You're driving in a new city (perhaps going over to a friend's place for the first time). The roads are not familiar to you. You have a destination to reach but aren't sure how to actually get there.
Using trial-error approach, you try to figure out which road is going to take you to the destination. Now unless you're really lucky, it may take you hours (or even days) to figure out how to reach your friend.
Now consider using a GPS system installed in your car. You set the destination and it quickly plots out the shortest path to destination. No need to worry about being in an unfamiliar place. The GPS will guide you. Turn left here. Go straight there. Turn right there etc.
The fact that you're reading this post proves that you're a fairly smart person who has dreams and wants to make them come true. Perhaps you're a regular reader of blogs like this one and are constantly looking to grow and improve.
You understand a lot about growth and development and can surely talk intelligently about it; however the rate of your own growth is average at best. Somehow the ideas are failing to convert into tangible results. And you're looking for the answer to this question. What is missing?
You are missing the GPS that'll guide you.
WHY THE COMMON WAY IS NOT THE BEST WAY FOR YOU?
If you browse through various self help blogs, you'll find that most posts are based on defining the tips, tricks and steps needed to achieve a certain goal. 5 ways to do this, 7 tips to achieve that, 9 things to avoid…. the topics are endless.
While there is nothing wrong about these ideas and most of them make good sense, they are not enough to "skyrocket" your growth. Most of the advice gives you a whole list of possible options. But how do you use them effectively? How do you find the option that is best suited for you personally, from a post that is intended to help an audience as a whole?
BUILDING A FOUNDATION
In order to pursue focussed growth, give up the idea of using the exact tips and tricks as they are presented.
Instead, you can build a "foundation". The foundation helps you to decide what will serve you best personally. You still use the principles you learn from the books and blogs but now you can use them in a focussed way to create the best results for you.
The foundation acts like a GPS that helps you to find the fastest route to your destination. There are other roads. They shall take you to different destinations in the future. But for now, you're concerned with meeting your friend.
But before we formulate our own foundation, let's take a look at some real life examples to get an idea of what the foundation will look like.
HOW TRUE GROWTH ACTUALLY TAKES PLACE?
These real life stories put things in proper perspective.
The creator of this website, Steven Aitchison has an interesting story. At the early stages of his life, Steven had serious doubts about his identity and role in life. He even considered committing suicide at the age of 19/20 (just read the "About" page). But the book "Think and Grow Rich" helped Steven to make a profound realization of the "power of thoughts". Creating an amazing life is a choice was an amazing discovery. Steven went on to earn a Bsc in Psychology, become an addiction worker and create this amazing platform "Change Your Thoughts".
You are probably familiar with Steve Pavlina. Steve got into the destructive habit of shoplifting while in college, getting caught multiple times. A couple of days in jail cell sent Steve thinking seriously about redefining his life. The experience was enough to make Steve commit to become the best human being he was capable of becoming. With a new sense of purpose, Steve re-enrolled for college (he got expelled from his previous college), taking triple than normal course load and graduated with two degrees in just three semesters. Time management became top priority. After college, he went on to run a successful games business for ten years creating the award winning game Dweep. Later he gave up games business and launched StevePavlina.com that went to become a pioneer of personal development.
The third story is my own, because there is no better way to learn than from our own experiences. At the age of 16, I came across a book that totally contradicted the path I would have taken automatically in life. Growing up in a middle class family, the model of living the ideal life was to get good grades in school, get admission in a good college, find a job, settle down, don't create waves, don't ask too many question, be happy in the little you have. However, "The Magic of Thinking Big" by David J Schwartz made a strong point about thinking big in life and how it can help you to live your dreams. I did not blindly believe in the book but it did invoke a strong curiosity. I remember thinking to myself, if what this book says is true, I don't have to settle for mediocrity in life. I can create a beautiful and amazing life. Fast forward seven years, I feel grateful for having read the book and constantly strive to improve and seek to create a life of meaning, abundance and freedom. I launched my personal growth blog about a year back (I am re-launching it now).
If you observe the details of the stories above, you can conclude the following "“
A conscious choice was made in the moment of profound realization.
Steve Pavlina realized that he needed to redefine his life and chose to create a better life. Steven Aitchison realized the power of thought and chose to center his growth around this idea of self reliance. I chose to break social pattern of mediocrity with the help of empowering big thoughts.
The growth that followed from the moment of realization was based on a certain "theme".
Steve Pavlina began to focus extensively on time management to maximize his growth. Steven Aitchison growth was centered the power of thoughts, actions and beliefs. I focussed exclusively on thinking big to expand my options for a better future life.
To stress the importance of conscious choice, realize that many people end up in jail, many people read books on creative ideas, and yet these same events triggered a turning point in Steve Pavlina and Steven Aitchison's life. See the role of conscious choice? They chose to make things different….
The "theme" helps you to create focussed results. It helps you to clearly define which are the habits, tips and ideas that will directly help you to grow, and which ones won't. It is the GPS in your journey of life.
It would have been highly unlikely for Steve Pavlina to explore spirituality while working hard on his time management. At that moment, graduating with two degrees in three semesters was the goal. Nothing else mattered. Time was of primary value. Not spirituality, not simplicity. Only productivity.
FOUNDATION = FOCUSSED THEME FOR GROWTH
There can be many more themes that can be used to centre your growth around. Here are a few common ones that are very intuitive to understand and use.
You need this theme when you have unrealized dreams but hesitate to go after them in the fear of disrupting what you already have.
You need this one when you're disorganized and seriously wish to put your life in order. You want get rid of disempowering habits.
This one helps you to improve the overall quality of life and not just in a few specific areas.
You need this if you feel that your life is cluttered with lots of unnecessary things and activities. You strive to get rid of the unessential to create some space and peace.
You wish to create the freedom of creating the kind of life you want. This includes career choices, financial stability, travelling etc.
Money has its own role to play in life and you want to ensure you create plenty for a smooth living.
The list is not exhaustive so feel free to come up with your own themes. The idea is to simply find an area for focussed development.
USING THE FOUNDATION
Once you define your foundational theme, you can begin to find what actions will help you achieve your goals.
The foundational theme acts like the GPS. The GPS plots the shortest path and helps you to decide which roads to take and which ones to avoid. Similarly, your foundational theme acts as a guidance system to help you realize the actions that will help you to accomplish your goals.
Over time, you can move from one foundational theme to another, but at any given moment of time, the fewer themes you use, the better it will be. Overall you may want to develop in various areas of your life like career, habits, beliefs (different themes) but you want to focus on them one at a time (for example, You may want to focus on increasing your work productivity this year).
IMPLEMENTING FOCUSSED GROWTH
What you've read and understood so far will be of no value unless you can implement it in your daily life. So here's a simple action plan to help you effectively implement the above ideas. All you need is a pen and paper. Get it right now. Why wait to improve your life?
Answer these two questions "“
Which area of your life needs most attention right now OR which area of your life do you want to improve the most?
Whatever area pops up in your head is going to be the "foundational theme" for your growth. Use your intuition and simply pick one area. If you are having trouble in choosing from the many possible options, just pick any. The order in which you grow in different areas of your life won't matter. What really matters is that you grow.
If you're someone who has always been shy, you can choose "confidence" as your theme. If you feel fear in chasing your dream, perhaps you need "courage". If you feel overwhelmed by the way you normally spend your day, then "simplicity" needs to be cultivated.
What people and resources will help you to achieve growth in your foundational theme?
If you're reading this post, then this question should be easy to answer (assuming you read such self help blogs regularly). What you need is a few books, development blogs, audio podcasts that guide you to grow in the field of your chosen theme. Look for the ideas and advice that are directly related to your selected theme to implement them.
ONE WEEK PLAN
You should look forward to implement any one of the following ideas for a week.
Read one book on your theme and implement its ideas. OR
Find the top three blog posts that are directly related to your theme and implement their ideas. OR
Listen to an audio podcast and follow the lessons mentioned there.
Will focussed actions for a week be enough for you to succeed?
Probably not. Any worthy goal takes time. But a start is better than no start and a good start can take you pretty far.
THERE IS MORE TO THE PICTURE THAN YOU REALIZE
Why should you grow?
Life has a natural tendency to strive for a higher ideal. Take a look at how plants grow. As the seed ruptures and a small plant emerges, it grows towards the direction of sunlight. It wants to grow and live. It should therefore, be of no surprise to you that you yourself have dreams and want them to come true.
You affect everybody
It may not be obvious but how you live your life directly affects the whole planet (I am not exaggerating).
GO FOR IT
If I were to summarize this whole post, it will be just two words.
Next time you go through a self-help blog, don't just read through all the advice. Don't just aim for the feel-good factor. Hold an attitude of intentional learning. You're looking to grow in a specific field and you want to find out valuable insights that will help you to achieve your goal.
Answer the above two questions. Go mad chasing your dream this week. And then report back in the comment section to inspire others as well.
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