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How To Truly Devote Yourself To Personal Growth

Devotion means connecting with ourselves day in and day out and tackling our failures and successes with the right attitude.

How To Truly Devote Yourself To Personal Growth
[Photo: Flickr user Loren Kerns]

While we may think that creativity, innovation, and growth is something that happens on a spreadsheet, in a slideshow, or in a product line, growth really is something that happens within ourselves, between one person and another, in teams, and in organizations.

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Growth is a human process. So it makes sense that the more we humanize the way we think about work, the better we can become at the work we do.

If there’s anything I’ve learned as an entrepreneur, it’s that you can’t very well lead others if you can’t learn to connect with yourself through a self-discovery process. Self-discovery is what ultimately releases our inner genius, and for that we need to be devoted.

Devotion is common to expert practitioners in any field, whether it’s Larry Bird taking free throws late into the night or Howard Schultz roaming the streets of Milan and taking in the coffee culture. It’s a hardworking creativity and a sense of craftsmanship.

With my affinity for Eastern philosophy, I find that it is only when devotion turns into discipline—and discipline into devotion—that we can begin to lead ourselves.

In Buddhism, devotion is composed of three mental development components, which noted Brooklyn-born monk Bhikku Bodhi describes in his lucid and concise The Noble Eightfold Path.

1. Right Effort

Without effort, nothing can be achieved. As Bodhi writes, each person has to work out his or her own deliverance. No book, no teacher, no mentor, no organization, and no belief system can bring your work into the world for you. Putting your path into practice demands energy; this is why effort is so essential.

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2. Right Mindfulness

We must know our minds directly. Mindfulness meditation allows us to get training in observing our mental actions, though it is not necessary to be sitting on a cushion to be mindful. By closely attending to our experiences—both the parts we like and the parts we don’t like—we’re able to develop an understanding that arises from ourselves.

The Tibetan word for meditation is göm, or “familiarization.” If we are going to live and lead with authenticity, we must become intimately familiar with our own minds in all their many colors. This is achieved through day-by-day practice.

3. Right Concentration

Concentration is unifying the mind. Even if you don’t meditate, a unified mind can be found in the engrossment of reading a good book, the thrill of a long, hard run, or the awe of taking in a brilliant summer sunset. When we have right concentration, our mental energy becomes focused like sunlight through a magnifying glass, strong enough to burn.

The Science Of Devotion

Experts continue to debate the number of hours and the type of practice that is optimal for success in learning something new or changing behaviors.

As the Society for Neuroscience says, the human brain maintains the ability to modify its structure and function throughout life through a process called experience, or learning-dependent plasticity. Findings over the past two decades show that in order for practice to induce learning-dependent brain changes, it must be meaningful, motivating, skillful, challenging, and rewarding.

In the article “It’s Not How Much; It’s How,” published in the Journal of Research in Music Education in 2009, University of Texas-Austin professor Robert Duke and his colleagues videotaped advanced piano students as they practiced a difficult passage from a Shostakovich concerto, then ranked the participants by the quality of their ultimate performance. Duke and his colleagues concluded that the best pianists addressed their mistakes immediately. They identified the precise location and source of each error, then rehearsed that part again and again until it was corrected.

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Regardless of your affinity towards philosophy or science, it is safe to say that without deliberate practice, no one achieves growth. That’s what devotion is all about: it’s the ability to connect with ourselves that allows us to make improvements day in and day out by tackling our failures and successes with the right attitude.

Adapted from Everything Connects: How To Transform And Lead In The Age Of Creativity, Innovation And Sustainability (McGraw Hill, 2014) by Faisal Hoque with Drake Baer. Copyright (c) 2015 by Faisal Hoque. All rights reserved.

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