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Creating life strategies and the road to continuous self-renewal

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It is a puzzle why some men and woman go to seed, while others remain vital to the very end of their days. And why some people stop learning and growing. One must be compassionate in assessing the reasons: Perhaps life just presented them with tougher problems than they could solve. Perhaps something inflicted a major wound on their confidence or their self-esteem. Perhaps they were pulled down by the hidden resentments and grievances that grow in adult life, sometimes so luxuriantly that, like tangled vines, they immobilize the victim.

We can’t write off the danger of complacency, of growing rigidity or of imprisonment by our own comfortable habits and opinions. Look around you. How many people whom you know well – people even younger than yourselves – are already trapped in fixed attitudes and habits? The famous French literary historian Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve said, “There are people whose clocks stop at a certain point in their lives.”  — Amy Biehl

It is a puzzle why some people’s clocks stop at a certain point in their lives.  It is an interesting phenomenon.  When you hear people talk more about the past than about the future you know, for them,  the end is near.

There is a related phenomenon.  Aspirations and motivation.  Why do some people have high aspirations and other people don’t?  What is the explanation of this difference?

When I was in college, a long time ago, I was fortunate to meet some exceptional people.  One woman I knew had a very clear idea of what she wanted to do and what company she wanted to work for.  At graduation she applied to the company she dreamed of working for and two backups – “just in case”.

But she didn’t get an offer from the company she wanted – which was a prestigious firm.  But she did get offers from her two backups. When she told me she didn’t get an offer from the first company she was noticeably upset.  To try to cheer her up I told her, “Anyone would be fortunate to get the offers that you did get”.  In response she said, “I’m not just anyone.”  Here was an early lesson to me about people who were not one of the mass of people who will “settle” for anything less than what they really want to achieve.  Fortunately for me, as time went on from college I encountered a whole string of people who were “not just anyone” and this provided considerable inspiration and role models.

I ran across a couple of papers on these related areas of life aspirations and ongoing self-renewal

The first is about building a life through establishing goals, ambitions, and a mission for your life.  The second is about self-renewal – ensuring that the clock does not stop at a certain point in your life.  Together, you have a plan.

Here are a few excerpts from the fist paper – 15 things you can do to build a life

  1. … Explicitly understanding and shaping your beliefs is critical to “aligning your star.” At the end of the day, what do you really believe in? What matters most to you? What is your “life’s work”?
  2. Always aim high. Stretch your goals to drive you toward your full potential. Define yourself by your aspirations, not by circumstances or past practices.
  3. The essence of a life strategy is to establish goals and ambitions (and dreams!) along the dimensions that matter most to you during various phases of your life.
  4. Place yourself in a position to fail occasionally; it provides evidence that you’re stretching your boundaries, and will enhance your development
  5. Develop yourself – no one has as much incentive as you to see yourself succeed. Take full accountability for learning, and never stop. Seek out mentors and teachers from all aspects of your life.
  6. Without honest, objective feedback, you will not achieve your life’s potential. As painful as it may feel, continually assess your strengths and failings across life’s many dimensions. Avoid the delusion of wishful thinking

You can read the full text of all 15 of these in the “Build your life…” paper at the end of this posting

Here is an excerpts from the second paper – “The Road to self-renewal”

We build our own prisons and serve as our own jail keepers, but I’ve concluded that our parents and the 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 who is 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. As Jim Whitaker,who climbed Mount Everest, said, “You never conquer the mountain. You only conquer yourself.”


Build a Life not a Resume –

The Road to Self-Renewal –

Read a related article on the Generations, Cadence, and Dropping Out –


Written by frrl

March 12, 2011 at 4:31 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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