Why Focusing on Your Personal Growth Now Is More Important Than Ever
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 that author and coach Rich Litvin uses to motivate his readers and clients, 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.
1. Times of disruption are ripe with opportunity.
“Be greedy only when others are fearful.” —Warren Buffett
Ask a Silicon Valley 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. Startups can’t undercut or out-advertise established players, so a blue-ocean strategy is wisest.
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.
2. 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 only 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.
3. 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, get a haircut or go on a first date. Prom, graduation 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?
4. 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.
1. 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.
Jim Rohn, one of the founders of the modern personal development movement, knew that daily journaling not only brings clarity to our life but helps us solve problems; you can only write down the same complaints about your life for so many days in a row before the discomfort forces you to change.
Rohn also knew that as we practice the craft of writing, we get better at it. As we improve, so does our communication. Clear writing requires clear thinking, and when our mind is sharper, we not only get better at expressing ourselves, but at articulating our goals and deepest desires.
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.
2. CULTIVATE a growth mindset.
“There are no limits. There are only plateaus.” —Bruce Lee
Habits researcher Carol Dweck says that 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 SUCCESS readers 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.
3. 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.
But how do you choose the right side-hustle idea? There’s a newsletter and podcast dedicated to that, but here are some rules of thumb to get you started:
- Focus on what you love doing. Starting a business is easy—taking it to profitability is one of the most challenging pursuits you’ll undertake. You should choose a goal that you’ll enjoy chasing for the next five years, minimum, to ensure you’ll follow through.
- Play to your strengths. Great on video and know your way around editing software? Then your marketing strategy might focus on growing an engaged YouTube following. Not a great writer? Then starting a blog might not be for you.
- Decide on your hedgehog concept. In the classic business book Good to Great, researchers found that the most successful companies got really good at ONE thing, the same way a hedgehog is great at rolling up into a ball to protect itself. Focus on what you can be the best in the world at, and the competition won’t catch you.
4. 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. Facebook is a great place to start your search for your mastermind. And finding a mentor? Don’t assume that this has to involve a two-way exchange; it can be as simple as reading a book or watching a video by personal development experts.
5. 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.
Be mindful not to pack every minute of your day full. As we’ve seen over the last two months, many of the activities and obligations that we thought were important have turned out to be entirely non-essential. Doing Great Work requires a healthy dose of blank space in your calendar—call it solitude, room to breathe, creative space—just make sure you protect this freedom.
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. This does not mean deciding to lose 50 pounds by radically altering your diet, or deciding suddenly to work out two hours each day. As with most progress in life, slow and steady wins the race.
Dr. Mehmet Oz is a cardiothoracic surgeon, Columbia University professor, a regular columnist in SUCCESS magazine and a contributor in the SUCCESS+ program. His advice? Every day should include small steps toward growth. “I don’t take dramatic steps,” he says. “I want to be a little bit better today than I was yesterday.” Which small steps can you take right now to prioritize your health?
- Stand up. Sitting is NOT the new smoking, as some claim (puffing is far worse for your health). However, sitting more than eight hours a day “increases the risk of premature death and some chronic diseases by 10-20%.” During this lockdown, try a standing desk, or at least get up every 30 minutes.
- Minimize alcohol. Pandemics are boring—why not pass the time blissfully soaked in alcohol? Because even moderate alcohol use is robbing you of your hard-earned cash, early mornings, exercise sessions, mental clarity, years off your life, and making you more difficult for your family to handle. Just be aware of what it’s costing you.
- Join a pandemic challenge. Have you heard? Everything’s online now, including group exercise. Search Google or Facebook and you’ll find literally thousands of live group video exercise challenges for every level of fitness. Some are even free. Now’s the time to learn some new workouts in a supportive environment.
“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.
“I don’t negotiate with my mind, it does what I want, not the other way around,”[JK1] [MOU2] says Tony Robbins. He’s taught millions of people over several decades the power of cultivating a mindset that will bring you both achievement and fulfillment. 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, says Robbins. Tony regularly graces the pages of SUCCESS magazine and can also be found in the SUCCESS+ program.
Here are other tools you can you use to improve your mindset and grow:
- Visualization: After childhood we fall out of the habit of using our imaginations. But like riding a bike, the skill returns quickly. Spend even two minutes each morning making mental movies of your best life—including how you want to feel most of the time, how you spend your day, where you’re living, who you’re with—and you’ll manifest these desires.
- AFFORMATIONS is a term coined by author and coach Noah St. John. Instead of using traditional mantras like, “I am happy,” he suggests asking helpful questions like, “Why am I so happy?” that will prime your brain to create answers.
- Spend time with great people. We are, as Jim Rohn stated, the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Perhaps that’s because scientists have recently discovered “mirror neurons” in our brains; a mechanism that means we copy the beliefs and habits of others around us.
“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. Books and magazines contain the knowledge to solve any problem and achieve any goal. This pandemic is a great excuse to grow your library and set a reading goal (try Goodreads). Most used bookstores are happily taking contactless orders now.
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, free university lectures and endless YouTube channels. 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.
“One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.” —John C. Maxwell
No sports team wins a championship without a world-class coach. A coach can bring you to the same heights of achievement. Trying to build a business, excel in your career and make that first $10 million without a coach is like trying to win an Olympic medal without a trainer. Sure, in theory you could do it, but it will be 100 times harder. A good coach will help you see your blind spots, leverage your strengths, improve your mindset and habits, and hold you accountable as long as you work together.
Finding a coach is sometimes as simple as asking a respected superior at work to mentor you, and free. Or it could mean joining a mastermind of other motivated achievers who want to give each other a hand up on the path.
Of course, in life you get what you pay for, and so it can be invaluable to hire a coach to work with you for weeks or months. If they’re skilled and you’re dedicated, you’re almost guaranteed some remarkable personal growth, even a breakthrough or two. Not ready to invest thousands of dollars into your own one-on-one coaching? Live, monthly group coaching is an exceptional alternative.
“While money can’t buy happiness, it certainly lets you choose your own form of misery.” —Groucho Marx
Is it possible to lead a happy, fulfilled life without money? There are hermits in caves who have pulled this off, and we know that an obsession with material junk robs us of happiness. But for those of us who choose to remain a part of society, a certain level of financial prosperity does bring us happiness, choice and freedom. On the flipside, money distress is the best way to create anxiety, shame and panic.
Why do so many people struggle with making or keeping money? The root is always a flawed mindset about money. We’re told growing up that money is the root of all evil, that the rich are miserable and so on, and so our subconscious throws up roadblocks to wealth. But money is only a tool, one that can create misery, but also immense good.
The right books and mentors can teach you not only a positive mindset about money, but the habits that will help you create, grow and keep wealth. Tony Robbins, for example, wrote a comprehensive primer on investing. Kindra Hall teaches her followers how to tell captivating stories that win over customers to grow your business. Simon T. Bailey’s books teach readers how to create customers for life through service. Their books are a great start, but the authors are also some of the mentors that will help you grow your financial vitality in the SUCCESS+ program.
“The value of a relationship is in direct proportion to the time that you invest in the relationship.” —Brian Tracy
Jim Rohn coined the idea that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. 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.
Author and motivational speaker Rachel Hollis invites you to become best friends with you, and it starts 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 alliesinto your life, or even the love match that’s been waiting for you all this time. Look, almost everyone is in their 10th or 12th week of social isolation and dying for some social contact. 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.
In the January/February issue of SUCCESS magazine, author and speaker Grant Cardone made a comment that was striking for its simple power: “It’s more work to not succeed than it is to succeed.” For many readers, 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.
What will fuel your future? Download our FREE Reflection Journal to get a jump start on your self-discovery journey.
Photo by @itsjuliwilliams/Twenty20.com
Michael Pietrzak is a mindset and habits coach to entrepreneurs. He founded So You Want to Write? Inc., which helps writers improve and get published. Michael is passionate about weightlifting, great books and playing guitar.
Great, thanks so much
My pleasure, Narendra
Dude! freaking awesome article, truly inspiring. Thanks
Thank you for the excellent article Michael. It has many timeless treasures to help you improve your life. I bookmarked it to reread over and over as both a reminder and for insight.
Thanks Patrick! Let me know how you apply some of this advice.
You’re doing a great work. Keep it up
Thank a lot, your content is really amazing.
Thanks for the vote of confidence, Kanhaiya.
Thanks, long read but full of interesting advice that I will take up!
Thanks Michael! Your post had me hooked from the fake out. As an optimist, I actually visualized an amphibian dive. Love the quotes.
Miester Eckhardt is some obscure wisdom. Big fan of his work. My doctor once explained there’s no better investment than that of a relationship with self. In a nut shell, you reiterated that with a how-to-action plan. Bravo.
Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a lot approximately this, like you wrote the book in it or something.
I believe that you could do with some percent to force the message house a bit, but other than that, this is excellent blog.
A great read. I will definitely be back.
I enjoyed reading this article.
The simple power striking comment” It’s more work to not succeed than it is to succeed” absolutely brilliant! Thank you!
Thank you for sharing great content.
One of the most insightful and most practical articles i have read in a while! Thank you!
You are too kind, thanks Maureen.
The primary value of engaging a coach is the accountability that comes from committing to a result you want to see in your life. Without a sense of accountability, the resistance to change in move in the direction of your dreams is limited.
Such an amazing and comprehensive article!! One worth reading more than once! Thanks Michael!!
What a great article! Complete, clear, and very useful, to be re read! Thank you very much! Very precious. Kaouther
Thanks for the good writeup, Michael. In fact, we give less importance to our own personal development, which is really harmful to our bodies! In order to live a happy and healthy life, we need to focus on our personal growth.
This is an incredible article that I found myself lucky to have read this morning just as my energy took a little dive. For the most part, being a coach, I work on my mindset daily. Having been to a Tony Robbins course, I get the importance of not being a slave to my mind but rather a master. And yet, with all that knowledge, little nasty thoughts still find their way and if not careful what was tiny to start off with can occupy the whole playground if not intercepted. No one is immune to it. But the best way to transform it is with the above article. Thank you
Yes Sophie! We coaches are not immune to energy dips and the usual collection of human challenges. The only reason I can share all of these tools is because I’ve faced these challenges myself. The obstacle is the way, as they say.
Thank you for this great article. Another thing to ponder.
What I’m trying to do these days is to focus on my hustle. I don’t know how I will but I’m trying to improve myself on a daily basis.
Quite an interesting article with great tips. I rarely see longish articles on here but I’m glad for this. Thanks for sharing.