I love this quote by Maya Angelou because it so succinctly summarizes the path to success—be a work in progress. That’s it.
As human beings we all need a challenge. Without a challenge we atrophy. Think about the physical world for a moment. Unused muscles become weak. To be truly engaged in life, I must be growing. However, growth is a choice.
Our circumstances determine our starting point, but our choices determine our path.
In other words, it doesn’t matter where you are today. What matters is whether your choices are putting you on a path to learning and growth. When I take 100% Responsibility for my own learning and growth, my growth accelerates, and my influence expands.
Self-esteem is overrated.
Modern society is fixated on self-esteem to such a degree that we are hurting the people we love most. I am not suggesting self-esteem does not matter. What I am saying is that focusing on self-esteem to the exclusion of everything else does not produce excellence. Why? Because self-esteem depends on me defending who I am every minute of every day. The truth is I’m not that great, so I must either lower the bar or tell myself lies to keep feeling good about myself. If I am busy defending myself, I cannot possibly focus on changing myself.
Choose humility instead.
Self-confidence is different. True self-confidence comes through humility. When I see myself as a work in progress, I move from measuring myself against perfection to measuring myself by my progress. It creates freedom to try new things, get out of my comfort zone, and learn through failure. You see the difference?
Confidence does not depend on me being the best, it depends on me giving my best.
Practicing 100% Responsibility is a commitment to myself to be excellent in everything I do. Notice I did not say “perfect.” None of us is born a master of anything, but all of us can be a master at something. The behaviors that lead to success are all acquirable, which means they are a choice.
Start with character and work from the inside out.
Of all the areas in which we should pursue excellence, our character should be a priority. Our character will work for us or against us and will have a multiplier effect in every other area of life. Practicing 100% Responsibility, for example, is part of character in that it is an acquirable behavior. So too are humility, empathy, emotional self-control, and effective communication. When I am committed to be the right kind of person and practice these behaviors consistently, I become more engaged in every other area of life. It multiplies my personal effectiveness, and my influence with others expands.
Because these behaviors are all acquirable, we can all choose to be actively engaged, regardless of our environment. The primary barrier preventing us from being actively engaged is excuses. When we become disengaged at work or in a relationship, we almost always do so because we are allowing our environment to control us. We begin to think false beliefs such as “I could be the right person if my environment were different.”
If this type of thinking prevails, we continue to disengage, waiting for some type of ‘perfect’ environment that is highly unlikely to ever exist. Instead of waiting for the environment to change, it is more effective to exhibit 100% Responsibility, change myself, and thereby change the environment around me.
A commitment to personal excellence does not mean I will be perfect. However, it frees me to focus on progress toward becoming the person I aspire to be.
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