In his first speech as Prime Minister and on the threshold of possibly the most daunting task ever to be faced by a human being in the history of mankind, Winston Churchill famously noted that all he had to offer was “blood, toil, sweat, and tears.”
At a time when it seems as though more and more of you are asking what is in it for me, my question is, “What do you have to offer?”
When you think about choices involving your work or your personal life, do you approach the decision by first looking at what you think you will gain or do you first consider what you are going to give and what is going to be required?
Considering the end result of any decision and what that may provide to you is a vital piece of information and absolutely worthy of your consideration, but it shouldn’t be the first thing that you think about.
As an example, if you were to enter into marriage thinking first or solely about the joys that married life will provide you and what you think your spouse is going to do for you, you may be setting yourself up for some extreme disappointment. I don’t mean to imply that your spouse will disappoint you. What I am pointing out here is that you should not engage in the practice of developing expectations of someone else before you know full well what you expect from yourself.
The only way to properly prepare for a happy and fulfilling marriage is to first take responsibility for what you will be bringing to the union and what you are committed to doing for and on behalf of your spouse. If you don’t look at it that way you certainly shouldn’t expect your future spouse to think about it any differently.
Conversely, a decision maker at a well-run business would never think of making a decision led by what he hopes to gain without first thoroughly analyzing the costs and the resources that will need to be expended to achieve that gain. In most cases, those costs will be incurred before the desired result is achieved, so it would be reckless to not give full consideration to what those expectations are and how far beyond those expectations he will be willing to go, if needed, before determining if the potential gain is worth the effort required.
Clearly, the most important question to consider before you start down any path is what you are willing and able to do to achieve your goal. The future, and therefore any intended result, is not promised to anyone. In many cases, the only thing that you can be sure of when you make a decision and act on it is the effort that you will put forth. This is where your focus should be.
So, instead of thinking about how much more money you will make if you go for that promotion, think first and foremost about what you are willing to do to earn that promotion and, if you get it, what you will be willing to continue to do in order to excel in your new role.
Before you decide that you are going to go back to school because that credential will look great on your resume and the degree will create additional career opportunities, be sure to first look closely at the amount of time you are willing to commit to your educational pursuit and what impact that time commitment will have on other aspects of your life.
Prior to counting on someone to give you guidance, love, support, or insight, you need to ask yourself how you will enrich the life of this person and what you will be willing to do prior to or in exchange for these benefits.
If the only thing that you can count on is your own effort and determination, then you should always be willing to take the first step. Whether at work or home, what you are willing and able to give will be the most important influence on whether or not the pursuit or the goal you are considering is worth your while.
Focusing on what you can do and what you can give will help you create situations that you can control or, at a minimum, exert a positive impact upon. When you do that, you are taking charge of your life and steering it in the direction that is most beneficial to you.
It also provides you with a way to separate yourself from everyone else because you are giving thought to things that they either don’t or won’t think about. When crunch time comes, you will be better prepared.
For the best example of how much one’s will and what he or she can give ultimately influences the outcome, let’s turn back to Churchill. Later, in that same speech, he said…”you ask what is our policy? It is to wage war, by sea, by land and by air, with all our might and with all the strength God can give us…” Take a minute and think about how different the world would be today had Winston Churchill not made this commitment? How different would things be today had he not to given everything he had to the cause? What it would be like for us had he not willed his nation to follow him and then ask yourself, “What am I willing to do?”
So, what do you have to offer?
This article is part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.