Last week we discussed the two-step dance of character development and performance. And as we wrapped up, I promised that we would tackle the mission of putting together our very own customized plan for personal growth. Are you ready to dive in? Today we’re going to create your very own Personal Growth Plan! We’re going to map out a few simple steps to design your character that will drive the performance to create the life-picture you desire. Let’s dig in!
The first step I’m going to suggest is to start with the end in mind. If you could literally sit down and design yourself on paper, who would you be? What would you stand for? Almost as if you were a fashion designer sketching a new line of clothing, and you could use the pencil and eraser until you got your character looking exactly the way you want it—on paper. But, instead of skirts, scarves, and stilettos, you’re sketching the person you plan to become. A good way to help get your creative juices flowing is to make a list of the leaders you admire and the specific qualities you respect in them. Let me give you an example. I did this for the first time myself 15 years ago, and I took a look around me at the most successful men and women I knew of who had achieved positions I respected. Some of them I knew personally, and some of them I only admired from afar. I then made a list of all the character traits I admired and respected in them—the qualities I believe helped them achieve that high level of success in their lives. Some of the traits on my original list included poise, polish, work ethic, charisma, analytical thinker, eloquent speaker, wisdom, humility, no drama, unassuming, godly, and solutions-oriented, just to name a few.
I then enhanced that list just slightly by asking myself the following question: If I could pre-write my own eulogy to reflect all of the things I want my friends and family to remember about me when I’m gone, what would it say? What kinds of things would I want to be remembered for? (Yes, it is a totally unpleasant thought, but it’s a very powerful way of forcing us to think about the legacy we want to leave behind.) You might want to be remembered as kind, generous, never met a stranger, great friend, lived life to the fullest, sought to honor God and glorify Him with every moment, served others, compassionate, passionately loved her family and went out of her way to show them daily, loved to laugh, generous with her time, talents, energy, and finances…the list could go on and on, but you get the idea. Once my list was finished, it became the framework for the person I wanted to become.
My second step was to move down the list I had created, one quality at a time, and assess my current self as compared to the person I wanted to create. I gave myself a ranking, on a scale of 1-10 based on my own opinion of how I measured up to each of those qualities. When I finished rating myself against each quality, I was able to take a step back and visually absorb the amount of personal growth I was looking at tackling in order to fully embrace the life I wanted to live. After I let that soak in for a little while, I moved on to the third step—I prioritized the list in order of the qualities I wanted to work on first, second, third, and so on. This was totally based on my own self-analysis of which ones were the most important to me, and which ones would make the biggest impact on my results most quickly.
So now, I had the character traits I wanted to develop listed out in the order I wanted to address them in. The biggest remaining question to me was then….OK, how do I go about actually developing or strengthening these character traits within myself? Here is what I decided to do…
It has been said that you become like the people you associate with, the books you read, and the arenas in which you invest your time. So, I became very on-purpose with exactly who and what I allowed to influence me. I took very honest stock of the people I spent time with and took steps to limit my interactions with anyone who drained my energy or gave me permission to remain mediocre. I also went out of my way to align myself with people who I wanted to emulate and learn from. I searched for workshops and seminars and any opportunity to surround myself with the level of thinking I wanted to achieve. I became willing to be inconvenienced and went out of my way and invested time, energy, and finances to sit at the feet of the people who could take me where I wanted to go. My personal plan was to attend at least one personal development seminar every six months in addition to the local workshops I attended for my own specific business. My biggest role models and mentors didn’t know my name at all, but they influenced me in ways I could never even begin to quantify through in-person conferences and CDs that I would listen to dozens of times over. Finally, I began to keep a running list of book titles people would mention and I set a goal to read one personal development book per month. The topics vary from leadership skills to spiritual growth to wealth management to life skills to parenting…anything that would help me become that person I designed on paper. (Side note: this became SO POWERFUL for me that I’ve since bumped up my reading rate to roughly one new book per week. But it’s important to set attainable goals for yourself and then expand as you go.)
Let me encourage you to keep just a few things in mind as you start: This is a life-long personal growth process. Be patient with yourself and don’t get frustrated if everything doesn’t fall into place overnight. But don’t let yourself off the hook too easily, either. Remember, if you wait for perfect conditions, you’ll never get anything done. So just start somewhere! And whenever you start to feel discouraged or deflated or even apathetic with your situation, go back to the drawing board. Take another look at that sketch of the person you want to become. The road won’t be short or easy, but if you keep your desired result in front of you at all times, it will give you the strength to keep growing into the person—which will drive the performance—you are proud of!