Last week’s blog focused on how the typical transitions in life can be great opportunities for personal growth. When we are intentional about learning and growing instead of resisting change through these often difficult transitions, we find ourselves on an effective path to reach our full potential.
For most of us, the typical transitions in life come about by just following the crowd in the routine choices of life. Most of us simply follow the crowd. The student transitions through school years and then into the workforce. The transitions into marriage, children, and caring for aging parents all somewhat follow the flow of the typical journey of our modern life. As we discussed last week, these transitions can be difficult, but they also afford us a tremendous opportunity for personal growth.
The focus of this week’s blog is on how we can identify and create transition moments in life in order to ‘raise the bar’ in our personal growth and to provide a helping hand in getting out of a rut we have created during times we have become comfortable, settled, or perhaps just a bit complacent.
We have all heard the simple truth that “life is a journey, not a destination.” However, for most of us, it is those destination points in life (graduation, a good job, a family, a role in service to others) that pose our greatest risk of becoming complacent and settled. Our mindset becomes “I have worked hard, persevered through challenges, learned, and ‘arrived.’ Now I can take my foot off the gas and coast for a bit.” We all know that mindset is a recipe for disaster in the workplace, in maintaining a marriage, raising children, and in any other meaningful role we may play in life.
Instead of getting stuck in a rut or risk a disaster in an area of life that we genuinely care about, how can we maintain a desire for personal growth during the routine seasons of life and mimic the opportunity to grow that we find during major transition points in life?
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Accept the Reality that our current status (a good job, a committed marriage, emotionally healthy children) is at risk if we are not intentional about our own growth. Will Rogers said it best, “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” We are at risk the moment we feel we “arrived” on the fresh side of a typical transition point in life.
2. Clarify Intentions. It is important that we clearly decide what we want to become and how we want to act in the many roles we play. “Winging it” sounds cool on the dance floor, but in the really important things in life, we will fall way short of our potential without being intentional with our efforts.
3. Leverage the natural rhythms of life as fresh starts to make incremental changes to improve. Routine points in the year like the start of summer break, going back to school, the New Year, anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, even “Mondays” can be extremely practical and relevant times to declare a fresh start on making a small, incremental change to reach a new goal.
4. Sustainability. For many of these typical transition points in life, we are in it for the long haul. We don’t start and then stop being a parent, or being a son or daughter, and most of us will be “working” at something throughout our lives. Marriages, well sometimes that may be a different story for a host of reasons, but our original intention is to be in it for the long haul. We have all probably experienced times when we tried to make massive changes in some area of our lives after attending a “pump-up” motivational event, “re-dedicated” our efforts to something, or a genuinely significant life event (sickness, family break-up, job loss etc.) caused us to “wake up” and try to get on the right track. The data would demonstrate that massive life changing plans usually are not sustainable for any of us over the long haul. What seems to work best is making small, incremental change over time that builds momentum for us to sustain heading in the right direction over the long haul. Decide on small changes and start making progress.
5. The Crowd We Keep. We often tell our kids how important it is that they hang out with the “right” crowd, not the “wrong” crowd, because for most of us, we follow the crowd. As adults, we don’t always take our own advice. We should seek to connect with those who are encouraging and supportive of heading down an effective path vs. those who bring negativity and apathy on any path. Find the “right” crowd and stick with them, just like we tell our kids.
Like most things in life, the choice is ours. We can become set in our ways and find we have created a rut (or worse a coffin with the ends kicked out) that limits our potential. Or we can ignite a spark of change during the routine seasons of life so we can continue to grow and reach our full potential. As we decide to continue to move forward in growth, we build and strengthen our character and realize the truth that Character Creates Opportunity to reach our full potential and make a positive impact on those around us.