Posted by Todd Smith
Have you ever wondered why some people seem to get all the breaks? They have the perfect spouse, rich parents, the ideal job or business, a big, beautiful home, and a nice car. Everything seems to be going their way.
Thirty years ago, when I married my wife Joy, she said one of the first things she was going to teach her children is that life is not fair. Like many children coming from broken homes, she grew up in an unhealthy environment and life wasn’t fair.
Why do some people get all the breaks?
On a recent trip, I was reading the manuscript for John Addison’s new book, Real Leadership. John shares his story of how he went from a young, confused high school graduate working an entry-level position at a life insurance company to becoming the Co-CEO of Primerica, one of America’s top life insurance companies.
As he shared his story, he talked about how he never seemed to know what his future would look like. When he graduated high school, he had no idea what he would do for a living and still didn’t know after college.
He said he just focused on being a better person every day, a lesson his mom taught him, and making good decisions.
Here’s exactly what he said:
“I believe one of the great keys to a successful life is incremental improvement. It’s not about going from where you are today to moving into a mansion with five swimming pools tomorrow. It’s not about ‘quantum leaps’ or the big, dramatic breakthrough. Those are great for Hollywood films, where the filmmaker has only two hours to get the hero from Point A to Point Z.
But back here in reality, where life’s major changes and plot points are measured in years rather than minutes, it’s about day-by-day personal improvement, finding your pathway, one step at a time, to where you want to go. Exciting? No. Dramatic? Hardly. But it does have the advantage of being ‘real’—and over time it can indeed lead to events both dramatic and exciting.
And there’s the rub: time.
Incremental improvement doesn’t happen automatically, and it sure doesn’t happen swiftly. You have to commit to it over a lengthy period of time, and that takes a certain amount of character and spine.
A lot of people try to short-circuit the process by jumping around, zigging and zagging through life. They’re too impatient, too unfocused, or too willing to follow the next shiny new idea that comes along. Tapping into the great power of incremental improvement takes patience, persistence, and faith. The payoff is well more than worth it.”
While reading John’s book, I began reflecting on my life, my wife’s life, and the lives of those who have life’s winds blowing at their backs. I realized there was one common thread woven through all these lives: they are lived by humble people who are trying to get better every day.
How to start getting all the breaks?
No matter what you’re going through or how bad things have been, today can mark the beginning of a new chapter in your life.
You don’t need to know where you are going or what your life will look like 10 years from now. All you need to do is commit to getting better every day.
Here’s who John Addison said gets the breaks:
“The shaping events in your life, those moments that in hindsight prove to be crucial turning points, are often events that just seem to happen, out of the blue, the chance confluence of unpredictable circumstances. But the truth is, they don’t ‘just happen.’ Most times, they happen because you’re taking action in the direction of your why. You may not be able to plan the results, but that’s okay: If you keep moving forward, focusing on incremental improvement, you’ll put yourself in their path.
This is one of the most deceptively simple leadership secrets there is: keep moving forward. People won’t follow you if you’re sitting in the corner sucking your thumb and talking about how bad things are. They’ll only follow you if you’re going somewhere.”
The process begins with our decisions.
While there will always be exceptions, in large part, our lives are a reflection of our decisions. My mentor, Jim Rohn, said, “Success comes from a series of good decisions made over time, while failure comes from a series of poor decisions made over time.”
If we want to improve our lives, we must improve our decisions. It’s really that simple.
Every day, we make hundreds of little decisions, each influencing one or more areas of our lives. The good news is you know the right answer to 99% of those decisions. The bad news is most of them don’t bring immediate pleasure or rewards.
When you start making decisions to eat the foods you should and avoid those you shouldn’t, you will become healthier.
When you start exercising regularly because you know you should, you will have more energy, lose weight, and feel better about yourself.
When you start bringing more value to your place of work than you are being paid, new doors of opportunity will open.
When you start doing the little things to be a better spouse, your marriage will grow.
When you start focusing on the ways you can become a better parent, your relationship with your children will blossom.
When you start becoming a more responsible person, people’s respect for you will grow.
While I can’t guarantee many things, I can guarantee you this: if you focus on getting better EVERY day, life’s winds will begin blowing at your back.
Like everyone, you will face rough seas as you navigate through life, but if you build your life on a foundation of humility, character, and personal growth, you will survive life’s storms as a stronger person.
Let me challenge you to start being intentional about doing the little things each day that you know you should do, especially those you don’t want to do.
Each time you do something you would not have done previously, pat yourself on the back. Don’t look to others to congratulate you on your good decisions; instead, congratulate yourself. It’s your life!
As you continue to push yourself each day to get better, your self-confidence will begin to grow. As you start feeling better about the person you are becoming, you will be even more motivated to continue growing and getting better.
Life’s greatest rewards don’t go to those who are lucky. They go to those who have paid the price over many years.
Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 43 years and founder of Little Things Matter. This blog contains over 200 of his timeless life lessons.
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