Fundamentals of self-renewal are widely known but usually implemented in isolation which leads to disappointment. Derived from the work of John W. Gardner on Personal Renewal, here’s how they look when listed.
4- Attitude towards future
Motivation without commitment is fleeting.
Commitment without meaning is tiring.
Learning without optimism is a hopeless ambition.
One fuels the other.
Motivation, commitments, meaning, optimism are all the words that make people vomit in these cool times of chasing instant gratification. These are clichés and have lost their essence. The moment you read about them makes you feel like banging your head with useless information aimed at wasting your precious time (worth wasting on other scrappy stuff). We all want practical how-to’s and step-by-step guides to make this happen, and turn that goal into reality.
We are skeptical about the idea of self-transformation when thrown at us wrapped around these terms. Even if you and I close our eyes and pretend to be deaf, this is the exact formula that every successful and fulfilled human has ever used and will use in the future — even without awareness of its presence at the core of their self-transformational journey.
It’s up to you to make them work for you and redesign your life on your terms or stay trapped inside the prisons built by society, parents, and your past self.
First, I am going to talk about learning, as without learning to do something and be someone you cannot become anything or anyone. As children, we learned to walk, read, & speak, as adults we learned to make a living, human connection, and family. Throughout life, we learn from many things, mostly with our subconsciousness. And whatever we want to be, is based on our willingness to learn how to be that way.
A famous French writer said, “There are people whose clocks stop at a certain point in their lives.”
This leads to dreading trying new things, changing, and growing all together. Younger people are more able to change to move up in their careers and life, in general. Middle ages are when people start to stagnate because their energies drop and they begin to think how it all matters anyway. When you reach that point of life don’t think it’s over. Only a chapter of life is coming to an end and that’s not the last chapter of the book of your life.
Someone said that “Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.”
Learning should not be confined to a single phase of life let alone an area of life but it is a continuous cause to commit to.
No matter the age, troubles, and successes keep asking, “What is it trying to teach me?” Learning never stops.
John disapproves to some extent his own belief as mentioned in his book, “Self-Renewal”, that “We build our own prisons and serve as our own jail-keepers”.
In his own words, “I no longer completely agree with that. I think we’re our jail keepers, but I’ve concluded that our parents and society at large have a hand in building our prisons. They create roles for us — and self-images — that hold us captive for a long time. The individual intent on self-renewal will have to deal with ghosts of the past — the memory of earlier failures, the remnants of childhood dramas and rebellions, accumulated grievances and resentments that have long outlived their cause. Sometimes people cling to the ghosts with something almost approaching pleasure- but the hampering effect on growth is inescapable.”
Life is a continuous learning and implementing process until the day you die. Those that participate actively in this process are the ones that can make something meaningful and fulfilling out of their life. They get up each time they fall. They learn from their mistakes and others’ injustices. They find purpose in everything around them and are lifelong explorers. They suffer from pain, face fears, and refuse to give up. But the passive players suffer the most as they become victims of their minds.
Without motivation, we don’t realize our strengths and put our internal resources to work. We can develop any skill or capability if we are motivated enough to commit to it.
Being motivated is about being interested in our interests.
“Be interesting, everyone wants to be interesting — but the vitalizing thing is to be interested. Keep a sense of curiosity. Discover new things. Care. Risk failure. Reach out.”
Follow your heart, it already knows the way.
According to John “People of every age need commitments beyond the self, need the meaning that commitments provide.”
Getting older is not about getting done with your commitments. There is no age limit for following your commitments. Personal commitment is doing something for yourself not caring about the judgments of society and the never-ending opinions of the people.
Having meaning in life gives you the momentum to go through the pains. Because no one is free of pain.
Humans have worries and desire for a meaningful life, they cannot go through life with the complacency of animals. There sure are plenty of people that give up on their dreams and spend the rest of their lives without living.
John said it right, “You have to build meaning into your life, and you build it through your commitments”.
There are cases where people get handed their meanings and commitments for life as heritage unless they chase these for themselves. But you are always free to build your own life and chase your kind of fulfillment. This is how you carve your identity.
“Your identity is what you’ve committed yourself to.” John W. Gardner.
Attitude towards the future-
‘’Optimism is unfashionable today, particularly among intellectuals. Everyone makes fun of it. Someone said, ‘Pessimists got that way by financing optimists.’ Some other person said, ‘I’d be a pessimist but it would never work.’”
Believing in the future is essential to shaping your destiny because you don’t risk something you don’t believe in. If you already knew your future you would not take any action.
Life is painful, your path to commitment wouldn’t be an easy one and nothing ever really feels safe. If you don’t fight you lose it but if you fight it would be bloody. “All of the history suggests that the human spirit is well fitted to cope with just that kind of world.”
John said, “High hopes that are dashed by the first failure are precisely what we don’t need.”
Self-reflection- a tool to draw upon in your life:
Self-reflection should be a religious practice. It helps you adjust your direction when under life situations, your vision gets blurred or dusty. With self-reflection, you can identify what changes you need to embrace, what decisions are worth taking, and how you feel about yourself & your life.
Without self-reflection, living life is like driving with your eyes closed and using your ears to escape accidents — a strategy that won’t always guarantee safety. Practicing no self-reflection is precisely articulated by John as, “Most of us are accomplished fugitives from ourselves.”
“Someday you blink your eyes and life wouldn’t be the same as it is, now. And you would realize how far you have come along from where you started. Those who set out to design their life would be in a much better place even if they don’t fit the definition of success according to the standards of society but they would be content on living a life on their terms.