Author note: This is the fifth in a year-long, seven-part series delving into personal growth and how to achieve your potential. Sharing from New York Times bestselling author John Maxwell’s “The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth,” combined with my personal experience with his program, this series will lay the foundation for continuous and intentional growth. View other articles in the series under 'Related articles & video' at the end of the article.
Achieving success, however personally defined, can only be continued through growth. Eventually, the skills and attitudes that one has will limit future achievement unless they are grown to overcome new obstacles. For most people, personal growth is not a natural process. They simply live day to day, observing and experiencing life, without ever realizing their full potential
Law 9: The Law of the Ladder
Character Growth Determines the Height of Your Personal Growth. This is one of the most personal laws of growth that will be explored. Our character determines our actions and, therefore, our outcomes. To grow more in action, it becomes necessary to grow more in character.
“Character” will mean many different things to different people. Studies say that the most universally valued trait is honesty, but no one would determine character by a single trait. How many people can truthfully list the character traits they value most for themselves? And if they can’t be listed, how can they possibly be pursued?
I was 11 years old when I first learned, in list form, the character traits that have shaped my life. Consider the Scout Law from the Boy Scouts of America:
“A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.”
For nearly a decade, I repeated aloud, on a weekly basis, this law that I had pledged to obey. There is no doubt in my mind that striving to embody these character traits has allowed me to personally grow to the extent that I have. This list cannot be outgrown - it is a perpetual goal for which I strive but never fully achieve. Because my character can always improve, my personal growth can always increase.
There are five significant rungs of the potential ladder to build upon:
- I will focus on being better on the inside then the outside - Character matters.
- I will follow the Golden Rule - People matter.
- I will only teach what I believe - Passion matters.
- I will value humility above all virtues - Perspective matters.
- I will strive to finish well - Faithfulness matters.
The truth is that books can, and have been, written on how to improve character and it cannot be fully explored here. Fortunately, we don’t have to be great to start, but we do have to start to be great. Schedule some time this week to quietly reflect and determine what character growth means for you personally. Consider how much energy is spent on growing inside vs. growing outside.
Law 10: The Law of the Rubber Band
Growth Stops When You Lose the Tension Between Where You Are and Where You Could Be. Like a rubber band, people can be stretched to grow and achieve new heights. Also like a rubber band, it isn’t possible to bridge a gap without tension. Tension can be difficult and unenjoyable, but there are many benefits to stretching and several truths related to it:
- Few people want to stretch.
- Settling for the status quo ultimately leads to destruction.
- Stretching always starts from the inside out.
- Stretching always requires change.
- Stretching sets you apart from others.
- Stretching can become a lifestyle.
- Stretching gives you a shot at significance.
- Stretching is a lifelong pursuit.
Everyone knows what happens when we try to stretch a rubber band too far — it snaps. When attempting to stretch for growth, we must be cautious to keep smart goals and not break under the tension.
Law 11: The Law of Tradeoffs
You Have to Give Up to Go Up. I’ve been an avid baseball fan my entire life. Although some people find the sport boring, I love to watch the intense drama that unfolds as runners aim to advance around the bases. There is a universal truth to be learned from baseball - No one ever gets to second base with a foot still on first. Real growth requires real risk and there are times when tradeoffs must be made. I believe that unsuccessful people make bad tradeoffs, average people make few tradeoffs and successful people make good tradeoffs. Tradeoffs force us to make a choice in which we will feel the loss before we feel the gain and can require difficult personal choices. There are, however, five tradeoffs in life that are always worth making:
- Trade financial security today for potential tomorrow - The opportunity to learn will develop more returns than money today.
- Trade immediate gratification for personal growth - Invest in future outcomes that will pay dividends.
- Trade a fast life for a good life - Focus on strengths and passion instead of busyness.
- Trade security for significance - Doing something truly significant will require real risk.
- Trade addition for multiplication - Develop leaders not just followers.
Just as important as knowing the tradeoffs that you’re willing to make are knowing the tradeoffs that you aren’t willing to make. There are some areas in which we should never compromise, and defining them is just as important. Schedule time to determine what is so important that no compromises will be made when tempted.
Personal growth requires planning. Take the opportunity now to decide what your tradeoffs and no compromises will be when the next opportunity for a tradeoff presents itself. Following a defined plan will guarantee an expected result.
Neal Glatt, CSP, ASM, does business development for Case Snow Management Inc. He is a John Maxwell team certified coach, speaker and trainer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.