It’s a basic assumption of mine that if you work to your maximum capabilities, and steadily seek to grow those capabilities, in the long run you will accomplish a great many of your most important tasks, projects, and goals.
But while this sounds simple in theory, in daily practice it can be quite difficult. There are too many distractions, too many obstacles, too heavy demands on my energy. It’s too often easy to settle for giving less than my best.
That’s why I’ve focused on some basic principles to help guide me in making the most of who I am.
It’s Helpful to Make Smart Choices
One of the smartest pieces of advice I’ve ever heard is: “There are a million things you can have, and a million things you can’t have.”
Aside from being literally true, for me the message in this is simple: since I can’t be, do, and accumulate everything I want, I’d better get used to disappointment, and minimize that disappointment by making smart choices.
What are smart choices? They’re the courses of action most likely to be achievable and also bring me great satisfaction.
Consistently choosing to work toward these choices tends to bulldoze a straight route toward getting the most satisfaction and success I possibly can from my work and my life. It also helps me avoid the trap of trying to obtain any of the million things I can’t have, and wanting to whine about it later.
There Are Many Ways to Get Smarter
I have learned over the years there are nearly always a great many opportunities for me to get smarter in ways that help me increase my productivity and success. That’s why:
- I look for lessons in my experiences, and even more so in the patterns of my experiences. I find there are lessons all around, for at least two reasons:
- “When the student is ready, the teacher appears,” and
- “The Universe will keep presenting a lesson until you learn it.”
- I listen intently, and think about what I’m hearing, because anything – even an idle or innocent remark – can lead to a new approach or a creative idea.
- I’m alert – as I’m working to complete a particular task, project, or goal – to subtle difficulties, hidden obstacles, and new problems that may emerge, any of which could be a sign I’m making things worse instead of better.
I’m always trying to understand and stay open to the lessons potentially available to me in every experience. I’m ready to learn from other people, from situations and their outcomes, even from myself – if I happen to hit on a new idea, technique, or strategy that’s better than my old one.
I March to My Own Music
Everyday situations – and in particular the culture and the economy in which we operate – offer a lot of tempting enticements, and they also amplify the intensity of the satisfactions promised to us if we give in.
That’s why the most satisfying strategy for me has long been to set my own goals, establish my own success criteria, and strive to be the best “Robert” I can possibly be. I have found this the most practical and probable way to make the most of who I am, including my skills and talents.
I Continue Learning and Growing
I remember it was a revelation to me to realize people don’t stop aging when they reach 21. Our appearance continues to change as we work our way through milestones like age 31, 41, and beyond. Aging turns out to be a continuous process.
That’s on the outside. But – if you’re willing – it can be equally true on the inside, where you can continually pile on:
There’s no reason for personal growth and the sense of wonder to peter out, unless you make the not-so-smart choice to stop the process.
The good news is, at some point, this accumulation often transforms into an undeniable level of wisdom.
We all have different definitions and ideas of who we are and how to make the most of ourselves. But whoever you are and want to be, whatever tasks, projects, and goals you are attempting to accomplish, you’ll have the best chance for satisfaction and success if you use these four principles to make the fullest use of your capabilities and steadily seek to grow them.
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