The Pursuit of Happiness is, hands down, one of my favorite movies.
I am continually drawn into the true story of Chris Gardner: a defeated salesman who experiences one setback after another. In the midst of a failing marriage, single-parenting, financial troubles and homelessness, Gardner receives the opportunity to take an unpaid internship at a large investment firm. Knowing the stakes are high (and the odds of success are slim), Gardner must decide whether or not he is going to accept the intern position.
Gardner finds himself at a crossroads. He can stay the course he’s on and expect more of the same disappointment, or, he can choose a new path one which will lead to bold, unprecedented change. The choice is his.
Many of us have been faced with the same decision. Stagnation requires no risk. Change, however, requires three vital components:
It is my goal to give you the first two, and encourage you in the last. In my book, Success & Sanity, I share a number of insights and stories to give you fresh ideas about where your life can go, and I give you a roadmap to take steps in a new direction. Although I can’t give you the same amount of information in this blog post, I’d love to provide you with a good starting point. True change is possible as you begin to take bold steps down the road towards a more balanced and fulfilling future.
We can’t begin the change process until we have clearly defined what, in fact, needs to be changed. Personal reflection is key, and odds are you have a good understanding of where transformation is needed in your life.
I would like to invite you to take a step beyond personal reflection: in order to gain a clear, honest look at ourselves, we must ask those around us what they see.
I’ve battled with booze for a number of years, but for a long time I was able to function without acknowledging the depth of my problem. Anyone I associated with in those days would have
known I was a heavy drinker, but not many identified me as an alcoholic.
I would have continued to live this way if it wasn’t for a friend of mine who called my drinking problem what it was: alcoholism.
This friend nailed it for me. After he exposed me to the truth about who I was and where I was going, I gained the insight I needed to make a bold change. Having insight didn’t make the
journey to wholeness easy - it’s a long journey and it’s one I’m still walking today - but it gave me the clarity I needed to take the first step forward.
Once we have insight, we must make a plan for using it. For me this plan - direction - has often materialized as a result of written goals.
When I was in my late twenties, a friend of mine invited me to hang out by his pool. We were young Insurance Agents, both on the brink of our careers, and we were discussing a book I had
read. The author of the book suggested writing a clear, concise plan for your career. The more I told my friend about the book, the more excited I became about the possibility of applying what
I’d been reading.
In my young-man-enthusiasm, I gushed to my friend, “We need to write a plan for our businesses! If we want to be bigger and better than we are today, we need a plan to take us there.”
We each grabbed a pen and paper and proceeded to write. At the time, I had no idea that I was creating a habit which would be an annual practice for me. Sitting in the warm sun by a pool, I
could not fathom how within twenty years from that day, my business would more than double as a result of writing down my goals.
In the same way I crafted the direction for my business, we need to clearly articulate plans for our personal lives as well. What kind of relationships do you want to enjoy with your spouse,
children, siblings, parents and friends? How can you be more prudent and wise in handling money? What steps do you need to take to care for your body, your mind and your soul?
Map out your direction. Make your plan. If you don’t plan, you’ll wander. If you plan, you may still
wander a bit, but you’ll at least realize it more quickly so you can get back on track.
Courage is defined as: the ability to do something that frightens one.
I love this definition.
In order to follow through with significant and sustainable change, we must do things differently. Because ‘different’ is unknown and unfamiliar to us, the prospect of change can understandably be terrifying.
The defining moment for Chris Garner in The Pursuit of Happiness is when he decides to do something different. After receiving insight from others and discovering a new and possible direction, Garner makes a significant career transition, one without the security of pay, and begins the long road towards change.
As the movie plays out, it’s clear that Garner’s transformational experience is no walk in the park. It takes time, sacrifice, and major commitment on Garner’s end. But more than anything, it
In the same way, our journey towards change will not be easy. It will not be safe, and it will not always be crystal clear. Although the outcome is never certain, we can be sure we’re closer to
positive change as we take a bold and courageous step in a new direction.