Five frogs are sitting on a log and four decide to jump off. How many are left?
The answer is five, because a decision is not action.
It’s a silly little riddle to uses to motivate, but it illustrates one of the central challenges of personal development: We all want to be, do and have more, but how many will pay the price: to act?
Yes, right now going outside is a risk and the global economy is transforming in painful ways. As shut-ins, we’re having trouble finding motivation. Maybe it would be easier to coast? But how much is sitting on the log costing you? Or, to flip it, what could you gain if you acted now to be, do and have more? The whole world is unraveling, but it turns out a crisis is full of opportunity.
PART I: Why Grow Now?
“The price of inaction is far greater than the cost of making a mistake.” —Meister Eckhart
For some, hunkering down and waiting for the storm to pass might seem like the best way to meet this crisis. In reality, it’s the most dangerous. Hope is not a strategy; action is the antidote to almost every challenge. Want to beat this pandemic and thrive? Then it’s time to act. Here’s why.
- Times of disruption are ripe with opportunity.
“Be greedy only when others are fearful.” —Warren Buffett
Ask a CEO how to kill a giant, and they’ll tell you that to compete with the likes of Microsoft, Apple and Google, the only game in town is to get disruptive. We can do the same in our own lives and careers, whether we run a business or not—and what person is not the CEO of their own “company”?
This lockdown is an invitation for us to grow—to seize the opportunities created by radical shifts in business-as-usual. For you, this might mean finally launching that new health product, or finding a new way to help the boss.
- Times of disruption are full of danger.
“All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth.” —Niccolo Machiavelli
Yes, opportunity abounds, but if nothing else, this pandemic has shown us that nobody’s job is secure. Thought your work was an essential service? Fate has a way of humbling us, doesn’t it? This warning is not to scare you, but hopefully to get you to see that nobody is entitled to a salary.
In the long term, you are o paid for the value you can create. When you start treating your career as a business, with you as its CEO and captain of the ship, and plan your success accordingly, your financial vitality will grow.
- We’ve been benched—make the most of it.
“Patience is also a form of action.” — Auguste Rodin
Smart athletes who are sent to the penalty box don’t waste time sniping the referee. The great ones ask how did I put myself here?—then study their opponents for opportunities. They are always learning.
One guarantee in life is that you will be stuck in The Waiting Place more than a few times. Right now, we can’t go have a beer at a Pub or get a haircut. Matric Dance and even handshakes are canceled.
The appropriate response here is: Accept it and move forward where you can. Don’t squander this time on the bench with TV, anxiety, stress or fear. Instead of one more episode of Shark Tank, why not spend that lunch hour reading a life-changing article or book? Working with a coach? Journaling about your goals?
- If you’re not focused on you, you’re focused on the noise.
“Focus on what only you can do. Give the rest of it away.” —Elise Mitchell
Are we flattening the curve? Has the virus peaked? Is the supply chain broken? (If you’re still eating bananas and drinking coffee, the answer is no.)
For most people the healthiest response is, that’s not my concern. Unless you’re a titan of industry, elected politician, epidemiologist, or own a cargo ship or two, you have little to no influence over those things. “I need to read the news daily so I can be informed!” some say. That’s a valiant notion, but ask whether the news just angers you or moves you to act?
Stop. Every minute of attention that you focus on events outside of your influence is a minute you’re not investing in your personal growth and happiness. Be a Stoic: Focus on what you can control and ignore the rest.
PART II: Create Your Growth Strategy
“It is more important to know where you are going than to get there quickly. Do not mistake activity for achievement.” —Isocrates
2020 will surely be remembered as the most rapidly changing year in our lifetimes. Once you see the opportunity that this shift is laying at our feet, you’ll want to act. But jumping in without a plan is a bad idea.
You can’t hit a target that you can’t see, so it’s important to set your goals, then create a plan that will give you the best chance of reaching them. But how do you actually do that? And what should you focus on? Here are some excellent tools that will help you craft your master plan.
- REFLECT on your life.
“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” —Carl Gustav Jung
When a CEO or politician first steps into the role, they don’t immediately start barking out commands. They focus their first days and weeks on briefings and key meetings that will allow them to get a lay of the land. When it comes to your own life and personal growth, it would be a bad idea to get busy without having a clear picture of reality.
Reflection means holding a mirror up to a situation (or ourselves) so that we can see reality clearly. And the best way to reflect on ourselves is through a journal. The act of writing down your anxieties and fears, your hopes and dreams, or simply reviewing your day, will bring sharp clarity to your life. When we reflect on our lives though the act of journaling we gain the clarity to see where we may be living out of alignment with our highest values and how to fix that.
- CULTIVATE a growth mindset.
“There are no limits. There are only plateaus.” —Bruce Lee
There are two types of people. Those with a fixed mindset believe that we’re born with a finite amount of talent, and trying to improve ourselves is futile. They believe that the best strategy is to avoid mistakes at all costs in order to look good.
But if person adopt a growth mindset, knowing that the solution to every problem is either within us or in a book, a magazine, an inspiring video or the mind of a mentor. This type of person is constantly questioning his or her limits, knowing that these are self-imposed, and with knowledge, focus and action, can be surpassed again and again.
Deciding to adopt a growth mindset is a powerful component of any strategy to accelerate your personal growth. Why? Because for thousands of years, humanity’s top achievers have known that what you think is what you get. In other words, the thoughts that occupy your mind most of the time will be made manifest. That’s why negative thoughts are dangerous. Afraid of being poor? You’ll struggle financially. Worried about losing your health? There it goes.
But a positive mindset is the fastest way to overcome your limits. Know that you’ll be a success? Then your success is assured. Our mind is a manifesting machine—but it runs on the fuel we put into it.
- FOCUS on the hustle.
“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” ―Stephen King
There has been no better time in the last century to start a business than now. Millions of companies are closing their doors. Whether you or your loved ones have been directly affected or not, you can’t help but feel heartbroken about this. And yet, it is reality. The economy is reorganizing itself daily before our eyes as old ways of doing things become impossible and new solutions are invented.
If you want to thrive, you will need to adapt yourself to the new world and change the way you work. For many people this means that hanging onto a salaried job—with your fate in the hands of another person or faceless HR department—is a risky strategy. Transitioning fully into entrepreneurship right away might not be the right move for you, but diversifying your income stream with a side hustle (your Plan B) can insulate you from a crisis, like the one we’re living through.
- PARTNER with allies.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” —African Proverb
Building a business without partners is hard. Building a life without partners is practically impossible. How much of a role you give these partners in your life or business depends on your personal style, but know that having someone “on board” with you can more than double your growth (personal or professional). Partners keep us accountable and energized, and ideally, are strong where we’re weak. A great partnership delivers results that are more than the sum of its parts.
When planning your growth strategy, it’s a good idea to leave ample space for the involvement of other people, whether that’s a significant other, a business partner or a mentor. Love is a whole other discussion, but creating the other two types of relationships are not that difficult.
Finding allies in business often starts with joining a mastermind group—a collection of people with similar goals. Networking Meetings is a great place to start your search for your mastermind. And finding a mentor?
- MANAGE your time.
“Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.’” —Lao Tzu
Many plans fail precisely because we haven’t taken the time to think about how we want to spend our most valuable (and most finite) asset. For most people, this pandemic has radically altered how we spend our days, and maybe even created more free time (probably less if you have kids). Whatever the case, we’re being invited to re-evaluate what’s important in our lives.
This is great! During this forced introspection, take the time to consciously decide how you will use your daily 86,400 seconds. HINT: Write down in your journal how you currently spend your day, minute by minute, then create your ideal daily schedule. As you work to close the gap between the two lifestyles, your time management will gradually improve.
PART III: Take Action
When you’ve created your growth plan, it’s time to act. But what are the best tools you can use to execute on that plan and succeed? You’ve likely picked up your favorite strategies and habits along your life path. But personal growth means knowing there’s always more to learn, and who better to learn from than experts in their fields? Here are several areas where you can start growing now, supported by personal development pros.
“The first wealth is health.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
Every living thing requires energy to grow, from single-celled organisms to humans comprising 30 trillion cells. And the amount of energy we’re able to recruit determines the quality of our growth, not just physically but mentally, emotionally and spiritually. When our bodies are healthy, we’re able to convert food to energy more efficiently, more oxygen gets to our cells, and we’re free of the pain that slows us down—which lets us squeeze out more activity.
Sure, you can achieve great things even if you’re unhealthy, but it’s far more difficult. For most people, maintaining good health is not that complicated: It involves eating healthy and exercising. Every day should include small steps toward growth.
“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” —Zig Ziglar
The quality of your thoughts determines the quality of your life, and so in order to grow, you have no choice but to first watch your thoughts closely, then root out negativity and replace it with more productive thinking.
Installing a healthy mindset doesn’t mean never feeling negative emotions like anger or frustration—trying to sweep those under the rug will only intensify them until your subconscious finds a way to get them out. What it does mean is that you take charge of your thoughts. How can you do this? It starts with practicing (i.e. feeling) gratitude regularly. You can’t experience fear, anxiety or other negative emotions when you live in gratitude.
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” —Benjamin Franklin
The saying goes that knowledge is power, but it’s more accurate to say that applying knowledge through action is power. How do we gather and then use knowledge? Read, read, read. We tend to think that our challenges are somehow unique, but there’s at least one person in history who faced a situation almost exactly like yours, and wrote about it.
What should you read? All books contain some wisdom, but if you want to grow fastest, prioritize those by authors who have spent their lives teaching happiness, wealth and success, like Jim Rohn.
Watch personal development videos. There is more knowledge than you could collect in one lifetime contained in TED Talks. But for every one great video there are 10 filled with low-value or even harmful content. You wouldn’t eat garbage, so don’t feed your mind with the same. Prioritize content from top experts in their field, like Tony Robbins and John C. Maxwell.
“The value of a relationship is in direct proportion to the time that you invest in the relationship.” —Brian Tracy
If you want to grow, surround yourself with people who embody the qualities you want to cultivate in yourself. But what’s usually left out of discussions about surrounding ourselves with super-allies is that there’s one person who we spend the most time with: our self!
Unfortunately, we often neglect this most important relationship.
OURSELF - become best friends with ourself and start with keeping promises to ourselves. Breaking promises like “I will save $1,000” or “I will exercise tomorrow morning” strikes vicious blows to our self-esteem. And failing to appreciate ourselves leads to depression and anxiety, anger, addiction, people-pleasing, and ironically, narcissism. How can you do your best work when you’re dealing with all these demons? You can’t. Prioritize a healthy relationship with yourself and you’ll thrive.
Having a healthy self-image is also extremely attractive to others. It’s the best way to attract these five allies into your life. Now is the time to decide who you want as a fixture in your life, then pick up the phone or schedule a video chat and create some new relationships that will help you grow.
GROWTH IS LIFE
“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.” —Gail Sheehy
Look at all of nature and you’ll see that everything that is not growing is dying. Now, if you refuse to evolve, you probably won’t expire, but it’s a guarantee that you’ll be missing out on huge parts of life.
Without constant personal growth we can’t experience the richness of life’s joys, and we fail to become the men and women that our potential promises we could be if only we worked at it. And personal growth does require work—the conscious, diligent application of our toil and talents. To what? To whatever goal we set our minds to; that’s your choice.
But here’s what those who are resistant to change fail to see: It can be just as much or more work to stay the same in a world that is rapidly evolving around you.
It’s more work to not succeed than it is to succeed. For many, that will be a wake-up call. Failing to reach your goals, watching your dreams slip through your hands after another year, struggling to make ends meet—all that is far harder than paying the price needed to build a foundation under your castles in the sky. This pandemic is another wake-up call: that focusing on your personal growth now is more important than ever.