THE LAWS of Lifetime Growth


The most successful individuals in today’s world of continual change are those who can grow throughout their lives. “Lifetime growth” itself obviously requires intelligence, but that’s just the start. Many highly intelligent people stop growing in terms of their enthusiasm, alertness, receptivity, flexibility, and adaptability long before they’re physically old. What’s missing from their lives is a set of basic attitudes and habits that keeps them fresh and innovative in their responses to the world around them. To the left are ten “laws” for experiencing continual growth, based on observing the behavior of ten individuals who are still motivated, learning, changing, and succeeding at an advanced age.


Always make your future bigger than your past.
A bigger future is essential for lifetime growth. The past is useful because it is rich with experiences that are worth thinking about in new ways – and all of these valuable experiences can become raw material for creating an even bigger future. Approach your past with this attitude, and you will have an insatiable desire for even better, more enjoyable experiences. Use your past to continually create a bigger future, and you will separate yourself from situations, relationships, and activities that can trap you in the past.


Always make your learning greater than your experience.
Continual learning is essential for lifetime growth. You can have a great deal of experience and be no smarter for all of the things you’ve done, seen, and heard. Experience alone is no guarantee of lifetime growth. But if you regularly transform your experiences into new lessons, you will make each day of your life a source of growth. The smartest people are those who can transform even the smallest events or situations into breakthroughs in thinking and action. Look at all of life as a school, and every experience as a lesson, and your learning will always be greater than your experience.


Always make your contribution bigger than your reward.
Increased contribution to others is essential for lifetime growth. As you become more successful, numerous rewards will come your way: increased income, praise, recognition, reputation, status, capabilities, resources, and opportunities. These are all desirable things, but they can be growth stoppers. They may tempt you to become fixated on just the rewards, rather than focus on making still greater contributions. The one way to guarantee that rewards will continually increase is to not think too much about them. Instead, continue making an even more significant contribution – by helping others to eliminate their dangers, capture their opportunities, and maximize their strengths. Greater rewards will automatically result from this, and your future will continue to be filled with increasingly rewarding ways to contribute. Always focus on creating new kinds of value for larger numbers of people, and you will ensure that your contribution is always greater than your reward.


Always make your performance greater than your applause.
Increased performance is essential for lifetime growth. If you become more skillful and useful, you will receive greater applause from an expanding audience. This can be intoxicating, and the temptation will be to start organizing your life around other people’s recognition and praise to keep repeating what got you the applause in the first place – rather than moving on to something new, better, and different. When this happens, the danger is that the applause will become more important to you than your improved performance. The greatest performers in all fields are those who always strive to get better. No matter how much acclaim they receive, they keep working to improve their performance. Continually work to surpass everything you’ve done so far, and your performance will always be greater than your applause.


Always make your gratitude greater than your success.
Increased gratitude is essential for lifetime growth. Only a small percentage of people are continually successful over the long run. These outstanding few recognize that every success comes through the assistance of many other people – and they are continually grateful for this support. Conversely, many people whose success stops at some point are in that position because they have cut themselves off from everyone who has helped them. They view themselves as the sole source of their achievements. As they become more self-centered and isolated, they lose their creativity and ability to succeed. Continually acknowledge others’ contributions, and you will automatically create room in your mind and in the world for much greater success. You will be motivated to achieve even more for those who have helped you. Focus on appreciating and thanking others, and the conditions will always grow to support your increasing success.


Always make your enjoyment greater than your effort.
Enjoyment is essential for lifetime growth. Some people believe that success has to be hard earned to be real. They are highly suspicious of any gains that come as a result of enjoyment. If they earn rewards this way inadvertently, they feel guilty. If others appear to be profiting from enjoyment, they question those people’s morality, certain that such gains can only be ill-gotten. Meanwhile, they continue to toil away at things that give them no pleasure, suppressing any hints of enjoyment that may creep through, lest these be interpreted as signs that they’re not “serious” or “professional” and deserving of success. In the process, they cut themselves off from a major source of energy, creativity, and motivation. Finding ways to get more and more enjoyment from your activities is one way to ensure continued growth. Creativity in all fields of activity is intimately linked to playfulness – the constant desire to do new things just for the fun of it. Approach everything you do with this sense of play, and you will ensure that, even though you still get as good or better results, your enjoyment is always greater than your effort.


Always make your cooperation greater than your status.
Cooperation is essential for lifetime growth. When people come together around a common purpose, they can achieve results that no individual could accomplish alone. Working with others and creating opportunities for increased cooperation makes greater things possible in our lives and in the world. Yet some people mistakenly assume that if they work with others or treat them as equally valuable contributors, people will somehow think less of them, or it will diminish or obscure the value of their own contribution. These people’s attachment to their status keeps them from cooperating with others and puts a ceiling on their growth. Always make your cooperation greater than your status, and you will find unlimited possibilities and synergies in combining your talents and opportunities with those of others.


Always make your confidence greater than your comfort.
Increased confidence is crucial for lifetime growth. Many successful people start off life as dreamers and risk takers, but the moment they become successful, they begin to seek greater security and comfort over everything else. This attitude puts them to sleep motivationally, and they lose the confidence that made them so successful. Security and comfort are desirable by-products of goal achievement, but when they become the goal itself, they quickly stop lifetime growth. Treat any increa
se of comfort in your life as only a temporary stage for establishing bigger goals. Continually strive for higher goals and achievement, and your confidence will always be greater than your comfort.


Always make your purpose greater than your money.
Greater purpose is essential for lifetime growth. Many people start off their careers thinking that money is the goal. Money can be a useful measure of success or progress in certain circumstances, and it’s a resource we can use to realize greater possibilities, but at some point money without purpose loses its meaning. Money as an end becomes a growth stopper. Having a purpose that is greater than yourself will give you a constant impetus to strive. Purpose gives life meaning and helps us to direct and focus our talents and efforts. It also attracts the talents and energies of others whose purposes align with our own. Think of money only as a means of achieving a greater purpose, and you’ll attract all the resources and rewards that make up a rich life, not just money.


Always make your questions bigger than your answers.
Questions are essential for lifetime growth. As children, when we’re all growing at a rapid rate, we ask lots of questions. As we get older, we gradually begin to think we have a lot of the answers. For some people, their entire sense of security and self-image depends on having all the answers – on never being wrong. As a result, these people try to understand everything in terms of what they know. But all growth lies in the territory of the unknown. What we already know is in the past. What we have yet to discover is the future. Always make your questions bigger than your answers, and you’ll keep drawing yourself into a bigger future with new possibilities.

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