Make this year a great time to start thinking big

February 7, 2010
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We often forget that things, time and calendars do not make a difference in life — people make the difference.

Change, like life, happens with or without any help from us. Growth, however, comes only through our intentional actions. People love and hate change at the same time. While wishing for things to remain the same in our lives (comfort, security, job, environment, friends, relationships), we really want them to get better (rarely wanting discomfort, negative change or inconvenience in our lives).

Wanting it “both ways,” we often refuse to invest the necessary “sweat equity” to make change happen. When handed to us, we’re more than happy to take it. If we have to identify areas needing change and then intentionally act to put them behind us while moving forward, that’s often a different story.

To act intentionally means to leave behind what is holding us back while hoisting our sails to capture the winds of a new tomorrow. Though we may not always know where the winds will lead us, simply catching hold of their endless power will help us to move from here to there without becoming caught in the calm between what was and what could be.

Some random thoughts to help you maintain focus along your journey include:

“The only way of finding the limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible.” — Arthur C. Clarke

When we restrict our actions, reactions and responses to the ways and methods with which we are familiar, nothing will change. Only when we dare to act in ways we’ve never before acted and think in ways we’ve never before thought will those things that were once beyond our reach become possible.  In order to maximize the potential of success, however, we must recognize the resistance we will face, respond to the concerns our detractors will present, and present a plausible, acceptable alternative to their status quo.

While we may not like it, charging for check-on baggage and basic in-flight meals has generated a solid income stream for the airlines. Many livestock businesses generate income from the sale of waste byproducts to the energy and/or fertilizer industry.

To move from where you are to where you wish to be — and perhaps even beyond to where you can but imagine — tear down the walls that limit your reality to what you’ve always known or you will end up doing and being what you’ve always been.

“Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.” — Samuel Johnson

Allowing an individual to learn from failure is possibly one of the best learning techniques we can use. When a person must turn back due to unexpected rapids after charting a course and setting sail, two things happen. First, the individual will hopefully learn from his or her mistake by recognizing the signs of turmoil and acting to avoid them before embarking again. Second — and perhaps more important — they learn to correct their error in a way that continued progress toward the accomplishment of the goal is assured.

Learning by experience is much more beneficial than listening to someone else say which way to go or what road to take. We should plan, anticipate and think of reasonable alternative approaches prior to starting any task but must not succumb to “analysis paralysis” by allowing our fear of failure to diminish our chances of success. When we stay behind the starting line, it’s difficult to finish the race.

“The only person who never makes mistakes is the person who never does anything.” —Denis Waitley

Life is not a carefree path we take while moving toward an idyllic destination. Life is fraught with pitfalls, traps, snares and impossibly steep embankments. It would be nearly impossible to go through life without making a mistake, so quit trying to be perfect.

Some of the world’s greatest inventions came out of failure. Our greatest presidents frequently tasted defeat before they were elected. Many business owners have failed in an endeavor before experiencing success. One caveat, though, would be that once a mistake is made, learn from it so that it will not be repeated.

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Value is established not by what we know but rather by how we apply it. Knowing that a car needs an engine, a transmission or an electrical system doesn’t make you a mechanic. You must apply what you know to be of any use to anyone. I can think about fixing a car all day long but nothing will happen until I pick up a wrench.

Any action creates an opposite and equal reaction, both in physics and in life. Intentional action is a prerequisite to change. Plausible and acceptable actions are the precursor of success.

“Risk more than others think is safe. Care more than others think is wise. Dream more than others think is practical. Expect more than others think is possible.” — Cadet maxim

As you dive headlong into life, remember that you will get from life only what you put into it. I’ve seen individuals slide through life expecting (and receiving) very little. Some say that setting low goals will assure them they won’t fail. I choose a different path — and so should you.

Take calculated risks in order to increase your chances of success. Choose to care more about others than you care about yourself. You might be surprised how rich and free you life will be in return. Choose to dream enough so that you can experience new horizons when bringing dreams to fruition. You cannot fulfill another’s dream, only your own.

As for expectations – you will never rise higher than you expect yourself to rise, nor fall lower than you allow yourself to fall. Always expect more than is probable while seeking only the possible, and you will surely taste success during the coming year.

David J. Smith is president and CEO of The Employers’ Association, a not-for-profit provider of human resource solutions since 1939.

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