You are pure potential. No matter how well or how poorly you might be doing now, there’s still a lot of runway in front of you. It’s never too early or too late to become the person who comes after the person you are now, that better version of you that is still trapped inside—and that you can only manifest by your own willpower.
Bringing that person into existence requires you to demand more of yourself. The four critical changes you need to make include enacting a radical personal accountability, growing and developing the competencies you need to reach the next level, raising your personal standards, and maintaining a set of critical disciplines.
Radical Personal Accountability
Radical personal accountability means that you are responsible for owning your own life, fully and completely, and without any excuses. Everything is your responsibility, everything is your fault, and every result is something you own.
George Orwell wrote, “An effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks.” Orwell was a bit of a pessimist, so he tended toward vicious cycles, but radical personal accountability can also create a virtuous cycle, one where your success leads to future successes.
For good or for ill, you own your vicious cycles and your virtuous ones. There is no external force that can prevent you from improving your life and your results. Once you make up your mind to own your life, the worst circumstances can do is postpone your goals, providing you with the adversity that increases your strength.
Your Growth and Your Development
The person who comes after the person you are now resembles you, but they have changed and grown in some meaningful way. If the person you are now were capable of producing the results you want, you would already have them. Demanding more of yourself requires that you develop over time, a choice that is available to you regardless of where you find yourself. Truth be told, everyone’s a bit of a “fixer-upper“: the structure is sound, but we need a bit of a renovation.
There are two areas here that deserve your time and your effort: character traits (or virtues) and skills. If development is an iceberg, the skills may be floating above the water line, but they’re supported by character traits all the way down.
I spent more than half of my first book, The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, describing the character traits that allow one to succeed in sales, including resourcefulness, initiative, and self-discipline (more on that later). The first publisher who considered the book didn’t understand why those traits were important to sales outcomes, which honestly surprised me since I think they can improve any endeavor. Whatever skill you need to acquire or improve, demanding more of yourself means increasing the competencies necessary to become who you are. You own your life by looking directly at what you need to improve, then getting to work.
Raising Your Personal Standards
Think about a leader you’ve had who genuinely cared about you, whether it was a boss, a teacher, or even a parent. They were effective partly because they saw something in you that you had not yet recognized, so they demanded that you meet a higher standard. Because someone pushed you, you grew.
But momentum works both ways: when other people give up on trying to raise your standards, you often give up on yourself. As long as you are not causing them trouble, most people leave you alone, accepting you as you are even though you are capable of being and doing much more. Demanding more of yourself requires that you raise your personal standards, something that radical personal accountability requires of you.
One of Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules is that you should treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping. Let me take that a step further: treat yourself like someone who recognizes your potential and demands that you exercise it. You know that you can be more and do more. You know that you can improve yourself, your results, and the contributions you make. You won’t need anyone else to impose their standards on you when your own standard is higher than anything they could ask for.
Maintaining Your Critical Disciplines
You may be familiar with the idea that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” The truth is quite the opposite: the reason the flesh doesn’t do what it needs to do is that the spirit animating the flesh is weak. You have to will yourself to act. Everyone has weaknesses, but comfort is a greater threat than them all. The part of you that seeks comfort is obdurate, stubbornly refusing to exert the necessary effort and energy. Your spirit needs to be stronger than your desire for comfort by compelling you to act.
Demanding more of yourself largely comes down to a few critical disciplines. The first of these disciplines is determining your priorities: what you need to do daily, weekly, and monthly to produce the results you want or need. The second is blocking time and creating a routine that allows you to maintain your disciplines over time. The third and most difficult is compelling the flesh to do what you need to do without fail.
Your future depends on what you do today and every day. Building the future you want for yourself and the people who care about means demanding more of yourself.
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