We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and everyone should be really excellent. Because this is our life. ― Steve Jobs
The one decision that rules all others
(This article is part of a series of 10 related posts on habits for growth by Drew Browne)
The decision to grow is really a decision to take control of your own future. The reality is that its ripple effect is always more far-reaching than you first expect. But if growth is a desirable outcome, why is it so difficult to sustain? Why do our feelings often lag behind our bigger decisions, and why do they seemingly conspire to sabotage us from doing what we know to be good for us? While the ‘why’ questions are worthy considerations, I’ll focus on the power of habits and their ability to change our behaviours and feelings.
It’s what makes us human
Growth is a fundamental goal of all human beings, and no matter what your goals are, what you’re striving to achieve, or where you want to go in life, nothing happens and nothing is sustainable without growth. It is this feeling of growth that is at the very root of what gives us a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, meaning and progress. New parents eagerly wait for their newborns to pass key markers that measure healthy childhood development; teenagers wait for the chance to drive cars, get licences, create fake IDs and some later seek to don a cap and gown to mark the achievement and celebrate completing higher education. No matter where you are, life is to be celebrated, and measuring growth is a key part of our make-up.
But some people stop growing
Most of us know someone who has surrendered to thinking, ‘This is as good as it gets, so why bother trying anymore?’ We all know people who trudge off to work every morning to a job they hate but will do nothing about, other than complain to their workmates.
There are examples all around us of people who have either temporarily or permanently (*gasp*) ceased growing—and like two crabs in a bucket, once you’re in their clutches, hopes of escape begin to fade and the cries for freedom are muffled by habits designed to pull you back down into the known and predictable. Such is the power of a learned negative habit; but what about the power found in a set of positive habits?
Success follows habits
Successful people use the power of positive habits to keep them on track. A bit like the corrective capacity of an auto-pilot system on a jet, course corrections are a necessary part of life, and positive habits make that easier.
Chances are that if you’re reading this, escape is what you want, freedom is what you yearn, and a regular check-up to keep bad habits at bay is considered a welcome opportunity.
There are times for all of us when growth, and sometimes hope, seems perpetually over the horizon. Take heart: the night is always darkest before the dawn, and persisting with positive habits changes everything.
When we have an opportunity to pause and look back over our past experiences, we often see the pathway clearly and start to understand how it unfolded. But when looking ahead, we see no path and perhaps only a trail to blaze. This is the time to persist and to cultivate habits of continual growth.
Be warned: feeling good is not necessarily an indicator of success, and feelings can often become growth traps. Growth requires perseverance and effort over time. Interestingly, when you have walked a distance on your journey (sufficient to convert a backwards glance into meaningful introspection, rather than fearful longing), those times you now recognise as growth were probably those that required maximum effort and may have even felt like failure at the time.
Change your behaviour and you’ll change your mind
Here’s a collection of 10 key habits for growth that help you see your behaviour in a mirror. Why? So you can see if your behaviours are supporting you on your journey. Behavioural mirrors are important because it’s often hard to tell whether you’re on the right track based purely on how you feel.
10 habits to make growth automatic
- Always plan a future greater than your past
- What you learn must always be greater than the experience
- Always give more than you take
- Be known for the high quality of your work, not its applause
- Look for ways to be more grateful than successful
- Enjoy what you do
- Contribute because you want to add value, not grow your status
- Seek confidence before comfort
- Find a purpose larger than money
- Ask great questions