Since this blog was started, I have often written about success, progress, self-improvement, and transformative processes wherein I encourage people to pursue better versions of themselves. During such posts, I have been conscious of how to effectively communicate that I am not suggesting that you need to change because you are imperfect (we always will be) or that you must change because you are unworthy of love, joy, or happiness in your current state – you are. What I find myself wondering is how to encourage people to pursue personal excellence, to make tough decisions that will lead to a better and happier future without implying that they ought to be unhappy until they choose to change?
“Happiness is not the belief that we need to change but the realization that we can.”Shawn Achor – The Happiness Advantage
Enter Shawn Achor. I have read several of Dr. Achor’s books including “the Happiness Advantage” where discusses the research that he and his colleagues have done, demonstrating that happiness comes before success rather than happiness being a byproduct of success. In reviewing my notes on his work, I came across a gem of a thought which I had previously overlooked, and which seemed to answer my questions above about how to encourage progress without diminishing the present. Dr. Achor wrote: “happiness is not the belief that we need to change but the realization that we can.” This was the very answer I had been looking for.
The possibility of Change
We are all imperfect beings, and we always will be. While don’t have the possibility of perfection, we do have the capacity for growth. When we realize our potential and take action bringing us toward it, we create more joy and more happiness for both our selves and for the world as we embark on a transformative journey wherein we are improved not by reaching the destination but by choosing to take the journey in the first place. Recognition that we hold potential for improvement does not diminish the present. To make progress we must first recognize our worthiness, and learn to be happy in the present, even as we commit to growth, otherwise the potential for growth is stunted. While we are both worthy and imperfect in present state, I believe we owe it to ourselves to make a conscious decision to commit to progress even when perfection is unattainable. It isn’t the destination of perfection but the journey of growth and the changes we make along that path that make progress worthwhile.
Aim your progress towards a worthy and noble goal
The one caveat I would make to this is that we must be careful that our idea of progress, and that ideal towards which we strive is a worthy investment of our lives. We must begin with the end in mind and have a firm understanding of our desired outcome, our target, because if our shot lacks a target we would never know if we hit it. As you formulate your desired outcome, imagine the type of person you will become as you achieve that result. What does that person do and what emotions do they express. More importantly, what type of values does this person exhibit? These values and these emotions will be your compass on your journey to growth and will ensure not just that you are successful but fulfilled spiritually and emotionally. As Tony Robbins once said, “success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure.” Do not work your ass off for success but neglect to become fulfilled.
“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”Henry David Thoreau
It is ok to have goals that may seem superficial, it is ok to want more money, it is ok to want to be famous. What is important is not so much what you want as are the 3 questions of: why do you want it; what will you do when you have it; and what will you be willing to do to achieve it? As long as the why’s and the what’s are noble, you will become a better and happier person as you pursue personal progress. Thoreau once wrote “what you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” What you will become is a better version of you, and in becoming a better version of you, you create a better version of the universe. Change not because you must, change because you can. Don’t change because you MUST, choose to change because you CAN.