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