A Success Process for Building Your Life’s Foundation

By Stedman Graham in Success on April 11th, 2007 / No Comments

The world is a collection of unlimited wealth and resources – yet we often limit our potential by moving in our own small circles because of our fears. If we change the way we view the world, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.

I think that the greatest opportunity in life is to have a sense of who you are. To me, that means being comfortable with yourself and your surroundings. It’s connecting to what’s real and being able to feel your authenticity. It’s looking past labels. It’s having clarity about your life and your possibilities by viewing your life from a higher point than where you are now. It’s being able to establish a personal- and professional-performance program to build, leverage, and position yourself in your chosen area of influence. It’s wanting to perform up to your potential – and being able to do so.

Your Success is Based on Your Commitment to Discovery
First, discovering who you are; second, discovering how to apply this knowledge to the world you live in; and third, making the discovery process part of your daily routine to sustain success over a lifetime. The challenge lies in the ability to coexist and grow with the world as it changes, rather than collide with it or get swallowed up in it.

It took me a long time to understand that the world we live in is defined by so many external things that we’re constantly programmed by so many external things – including our family, school, job, and friends . . . not to mention the messages we get from the media. With so many agendas coming at me all the time, I often have to step back and ask myself,  ‘At this time, what’s my program? What messages am I listening to about what I should do, what I should want, where I should live, and what kind of car I should drive?’ After all, the messages I’ve been listening to and following might be very different from what I really need and want.

I know of no greater feeling than having clarity of purpose in life so that I can focus my energy and resources on my goals and visions. Taking a proactive approach to creating opportunities rather than waiting for things to happen has helped save me many years of wasted time. And it’s had a positive domino effect: I’m rewarded at many levels when I have clarity because I can more easily align the resources available to me for continued progress. This progress builds momentum and creates more opportunities.

During my journey through life, I’ve learned that there are many important things that people have in common, no matter what city, state, country, or continent they’re from. People want leadership – they want to follow a model, or someone who knows where to go and how to get there. They also want to be valued – they want their achievements recognized, and they want to feel good about themselves. And folks also want to be better – they want to know how they can build even more value for themselves in the future. In addition, I’ve learned that not much is accomplished when you focus on others shortcomings. I’ve found it more valuable to focus on opportunities rather than on problems and weaknesses.

The Routine of Life
Most of us live in a routine – that is, there’s a predictable pattern to what we do every day. When I speak to groups, I often ask them what their daily routines are. Not to my surprise, they tell me basically the same thing no matter where I’m speaking: Early in the morning most people get up, shower, brush their teeth, maybe grab a quick breakfast, and get the kids off to school; then they drive or take a train or bus to work, spend eight or more hours at the job doing the same types of things every day; and then they get the kids, go home, eat dinner, watch TV, and go to bed.

This is pretty much a template for the entire workweek. On Friday nights, maybe folks go out; while on Saturday they try to sleep in a little and then do chores such as grocery shopping or mowing the lawn. (They may go out again on Saturday night.) On Sunday, they might go to church, have dinner with the family, and then get ready for Monday. How long can this routine be kept up? Some of us might say for 30 years, or even all our lives.

Well, when we look back after 30 years, we’ll find that we have no more in the end than we had in the beginning. That’s because we can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. We stunt our personal and professional growth if we don’t strive to do and be something better tomorrow than yesterday and today.

Most of our time is spent doing mundane tasks: sleeping, eating, driving, dressing, bathing and grooming, checking and replying to e-mails, paying bills, watching TV, trying to organize paperwork, and making sure the kids get to the bus on time. Even celebrities, who we imagine to lead glamorous and exciting lives 24/7, have a lot of normalcy in their routine. Humans across cultures – and across the globe – play out these same scenarios every day.

There’s nothing wrong with the concept of a routine. What I’m saying is that when we’re focusing on them, they should be thoughtfully based on what we want to accomplish. As philosopher Henry David Thoreau put it: ‘It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. What are you industrious about?’ Good routines aren’t automatic, because in doing them we’re more aware of what we’re doing and why. More than that, the key to making routines work for us is to improve upon them every day.

What Do You Care For?
The word care is very important in our lives because without it, we disconnect. We’re just going through the motions. Whenever I read the newspaper, or travel and speak to people, I realize that lack of care is a huge problem in our society – we just aren’t doing a very good job of tending to ourselves or anyone else. (Think about it: Isn’t that the source of all types of problems today?) And we first have to learn to care for ourselves before we can care for others.

As individuals, we may not eat right, get enough sleep, exercise, or reach out for the support or affection we need. If we do take this type of care – that is, we look out for and show some concern and tenderness toward ourselves – we’ll be way ahead in life and weather its rough storms.

Lack of care can become a dark, spiraling path that leads to serious family and societal problems. For example, if you’re apathetic about your job, it will show in your work. People say that things used to be made with more care, and in many cases that’s true: In our fast-paced, bottom-line-focused world, we often sacrifice quality. There may also be multiple people involved at different stages of a project or product’s development so that no one individual feels the responsibility or pride he would have felt if he had control, or had at least contributed to the big picture.

Likewise, if you’re a teacher and you don’t like your job, think about the effect that could have on the students in your classroom. And if you don’t care about your neighbors or community as a whole, they’re going to suffer. You ultimately do, too.

This reminds me of when I was on a ten-city tour for Teens Can Make It Happen. I spoke with corporate and community leaders and also visited schools at each stop. As I got out of the car at one particular school in Denver, I saw trash all over the schoolyard. A tennis court for the students was terribly run-down: The surface was all cracked and covered with debris, weeds, and overgrown bushes. Then as I walked up to the school itself, I noticed that the building was dingy and badly in need of a paint job, and a couple of the windows were cracked. It was actually a great-looking structure – the architecture was fabulous – but it needed a lot of work. I wondered how in the world the students could care about themselves or their education when they were walking into this environment every single day. How could they be expected to care when the people running the school didn’t seem to.

I immediately went into ‘vision mode.’ I asked myself, ‘What would it take to make this environment better? I know that the public-education system doesn’t have a lot of money to work with, but how much does it cost to pick up the garbage around the school or cut the grass? It wouldn’t take that much to get the building painted – they could even raise a collection to do it. Obviously, nobody cares.’ And that’s precisely the message that these kids got every single day when they took the walk toward their classrooms. When I spoke to the students, my intuition was confirmed: They were lifeless – the neglect and lack of concern was evident in their hollow expressions.

We each have a daily decision to make about how we tend to ourselves and others in our community. When we put out the effort – even a small one – to care, we start to feel good about our community, our relationships, and ourselves.

This excerpt has been taken from the new book as part of Who Are You? A Success Process for Building Your Life’s Foundation, by Stedman Graham. It is published by Hay House and available at amazon, all bookstores or at Hayhouse.

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