The books have lots of similarities: both authors are coaches and focus on building people’s capacity to do things they didn’t think they were capable of.
But most importantly: both books are really about changing and shifting mindsets, and being and becoming strategic about our personal growth.
And this is something we so need more of in this world.
Building your capacity
The quest of building our capacity focuses on discovering our passions and strengths, and then looking for opportunities to grow strategically.
What struck me about Maxwell’s book was the chapter in particular on Production Capacity= Your ability to produce results.
In line with we know about personal growth, Maxwell notes that “everything worthwhile is uphill”, yet “most of us have uphill dreams but downhill habits” (p. 133).
First I took this to mean that progress is about an uphill battle, committing to a constant practice, and keeping it going even when things are hard and we’d rather quit.
While this is part of what “uphill” means here, uphill also means the positive, the elevating thoughts, such as positive momentum, purpose and fulfilment, that all help us climbing higher and higher.
It is always easier to choose the easy option, but many of these easy options according to Maxwell lead to downhill habits, which further take us downhill: whereas positive attributes enable us to achieve our dreams, negative thinking reduces our mental capacity.
Your ability to produce results is your mindset.
But we limit our own capacity by putting constraints via our thinking and attitude as to what we can achieve and why we can’t do something.
Asking the right questions
One of the keys for personal growth, and strategic growth, in particular is the art and ability to ask the right questions.
Both of these books are lined with deep questions that go back to our values, that challenge our perceptions of ourselves, that make us think differently, and to discover new ideas that sit within us.
For example, Annie Stewart swears by a Calling Dossier (a 7-step documentation available at https://careertocalling.com.au once the website is active) that includes Calling Journey Questions, Callings Intention, Callings Map, Callings Statement, Callings Promise, Callings Plan and Personal Legacy Pledge.
A career calling therefore is a well-thought out strategy that aligns with your strengths, values and dreams:
“A fundamental quality of a calling is that it aligns with all of who you are and often serves others as well as your own growth” (p. 15).
But rather than being just an emotionally charged discovery process, Annie’s book is about becoming strategic and self-aware in what those values are that drive us, and developing a set of steps and guidelines for you to actually start making choices that can help you in developing a career calling.
This includes in particular the kinds of questions that we often do not stop to ask ourselves: for example, just outlining a callings intention includes questions such as “What am I looking for, Why do I want to find it, What will I commit to”.
All of these (and there’s so much in every chapter) are key questions in answering what is driving us and cannot be answered in a rush; these questions require taking stock of what we live for, are passionate about, and require that kind of level of reflection that is good for us even if we often are too busy to stop and think deeply.
Finding the best advice
Both of these books offer some of the most deepest and fundamental questions that we should be asking from ourselves, questions that require and demand a deep level of reflection if we are to pause and learn.
Yet, recently a friend of mine told me about a practice he has so he can make the best decisions in his life: a personal advisory board.
The basis for this is that we often get advice from a wide variety of sources and have trouble reconciling these as our decision guides.
What he has constituted is an advisory board, which are specific people with whom he can check his direction from time to time: some of these people he talks every month, some every six months, but in these discussions they focus on reviewing his decisions and plan a way forward.
This all made so much sense to me given that often the best advice that we can get is from other people who have a different perspective into who we are, how we operate and what our strengths are.
It is about seeking different perspectives, and learning about how others perceive us, and relying on shared conversations to make decisions how to move forward.
We all have different ideas and good advisors helps us to think things through and even challenge what we know and dream:
“It’s always easier to think an idea than to practice it. An idea always sounds better when it hasn’t been challenged. But an unchallenged idea is rarely able to live in the real world. That’s why you need to take it for a walk and see what happens” (p. 86, No Limits).
This relates directly to the initiative that I will be assisting with this week, Resilience Frontiers.
This initiative is really about creating spaces to think differently, to see the future, and backcast the steps that actually can lead to somewhere where we, as a global community, have made the right decisions to overall to sustain life on earth.
But it is more about asking different kinds of questions about a future: which leverage points should we focus on if we want to bring on change? How do we know that we have succeeded? And how do we change mindsets and enable a mindset that sees the world as one rather than based on nation-based interests?
All of these questions are fundamental in bringing change, fostering innovative thinking, and seeing around the corners as to where we could be making choices that bring broader benefits to more people.
As for my own career, many of the questions posed by both Annie and John remain a key: I do want to be in a place where I can make the most impact, not just for my own career development but in a way that supports and empowers others as well.
Re-evaluating my proprieties and values and identifying actions with most impact is not a quick process, and part of this is also thinking how I can keep writing this blog in a way that adds value to your lives and thoughts, the readers.
Just to make it clear: I am super thankful for each of you who read this blog and I will keep writing, just need to figure out whether it’s every week, every two weeks or once a month that lets me to write the best pieces.
(And if you have any feedback, please do feel free to reach out at any time).
And now off to the COP25 first day in Madrid…