Category Archives: Personal Growth and Development
“Find your why and you’ll find your way.”
– John C. Maxwell
“What is your why? Why did you even get out of the bed this morning? Why did you eat what you ate? Why did you wear what you wore? Why did you come here?” These are the questions Howard Inlet, the character played by Will Smith, asks his employees at the beginning of the movie “Collateral Beauty.”
Should you be asked the same questions, would you be able to answer unequivocally? Do you have definite answers to at least the first two questions? If your answer is yes, good for you. Way to go! I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually you’ll succeed in your personal and professional pursuits, or I may not know it but you have already succeeded. But if your answer is no, I would suggest you do some soul searching because seemingly you have been cruising through life aimlessly. It is very likely that you don’t know your purpose. You are sailing in the sea of life using a rudderless boat.
Purpose is a powerful driving force in our quest for a better self and a better life. Purpose is the reason why we do what we do and why we exist. They help us have a meaningful existence. Thus, we should strive hard to know (or establish) our purpose and be driven by it. We need to live life purposely.
The question is how. How to live life purposely?
Simon Sinek gave the following suggestion – “Start with why” (which is also the title of one of the books he wrote). He (Sinek) explained that the WHY is your purpose, cause, or belief. Although the said book focuses on organization and leadership and how having a WHY helps the leader succeed in bringing progress and prosperity to the organization, the WHY principles that Sinek articulated apply to individuals as well.
It’s not only organizations and leaders who should have (and be very clear with their) WHYs. Every person should have them, whether or not they belong to an organization, whether or not they are leaders. Each individual needs to determine and establish their purpose, cause, and belief. It’s not only organizations and leaders who should know why they do what they do and why they exist. Each of us should have a clear understanding of these things.
Two of Howard Inlet’s questions – “Why did you eat what you ate?” and “Why did you wear what you wore?” – may, at first glance, be considered inconsequential. But as one of the owners of that advertising company in the movie, Inlet wants to drive home a very important point – that every member of that organization should be aware of the reasons why they do what they do.
This is one thing we ought to be doing even in a personal level also. We ought to be asking ourselves why we do what we do.
I presume (and I hope my presumption is right) that you have set goals in the different areas of life – family and relationships, career and business, personal growth and development, and fun and recreation. It is possible that you may have subdivided your life into areas differently from the way I did. But one thing for sure, just like me, you have goals in the different aspects of your life no matter how you may have structured it. Those goals are the manifestations of your purpose or purposes in life, causes you defend and advocate, and the beliefs you hold dear.
The answer to the question “Why did you even get out of the bed this morning?” should be as simple as – to pursue the goals you set in the different areas of your life. Right?
But how many out of 10 people set goals? How many do live a life driven by a definite purpose? That may be difficult to answer. The one thing I noticed though about estimates on how many percent of people in a particular society or country are successful in their chosen endeavors and fields of expertise is that none of the statistics went above 10%. Actually, majority of the articles I read on the topic claimed it’s only 2% to 5%. So, if goals correlate to success, given all the aforementioned numbers, is it safe to assume that approximately only 1 out of 10 people set goals?
Granting that my estimation is accurate, only 1 out 10 people know their purpose, cause, and belief. The great majority of human beings wake up in the morning not knowing what are they going to do and where are they headed to. I hope that you’re not one of them.
And those questions that I said earlier are seemingly inconsequential are necessary questions to ask to remind you that even the simplest things you do everyday should contribute to the attainment of your big goals.
Purpose-driven people constantly ask themselves this question – what consequences do my words, actions, and thoughts bear on the goals that I set.
Bear this in mind all the time – that your WHY is your north star. It gives you a sense of direction. It is the rudder boat needs when you sail. Not having a clear purpose is like looking for something that you don’t know. You’ll never find it. It is like walking aimlessly not knowing where to go. It’s living life randomly, not purposely.
When you finally decide to take control of your life and chart your own destiny, the first order of business should be knowing your WHYs upon which you will anchor the goals that you will set.
“When we strive to become better than we are,
everything around us becomes better too.”
– Paulo Coelho
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…”
That’s the first line in Robert Frost’s poem entitled “The Road Not Taken.”
Each time you wake up in the morning, you stand at a fork in a road – one path leads to self-complacency and the other to self-improvement.
“And sorry [you] could not travel both
And be one traveler, long [you] stood
And looked down one as far as [you] could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;”
You wouldn’t be able to see what lies ahead because the forest of life is dense and the road is not straight. All I can tell you is you will either bear the consequences or enjoy the results of choosing which way to go. And you were not born yesterday not to know the repercussions of self-complacency and the wonderful effects of self-improvement. You know which direction leads to ruin and which one winds through the valley of success and happiness.
But the road to self-improvement is either not taken or the one less traveled because it is easier, if not intuitive for people, to be complacent. Well, according to neuroscientists, we should blame our brain for this. And this is where we’re good at – putting the blame on someone or something else. Would you now add your brain to the list of what or who is to blame for your failures?
Neuroscientists say that we are naturally wired to prefer either lying on the couch or sleeping. We are naturally lazy. We hate getting out of our comfort zones. We want things to be given to us in a silver platter. Thus…
“Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;”
We don’t want to read or to do any personal growth and development program dropping as our excuse the lack of time to do it. We don’t like to undertake fitness programs saying they’re too difficult to commit too. We don’t believe in the value of proper nutrition reiterating that we have the right to eat whatever and whenever we want.
What we want is a magic pill that we can take to magically unlock our full potential and transform us into the best version of ourselves. The bad news is – there’s no such pill and there will never be. Self-improvement is not a magic pill to take but a Mt. Everest to climb.
Sometimes, when you feel like finally wanting to walk the path to self-improvement. You say…
“Oh I kept the first to another day!”
But having enjoyed your journey in the lane of self-complacency, you would exclaim…
“Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.”
Well, God has given us free will. We live life the way we want. Nobody could ever coerce us into doing what we don’t like. Just don’t forget that whatever becomes of you when you get to the end of the path you decided to take when you came to that fork in the road is your personal choice. “Life is a sum of all your choices.” That’s from Albert Camus.
As I said in another article I wrote about self-improvement, “We indeed have the freedom to choose. It is just unfortunate that some people would choose not to make themselves better.” Free will is both a boon and a bane.
But should you decide to take the road not (or less) traveled – the road to self-improvement – this is what you would say when every strand of your hair turns gray…
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
“It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject
from various points of view.”
– George Eliot
I do have a friend who would usually be mistakenly identified as me. There were many instances that people in the university where both of us are teaching called me by his name and him by mine. Why? I am not a dead ringer for him but very likely that our similar built, height, and rounded face would make people commit that mistake.
Seemingly bemused, he asked me one time, “Why would they think I am you? Do I look as old as you are?” I paused for a while, smiled then told him jokingly, “No, I think I just look as young and handsome as you are.”
As my friend laughed at my response, I thought that the contrasting way we looked at the issue has opened an opportunity for me to revisit the topic “perspective.”
Perspective – our tendency to look at the same things, events, issues, and concepts differently – is one of the most amazing things about us humans. According to Duffy (2019), “perspective is arguably the single greatest aspect of our uniqueness and that each of us has a uniquely valuable perspective of life – a lens through which we interpret our lives.” She (Duffy) explained that we can expand our perspective through a tool called perspective taking – learning from the way others see life.
In this book we will refer to perspective taking without consideration of the way others see things, events, issues, and concepts. Yes, there is a need to respect and learn from the way others view life but are those views correct? Are those views not inimical to our interest and wellbeing.
The kind of perspective taking that I think we should be doing is choosing the best vantage point of looking at things, events, issues, and concepts according to their own merits and not according to the socio-cultural frames set by anybody. Are they positive or negative the way that they are and not the way anybody wants to see them/or the way you want to see them?
Anything in this world can be viewed from different perspectives. We get to decide at what vantage point we would look at circumstances, problems, events and even objects using lenses that are uniquely ours. We tend to measure and interpret those things using our own value system. We label and define them according to our beliefs. We react to them according to our attitudes. Those beliefs and attitudes, as I explained (in my other self-improvement articles which I hope you have read), are shaped by the way we were raised by our parents, trained by our teachers, influenced by the people around us, and conditioned by our culture. Two persons could look at the same window one morning and one would see the speck in the window instead of the sun rising. It is in this context that I wish to discuss enlightened perspective.
The sum total of the experiences we accumulated since birth and the amount and quality of information we gathered through the years from different sources are the factors that contribute to the kind of perspectives we develop as persons. Our way of viewing things depends on the value system that those experiences and information impressed upon us.
Each person is entitled to embrace a particular attitude towards something. There are no specific measurement to determine the rightness and wrongness of perspectives. Only the consequences of a person’s action (or the lack of it) as a result of embracing certain perspectives could perhaps be labeled as right or wrong.
When we are about to take a perspective it’s like we’re positioning ourselves in the number scale and decide whether to go north or south. We can either be positive or negative with our perspective. Those are the only directions we could take when we look at issues and circumstances confronting us. It’s a matter of choice. If you want more choices, imagine perspective as the Cartesian plane.
When viewing an issue, an event, or a circumstance and you’re about to make a decision about it, place yourself at the origin or the center of the Cartesian plane. Decide in which quadrant you would focus your lens on when making a decision – positive/positive, positive/negative, negative/positive, or negative/negative. What I mean is you can decide to view what is happening or what is about to happen purely as good, or purely bad, or you are objectively weighing both the good and the bad. There are always the pros and cons – the advantages and disadvantages. You have to carefully weigh both before making any decision or before passing your judgement.
An enlightened perspective is a perspective taking devoid of biases, prejudices, and preferences.
Your perspectives affect the decisions you make. They inform the things you think, say and do. Thus, while you are entitled to have any kind of perspective, in the same manner that we are entitled to our own opinions, you should bear in mind that we will bear whatever consequences there may be for embracing the perspectives we take.
You also need to understand that you could not assume that what you believe or see is definitive. Different people have different ways of looking at things. The perspective of the world that dictates the lens through which you see it is not the same for everybody. You need to develop the ability to see things also from another’s viewpoint. This is what I referred to earlier as perspective-taking. But while you try to understand and respect how others view things and issues, you don’t need to embrace them when you deem that that perspective is negative and contrary to the positive outlook that you are trying to develop.
Perspectives can either be broad or narrow.
Having a broad perspective means being able to see the bigger picture. `
I once had a conversation with another friend about working conditions. He bewailed the fact that a truck driver in his country earns more than what he is earning in a year as an expat teacher. After listening to his litany, I told him to pause for a while and dig deeper into his comparison and consider other factors like number of required work hours and the physical demands for the job. When computing the number of hours, I reminded him that we as teachers are not actually working during winter and summer breaks but we get paid in full by the university as stipulated in our contracts.
He realized at the end that his pay per hour is actually higher than the truck driver and his working conditions are much better.
It is not really hard to train the mind to look at the bigger picture. It is easy to look beyond the obvious if only we’re open-minded. It does not require a special kind of training. All we need is common sense.
There are a lot more that could be explored in the discussion of perspective. At the end, the thing that matters is the answer to the question, “How do our perspectives affect the way we live?”
If the lenses you are using to view the world have brought you success and happiness, why change them. We’ve been told many times, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But what about if those lenses are seemingly broken and have caused you nothing but failure and misery? Is it time to visit an OPTIMIST?
Duffy, J. (2019). The Power of Perspective Taking. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.