1938. Karoly Takacs was writhing in pain. The 1936 world class pistol shooter had just shot his right hand. His right hand by which he would hold his pistol.
The pain of the extinguished hopes was more than the physical pain. Everyone looking at him said “A great career which could have been has just ended” Or did it?
By 1939 i.e. in a year’s time, he won the National Shooting Championship. Olympics was cancelled in 1940 and 1944 due to World War 2. Finally in 1948 Olympics, after waiting for nine years, he wold the Gold medal and also in the next Helsinki Olympics in 1952.
He won all these championships by his LEFT Hand.
Back in 1938, He could have easily moaned in grief and led a victim’s life which everyone would have shown sympathy to. Instead he rose above his physical and mental challenges and achieved the impossible.
You may say “I am not an Olympic Athlete. How is this relevant to me?”
Let me ask you: “Do You want today to be better than yesterday?” If yes, then this is for you.
Because if you focus on the very core aspects of your life then your today is going to be better than yesterday.
What are these core elements?
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Purpose Trumps Passion.
This is one of the foundations of Cal Newport’s book So Good They Can’t Ignore You. Why so?
Lets look at what these terms mean:
Purpose: The reason for which something exists, a person’s sense of resolve or determination
Passion: strong and barely controllable emotion, an outburst of emotion, an intense desire or enthusiasm for something
Do you see the difference? Where would you hitch your ride to?
Having a purpose becomes a guiding beacon in our life.
Does that mean Passion has no place? We all are energized by our passion. But would it last for long?
If you asked Steve Jobs in his 20s about his passion, he would have said “Eastern Mysticism”
Too often what we think is passion, is actually a keen interest. When we are done satisfying it, we move to another “passion” and then after some time we find ourselves rudderless.
Purpose is that rudder in our life.
Why do athletes and sportspeople achieve so much? They live every day in service of that purpose.
Often people say “I don’t know what my purpose is?”
Look back in your life. Find out when you have been most joyous or felt most fulfilled or energized.
It could be as far back as your childhood or college days. There lie the seeds of your purpose. Maybe there was something about discovery or about organizing things or about achieving something.
Relate those incidents to your other significant life experiences and you will find a pattern.
If you cant find anything, then ask yourself “Whom can I serve? What can I do which can help someone?”
Don’t be limited by time or money. You can help people by just being there.
Volunteer for some cause. Often, People discover their purpose when they do volunteer work.
I believe that at our very core, we all want to serve others because this interconnectedness is what keeps this world moving. We just are waiting to discover it.
Whatever the purpose, there is a power which comes to it when you Focus on that one single purpose
What separates a Purpose from a To-Do list is SKILL.
Like all skills, it needs to be developed and nurtured.
Once Focus is developed, you bring the power of concentration in your life.
Focus helps in excluding the non-essential and concentrating on the most essential things.
No wonder Daniel Goleman, the pioneer of Emotional Intelligence, in his book calls Focus as the Driver of Excellence.
Focus narrows your attention to the most important part of your life.
With Purpose as your beacon, you ask yourself “what is the single most important thing in my life which will deliver my purpose? What is the one thing which will make the most important impact this year and this month?”
Gary Keller and Jay Papasan in their book The One Thing brings this point out repeatedly as how focus on the one thing has a transformational effect.
The flip side of focus is you stay away from multi-tasking. While multi-tasking looks and sounds exciting, it does not generate the results.
A study done by Clifford Nass, a Psychology Professor in Stanford University, found out “Multitaskers were just lousy at everything”. [Link Here]
As Gary Keller and Jay Papasan vividly point out “People can actually do two or more things at once, such as walk and talk; but what we can’t do is focus on two things at once”
Notice the word Focus again. That is the key.
Bring Focus in your life and unlock the powers of concentration. This key is not easy to find and needs practice.
It is only when we undertake deliberate practice around building a particular skill, we become a force to reckon with.
We have all heard about the 10,000 hour rule for experts.
Anders Ericsson (Link here) who first came up with this rule, had one more critical element along with it.
10,000 hours of deliberate practice.
You need to not only practice but also bring in deliberate practice.
Angela Duckworth of GRIT fame mentions how she asked Anders Ericsson how deliberate practice works. It is not just repeating something over and over again. It is about setting up the entire skill into small chunks, seeing the linkages between them and then, setting up a feedback system.
How does this work?
Suppose you want to become fitter and have decided to run every day.
Just running every day 1 hour and clocking 10,000 hour is not going to make the world’s fittest person.
You need to start with a goal: what do you want to achieve in that one hour? Certain distance or calories burned or both?
Next, you will break down the run into prep, actual run and post run.
You will break the run into equal units.
Now you will monitor each of these every day with the aim to get better every day.
Every day in some small way. Maybe you will run 10m more or 100m more every day. May be your speed will increase 0.5% every day. Keep the increase very small because cumulatively they will generate a massive impact.
Gain feedback from each of this stage. What is working? Do more of it. What is not working? Do less of it.
You will hate this but no music while running. Why? The best of runners bring awareness into every moment to be with the experience and learn from it.Building the Awareness muscle is the key to Deliberate Practice Click To Tweet
Can you see the elements of deliberate practice now?
This process helps in entrenching what is working. It creates new neural networks which not only retain memory of what you are doing but also add to your self image that “It is like me to make measurable progress every day”. This discipline of doing it every day will eventually translate into a healthy habit
One of the most powerful forces in your life is the force of Habit.
Once entrenched, they become unshakeable. What is important is you need to have habits which create a transformative effect.
In their book, The One Thing, Gary Keller and Jay Papasan give the example of Michael Phelps the Olympic Swimming Legend. In kindergarten, his mother was told “He’s not gifted, Your son will never be able to focus on anything”.
When the latest Olympic Games got over, his gold medal count was 23 making him the most decorated in the Olympian history. What changed?
Somewhere at age 12, Phelps decided to swim every day: seven days a week, 365 days a year. He did that from age 12 till those Olympics.
He focused all his energy into one task – swimming daily such that at some point it became a habit and not something he had to push himself to.
Think about a daily habit most of us have? Brushing our teeth.
Initially, your parents had to use all their persuasion to get you to brush every morning but over time, this has become a habit for you.
There is another effect of habits. They act as levers. Not only do you change one thing, you setoff a ripple effect which changes everything around us.
Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit gives several examples of this. He gives the example of how lady shifted from chain smoking to jogging and it changed how she ate, slept, worked and saved money. Areas where you won’t normally associate that it would have an effect on but they do. He calls it as the Keystone Habit.Keystone Habits have a ripple effect across our life and touch all aspects Click To Tweet
This is the power of habits. There are many functional habits which you can work at but one habit which will have a transformational effect is expressing Gratitude.
The Youth Gratitude Project Research convincingly shows that grateful youth are happier, more satisfied with their lives, friends, family, neighborhood, and selves. (Link here)
They also report more hope, engagement with their hobbies, higher GPAs, and less envy, depression, and materialism.
Does this mean you have to say “Praise the Lord” everyday? Not necessarily.
If you look around, there are millions of things happening right now to make sure you are successful in whatever you are setting yourself out for.
The sun has risen giving us the warmth we need and the nourishment that the plants need to start the food cycle.
People have reached their place of work early or are working to keep the electricity going, the traffic signals working, trains and buses running, your office is lit up and charged for your presentations and your computers, the hot coffee, the lovely chairs and the table of your meeting room: you get the picture.
Yes you might be paying money for it but everyone is doing their part so that you can do your part.
Patricia Ryan Madson, Emerita Stanford University, in her book, Improv Wisdom calls it the Silent Gifts.Everyday is Christmas if you are thankful for the silent gifts which have come your way Click To Tweet
Harvard Medical School reports (link here) that people who thank more frequently or better still, maintain a Gratitude Journal report lesser diseases, are more healthier and happier than average.
Whom will you thank today?
One of the techniques which has helped me is the POST technique: People, Opportunities, Situations, Things.
We are quick to thank when we get things but there are people who make impact on our life, opportunities which open new directions to our life and situations which help us learn about ourselves and others, which are more powerful.
So the Core elements of change are:
- Deliberate practice
Finally, these are only tools to create a positive force in our life. How and how much we apply it in our life will decide whether how big will the transformation be in your life.
Bronnie Ware is a writer and songwriter from Australia who spent several years caring for dying people in their homes. In her fascinating book The Top Five Regrets Of the Dying, she says that the one of the highest regrets, dying people have is
“I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me”
No matter what experiences you had in the past, today is the chance to make the change.Live your life so that your epitaph boldly states, ‘No regrets. H Jackson Brown Click To Tweet
Will You bring about change in Your Life?
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