As we go through life, we have beliefs we hold dear. Many go back as far as we can remember, and some we acquire from our life experiences. Sometimes we can even recall the exact moment that a new belief emerged from a trial or celebration. These beliefs become our guidance system in good times and bad to provide resilience, or to be sure that we soak in a moment of profound gratitude.
Here are nine that have created a strong belief system for me.
1. Failure is to be cherished.
Big successes come from a series of small failures. Expertise should not be based on chronological years but the number of experiments (failures) you have over time. Failure should never be an indictment of your skills or ability, as a matter of fact; you can only succeed by embracing failure. Failing is the proven test-and-learn process that leads to success.
The problem isn't making mistakes and failing, it is only a problem if you don't learn from it. The key is to see failure as a best friend or ally that is your incubator to great outcomes. Consider failures as vital experiments.
My favorite interview question when hiring someone is all about failure tied to learning and growth: Tell me about the failure(s) that you most cherish?
2. Don't wait for an apology to forgive.
Grudges, resentments and disagreements that linger steal creative energy that could be used for building something new that matters. When you hold onto your forgiveness rather than granting it, you're only holding yourself back.
One of my son's friends died young from the dreaded disease ALS, but his blog and suggestions were life-giving. The one that I remember most was, "today is the day to forgive someone that doesn't deserve it". You go first! Life is much easier when you learn to preemptively accept the apologies that you didn't receive.
3. Put the Other Guy out to pasture.
No excuses. Any time for any reason. One of the most common observations of human beliefs and behaviors is the presence of the Other Guy.
The Other Guy is that voice we hear in our heads that represents the fear that we are not good enough, the whisper that we are not valued. The voice can sneak up on you and start a self-authored chant that you really don't belong.
The stories we can tell ourselves are that the Other Guy doesn't care about me, doesn't listen to me, and doesn't like me. This power over you comes into full force when you stop believing you can, you will, and you are taking your capabilities to the next level, every day. It is this voice of fear and limitation that can easily degrade your mindset from being intensely focused on getting better, to being consumed with feeling bitter. Bitter gives birth to the victim mentality and this is where improvement stops and excuses begin!
4. Assume positive intent!
There is nothing more insidious and destructive than assuming someone is motivated by a hidden agenda. The judging, guessing and pushing to figure out this fictitious motive breeds negativity. Conspiracy theories and half-truths all contribute to posturing in relationships. The amount of time wasted on presuming guilt of intentions is mind-boggling. By assuming positive intent, instead of always defaulting to thinking the worst, you can create a much more joyful and positive life.
5. Never lose sight of seeing the world through the eyes of a child!
It takes only 30 minutes with a child to be reminded about the awe and wonder they approach each day with. They are driven to discover. The curiosity and delight of learning something new, seeing something for the first time or mastering a new action can be totally captivating and inspiring.
6. Listen to understand versus to respond.
One of the greatest and most powerful human processes is the art of thinking together, or co-thinking. Yet, the more common practice is to listen in order to respond. The bias most of us have is to provide a rebuttal, a one-up better idea, your experience or version of the issue, or to even change the subject to one you prefer once you can get control of the conversation. Listening is the key to collaboration, ideation, and landing on better solutions.
7. What you do is not important; it is why you do it that matters.
We are increasingly not defined by WHAT we do, but WHY, and HOW we do it. People are not ok doing meaningless work. Work can be challenging, work can have difficulties, and work can even be exhausting. But rather than soul draining, the increasing expectation is that work should be life-giving. At the core of this reinvigoration of expectations is the importance of purpose and the concept of an integrated life where a day with those we love and a day in the office have the same sense of importance, meaning and joy.
8. One person can create hope and change the world.
One person can start a movement, create an uprising, inspire a change of heart. Naval Admiral William H. McRaven tells the lessons he learned from his basic SEAL training this way: "The ninth week of training is referred to as "Hell Week." It is six days of no sleep, constant physical and mental harassment and--one special day at the Mud Flats. The mud consumed each man till there was nothing visible but our heads. The instructors told us we could leave the mud if only five men would quit--just five men and we could get out of the oppressive cold.
"The chattering teeth and shivering moans of the trainees were so loud it was hard to hear anything and then, one voice began to echo through the night--one voice raised in song. The song was terribly out of tune, but sung with great enthusiasm. One voice became two and two became three and before long everyone in the class was singing.
"We knew that if one man could rise above the misery then others could as well. And somehow--the mud seemed a little warmer, the wind a little tamer and the dawn not so far away. If I have learned anything in my time traveling the world, it is the power of hope. The power of one person--Washington, Lincoln, King, Mandela and even a young girl from Pakistan--Malala--one person can change the world by giving people hope."
Maybe that person could be you.
9. Those that give most grow best!
Giving and growing are intimately linked. Give to people that you know can't repay you. Give anonymously. Give without and expectations for returns. Be immensely grateful that you can give and watch the growth that comes from it!
What guides you? What principles do you live by?