"I bring you the gift of these four words: 'I believe in you.' " - Blaise Pascal
If we work hard, and are a little lucky, we’ll probably reach our goals. The path may not always be clear, with curves and clouds obstructing our view of our intended destination. We may make a detour, but we continue forward. The journey can be difficult, and take longer than anticipated, but success is ours.
However, true success is about more than what we do for ourselves. We also need to consider what we do for others. Who have we helped today?
“Lessons learned by ourselves have a greater value than lessons learned through others.” – Wayne Antaw
Most of us have set goals for ourselves, or our boss has set goals for us. Some of those goals may be simple – lose five pounds, increase sales by five percent, or cut $5,000 out of the budget. Or, the goals may present a great challenge, and are what Jim Collins calls Big Hairy Audacious Goals, or BHAGs.
Meeting these types of goals will translate into what might be considered a “big win”. A bonus. A raise. Or, maybe a promotion.
But what is a “big win”? A bonus is nice, but it will only have a brief impact on your life. A raise is nicer, but even that impact diminished quickly, as we usually find a way to raise our spending levels to exceed our income. A promotion, especially if its significant, will probably have the most lasting effect.
“Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anyone else expects of you. Never excuse yourself.” - Henry Ward Beecher
When looking for something while shopping online, we hit the “Search” button and expect:
The product is in stock.
It can be delivered to our home overnight.
And shipping is free.
“It's the rare person who will listen to what they don't want to hear.” – Dick Cavett
As a consultant, I’m often hired to evaluate a company’s print and mail operation. We’ll spend several days reading policies and procedures, watching work get processed, and interviewing employees. The goal is to determine:
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
As a young man, I wasn’t known for being calm and serene. I would get upset at real and perceived wrongs, even when they were trivial. I thought I was right in my rage, and was convinced that I was full of what Aristotle called “righteous indignation”. Actually – I was just full of myself.
I drove my car fast, and paid several speeding fines. I made many decisions impulsively, and paid the consequences for poor choices. I was convinced that patience was a “natural” trait, and I didn’t have it.
“The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.” – Leonardo da Vinci
I was so sure that I was on the right road. I had mapped out the running route from the hotel the night before, and followed the diagram in my head. Maybe if I went a little bit further, I’d get back to the main street. Then it was just a right turn, up a few blocks, and I’d be back.
I went a little further. Then a little further. And then a little further. I never found the main street. I wasn’t where I thought I was. I finally stopped, in the middle of a crowd of people walking quickly to work. I asked a man if he knew the best way to my hotel. He explained that if I went back 2 blocks, and turned right (which would’ve been on my left earlier), my hotel was only a half mile away.
Taking the time to become informed. Being prepared. Following the plan. Sounds good on paper.
But I made a mistake, and ended up in the wrong place.
“Everybody makes excuses for themselves they wouldn't be prepared to make for other people.” – Rebecca Goldstein
Reading the news, we’re outraged at the justifications some famous person used to defend their actions. A coworker at the office trotted out another flimsy pretext for being late with an assignment. And someone else wants us to overlook their bad behavior – once again. It’s so frustrating.
It’s easy to see the faults in others. Their shortcomings are glaring examples of how not to behave. We don’t understand why people aren’t better. Of course, the view through a window is clearer than what we might see in the mirror.
“No matter how bad a situation, you have to ask yourself, ‘What do I do now?’” - Robert L. Howard, Medal of Honor Recipient
Have you ever put off taking care of something because “it’s just a back-up”?
For a while (a long while), I’ve known that I needed to get my spare tire repaired. The sensors create an alert every time I start my car. It’s just the spare, so I wasn’t too worried.
"It is right to be contented with what we have, never with what we are.” - James Mackintosh
Heading home the other day, I drove over a causeway splitting the reservoir in our town. No matter how many times I pass this spot, I’m always amazed by its beauty. The scene brought a smile to my face and I thought to myself, “I’m happy with my life.”
I started thinking about the wonderful parts of my life – a loving wife who supports me, a beautiful house to come home to, a great town to live in, and a successful career in a field I love. Looking back at my life, this is so much more than I ever expected. I’ve been all alone. I've lived in a crummy apartment in a not great neighborhood. I've struggled financially. The journey hasn’t been easy, but things are pretty good right now.
What more could I want?
Actually, quite a bit.
Not from the world. From myself.
Striving to be a better person is a task that’s never finished. We should continuously look for ways to improve ourselves. And we need to be careful in how we measure that improvement.
I’m one of those people who has spreadsheets and databases to track different statistics about my life. Yet none of following measurements indicate whether I’m growing or advancing in what matters: