Faith makes you better; therefore, feed it.

What’s Next…

I love encouraging people. And since this is where I am good at, I will ask you the important question we covered earlier, how I can help you through my writing? Suggest a topic in the comments section below that  will encourage you if I wrote on it. Next week, we will look at habits that we must avoid like a plague.

Why do you do what you repeatedly do?

Do you understand?

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do.” the great Apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul said, according to the book of Romans 7:15. Every time I read this part of scripture, I am always left baffled because of the contrast brought about between who Paul was and what he struggled with. Before becoming an apostle and as an apostle, his life can be summed up in two words; intentional and zealous. But we see that on reflecting on his actions, Paul concluded that he couldn’t comprehend his actions: Simply put, his will was at odds with his habits. And this, the will at odds with habits, is often the paradox we find ourselves. Like Paul, we find ourselves having the will to eat healthily and workout but end up eating fast-food and crushing in front of the TV. Other times we desire to walk by faith, but we find ourselves driven by fear. The gap between what we will do and what we do explains why changing habits is always an uphill battle. Paul, a man who, through the inspiration of the Spirit of God, wrote most of the New Testament of the Bible, does not only share in the struggle with habits, he provides an insight into habits. Despite him not understanding the what of habits, he understood the why.

The Roots

Paul understood that his inability to do good when he desired to was due to a law he refers to as the law of sin. He further understood that if he is going to do good or turn his good intentions into good actions, he needed a superior law, which he identifies as God’s law. Whatever your religion or faith is, we can all agree that two universal forces govern our behavior. We call these forces positive and negative forces. After interacting with many people who we don’t share a common faith with and some who completely deny God’s existence, I have come to believe that we all can acknowledge that our behaviors as humans are either as outcomes of positive energy or negative energy. Whether we use Paul’s phraseology and refer to the negative force as sin nature in us that produce destructive habits; or call the positive force as  God’s nature in us that shapes our lives and produce wholesome habits, we can attest that we have seen the impact of these forces in our lives. At the purest level of all habits, even those which look insignificant in shaping our lives, you will find that one of these two forces at play. These forces are the roots of all human habits; they are the substratum of intention that shapes our actions even when we are not aware of it. In addition, to being at the root of our habits, positive or negative forces act as the anchor to our personal beliefs, depending on which one we choose.

Personal Beliefs

We are the outcome of our personal beliefs. What you hold to be true about yourself and the world around you is what constitutes your personal belief, and that will shape your behaviors in profound ways. What you believe or not believe about yourself and the universe will determine all your actions and shape your habits. If your personal belief is that all things are possible for you, you will slowly and gradually build habits of courage and confidence. When you believe you have the final authority over your circumstances and situations you find yourself, you will develop empowering habits. On the other hand, if you have self-defeating beliefs, over time, you will have self-defeating habits.

Your beliefs shape our habits in three major ways. First, what you believe to be true or not, shapes the perception of the world around you. For example, if I believe that people are inherently good, I will perceive or sense the good in people. The opposite is true. If I believe that people are by nature, evil, I will always walk around seeing the bad side of people. Second, your personal beliefs will determine your knowledge input. We tend to learn more or acquire more information about what we believe to be true or beneficial and ignore what we believe to be untrue. Third, your personal beliefs act as the ceiling to your life’s impact. It is impossible to act above what you believe to be true. What you see as possible in life is directly proportional to the truths you hold.

To have good habits or turn bad habits into good ones, you must examine the root from which they stem. The good news is that there are only two roots, godly (good and positive) and ungodly (evil or negative) roots, as we saw earlier. Your environment will amplify your habits.

Environment

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, wrote, “Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior…over a long time period, your personal characteristics tend to get overpowered by your environment.”

We are wired to find the path of least resistance and identify clues that will make us achieve what our hearts desire. The environment is what provides the influencers with our habits. This affects basic human behavior such as what kind of food we farm or eat and what we consider sophisticated behavior like choosing to use a Mac or a PC computer. Your environment is either fostering or hindering your habits, whether they are good or bad. A simple act of surrounding yourself with people of positive personal beliefs could help you build good habits and break bad ones with ease. When you combine your positive personal beliefs with a good environment, or vice versa, negative personal beliefs with a bad environment, you will realize that your habits are atomic (powerful) and automatic. James Clear observed, “People who seem to stick to good habits with ease are often benefitting from an environment that makes those behaviors easier.” And we can conclude that when our environment is not designed to work for us, good habits will be an uphill batter and bad habits a downhill slither; we will struggle to succeed since our willpower will against of a poor environment.

The goal is to design your environment so that your good habits come easily and any bad habits become difficult to do.

Atomic Automation

There is no question that habits are powerful and determine our destiny in life. In fact, there is a popular quote that says, “Choose your habits carefully; they decide your future.” What makes habits powerful to the extent of which sometimes confuse our habits with our identity is because they are atomic and automated. Habits are atomic because they are so fine-tuned, like an atom, in our minds that they often are the base of the many behaviors we have. I am coming to believe that, more often than not, behind every behavior, there is a habit. Habits are, by nature, automated to aid us save energy. This can be a blessing or a curse. Good habits enable us to easily act on our good intentions while bad habits enable us to act badly against our good intention easily.

The atomic automation nature of habits is what gives habits a strong grip on us and makes us feel like our habits run our lives. While habits are powerful, we have power over them through our choices. But how do we choose habits? I believe the best way is to go back to the roots. I find myself struggling in breaking bad habits when I don’t apply the right procedure for choosing habits. The power of choosing our habits is the only way to overcome bad habits and build a good one. A further study of the life of Apostle Paul reveals that he understood the only way to have godly habits is to choose the roots based on the laws of God.

So, why do we do what we repeatedly do? The short answer is habits. The detailed explanation is the roots we establish our lives on (godly or evil roots), the personal beliefs we hold, and our environments.

What’s Next…

We live in an unprecedented time, with the pandemic raging and social injustice on the rise, we might feel powerless. I believe the best way to succeed is to fortify ourselves with good habits and break bad ones. Next, we will look at habits that can help us emerge better from the storm we are facing.

Relationships That Matters for Personal Growth

Social Distancing

Since a few months ago, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted us to change how we live in unimaginable ways. Nobody would have predicted that homeschooling would be the norm and wearing face masks mandatory while shopping at the local grocery stores. But of the many changes we have been made to make by the pandemic, nothing has been more profound as social distancing, a concept that’s contrary to the core element of what makes us social beings. Inasmuch as we increase our physical, social distance from each other, to prevent the spread of the virus, we should not neglect to cultivate the important relationships that help us improve. Now that I have to stay away from gatherings such as assembling with my church family for Sunday worship service, I have to utilize virtual meeting platforms such as Zoom or Google Hangouts to maintain the connections with people in my life. This made me realize that I can still forge and foster relationships that matter for my personal growth and development despite social distancing. My core belief is that to become better, we need to move closer to key people in our lives; people who by merely being around them our lives become better.  By being closer to movers-and-shakers, the eagles who fly high during the storm, such as we are facing, we benefit from the proximity principle.

Proximity principle

Do you want to maximize the “lucky” breaks in your life?  Do you want to go further in anything you do than you have ever gone? Do you desire to maximize your influence and the impact of your life? If your answers to these questions are yes, then you must be near where the acts of success are happening, which means you have to be close to people who are succeeding in whatever area you want to experience any success. I define the proximity principle as the distance between you and the people related to which determines the negative or positive impact they have on you. For example, if you are close to a person who has a positive outlook on life, you will soon have the same outlook. This works in areas of skills. If you want to improve your communication or writing skills, you should hang around people with these skills and you will notice an improvement. The great Michael Jordan wanted to be great and be in the class of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, so he cultivated personal relationships with these men. When Kobe Bryant came around as a rookie in the NBA, Jordan was the G.O.A.T., and in desiring to achieve greatness, he applied the proximity principle by cultivating a personal relationship with Jordan. What is the lesson here? If you desire to be excellent and successful, move near great people who will help you grow into greatness. How do you do this? By intentionally building relationships that matter for your personal growth. Here are three simple steps you can do starting today to benefit from the proximity principle.  

1.     Surround yourself with like-value people

Growing up, whenever I went to visit my grandparents, I enjoyed playing with fire, in the literal sense. I would sit beside a fireplace and periodically pull out a piece of burning coal from the grill and allow it to sit separated from the rest. I noticed that the burning coal I had pulled out would quickly go off. And whenever I put it back with the rest of the charcoals in the grill, it would continue to burn. My conclusion was that one coal needs to be amid other burning charcoals to fully release its potential. We can draw valuable lessons from this analogy of the burning charcoal to when people of similar values come together. First, the people who we surround ourselves with will determine the intensity of our passion. This is important, especially in achieving growth that leads to success in any life’s mission. Second, we can only reach our full potential in life when we are around the right people. Dr. John Maxwell advises, “The better you are at surrounding yourself with people of high potential, the greater your chance for success.” Third, only when other like-value people surround you can you do great things. Such as one piece of charcoal can’t cook food by itself, but requires a collective effort from many charcoals, you too can only achieve greatness when you collaborate with others. On top of my collaboration list are mentors and coaches. 

2.     Use mentoring and coaching

As you find your people, that is the like-value or like-minded people; I highly encourage you to use mentoring and coaching to aid you to grow exponentially. A mentor or a life coach is a person you are in a relationship with who intentionally guides you to see the strengths in you and help you tap into your potential.

All people who achieve great success have had mentors and coaches who helped them along the way. Coach Dean Smith, called a “coaching legend” by the Basketball Hall of Fame, was one of the many coaches who came alongside the legend Michael Jordan. Another coach was the renowned Phil Jackson, who enabled Michael to win six championships with the Chicago Bulls.

To have a great mentor coach relationship, keep this in mind. You must be ready to be corrected, want to get better, and have the ability to improve. “He (MJ) was very inconsistent” this was the initial assessment of Dean Smith on Michael Jordan when he started working with him. But the coach added, “He wanted to get better, and then he had the ability to get better.”

I believe it is when we surround ourselves with people whose values resonate with ours and work with mentors and coaches that we can become people of positive impact as the great MJ.

3.     Be a person of positive impact

The more I study successful people; I have come to recognize a simple yet profound principle on breaking limits in our life. All truly successful people have realized that giving of themselves in doing things that will positively impact others is the way to discovering new possibilities and breaking limits in their lives. This is not only true to the super successful people who we put on a pedestal as a society, but also true in our successes which don’t get camera attention. The first way to experience personal growth is to become a person of positive impact.  If you live a selfish life, only looking out for yourself, you can only go so far before sabotaging your progress. But to expand your growth at an exponential rate, and accelerate your progress towards success, you will need to find a way to live beyond yourself by giving to others. Giving our resources only opens our eyes to the depth of what we have. Selfish living limits us from getting more resources.

To be a person of positive impact, I possess these attitudes that I ask you to also have. I begin my days believing that I can make a difference in someone’s life. Every day I look for ways that I can add value to anyone I interact with. And when I see an opportunity to positively impact anyone, I immediately do it. If you possess these attitudes, you will find that you can do more great things than you thought possible. In the process, you will be cultivating relationships that matter for your growth.

What’s Next…

With this post, we have come to the end of our series on personal growth. Here is a quote to ponder on by quote by Jack Canfield, the author of Key to Living the Law of Attraction, “Make a conscious effort to surround yourself with positive, nourishing, and uplifting people; people who believe in you, encourage you to go after your dreams and applaud your victories.” The next series will be on habits.

Here are Effective Tools for Maximum Personal Grow

Greatest R.O.I

The only guarantee that you will be ready for future opportunities is by preparing for them today. Your level of readiness will determine your level of success in any endeavor. I have observed far too many people wishing for success but not realizing that unpreparedness is their greatest liability. Personal growth, the process of intentionally improving yourself, is the surest way to be ready for tomorrow’s opportunities and challenges. You will only be better tomorrow by growing today. The golden opportunities you are seeking are all contained within you. They are not in the external environment. iPhone and Apple Mac were in Steve Jobs before Apple became a name brand. Before Microsoft became the excellent computer interphase, we all use, it existed in Bill Gates. And before Amazon became the leading online store, enjoying the largest market share, it was in Jeff Bezos. Personal growth is the process that allows you to bring forth the greatness that God hid in you. Therefore, the greatest return on investment of your commitment to personal growth is a better future.

Power of Systems

If anything that 2020 historians will remember for 2020, it will be a year when systems were examined, questioned, and changed. In the wake of the death of George Floyd, the whole world was taken by a storm of civil unrest in demand for a change of systems. People from all corners of the world seem to have a collective acknowledgment that the many years of suffering caused by injustices could only be stopped by a change in systems that run our societies. For decades, systems that have facilitated racism, and the oppression of minorities cannot be allowed to continue if we want a better society. The millennials and Gen-Zs, who were the majority of the demonstrators filling the streets, seem to have comprehended one fundamental truth; for society to get better in the future, effective systems must be in place. This truth that a better future is dependent on a robust system is also applicable at a personal level. For us as individuals, we must set in place systems that will allow us to grow. Since growth is not an automatic process, and we should be intentional about it, we must arm ourselves with tools that will make growth easier. My goal with today’s post is to share three tools that successful people use for personal growth.

1. Design Thinking

I once read this quote by Jim Rohn that changed how I approach life, “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” I realized that my lack of planning for my future would lead me to coast through life being a victim of other people’s plans. I began to think like a designer, knowing that I have the power to shape my life and create a future; however, I desired.

Successful people have a designer’s mentality; they approach life as builders always keeping their blueprints at the forefront of their minds and consulting them often.  People who live a significant life don’t drift through life; they grow through life, enabled by design thinking.

This thinking style enables us to continually evaluate our day to day life (decisions, actions, and experiences) in reference to these questions; What do I want my life to look like? What do I have and need to build a life that I want? And what am I doing today that will get me to where I want to go in life? When we have this mindset, we tie our core beliefs and values to our goals and aspirations. Our life is marked by creativity, productivity, and positive change. It’s when we practice design thinking that we can unlock the next tool for personal growth, comprehensive questioning.

2. Comprehensive Questioning

I love to ask questions. If there is one thing that I am glad I didn’t lose from childhood is the boldness to ask a lot of questions. The only difference is that the quality of my questions has become better as I grow older. In his book, Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, John Maxwell says, “Asking questions is a great way of preventing mental laziness and moving ourselves out of ruts.” To that, we can add that questions unleash our mental strength that shows up as creativity. I have observed that people who are successful in any field have the ability or skill to ask questions with a deep desire to understand something (situation or a person) fully. I refer to this skill of asking questions as comprehensive questioning. They ask questions that lead to a deeper understanding of the situation they face.

Great questions that are comprehensive have four qualities. They are clear, concise, relevant, and purposeful. I abbreviate them in the acronym C.C.R.P. Growth questions must be clear. A clear question begets a clear answer. Breaking down complex questions into single-dimensional questions enables us to focus on a single idea or piece of the bigger equation. Second, great questions are concise. To achieve conciseness in asking questions, you must be intentional with words. Omit unnecessary words. The third thing you want with your questioning is to make them as relevant as possible. I have found that when I ask relevant questions; I get relevant applicable results in the area I want answers. Finally, a comprehensive question must be purposeful; which gives it value. You must achieve something meaningful with each question you ask. I believe that all purposeful questions in the area of personal growth must at least seek both innate and specific knowledge and stimulate thinking.

Questions are essential to experiencing a change in life. For maximum growth, we must develop the skill of asking great questions. The quality of your question determines the quality of your solutions. Tony Robbins stated, “Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” I believe that comprehensive questions activate the next tool for personal growth, systematic learning.

3. Systematic Learning

Albert Einstein once said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” How do you keep moving in life? By learning. You learn when you are willing to open up to new ideas and to expose yourself to new experiences. I believe that if you are optimistic about the future and expectant of a long life, you will desire to grow through life and not to drift through life. One person who was super optimistic about the future was Mahatma Gandhi, who advised, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” The greatest advantage of applying yourself to learning is that you will always remain relevant in the times you live. This is supported by Henry Ford’s observation, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” So, do you want to stay young? You must be intentional about systematic learning, which is having a system or method of learning key areas/things in life that will significantly impact your life.

I have devoted myself to learning in these four areas; self-awareness, relationships, life-experiences. What are you learning that will help you grow so that you are ready for tomorrow? Remember, never stop learning, for when we stop learning, we stop growing.

What’s Next…

One statement about Oprah Winfrey that encourages me to keep making adjustments to be who I need to be so at to get what I want out of life is, “We can’t become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” I believe that personal growth is how we move from where we are to where we want to be; It makes us be who we desire to be. Next, I will share how to use the one thing we all have to pivot our life’s experiences for exponential growth. 

G.O.A.L Setting for a Growth Experience

The Growth Gap

How many miles can you run per day, or how many books can you read in a month? Or how much money can you earn per year? The answers to these questions are dependent on how much you’re willing to stretch yourself. Your growth determines your level of performance and achievement. A few years ago, I made a goal to read one book (besides what I read for work) per month. I selected the twelve books which I would read for the year. But four months down, I found myself getting frustrated because I was falling behind my goal. Another time I made a goal to run a hundred miles per month and the same frustration of not hitting my goal set in when I realized I couldn’t make a hundred miles. Determined to achieve my hundred miles per month goal, I decided to give myself another month. What was different in the second attempt was that I did more miles than the first attempt. This was when I discovered something important that has made me, in the past, not successful in my goals. I realized a gap existed between where I was and the success I wanted to achieve in my goals. This gap is the growth gap. Lack of awareness of the growth gap leads to frustration and throwing in the towel when we experience the pains of achievement. Filling this gap begins with one desire.

The One Desire

I recently read The One Thing by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan. In this classic book, Keller and Papasan present a simple truth, simplifying workload by focusing on the one most important task in any given project is the secret behind all extraordinary results. This book has equipped me with the tool for boiling down everything I need to do to one thing, which, if I handle well, everything else will fall in place. I have applied this principle to achieve growth in all areas. When it comes to all my goals, I have discovered that the one thing I need to focus on is growth. And to bridge the growth gap, the singular desire that I must have is the desire to grow. The desire to grow in every experience you go through in life is the key to making all your experiences beneficial. Today, I will share with you four things you can apply to turn all your goals into growth experiences.

1. Growth mindset.

 In her book, Mindset, Dr. Carol Dweck, Ph.D. describes two types of mindsets, growth-mindset, and fixed-mindset. Dr. Dweck describes a fixed mindset as a self-perception or “self-theory” that people hold about themselves, which makes them believe that their basic qualities, like intelligence or talent, are fixed traits, and can’t be improved upon. Also, fixed-mindset people believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. On the other hand, she described the growth mindset as self-perception that makes people think that their basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work; intellect and talent are just the starting point. Growth-mindset people have a deep desire for learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Growth-mindset is the first important thing you must possess when you’re developing and setting your goals.

When you possess a growth-mindset at the front end of your goal setting, three major things will happen. First, you will set goals that will stretch you. Your current capabilities won’t limit you because you understand that you can always improve your skills and talents. Second, you will not be afraid to be challenged. Dr. Dweck’s research shows that people with a growth-mindset view challenges as exciting rather than threatening. So, when you have a growth mindset, you don’t think that challenges will expose your weaknesses, but reveal your strengths. Third, you will always have the right questions to ask for maximum growth. For example, Dr. Dweck says that questions such as, did I win? or did I lose?, after an experience are the wrong questions. Instead, the best question should be: Did I make my best effort? The difference between the right questions and wrong questions is the level of commitment to improve they ignite in you.

Growth-mindset is critical since it enables you to focus on effort and progress, which will be essential to stay focused on reaching your desired outcomes.

2. Outcomes.

One of the hallmarks of highly effective people, as outlined in Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is that they begin with the end in mind. In all endeavors, productive and successful people begin their journey with a clear understanding of their destination. They know the outcome they want to see. The second item to keep in mind for your goal to turn into a growth experience is defining your desired outcome.

To clearly determine the outcome you want, it means you have to know where you want to go, understand where you are now, and the reason why you want to change. When you have outcomes determined, three things will happen. Firstly, determining the outcome you want to see helps you count the cost and manage your resources well. Cost doesn’t necessarily mean money, but it could mean a system that you have to put in place or the relationships you must develop. When you predetermine your outcome, you focus your resources for maximum impact. Second, it will help you decide a course of direction and remain focused on it. Covey calls it, “making sure your ladder is leaning on the right wall.” Without clearly defining your desired outcome, you might become busy on things that won’t get you anywhere close to achieving your goals. Third, with an outlined outcome, you will know when you arrive at your key milestones. This makes it easier to celebrate and feel fulfillment along the journey to achieve your goals.

But the overall benefit of clearly determining your outcome or beginning with the end in mind is that you can set your attitude, which is the third critical element for turning goals into growth.

3. Attitude

While attitude cannot compensate for skills, it greatly uplifts how you do everything. Attitude is the mental posture that leans either on the positive or on the negative. When it leans on the positive, it becomes your greatest asset in achieving your goals. When it leans on the negative, it becomes your most expensive liability in anything you do.

Our attitude determines two essential things when it comes to turning goals into growth experiences. First, it allows us to understand that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we react to it. With a positive attitude, we accept this truth. With a negative attitude, we reject it; we begin to blame instead of taking responsibility for our outcomes. Second, our attitude determines our learning capability. The ability to learn from your experiences is the fuel to your progress. With a positive attitude, you will be able to stay longer and work harder on your goals. You will do what I refer to as going the whole-length.

4. Length

How far am I willing to go to see my dreams become a reality? This is the commitment question. After deciding on a goal, asking yourself this question enables you to count the cost  you are willing to pay on the journey to achieve your goal. To succeed, your willingness to stretch, to keep trying until it works, and dig deep into your resources, will need to be considered.

It’s not the absence of passion or hard work that keeps many people from succeeding but rather the lack of commitment. Often, when we set goals, we are blinded to the amount of time it’s going to take. So, when it takes longer than what we had anticipated, we throw in the towel. To avoid this pitfall, I always answer the how long question with as long as it takes. The reason I give such a bold answer is that I make sure with a growth-mindset, a clearly outlined outcome, a positive attitude, and a full-length commitment, I will experience success.

In summary, The only way to increase your probability of achieving your goals is by turning all your goals to growth experiences. It’s going to take a lot of sacrifices since sacrifice begets success. And there is no success without achievement. Success is the end-result, while achievement is skill, effort, and courage.

What’s Next…

In the next blog post, I will share with you three effective tools for personal growth.

What Must be in Our Life’s Blueprint by Martin Luther King Jr.

The Foundation

As a writer, I spend a substantial amount of time looking for the best ways to capture the attention of my readers. This was more important for today’s post because it’s an opener to a subject that holds the key to enabling us to reach our full potential. In the next four posts, we will cover topics on personal growth. Personal growth has the profound effect of unlocking our potential to become the best version of who were created to be. Growth is the foundation of all achievement and success. Whether you want to excel in a personal goal such as becoming the best artist or leader, or you want to see your business or organization become profitable, even yet, if you want to do something that positively impacts the society at large, personal growth is the bedrock for turning desires into results. Personal growth assures you that your future self will be better than your past and present self. When we devote to a lifestyle of growth and development, we have the means to live the life we eagerly long for and the incentives to live our best lives.

Means & Incentives

It’s not the lack of purpose that frustrates us, it’s the inability to fulfill our mission that does. It’s not the inability to set a goal and start it that makes us feel powerless; it is looking at the goals that we set and started but didn’t complete that drains our passion. Person growth provides the means to fulfill our purpose and accomplish the goals we set. And the incentives of personal growth is increased capacity to fulfill our purpose and attain success in life. Your life’s purpose and the things that you would like to do that will bring you great satisfaction, demand you increase your capacity by committing to a life of growth.

Our greatest hindrance to committing to personal growth and development is lack of or having a life’s blueprint that’s not well thought out. The legendary civil rights leader, the late Martin Luther King Jr., speaking to students who were graduating in Philadelphia, provided them with three pillars, which he believed were essential to a life’s blueprint. Even though Dr. King didn’t mention personal growth in his speech, I believe that these pillars are important to a blueprint that will lead to a lifetime of growth.

1. A deep belief in your own dignity, worth, and somebodiness

The first pillar to our life’s blueprint, according to Dr. King, was a deep belief in one’s dignity, worth, and uniqueness. This pillar hit on three crucial elements that are at the root of personal growth and development: self-worth, purpose, and significance. The third law of growth, The Law of the Mirror, from Dr. John C. Maxwell’s book, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, states, “You must see value in yourself to add value to yourself.” Dr. King emphasized the necessity of us having a deep belief in our own dignity or self-worth. He understood that we couldn’t grow if we don’t see our true worth. When we see our value, we discover our purpose. I have observed that people who have found their purpose in life actively seek ways to develop themselves. They understand that their purpose is always higher than where they are. Therefore, they need to grow to fulfill their purpose. A clear observation of anyone’s purpose, including yours and mine, uncovers another truth. A purpose-driven life always achieves to live a life of significance. Once we fully or deeply believe our own dignity, worth, and somebodiness (a word coined by Dr. King), we activate the second pillar in our life’s blueprint, a determination to achieve excellence in all our endeavors.

2. Determination to achieve excellence in your endeavors

A question I have recently been asking myself is this: What is one thing that I can do or can be doing that I could be considered a world-class in? As I explored this question, I discovered one important truth. Whatever anyone can do to be considered a world-class, there must be an element of excellence in his or her work. But excellence doesn’t come naturally. We have to strive to be excellent. I believe this is why Dr. King said it must be a determination to achieve excellence in all endeavors. 

When we have a determination to achieve excellence woven into our being, three things will happen. First, we will always be optimistic and determined to improve anything we do. Second, we will have a never give up spirit. We will always see anything through to the end, no matter the degree of difficulty. Third, we will always stand out. In a world where competition is fierce and full of mediocre work, the only way, which has always been the best way to move above the pile is to be excellent in any work you get to do.

There is only one secret to achieve excellence, which is tucked in a Bible verse that says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). All your might means all effort or strength, which includes your mind, soul, and body. To do this, you have to possess an attitude that another Bible verse tells about. It says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for God, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23). Why God? Because when your work is connected to a power greater than you or something supernatural, that’s when your work will make a difference. Dr. King promised that when we have the determination to achieve excellence in our endeavors, then not only will the world respond, but even heaven and the heavenly host will notice. But the determination to achieve excellence is not going to be possible without the third pillar in our life’s blueprint, a commitment to the internal principle of beauty, love, and justice.

3. Commitment to the internal principle of beauty, love, and justice

It is impossible to grow consistently and fully benefit from your growth plan if your mind is jammed with negative thinking. This third pillar that Dr. King pointed to is instrumental in orienting our minds to positive and power thinking.

People such as Dr. King, Mahatma Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela who fought inequality and sacrificed much for their fellow countrymen to be awarded a fair playground for their economic and social prosperity, not only had a commitment to the eternal principle of beauty, love, and justice, they also committed to growth. They understood that only when we have an eternal perspective of beauty, love, and justice, can we have hope. And where there is hope, there is positive thinking as well.

What are these eternal principles? The eternal principle of beauty is understanding that you’re beautiful, and everyone else is as beautiful as you are. About love, know that God loved us first, and we are to love one another. And justice is knowing that everyone is to be treated with fairness. This third pillar allows us to live beyond ourselves. It enables us to grow and desire growth for others.

In summary, it’s important to examine what’s in your life’s blueprint carefully. In essence, you need to see whether the foundational principles you live by are allowing you to grow or preventing you from growth. The litmus test for growth is how you handle life’s challenges and the quality of your relationships.

What’s Next…

Once we have our blueprints ready, we move to build our best lives as we desire and deserve. Next, I will show goal setting elements that will ensure you grow with every goal you set. Until next time. Stay safe.

This will prevent you from living a life of significance!

Maximum Security

What’s one thing in your possession that you believe must be completely protected? A place where anything that comes in must be carefully examined? The wisest man, the third king of the kingdom Israel, King Solomon, gave us the answer to this question in his proverbs. He advised, “Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it flows the issues of life.” King Solomon was simply saying that our hearts must be under maximum security at all times because it’s out of our hearts that we do and become who we are. This means that an average or a significant life begins from the heart. Therefore, nothing should be allowed in our hearts that will jeopardize our best lives. Why is the heart so powerful that it has the ability to shape who we are? Luckily, we don’t have to search far to get the answer to this question as Solomon, with his heavenly wisdom answered it as well when he wrote, “For as the man thinks in his heart, so is he”. Solomon provided a principle that still eludes many to date. We don’t think with our minds. We think with our hearts. At least the kind of thoughts leads to decisions, those which shape who we are.

I know, we have been taught that it’s the mind that thinks and we have believed. While there is truth to this, I believe it does not give us the whole picture of how we think. The mind is a processing center for data. Data we received from our external environment through the five senses and also data we receive from the heart. The heart, that is our soul, is what makes decisions. Until we accept this truth, it will be impossible to fully live a life of significance, because living or failing to live a life of significance starts with the heart.

My goal in today’s write up is to show the single most dangerous habit that has prevented many people not only from achieving personal success but has also hindered many from tasting a life of significance. This is poor thinking.

A Potent Habit

Recently, a friend posted this question on a platform I frequent, “What habit(s) can one develop during the ongoing COVID-19 quarantine, that will make them valuable as a person?” On spending a few minutes pondering on the question, I landed on one habit that if developed and nurtured, it’s potency will be astronomical, and its influence will be so wide; it will positively impact every person who you will come into contact with. My reply was power thinking. The habit of thinking positive and solution-oriented thoughts is what I refer to as power thinking. I believe that everyone who achieves to live a life of significance must have power thinking as one of his or her core habits.

The opposite is true. People who fail to achieve success or significance have developed the negative habit of poor thinking. Poor thinking is the single most dangerous habit that can prevent you from living a life of significance.  It is so potent that it makes men/women live beneath their potential all their lives. 

Poor thinking is the single most dangerous habit that can prevent you from living a life of significance.

Poor thinking is characterized by three groups of thoughts. First, thoughts that recall a dark past. Poor thinking will only make you see and focus on the negative experiences that happened in the past and distort your judgment of the future. Second, thoughts that paint hopelessness in the present. Poor thinking will make a person feel like there is nothing they can do at the present moment to make things better for themselves and for others. Third, poor thinking is characterized by thoughts that forecast a defeated future. When poor thinking has become a habit, it is impossible to think of a bright future. This is contrary to the kind of thinking that leads to significant living.

To serve others, which is the gateway to a life of significance, your thoughts of the past must help you get the best of the past by learning from your past experiences. Your thoughts of the present must be thoughts that help you find hope because it’s when you are hopeful that you find solutions to problems you might be facing.  Most importantly, your thoughts of the future must be inclined to victory and not defeat.  But as we have seen above, the mind is the gate to our heart. Poor thinking habits prevent people from living a life of significance by primarily making the heart susceptible to three major lies. 

The Three Lies

  1. You have to wait for the perfect time to do something that makes a difference. Often this is the biggest lie that robs people from opportunities to make a difference.  I have realized that in life, the most opportunities to do something that positively impacts others comes at the cost of our convenience.  Those who overcome this lie have developed their instinct to act as soon as they see a need. Always remember that the perfect time to make a difference is when you stand before a need. Never wait for a perfect time.
  2. Only big actions can make a difference. We undermine the small acts that we can do with what we have. We forget that it is the small things in life that make the greatest difference. Mudslides are not initiated with big rocks, but rather with tiny sand granules. As the ancient adage says, “A thousand-miles journey begins with a single step” so does living a life of significance begin with small acts of kindness and love.  While it’s true big actions can make a huge difference, they are not the only ones that make a difference. If you pay close attention, it’s the small actions that beget what we view as big actions. So, don’t devalue the small acts you can do with what you have by waiting to do big things, start where you are with what you have.
  3.  Only new undertakings or new ideas can make a difference. The keyword to the above and this lie is the word ‘only’. There is nothing wrong with new ideas. But often most of the time we end up spending far too much time trying to come up with something new that we end up doing nothing. When it comes to serving, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We can do what is already being done but add a little of our God-given touch to it.  Don’t sit around and wait to find something new to do to make a difference. Do ordinary things in an extraordinary way and you will surely touch people’s hearts.

Now that we have seen that poor thinking is the major blockage to a life of significance, let’s examine our lives and see if there is an area where poor thinking could be threatening our progress. If we have bought into any lies, let’s find the truths and apply them. To completely remain alert to poor thinking, I constantly remind myself of the overarching truth about thinking, which is this, the lifeblood of my thinking is in the heart and my mind is a data processing center that supports my heart to think. The product of my thinking determines whether I will live an average life or a significant life.

What’s Next….

Napoleon Hill, the author of ‘Think and Grow Rich’, is quoted saying, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” While we face adversity brought about by the ongoing COVID19 pandemic, we also have an excellent opportunity to grow and benefits. That is why, in the next few posts, we will cover the topic on personal growth. But before then, here is a question to ponder on. What three areas of your life, if you intentionally invest in developing and growing, would you see the highest return on your investment?

Moving from Average to Significance

Opportune Time

The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the normalcy of life has been unprecedented. Its havoc will be felt for years to come, and the changes it will leave in its wake, without question, will be of the scale of the World Wars or The Great Depression, if not greater.  While there is no doubt that pandemics of such magnitude will negatively impact lives, there is another side of the coin that we shouldn’t miss, which is, out of this pandemic will come an opportunity to get better. Despite what’s happening now, the world will be better, nations will find innovative ways to their healthcare systems, and you and I, as individuals, can rise out of the current situation better than we got in. As we are doing our best to curb the spread of COVID-19, there is one thing that we all can do to make the best out of the uncertain times we live. We can choose a life of significance by doing things that make a difference in the life of others. Today’s post is a roadmap to show you how to achieve a life of significance at the opportune time we live in today.

A Call to Significance

I am not sure what you believe concerning the origin of man on earth. Whether you believe in the Big Bang Theory or like me, you believe that all creation was originated  by God, one thing we can agree on is that man was not created to live an average life. I believe that we (humans) were created in the image and likeness of God. From this, I realize that my life has meaning and can be of significance. A life of significance is a call to live above average; It is to live our full potential by serving others.  I am convinced that if you are reading this, you are living in the opportune time and have the opportunity to live above average. So, let’s dive in and see how we can move from ordinary or average to extraordinary or significant.

1.     Desire to add value to others

The journey to a life of significance begins in the heart of a man who truly desires to add value to people. Adding value to others is the first step towards a life of impact. Without bringing value to the table of life, it’s impossible to realize your full potential for success. The level of value you bring determines the level of success. The good thing is that we all have the ability to bring value into the world if we realize one fact. Everyone you have ever interacted with has a that you can meet. Realizing this fact made me understand something else, that all around me there are opportunities to add value and I have the chance to take the first step of living a life of significance.

To live a life of adding value to others, I have been applying five principles I learned from Dr. John C. Maxwell, author of Intentional Living: Choosing a Life That Matters, which are; first, I value people no matter who they are. Second, I think of ways to add value to the people I interact with. Third, I look for ways to add value to the people around me. Fourth, I do things that add value to people. Fifth. I encourage others to add value to people.

When it comes to things I can do that brings value every day to others, I am guided by the acronym T.E.S, which stands for Teach, where I ask myself what have I learned or still learning that’s valuable that I can teach someone else. Encouragement, where I ask myself who is one person, I can encourage to achieve their goals. Support, where I ask myself in whom can I invest my time and resources to assure their success. T.E.S has allowed me to discover the second step to living a life of significance, which is a make-a-difference mindset.

2.     Make-a-difference mindset

A make-a-difference mindset is what transcribes from your heart through the desire to add value to others and find actionable things you can do to fulfill those desires. Make-a-difference mindset is about filling your mind with thoughts of possibilities. It’s about intentionally dwelling on thoughts that are positive and promises a positive outcome and it always looks for solutions.

Three things will determine if you will have a make-a-difference mindset or not. Your faith, food, and fellowship. Your faith is about what you believe. If you believe in the impossible possibilities, your faith will be great and that will positively impact your mindset.  Your food is about what you feed your soul, spirit, and your body. Choose the highest quality food to feed those three areas of your being. Finally, your fellowship is about the company you keep. Your friends, the books you read, and what you listen to, will have a positive or negative impact on your mindset.

Armed with a make-a-difference mindset, you are able to possess a first responder and second-miler attitude that repels people who choose to live an average life. This attitude is the third step of significant living.

3.     First responder and Second-miler attitude

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic it’s easier to see this kind of attitude. While it’s easier to think about the firemen/women, the emergency medical team, and the police force as the first responders, it might not be so obvious to see this attitude in some people who in history we might consider significant. People like Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, or Mother Teresa possessed the first responder-second-miler attitude. If you study their lives you will see that they all showed up first and went the extra mile. Even when you evaluate the people in your life who made a great positive difference in your life, you will see this attitude in them. For me, I have seen it in my parents, my friend David who has helped me become a better person for the last thirteen years, and in my pastor at my local church. This attitude is only possible when we become selfless. The greatest outcome of this attitude is that it makes us do the impossible in servicing others by producing in us what I refer to as the rubber-band ability.

4.     Rubber-band ability

The fourth and final thing that constitutes living a significant life is having a rubber-band ability. This is the ability to make things happen when you have to be stretched. As the name suggests, you stretch yourself to come through for others. This ability is possible when the first three items we have covered, desire to add value to people, make-a-difference mindset, and a first-responder-second-miler attitude, have become part of your DNA. I don’t have a trick for you to do to have this ability other than practicing the first three. I can promise you though, once you start practicing them, this ability will become natural in you.

What’s Next…

Next week I will share with you some of the hindrances to living a significant life and how to overcome them. But before then I have a question for you to ponder on. What would life look like for you when you start living a life of significance? Answering this question will help you have a vision of life above where you’re today. Try it.

Marks of a Life of Significance

Ordinary people

Marilyn Gambrell is a name that you might not have heard before, but the lives she touched and changed is uncountable. She came into the children’s lives in her community, whose parents were incarcerated, showed them love, and gave them hope. As a parole officer, Marilyn had witnessed many children torn away from their healthy lives when their parents went to prison. She realized that there was no way a circle of violence would end if parents were not in the lives of their children. With parents in prison, she saw the need to stand in the gap as a parent and a guardian to children of strangers. This led her to start a program she referred to as No More Victims at the M.B. Smiley High School in Houston, Texas, where forty percent of the students had an incarcerated parent. The program was designed for the main purpose of stopping the cycle of violence in her community by preventing the children from following the steps of their parents. This mission made her change hats from a parole officer to a teacher.

While Mother Teresa is a name that you might easily recognize, her life, before becoming a global icon and her name recognized by people from all walks of life, was fairly  ordinary. She was an ordinary young girl from Vilayet of Kosovo present-day Macedonian, who, at a very young age, was fascinated by stories of missionaries and their service in India. By the age of twelve, Mother Teresa believed that she should commit herself to her catholic religious life. By the age of 19, she had left her home and family to live a life of missionary and service in India, where she spent the rest of her life. A life that she spent among the most impoverished population in India, serving them. The lives of Marilyn Gambrell and Mother Teresa can only lead us to this conclusion; a life of significance is possible with ordinary people like you and me and can only begin when we decide to do something significant for other people.

What is a life of significance?

With the backdrop of the lives of these two ladies, it’s easier to define what a life of significance is. Living significantly means doing something that makes a significant difference with your life. It is going above expectations, giving generously, and serving selflessly. Having a significant life is neither about being the wealthiest nor the most skilled person. It’s not about material possession but rather an attitude and posture of the heart. Neither Ms. Gambrell nor Mother Teresa could have been considered the most successful people in terms of material possession; what they did with their lives is remarkable and, without a doubt, significant. While success is you winning, significant living is focused on helping others succeed.

As it is true that we all can achieve a life of significance, we will spend the next few weeks examining aspects of a significant life. First, in this post we will dive in and look at three  marks of a significant life. Second, I will walk you through on how to lead such a life (second post), and third, I will show you some hindrances to living significantly (third post). That is our roadmap on the topic of significant living. So, let’s get started with marks of a life of significance.

1.    Purpose

It’s impossible to find a person who lives a significant life and doesn’t have a purpose. Purpose, that is, living with a predetermined why for living, is the first mark of a life of significance. If you look back in history, to people who have significantly contributed to their communities, you will find that they all have a clear purpose. They seem to have fully embraced this W. Clement Stone quote, “Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement.”

Lack of clarity of purpose is a major difference between people who live a significant life and those who don’t. Often, it’s not the lack of opportunities and resources that make people live an average life, but it’s the absence of clearly defined purpose. Without being intentional about living a life of significance, which we described as living in such a way that helps others win, , we end up misusing the opportunities and resources given, and thus showing our ugly side. But when we have a purpose in life clearly defined, we not only use opportunities and resources to make us successful, we also help us win.

How come many people go through life without finding their purpose while it seems those who live a significant life find theirs sooner in life and live it? How do they do it? The answer lies in an old approach to living; a life of service. People who move from ordinary to significance have understood one thing: True human purpose can only be revealed when one decides to serve others. This is why the only purpose that leads to a life of significance is that which is connected with helping others. And this explains why service is the second mark.

2.    Service

While purpose is the call to a significant life, service is the gateway. Those who ever achieve some level of significance are known for their service. Whether it’s a mother who tirelessly works to feed her family, a soldier who put his or her life on the line for our country, or a lady like Marilyn Gambrell, who starts a program that serves the unmet needs in the community.

The great thing about serving is that we all can serve. To this point, the late great civil rights movement torchbearer, Martin Luther King, Jr. is quoted saying,” Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Serving people is the highway to a great life. It is the key to finding your true self, discovering your talents, honing your creativity, and maximizing your potential. Mahatma Gandhi said it well when he said that the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. To serve others and to place yourself on the road to a significant life, find a need and meet it with excellence, be willing to be called upon for help, and always maintain a positive attitude when dealing with people. This way, the third mark of a life of significance will be evident; progress.

3.    Progress

People who are living to help others win by serving are progress-oriented; they have a progress-oriented mindset. They are continually moving forward. Their lives seem to never stop due to challenges or setbacks; they are like a river; they always find ways to keep moving.

Progress marks their lives because of their purpose and service. Individuals who live a life of significance are under a constant pull to fulfill their purpose, which is always bigger than themselves. Their dedication to service has enabled them to possess a rubber-band ability in meeting the needs of others. Their commitment to personal growth is not only the key to their progress, but it is their primary vehicle to a life of significance.

In summary, a clearly defined purpose, a commitment to serving others in whatever capacity, and a drive to make progress are the marks of a life of significance. A life of significance is the highest way to live because it is a life beyond oneself: It is the only way to be truly great.

What’s Next…

Before the three marks of a life of significance we have covered become evident in anyone, there is a process that must be in place first. Next week I will show you that process; the steps it takes to live a life of significance. Before then, here are three questions for you to ponder on. What’s one thing that you believe if you do it, will make a significant difference in someone else’s life? What’s preventing you from doing it? What’s the simplest thing you can do now to help you achieve that significant act?

A life of significance awaits you.

Sam.

The Art of Traveling Light: Managing Expectations.

Disappointments.

Image from: https://depositphotos.com/stock-photos

Three questions for you, what do you expect of yourself, other people around you, and the outcomes in your life? Answering this question thoroughly will reveal that disappointment is at the heart of expectation, but also, expectations and disappointments are at the heart of success. Whether we are aware of it or not, there exists a tension between expectations and disappointments that affect how we interact in the three areas covered in the questions above, ourselves, others, and outcomes (or results). While others preach against expectations and others for it, I believe that the issue is not whether we have expectations or not, but it’s filling the expectation gap that we must address in our lives. As much as we would like to get rid of disappointment as a result of expectation, it’s impossible to live without expectations and the tension they create. So, how do we manage our expectations for a better life? The answer lies in understanding what’s at the substratum of expectations and having the best approach on the three major areas expectations have a great impact on us. 

Expectation modulators 

Great athletes, successful entrepreneurs, and transformational leaders, all have one thing in common, they believe in the impossible, their vision is big and clear, and their life experiences always make them better. On the other side, people who give up, who destroy their opportunities, and live a selfish life, have no vision, have negative beliefs, and their life experiences always seem to be wasted. These two groups of people clearly go through life with different sets of expectations; the former have positive expectations while the latter have negative expectations. What’s evident is that their expectations, regardless of being positive or negative, have three pillars, belief systems, vision, and life experiences. These three lays at the core of all our expectations. They shape our expectations as follows: Your belief systems dictate what you view as truth, your vision determines posture and attitude towards the future, and your experiences are a source of knowledge that determines your actions. So, if you are to manage your expectations, you must do it in line with your beliefs, vision, and experiences, for these are what modulate your expectations. 

With the understanding of what’s at the center of our expectations, I would like to examine the three areas I have referred to already where expectations have the greatest impact. Let’s get started. 

1.     Expectations of self 

My current work allows me to interact and mentor college students. Whenever senior students learn of my previous work in the life sciences sector, they normally approach me to help guide them in pursuing careers in life sciences. The first thing I normally ask them is this, where do you see yourself in two or three years? And, what are you good at apart from academics? I ask them these questions to assess how they see themselves and how they see their future. How we see ourselves and how we view the future both set and shape our self-expectations. 

What we expect of ourselves greatly determines our personal success. If you expect less of yourself, you put less effort to elevate your current you to your future you. But when you expect more of you, you find ways to live up to your expectations. I remember the day I started expecting more of myself. The day was when I realized that I had the potential to be anything I put my mind to. Looking back, I credit much of my academic and personal growth success to expecting more of myself. I can assure you that the moment you raise your self-expectations, you will start experiencing increased success because I have seen that having a positive self-expectation of oneself is the beginning of living an intentional life. When we have expectations, we avoid the trap of living a life of drifting. Drifting through life is the gateway to living a life that’s out of control and is contrary to traveling light in life. 

While it’s true that I have experienced a few disappointments with my self-expectations, the times I failed to live up to my expectations, it is also true that I have learned to better set practical and realistic expectations. Just because you failed to meet one or two of yourself-expectation does not call for you to give up on setting expectations that will take you to your destiny in life; that will make you become better every day. The key to being successful at meeting your self-expectations is to set them in alignment with your values, vision, and wisdom you have gleaned from reflecting on your experiences.  Also, make sure your expectations are set a little above your abilities to create a growth tension. Not below or at the same level with your abilities since you won’t grow but also not too far above your abilities since you might be overwhelmed. Once you are successful with self-expectation, it becomes easier with how you handle expectations of others. 

2.      Expectation of others 

While setting our expectations on other people can be a huge source of disappointments, I am convinced that it does not always have to be the case. If you examine your life, you realize that there are people who expected something of you, and it is those high expectations that made you succeed. Stephen R. Covey, the author of ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, is quoted, “Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.” What Covey was insinuating was that our expectations of others can shape who they end up being. If I expect you to be a bad person, I will in the end receive what I believe from you, bad. But when I expect goodness from you, I will receive goodness. The catch here is that it takes time. While, I don’t want to be naïve and ignore the fact that often, people will always do what they want despite  our expectations, the question we have to answer is, how can we manage our expectations of others so as to not remain in a state of disappointment? 

I believe the answer to the question of avoiding being disappointed by people breaking our expectations is to do three things. One, set a positive, practical, realistic expectation on people despite their history. People are generally good and desire to be good. Not having the least positive expectation of people or worse, expecting negativity from people is a great contributor to bad relationships. Second, having faith in people. If you want people to live to your positive, practical, realistic expectations you must have faith in them. It is only when you have faith in people that they will put effort to live to your expectations. Third, you become a connector to people. Connect people to resources that will help them reach your expectations. Once you learn to manage your expectations of other people in addition to your self-expectations, you increase the odds to live up to life’s expectations of your efforts, outcomes.   

3.     Expectation of outcomes 

A man who expects nothing receives nothing. I disagree with those that believe that the way to free yourself from disappointment is to forget expectations. I believe if you live a life free from expectations, especially expectations of certain outcomes in your life, you end up getting everything else apart from what you really want. Your life becomes a yank-yard.

Regardless of your background or where you want to end up in life, managing your outcome-expectations is tied to one thing, faith in a better future. So, it’s not the size or nature of what outcome you expect out of life that matters, rather, it’s whether whatever outcome you desire will better your future. 

In summary, the golden rule to managing any expectation in our lives is to align all your expectations with a vision of your best future: Expect your best version, the best out of people, and the best possible outcomes. 

What’s Next….

In the next series, we will be looking at how to live a life of significance. But before then, here is a question to ponder upon, are your expectations limiting you or expanding you?