1: The Law of Intentionality: Growth Doesn’t Just Happen
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”
If you want to reach your potential and become the person you were created to be, you must do much more than just experience life and hope that you learn what you need along the way. You must go out of your way to seize growth opportunities as if your future depended on it. Why? Because it does. Growth doesn’t just happen—not for me, not for you, not for anybody. You have to go after it!
2: The Law of Awareness: You Must Know Yourself to Grow Yourself
To grow, you must know yourself: your strengths and weaknesses, your interests and opportunities. You must be able to gauge not only where you’ve been, but also where you are now. Otherwise you cannot set a course for where you want to go. And of course, every time you want to learn something, you must be able to take the new thing you’ve learned today and build upon what you learned yesterday to keep growing. That’s the only way to gain traction and keep improving yourself.
To reach your potential, you must know where you want to go and where you currently are. Without both of those pieces of information, you’re liable to get lost. Knowing yourself is like reading “You Are Here” on a map when you want to find your way to a destination.
- The Law of the Mirror: You Must See Value “in” Yourself to Add Value “to” Yourself
If we want to change our lives, we have to change the way we think of ourselves. If we want to change the way we think of ourselves, we need to change the way we talk to ourselves. And the older we are, the more responsible we are for how we think, talk, and believe. Don’t you have enough problems in life already? Why add to them by discouraging yourself every day with negative self-talk?
You need to learn to become your own encourager, your own cheerleader. Every time you do a good job, don’t just let it pass; give yourself a compliment. Every time you choose discipline over indulgence, don’t tell yourself that you should have anyway; recognize how much you are helping yourself. Every time you make a mistake, don’t bring up everything that’s wrong with yourself; tell yourself that you’re paying the price for growth and that you will learn to do better next time. Every positive thing you can say to yourself will help.
- The Law of Reflection: Learning to Pause Allows Growth to Catch Up with You
Most people are pretty busy. There are a lot of demands on them, and they rush from place to place trying to get things done. Along the way, they have certain experiences that are life markers. They go to a place or are part of an event or meet a person that in some way marks them for life because something important happened. Often these markers identify for them a time of transition, change, or transformation.
If we don’t take the time to pause and reflect, we can miss the significance of such events. Reflection allows those experiences to move from being life markers to life makers. If we pause to allow growth to catch up with us, it makes our lives better, because we not only better understand the significance of what we’ve experienced, but we can implement changes and course corrections as a result. We are also better equipped to teach others from the wisdom we have gained.
- The Law of Consistency: Motivation Gets You Going—Discipline Keeps You Growing
If you want to gain momentum and improve your motivation, begin by setting goals that are worthwhile but highly achievable. Master the basics. Then practice them every day without fail. Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.
If you want to grow, don’t try to win big. Try to win small. Andrew Wood asserted, “Where many people go wrong in trying to reach their goals is in constantly looking for the big hit, the home run, the magic answer that suddenly transforms their dreams into reality. The problem is that the big hit never comes without a great deal of little hits first. Success in most things comes not from some gigantic stroke of fate, but from simple, incremental progress.”
- The Law of Environment: Growth Thrives in Conducive Surroundings
You’ve probably seen the phrase growth = change. It’s possible to change without growing, but it’s impossible to grow without changing. One of the keys to making the right changes that allow us to grow is knowing the difference between a problem or challenge, which I can change, and a fact of life, which I cannot.
Businessman, author, and speaker Nido Qubein asserted, “Whether you are a success or failure in life has little to do with your circumstances; it has much more to do with your choices.” What choices do you need to make so you are in conducive surroundings where you will thrive and grow?
- The Law of Design: To Maximize Growth, Develop Strategies
Most people allow their lives to simply happen to them. They float along. They wait. They react. And by the time a large portion of their life is behind them, they realize they should have been more proactive and strategic.
If you want to make the most of your personal growth by getting the most you can out of every effort and doing it as efficiently as possible, you need to develop systems that work for you. That will be a personal thing, because your systems need to be tailored to you.
- The Law of Pain: Good Management of Bad Experiences Leads to Great Growth
Life’s difficulties do not allow us to stay the same. They move us. The question is, in which direction will we be moved: forward or backward? When we have bad experiences, do we become better or bitter? Will those experiences limit us or lead us to grow? As Warren G. Lester remarked, “Success in life comes not from holding a good hand, but in playing a poor hand well.”
When tough times come, many people don’t respond well. Some seem to have the motto that I once saw on a bumper sticker: “When the going gets tough, it’s time to take a nap.” What a shame. Learning the Law of Pain is essential for anyone who wants to grow. Most successful people will point to the hard times in their lives as key points in their journey of development. If you are dedicated to growth, then you must become committed to managing your bad experiences well.
- The Law of the Ladder: Character Growth Determines the Height of Your Personal Growth
No one likes to work with unreliable people. But before you or I work with any other person or follow any other leader, who do we have to rely on every day? Ourselves! That’s why character is so important. If you cannot trust yourself, you won’t ever be able to grow. Good character, with honesty and integrity at its core, is essential to success in any area of life. Without it, a person is building on shifting sand.
If you do the things you need to do when you need to do them, then someday you can do the things you want to do when you want to do them. In other words, before you can do, you must be.
- The Law of the Rubber Band: Growth Stops When You Lose the Tension Between Where You Are and Where You Could Be
Most people use only a small fraction of their ability and rarely strive to reach their full potential. There is no tension to grow in their lives, little desire to stretch. Sadly, a third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives, and 42 percent of college graduates similarly never read a book after college.1
If you have ever settled for the status quo and then wondered why your life isn’t going the way you’d hoped, then you need to realize that you will only reach your potential if you have the courage to push yourself outside your comfort zone and break out of a mind-set of mediocrity. You must be willing to leave behind what feels familiar, safe, and secure. You must give up excuses and push forward. You must be willing to face the tension that comes from stretching toward your potential. That is the only way to avoid what poet John Greenleaf Whittier described when he wrote, “For all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been.’ ”
- The Law of Trade-Offs: You Have to Give Up to Grow Up
Everybody makes trades throughout life, whether they know it or not. The question is whether you are going to make good ones or bad ones. In general, I believe that…
Unsuccessful people make bad trade-offs.
Average people make few trade-offs.
Successful people make good trade-offs.
Nothing creates a greater gap between successful and unsuccessful people than the choices we make. Too often, people make life more difficult for themselves because they make bad choices at the intersections of their life or they decline to make choices because of fear. But it’s important to remember that while we don’t always get what we want, we always get what we choose.
- The Law of Curiosity: Growth Is Stimulated by Asking “Why?”
Curious people possess a thirst for knowledge. They are interested in life, people, ideas, experiences, and events, and they live in a constant state of wanting to learn more. They continually ask why? Curiosity is the primary catalyst for self-motivated learning. People who remain curious don’t need to be encouraged to ask questions or explore. They just do it—all the time. And they keep doing it. They know that the trail to discovery is just as exciting as the discoveries themselves, because there are wonderful things to be learned along the way
Curiosity helps a person to think and expand possibilities beyond the ordinary. Asking why? fires the imagination. It leads to discovery. It opens up options. It takes people beyond the ordinary and leads to extraordinary living. People say not to cross a bridge until you come to it, but as someone once said, “This world is owned by people who have crossed bridges in their imagination before anyone else has.”
- The Law of Modeling: It’s Hard to Improve When You Have No One but Yourself to Follow
We become like the people we admire and the models we follow. For that reason, we should take great care when determining which people we ask to mentor us. They must not only display professional excellence and possess skill sets from which we can learn, they must also demonstrate character worthy of emulating.
Many athletes, celebrities, politicians, and business leaders today try to disavow being any kind of role model when others are already following them and mimicking their behavior.
- The Law of Expansion: Growth Always Increases Your Capacity
The greatest challenge you will ever face is that of expanding your mind. It’s like crossing the great frontier. You must be willing to be a pioneer, to enter uncharted territory, to face the unknown, to conquer your own doubts and fears. But here’s the good news. If you can change your thinking, you can change your life. As Oliver Wendell Holmes remarked, “Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” If you want to expand your capacity, the first place to start is always in your own mind.
- The Law of Contribution: Growing Yourself Enables You to Grow Others
How do you increase your chances of being able to help others and make a significant contribution in your lifetime? Think of yourself as a river instead of a reservoir. Most people who do make personal growth part of their lives do it to add value to themselves. They are like reservoirs that continually take in water but only to fill themselves up. In contrast, a river flows. Whatever water it receives, it gives away. That’s the way we should be as we learn and grow. That requires an abundance mind-set—a belief that we will keep receiving. But as long as you are dedicated to personal growth, you will never experience scarcity and will always have much to give.