Change is the key to our success and to our financial future. Often in our own lives, however, change is something we fiercely resist. Even when achievement sits on our doorstep, we’re still too comfortable to make an adjustment. The very first place to look for transformation is within. When you take ownership of yourself, your life and your income, you are on your way to harnessing success.
I learned early in my life that if things needed to change, it was up to me to change them.
I have had the great pleasure of working with Jim Rohn, who inspired me to new levels of success and happiness. When I first met Mr. Rohn, I was sitting at a dinner table with ten other people. I grabbed a seat near him and just wanted to listen to his words of wisdom and conversation. When a lull in the conversation arose, I was caught off guard when Mr. Rohn asked me about my goals, dreams and aspirations. In response, I began to talk about many of the roadblocks I had experienced in my pursuit of success. I listed all the reasons why I wasn’t able to achieve my goals and dreams. I let him know who was to blame and insisted none of it was my fault. I thought I had made a pretty good case and then the hammer dropped. Jim looked at me and said, “Kurt, for things to change, you must change, and for things to get better, you must get better.” That brief moment in time changed my life forever. It was then that I realized that everything I wanted in life is on the other side of change, not the other side of excuse. I also realized that no matter the excuse (good or bad), it would not produce results.
If you want to make the same kind of transformation in your life, the first thing you have to do is take an honest look at yourself and where you are. You can’t make changes if you won’t acknowledge what needs to be changed. Where are you starting? What is your current situation? If you could change one thing in your life, what would it be? It is only from honestly assessing where point A is that you can develop a well-defined, well-planned route to point B. Then the next obvious thing to determine is where or at what point B is located. In other words, what exactly are you aiming for? What do you want?
Now is not the time to be timid.
Don’t shortchange yourself because you want to be “careful” or “reasonable” or you don’t want to “rock the boat.” Shoot for the stars! You’ll define the path to get there, but first you have to know what exactly you’re even trying to reach. In other words, you must begin with the end result and then work your way backward. You have to know exactly where you want to go and what you need to change to get there. Sometimes, people are actually afraid of being “too” successful. To be brilliant or amazing might actually be a scary proposition. As success comes into sight, you might feel a lot of responsibility weighing down on you. So, how successful should you be? How healthy should you be? How wealthy should you be? How strong should your relationships be? Consider the following powerful quote from Nelson Mandela:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the World.
There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.”
– 1994 Inaugural Speech
We are unique creatures. In spite of the seeds of greatness that lie within us, we seem to program ourselves to do the least amount possible to get by. That is, we often do only what is necessary to survive. I see this tendency with my students at the local university all the time. Their mentality is: What is the least amount of work I can do to pass this class? They are paying top dollar to get their education yet rarely do you see a student take advantage of all the learning that is at her/his disposal. We see symptoms of the same mental laziness, lack of progress and resistance to change in the workplace, too:
What is the least amount of work I can do to get a paycheck and not get fired? When we are in this lazy mindset, we can’t find happiness, and as a result, our souls start to rust.
The challenge is that we often don’t see the consequences of our behavior fast enough.
Time ticks by, and by the time we’re even aware of how off course we’ve gotten, years have flown by. We live in a society where we want the quick fix, the easy way out.
Unfortunately, however, that is not how life works. If it takes someone five years to gain twenty pounds, why does someone else think he can completely lose it in a couple weeks? Another example is fast food. We know it’s not good for us, and yet hey, nothing bad happened today after I had that super-size order of fries. The consequences of the unhealthy food will take time to manifest, but in the meantime, the instant gratification of a fast and delicious meal now overpowers concerns about the future that, in the moment, seem immaterial. Imagine if every time you ate at a fast food restaurant the consequences were immediate. You took a bite and felt a bulge near your midsection. If that were the case, it wouldn’t take long before you changed your ways.
There are thousands of habits and patterns in our lives that fit the instant gratification scenario. Another example is debt. So what do we do when we’re constantly confronted with such difficult choices: immediate pleasure versus future gain? What do we do about it? You would be very wise to make a habit as soon as possible of analyzing your life on at least a weekly basis. Determine what you want to change now, not after years of reinforcing the wrong habits. The saying goes, “Old habits die hard” and it’s really true.
Stop destructive cycles now before the strands that bind you become impenetrable rope.
Without changing your action, your wishes and hopes will only be whims that never go anywhere. It’s time for you dreams to start to bear fruit!
So, are you ready to welcome change into your life? Good! Remember, as Albert Einstein said, “You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it.” Once you have recognized the need to change and have embraced the opportunity to change, then you will need to start organizing your plan of action. Think backward. What is the big picture? What are the major phases within that big picture? What are the steps within each phase that will move you from one point to the next? It is worth pointing out here that you must be careful not to let the opinions of others dissuade you. I’m sure you’ve experienced this before—you’ve gotten yourself all excited and pumped up, you tell someone you really care about all your great plans and they barely listen or care. Or worse, they start pointing out all the reasons why your plan isn’t going to work or why it’s a bad idea. Crash! You can’t remember the last time you felt so deflated.
I’ll admit that it is hard to stay focused and persistent when people spit on your dreams. Fear of failure, fear of what others will think—these are totally normal feelings. But you can’t let them debilitate you. Napoleon Hill said, “The fear of criticism robs man of his initiative, destroys his power of imagination, limits his individuality and takes away his self-reliance.” You are destined for greatness. Follow your heart not the useless criticism and discouragement of those who have forgotten how to live and dream.
So many people assume that if they don’t try, then they can’t fail. If they don’t try, no one will criticize them either. The tragedy of this mindset is that they will fail by virtue of never having even attempted to succeed. George Shinn once said, “Growth means change and change involves risks, stepping from the known to the unknown.” I have always loved the phrase “jump and the net will appear.” Consider the fact that most of the fears we face in life are not life-and-death matters. And yet, we are so gripped by our fears that it’s almost as though they were life-and-death matters.
The next time you feel yourself paralyzed by fear, stop and honestly assess your feelings.
What is the worst thing that could really happen? Are the possible setbacks really life-or death situations, or are they just opportunities to learn and grow, even if they are sometimes unpleasant or painful? Reflect on the fact that almost all successful people have their stories about where they came from and what they had to go through to achieve success. What’s more, it’s rarely a rosy picture. It might also be worth asking yourself what the worst thing is that could happen if you do nothing. Chances are the consequences might be more severe in the case of inaction versus action. Either way, there is a price to be paid. Do you want regrets or do you want results? We say no to some things because we are saying yes to other things. You just need to be sure you know what hangs in the balance either way. Sometimes it is the realization of the imminent, stark reality hitting us in the face that provides the momentum for change. Whatever the motivator is, just don’t let fear stop you from forging ahead.