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Surpassing Your Personal Best

"The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence."
- Confucius

There is no better feeling than surpassing a personal best, being on the top of your game, pushing yourself beyond present limits, achieving things you may not have imagined a year ago. Personal development is all about reaching new heights; seeing ourselves being better precedes being better. In reaching our goals, perception plays a significant role. Having a growth mindset is the difference between achievement and wishful thinking.

The Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck writes, "the hand you're dealt is just the starting point for development… This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Changing our beliefs can have a powerful impact. The growth mindset creates a powerful passion for learning" (1)

Expanding our capacity for learning increases our effectiveness. How we perceive ourselves, our current capabilities, and our capacity for personal development is everything. Whether we maintain the minimum standard requirements or challenge our personal best, isn’t written in the stars, it’s engraved in our thinking.

John C. Maxwell suggests three simple actions to jump-start our growth:

Stop Doing Only Those Things You've Done Before and START Doing Only Those Things You Could and Should Do

The first step toward success is becoming good at what you know how to do, but once you've mastered what you know, you begin to discover other things you could do. Doing what you've done before increases your efficiency, but it doesn't do much for your capacity. Doing new things leads to innovation and new discoveries, which yields new things that you should be doing—things that likely replace those things you've done before.

Stop Doing What is Expected and START Doing What is Unexpected

Let me go ahead and clear this up: what most people never expect is to have their expectations exceeded. What others define as a ceiling, you define as a floor, and then seek to go up from there. Being a leader who gives in to the inertia of the daily routine, the same old same old, may allow you to be efficient, but it will never allow you to be effective. You must push past the minimum and seek to do something beyond what's expected. Show up early. Stay late. Listen well. Praise more. Reward faithfully. Share willingly. In a world where leaders are expected to disappoint, be the leader who delights.

Stop Doing Important Things Occasionally and START Doing Important Things Daily

If it's important, it's worth doing. That's the leader's mindset. Yet so often, we surrender our time to the urgent or the pressing or the "needed" instead of to what's important. To do what's not important each day yields nothing for you or your leadership; it merely uses up your time. And to do what's important only occasionally doesn't lead to the consistency that compounds into results. You must do what is important daily if you want to achieve expansion in your capacity (2)

The Character Ethic

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."
– Helen Keller

Doing the right things well will undoubtedly help us increase our effectiveness and the capacity for personal growth, but it's who we are on the inside that leaves a lasting impression on those around us. In his book "the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey writes,

"Have you been feeling the pressure to do more as a leader? If so, let me encourage you to intentionally invest time in expanding your capacity to act. Doing the things, you should be doing, doing them beyond anyone's expectations, and doing it daily is the key to expanding your capacity in ways you can't yet imagine.

I've said it for years, and it's still true: the world is not made better by our intentions; it is made better by our intentional actions. As leaders, we must do more, but we must do more of what makes us better. We must increase our capacity for helpful and productive action.

In stark contrast, almost all the literature in the first 150 years or so focused on what could be called the Character Ethic as the foundation of success—things like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty, and the Golden Rule."

"There's no better feeling, even if I've won a race, than recording a personal best. It's setting yourself personal goals, but also realistic goals."
- Jenny Meadows

End Notes

(1) Mindset by Carol Dweck

(2) "The Law of Expansion" 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John C. Maxwell

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