By Frank J. Rich
More than any other question is the one that defines each individual, each effort toward the achievement of the next planned goal—the simple definition of success. In advising others, we occupy sacred ground. How do we help without giving over to a simple expression of the way we are, as though our way is the answer for everyone who asks: What should I do with my life? Today, the most quoted answer is engineering, healthcare, or government. These are the high-growth areas. We must first, and foremost, take stock of who, in the most essential guise, is the asker.
Once a common understanding of this quality joins our thinking, we may ask the second essential question: How good do you want to be… at something? Same question in different words: How hard are you willing to work to achieve it? The answer helps to clear the way for the potential in the asker. We may all be “able to prepare” for the outcome we seek, but few are willing to do the work. The so-called work begins with a realistic self-assessment, the stuff that begins the process of self-esteem building. The last, though not least among its building blocks is “personal accomplishment.” Without these, one can only imagine a brighter future. The idea is more the “Hollywood Effect,” or the mistaken notion that if others, their apparent success as witness, can reach great heights, so can we.
Unfortunately, one may only move from one place to another by taking individual steps. Some things we alone must accomplish. Good luck—where preparation and opportunity meet—may appear given of little personal effort, but the experienced would deny it.
The people you work with are the incredible resources necessary to a brighter future. When we invest ourselves in their success, and they do likewise, the results are astounding. Join with those that are going somewhere, with purpose, and for the good of all, and personal dreams come into focus. This is how one engages others and how many become the vehicle to personal dreams. This level of fulfillment is not only personal, but also delivers the energy that fuels collaborative work.
We gain fulfillment when actively engaged in meaningful work. When joined with others of the same mind, financial and corporate results soar. Organizations with strong financial results have employee engagement levels that are twice those with poor financial results. The numbers are similar for those organizations that have better customer experiences, which relate directly to the attitude of the organization’s most valuable resource—people.
The limbic system of the human brain informs much of how we feel about things and the decisions we make. Few elements of brain function provide more direction than this system to realize one’s personal aspirations. Although there is much to do in exercising the healthy use of it, the limbic system benefits greatly from an outside/inside view of the world. That is, how we see it as an extension of ourselves.
When one sees another living out a core value of the group or society, engagement jumps by double digits, according to studies. It is no wonder that the very powerful sense of belonging (to others) that is in each plays such a significant part in the achievement of life goals. Fulfillment may be just two levels above, but requires that we first grow a healthy model in addressing our sense of belonging. In the pursuit of our personal best, we must do a few simple things:
1. Find Clarity: Know where you are going, how it feels to imagine it, and write it down. Thought becomes behavior. The simple act of acknowledgement begins the process called “knowing,” the total body immersion in the person you want to become.
2. Commit to Action: Envision the steps along the way. Include the hard parts, such as a long educational commitment, or apprenticeship. Map out the sequence of events, and add the flexibility necessary to adjustments (not excuses) along the way.
3. See Your Dreams Moving “Toward You”: See all things as puzzle pieces to your goals, as though each has purpose and fits well. Take a position as one who claims the things that happen daily as necessary to your ultimate goals. Watch them coming toward you.
We have little more important to do than to grow with every tick of the clock. We must be ready and available as growth opportunities arise. It is not only our desire to fulfill our personal dreams; it is also our birthright.