Are You Maximizing Your Achievement in Life?
In life there are many pleasures, and it is important to maximize these opportunities. Paradoxically though, the journey through life can be challenging at times. To achieve in life (personal and/or professional), it is necessary to overcome the challenges that occur i.e. take the road less traveled. Interestingly, it is through overcoming these challenges that a true sense of purpose is forged. This combination of pleasure and sense of purpose results in a journey of happiness (Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar) and in a lifetime of satisfying achievements.
Do You have a Life Navigator for the Road Less Traveled?
A Navigator does exist: VSAM (Vision, Strategy, Achievement Mindset), which charts life’s journey towards happiness and a lifetime of satisfying achievements.
Vision: To prepare for life journeys, it is critically important to have a number of discrete Visions i.e. know where you are going. An important consideration when establishing these Visions is that they tie in with your natural values: competitive, achievement, social, aesthetic, health, fun, order, spirituality, tolerance, virtue, wealth…This ensures that one spends as much time as possible engaged in activities that bring immediate pleasure as well as future benefit. Examples of Visions include:
Self: Lead a Healthy Lifestyle…
Family: Be part of a Loving Family…
Society: Have a Career that brings you Success and Happiness …
Strategy: To move forward on life journeys and execute the Visions, it is necessary, in addition to your natural talents, to have Strategies i.e. competitive game plans, with associated challenging and specific goals. Once again, the more aligned these goals are with your values; the more likely you are to experience immediate pleasure as well as future benefit.
1. Development of Competitive Knowledge and Skills
a. Professional: formal education, skill training programs (leadership, management, communication), other.
b. Mental: emotional intelligence, social intelligence, focus, staying in present, visualization, optimizing excitement/anxiety (zone of optimal performance), other.
c. Physical: fitness training, flexibility training, other.
d. Other: nutrition awareness, other
2. Discipline to Overcome Challenges/Obstacles (Adapted from: The Road Less Traveled by M Scott Peck)
a. Delay of Gratification.
This is the process of sequencing pain (challenges/obstacles) and pleasure so that the pain is dealt with first and pleasure follows e.g. studying hard through college resulting in solid qualifications and excellent career opportunities versus too much partying in bars, or exercising 5-7 times weekly and allowing yourself a treat once the exercise target has been completed.
b. Acceptance of Responsibility.
Our Achilles Heels, and everyone has some, can only be improved upon/solved once we accept responsibility for them e.g. inadequate people skills/lack of empathy for a manager of people can only be solved after the person accepts that there is a problem and becomes willing to work on it.
c. Dedication to Truth.
Accepting the truth can at times be hard: your eating habits and lack of exercise habits are preventing you from achieving a healthy lifestyle; your behavior at work is preventing you from gaining a promotion. Nonetheless, accepting the truth is necessary to allow for growth and development.
Life is full of paradoxes that require balancing e.g. committing oneself to the pursuit of perfection even though perfection is impossible, having the self-confidence necessary to succeed whilst balancing this with humility, being confident but not overconfident, being eager but patient, being trustful but checking ahead of time nonetheless.
3.Management of Behavior
Knowledge, Skills and Discipline can be significantly undermined through inappropriate Behaviors. However, behavior is something that can be managed and changed. To be aware and to be able to manage/change behavior is important in life. One method of becoming aware of your professional behavioral style is through behavioral assessments e.g. TTI (Target Training International) Inc. which will identify behavioral style across four dimensions: Dominance, Influencing, Steadiness, and Compliance. This awareness then provides an opportunity to manage/change behaviors as appropriate. In Marshal Goldsmith’s book ‘ What Got You Here Will Not Get You There’ , he articulated the critical importance of behaviors in work success and how some in particular are problematic ( speaking when angry, failing to give recognition…).From a personal behavioral perspective, behavioral identification, and subsequent modification, in terms of eating and exercise habits – driven by specific and challenging goals- can lead to a healthier lifestyle.
Achievement Mindset: To achieve on life journeys, an Achievement Mindset is needed. Such a mindset is comprised of: Belief, Persistence and Kenosis/Continual Learning.
People with strong beliefs achieve more, as has been demonstrated in psychological studies (Rosenthal & Rubin, 1978; Harris & Rosenthal, 1985). This is likely a result of these people setting specific and challenging goals, pursuing them relentlessly, and trusting in their capabilities rather than through any magical power.
People who practice persistence don’t allow uncertainty or setbacks to get in the way of achieving their Visions. It is this continual moving forward in the face of adversity that ultimately leads to success i.e. in life when the going gets tough the tough get going.
3. Kenosis/Continual Learning
People who practice Kenosis, which is getting yourself out of your own way to allow for continued learning and growth, achieve much more in life because they refuse to be controlled by their ego, and continually open themselves up to new learning opportunities e.g. it is important to be able to let go of old beliefs, old habits, fear, anger and such like. In the case of anger for example: in life it is important to control this angry and forgive yourself after making a mistake, focusing on what you can do differently going forward. It is important to open yourself up to what you can later learn from these experiences.
VSAM:Visions, Strategies, Achievement Mindset (adapted from Psychological Foundations of Success by Stephen Kraus) – three critical companions on the journey through life. Along this journey though, there will be numerous hazards to be confronted and dealt with. Reinhold Niebuhr recommended the following prayer to help in Life: “Lord, grant me the courage to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I can’t, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Lao-tzu said that, “All journeys begin with a first step”, and Mary Oliver, in her poem The Journey, urges all of us to take that first step: “One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice…” One first step that you could take for happiness and achievement in your life’s journey, i.e. Take the Road Less Traveled, is to work on your VSAM.