From The Jim Rohn Archive
Our results are only limited by our imaginations. History has proven that time and again.
In 1960 it was a technological impossibility for humans to travel into outer space. Within 10 years, however, the first man stepped out onto the surface of the moon. The miraculous process of converting this dream into reality began when President John F. Kennedy challenged the scientific community to do whatever was necessary to see to it that America “places a man on the moon by the end of this decade.” That challenge awakened the spirit of a nation by planting the seed of possible future achievement into the fertile soil of imagination. With that one bold challenge, the impossible became the course for reality.
I can tell you with absolute certainly that the same principles that put men on the moon have the power to take you a long, long way in your own life. Can overweight people get in shape? Of course. Can poor people become wealthy? It happens all the time.
Related: Rohn: Change Begins With Choice
The unique combination of desire, planning, effort and perseverance will always work its magic. The question is not whether the formula for success will work for a person, but whether a person will work the formula. That is the unknown variable. That is the challenge that confronts us all. We can all go from wherever we are to wherever we want to be. No dream is impossible provided we first have the courage to believe in it.
It happened in my life. By the time I was 25, I was broke and embarrassed—I felt like I was a failure, and well on my way to failing more. But with mentorship, study and hard work, I changed my circumstances. It didn’t happen overnight.
The first thing I had to realize is what I was doing that brought me such poor results.
The Formula for Failure
Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. Just as we don’t succeed overnight, we don’t fail overnight, either. Failure is the inevitable result of an accumulation of poor thinking and poor choices. To put it more simply, failure is nothing more than a few errors in judgment repeated every day.
Now why would someone make an error in judgment and then be so foolish as to repeat it every day? The answer is because he or she does not think that it matters. On their own, our daily actions don’t seem that important. A minor oversight, a poor decision, or a wasted hour don’t generally result in an instant and measurable impact. More often than not, we escape from any immediate consequences. If we have not bothered to read a single book in the past 90 days, this lack of discipline does not seem to have any immediate impact. And since nothing drastic happened to us after the first 90 days, we repeat this error in judgment for another 90 days, and on and on it goes. Why? Because it doesn’t seem to matter.
And herein lies the great danger. Far worse than not reading the books is not even realizing that it matters!
People who eat too many of the wrong foods are contributing to their future health problems, but the joy of the moment overshadows the consequence of the future. Those who drink too much or smoke go on making these poor choices year after year after year, again, because it doesn’t seem to matter.
But the pain and regret of these kinds of errors in judgment are only delayed for a future time.
Failure’s most dangerous attribute is its subtlety. We do not seem to be failing. In fact, sometimes these accumulated errors occur throughout periods of great joy and prosperity in our lives. Since nothing terrible happens to us, since there are no instant consequences to capture our attention, we simply drift from one day to the next, repeating the errors, thinking the wrong thoughts, listening to the wrong voices and making the wrong choices. The sky did not fall in on us yesterday; therefore the act was probably harmless.
We know better than that.
This is why it is imperative to refine our philosophy in order to be able to make better choices. With a powerful, personal philosophy guiding our every step, we become more aware of our actions and the ripple effects they’ll have. That’s the great news: Just like the formula for failure, the formula for success is easy to follow.
It’s a few simple disciplines practiced every day.
The Formula for Success
How can we change the errors in the formula for failure into the disciplines required in the formula for success? The answer is by making the future an important part of our current philosophy.
What if you did develop a new discipline to take just a few minutes every day to look a little further down the road? You would then be able to foresee the impending consequences of your current conduct. Armed with that valuable information, you would be able to take the necessary action to change your errors into new success-oriented disciplines. By disciplining yourself to see the future in advance, you would be able to change your thinking, amend those errors and develop new habits to replace the old.
As you change daily errors into daily disciplines, you’ll experience positive results in a very short period of time. The results come quickly no matter what it is you want to alter about yourself.
When we change our diet, our health improves noticeably in just a few weeks. When we start exercising, we feel a new vitality almost immediately. When we begin studying, we experience a growing awareness and a new level of self-confidence. Whatever new discipline we begin to practice daily will produce exciting results that will drive us to become even better at developing new disciplines.
I know one surefire way to create change: Start. If you start today, then this would be the first day of a new life leading to a better future. If you start today to try harder, and in every way make a conscious and consistent effort to change subtle and deadly errors into constructive and rewarding disciplines, you would never again settle for a life of mere existence rather than one of substance.
More often than not, change isn’t as simple as flipping a switch. It’s usually driven by one of three emotions.
Emotions and Change
Emotions are the most powerful forces inside us. Under the power of emotions, human beings can perform the most heroic (as well as barbaric) acts. To a great degree, civilization itself can be defined as the intelligent channeling of human emotion. Emotions are fuel and the mind is the pilot, which together propel the ship of civilized progress.
Which emotions cause people to act? There are three basic ones; each, or a combination of them, can trigger the most incredible progress. The day that you allow these emotions to fuel your desire is the day you’ll turn your life around.
One does not usually equate the word “disgust” with positive action. And yet properly channeled, disgust can change a person’s life. The person who feels disgusted has reached a point of no return. He or she is ready to throw down the gauntlet at life and say, “I’ve had it!” That’s what I said after many humiliating experiences at age 25. I said, “I don’t want to live like this anymore.”
Productive feelings of disgust come when a person says, “Enough is enough.” That person is primed to become something new.
Almost anything can trigger desire. It’s a matter of timing as much as preparation. It might be a song that tugs at the heart. It might be a memorable sermon. It might be a movie, a conversation with a friend, or a bitter experience. Even a book or an article such as this one can trigger the inner mechanism that will make some people say, “I want it now!”
Therefore, while searching for your hot button of pure, raw desire, welcome each positive experience into your life. Don’t erect a wall to protect you from experiencing life. The same wall that keeps out your disappointment also keeps out the sunlight of enriching experiences. So let life touch you. The next touch could be the one that turns your life around.
Resolve says, “I will.” These two words are among the most potent in the English language.
Benjamin Disraeli, the great British statesman, once said, “Nothing can resist a human will that will stake even its existence on the extent of its purpose.” In other words, when you’re resolved to “do or die,” nothing can stop you.
The mountain climber says, “I will climb the mountain. They’ve told me it’s too high, it’s too far, it’s too steep, it’s too rocky, it’s too difficult. But it’s my mountain. I will climb it.” Who can argue with such resolve?
If you want to create change in your life, promise yourself you will never give up.
Your Choice to Make
Any day you wish, you can discipline yourself to change it all. Any day you wish, you can open the book that will expose your mind to new knowledge. Any day you wish, you can start a new activity. Any day you wish, you can start the process of life change. You can do it immediately, or next week, or next month or next year.
You can also do nothing. You can pretend rather than perform. And if the idea of having to change makes you uncomfortable, you can remain as you are. Truth be told, this is the more comfortable setting right now. You probably haven’t experienced those instant consequences yet.
But are you thinking about the future? If you are, you know why you would choose labor over rest, education over entertainment, truth over delusion, and confidence over doubt.
The emotions are ours to feel and the choices are ours to make. Don’t curse the effect while nourishing the cause. As Shakespeare uniquely observed, “The fault is not in the stars, but in ourselves.”
We create our circumstances by our choices. We have both the ability and the responsibility to make better choices beginning today. Those who are in search of the good life do not need more answers or more time to think things over to reach better conclusions. They need the truth. They need the whole truth. And they need nothing but the truth.
We create our circumstances by our choices.
We cannot allow our errors in judgment, repeated every day, to lead us down the wrong path. We must keep coming back to those basics that make the biggest difference in how our life works out. And then we must make the very choices that will bring life, happiness and joy into our daily lives.
And if I may be so bold to offer a final piece of advice for someone seeking and needing to make changes in their life: If you don’t like how things are, change it! You’re not a tree. You have the ability to totally transform every area in your life. And it all begins with your very own power of choice.
For more life-shaping advice from the icon of personal development and to download a free guide to setting powerful personal goals, visit JimRohn.com.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of SUCCESS magazine.