The foundation of change is honesty. All personal improvement can not be made until one becomes honest with not only others, but themselves too. The ability to look at yourself critically and honestly will allow for the seeds of tremendous personal growth to occur. It is amazing how many people continue to lie to themselves. It becomes so engrained in who they are that they believe the lie themselves. One thing I can tell you with absolutely certainty, honesty = freedom.
Be receptive to feedback. The difference between success, mediocrity, and failure is the ability to take constructive criticism and implement the feedback. Champions are able to receive feedback with an open-mind and begin to correct the things that they need to work on. The greatest athletes in history like Michael Jordan, Lebron James, and Tiger Woods were constantly examining what they did and how they played. They used these insights to eliminate / minimize their weaknesses and rise to the level of champion.
Realize that it takes 18 months of constant reinforcement for behavior modification to take hold. Be committed and understand that it is not going to be easy. This is a process and it is going to be uncomfortable. If it is uncomfortable, you are changing. I often use this analogy to help others understand. In the summer of 2005 and 2006 I became very focused on improving my golf game. My best friend, my brother, and I started to play and practice religiously. My swing at the time produced a fairly nasty slice like many right handed players. No matter how much I changed my grip, my stance, the clubs, balls, etc. nothing seemed to work. The idea dawned on me to me change my swing dramatically enough to where it felt weird, foreign, and uncomfortable. This was a defining moment. From this point forward I was finally able to tear down my slice swing and rebuild my swing into a swing that had power, control, spin with irons, and was fairly STRAIGHT! This technique was so effective that I was even able to introduce an outside/in fade swing. Apply this analogy to anything you do in life and remember, I am doing things differently if it feels “weird.”
Practice forgiveness. We have all been hurt and slighted in life. Do not give the other person the power to continue to make you feel angry, upset, etc. You become a slave to the emotions and they cloud your judgement. Remember, you may be in a position someday where you may be asking for forgiveness. Forgiving someone does NOT mean forgetting. You are allowed to always remember what happened, but forgiving allows you to move on and shed the negative feelings that will eat you alive.
Feed the body, mind, and soul equally. Current research is showing just how important things like yoga, thai chi, meditation, diet, fruits, veggies, etc. can to your body, mind, and soul. Do not allow negative preconceptions to keep you from trying new things. The only thing I try to care about is how can this help me and what can I learn from it. What other people think of me or about the activity, food, etc. should never enter your mind. DO YOU AND DO WHAT YOU LOVE! If you love to walk and daydream, then do it. Doing what you love makes it that much easier to actually do it. Set aside at least 20–30 minutes per day for this activity. Establish clear boundaries and create accountability by telling others that I will be walking, meditating, or whatever everyday from 6:00pm to 6:30pm so please do not disturb me.
Have very clear goals. People confuse desires and goals, as well as wants and needs. Do not fall into this trap. Separate the two so that you can truly understand what will make you happy and successful. Success itself does not mean you are successful if your goals are not achieved. I have meet numerous people who would be classified by most as successful. They have the fancy home and cars, yet they are miserable. Often times they self-medicate because of how unhappy they are. To me, this is clearly not someone I would consider to be successful. If your goal is to truly be happy decide what that ultimately means and the steps involved along the way.
Write a plan and then rewrite it again and again. Odds are good your first plan for success will not be very good. It may be too broad, go on a tangent, and so forth. That is why we perpetually rewrite the plan. As you work towards your goals life has a great way of cutting through the non-sense and providing amazing clarity. Hard times are even better as they cause one to realize what is truly important and allows you to easily see what works, and what does not. This is a step where I really encourage people to share this plans with others. People who truly love you want the best for you and will provide precise insight into your plan. Remain open-minded and listen to their feedback and implement it where appropriate/required.
Grit and the art of the follow-through. Gritty people, all other variables being equal, succeed at a much higher rate than non-gritty people. This is fact. Grit = passion + perseverance. The equation / definition of grit makes it clear why gritty people succeed. If you lack grit, you need to add becoming gritty to your goals and that should be a priority, if not step #1. Training yourself to be/become a gritty person will allow you to achieve all the goals on your list. One thing I like to do is to make a list of the greatest entrepreneurs in history and list how many times they failed before they truly made it. Steve Jobs failed. Thomas Edison failed roughly 1,000 times when trying to create the lightbulb. When asked about these failures Thomas Edison responded, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
Do not fear making mistakes. Mistakes are only negative when you do not learn from them. Human beings are interesting in that we learn absolutely NOTHING from the good times. I would argue that the good times do nothing but reinforce bad behaviors and marginalize things we should be focused and working on. But in hard times, we learn a whole lot about ourselves and others. We replay what happened over and over again and think, “what if I had done this.” “How could I have handled this differently?” Isn’t it ironic that we actually look at ourselves critically when negative things happen? I now try to imagine how much further and grater the good times could have been had I examined myself critically along the way. The ultimate goal here is to be critical of ourselves in all times. I also like to discuss these failures and examine them as a team. We turn the negative event into a case exam so that we can all learn from it.
Fail well: “Nana korobi ya oki” (七転び八起き). There is a Japanese phrase “Nana korobi ya oki” (七転び八起き), that literally means “seven falls, eight getting up.” Above we discussed the importance of grit and what grit is made up of (grit = passion + perseverance), but even with grit and a plan, you will still fall along the way. All we care about is that you get back up, learn from it, and start moving forward. That is how you fail well.