Great news if you’re looking to be an even better version of yourself. Others have traveled the path of self-actualizing and optimal living, and you can too.
Let’s look at five ways that you can ramp up your personal growth game.
- Make the right actions habitual.
Michael Phelps, with eight gold medals the most decorated Olympian in history, is my personal favorite example for this first tip.
In his book No Limits: The Will to Succeed, Phelps talks about Coach Bob Bowman’s philosophy: set high goals, and work conscientiously every day to achieve them.
For five years, from 1998 to 2003, Phelps trained every day, except three days, one when there was a snowstorm, two others when he had his wisdom teeth pulled.
Other than that, he trained every day.[bctt tweet=”When you do what successful people do, you get what successful people get.”]
Phelps notes that all Olympians are obviously elite athletes, so what separates the great from the very best? According to Phelps, mental training matters.
Physical and mental
Habits, then are not only physical, but also mental.
When Phelps was a younger swimmer, Coach asked him to do a particularly strenuous practice. Phelps argued that he couldn’t.
Coach let Phelps know, there’s a difference between can’t and won’t.
Time and again, Phelps would dig deep past the idea that he wouldn’t or couldn’t do something.
His physical and mental training was key to winning his eight gold medals.
Your action step: Part 1: Don’t confuse “won’t” for “can’t.” Part 2: Know what key actions you need to practice to achieve your personal best. Make these actions habitual.
- Be empowered by reality
In The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials Into Triumph Ryan Holiday writes about seeing obstacles in a new way.
He encourages us to “condition our minds with the skills and discipline to filter prejudice, expectations and fear. What’s left is truth.”
Stripping away these negative filters, Holiday says, “gives us the advantage of seeing obstacles simply and straightforwardly, neither good nor bad.”
Objective and curious
This objectivity empowers you to cast aside the inertia that goes with fear, or the energy zapping feeling that comes when your expectations haven’t been met.
Seeing obstacles just as they are, you can now look at them from a standpoint of curiosity. And ask yourself what your next best move is.
Of course, when you challenge yourself to higher level living, you’ll face challenges.
Be empowered in knowing that the challenges are coming and strip them of their negative filter, and set out solving that issue so you can get right back on your path.
- Develop your “Trusting Mindset.”
John Eliot, Ph.D., award-winning professor of management, psychology and human performance, came up with this brilliant idea, and discusses it fully in his book Overachievement: The New Model for Exceptional Performance.
To clarify, when Eliot talks about overachievers, he’s not talking about workaholics, who care only about earning the next dollar or hypercompetitive athletes who focus only on winning the next award.
Overachievers as Eliot clarifies are people who got beyond expectations and consistently perform at their best. He writes “Real achievement is the qualitative experience of happiness and fulfillment day in and day out.”
To achieve this, distinguish between your training mindset and your trusting mindset.
Training is analytical
When you’re in training, you focus on improving your skills. You deliberately notice what worked and what didn’t, and you focus on adjusting to fix what didn’t work. There’s definitely an element of the analytical when you practice.
However, when it’s go time, and it’s time to perform, slip into trusting mindset. Eliot likens this to a squirrel when it’s jumping onto and running across telephone lines.
The squirrel doesn’t stop to overthink wind velocity, the height of the pole, or his readiness to make the jump successfully. The squirrel simply goes for it, trusting without analyzing that it’s all good.
Trusting is automatic
Here’s how it applies in the human world. Great athletes, surgeons and keynote speakers, for examples, have all practiced their craft before the big events. When the moment of truth comes, they are ready, without performance anxiety.
Your takeaway: Prepare, with deliberate attention to improving with each practice. When it’s performance time, know you are ready.
- Sow on purpose, by knowing your goals.
Earl Nightingale, one of the most influential writers in the self-help movement, wrote in his 1956 book The Strangest Secret “Have you ever wondered why so many people work so hard and honestly without ever achieving anything in particular? And why others don’t seem to work hard, yet, seem to get everything?”
Why is that? Nightingale answers: The difference is goals. Some of us have goals, some don’t. People with goals succeed because they know where they are going.
Living without goals, he suggests, would be like a ship setting sail without a captain. There would be no destination reached, only drifting.
Like a farmer’s land, our minds return what we plant. It could be no other way.
Law of laws
Every action you take has a reaction or a consequence. Ralph Waldo Emerson called this law of cause and effect the “law of laws.”
Know that all success is purposeful. You don’t stumble upon success. You reach it by clearly planting your goals in your mind, and tending them as you would a garden.
Just as you would tend a garden, attend to your goals with daily action.
- Make today your best.
John Wooden, considered by ESPN to be the greatest coach of the 20th century, took his UCLA Bruins to win 10 NCAA championships in 12 years. For the record, he did coach at UCLA for 16 years before he developed this winning approach to coaching.
In his book Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court, he notes that so many focus on what they cannot control. Yesterday is gone, we can only influence tomorrow by today’s actions. So, we only really have control over what we do today.
Can’t make up what you’ve lost
Wooden said his philosophy of applying yourself to become a little better each day is even more important in life than in basketball. The key, he wrote is to “Make each day count and knowing you can never make up for a lost day.”
Ask the right question
People ask the wrong question, he said, rather than did I win or lose? Ask, “Did I make my best effort. That’s what matters. The rest just gets in the way.”
Wooden suggests going for a little improvement each day. “Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way [success] happens – and when it happens, it lasts.”
Your call to action, based on Wooden’s wisdom is this: know each day what you’ll work on and put forward your best effort, each and every day.
Use these five tips and you’ll find your levels of success rising and your confidence growing each day.