08 Jul Does the Past Have to Equal The Future?
Does the Past Have to Equal The Future?
Does our past have to equal our future?
Is it possible for a leopard to change its spots?
Can we change our fortunes?
Can we change our destiny?
Is all this personal development stuff really worth it?
Are we just banging our heads against brick walls?
When I first pondered these questions, I was a much, much younger man. I remember getting into personal development when I was in my late teens. And I remember very clearly being in my bedroom, reading personal development books and really asking myself why I was finding life so hard. Why was it so difficult for me to navigate my life when everybody else seemed to have their shit together?
Well, after 25 years of working in personal performance and personal empowerment, and the last 10 years working with entrepreneurs and business owners on their mindset, attitudes, personal performance and business growth, I can tell you that most people do not have their shit together. We are all struggling. And while some of us make some things look easy, few of us make everything look easy. What we’re doing is pretending – putting on a brave face – and therefore, we all think we’re alone because everyone thinks that everyone else has got their shit together!
But my question is this – does my past equal my future? Can I really create the change in me that I need to so that I can create the change that I want in my life? Or is my life predetermined to end up looking and feeling very similar to the one that I grew up in?
And you might not like what I’ve got to say on the subject now. The truth of the matter is that when you look at statistics, it’s unlikely that you will radically change your life. Now I know this doesn’t sound very positive and might piss you off, but just hear me out here because there is light at the end of this tunnel.
There was a study that was done in America. They found that less than 2% of Americans ended up in different financial circumstances to those they started out in. In other words, less than 2% of Americans were able to significantly change their financial status. If you were born poor, you were almost certainly going to end up dying poor. You were going to continue to reproduce the experiences and environment you had as a child and take them into your later life, passing them on to your kids. And the truth of the matter is that whilst it might make you angry, statistically it’s true. Less than 2% of Americans change their financial fortunes. Here’s a little bit of light though.
Thinking like a statistician, I’m willing to bet that when they did this research, they used a very diverse demographic that represented the population as a whole, otherwise the statistic is meaningless. I’m going to work with the assumption that they didn’t look at only one type of person. They will have used a representative sample to come up with this number – 2%.
Now, I believe, truly believe, that if you’re reading this post it’s because you’re into personal development, possibility, you probably go to seminars and read self-help books. You might even have a coach. If you look at the general population, there are huge chunks that don’t think this way or do any personal development. I’m willing to bet that if we took a sample of our kind of people, people into personal development and growth, that percentage would be higher. I don’t think it would be massively higher – I’m not saying it would go from 2% to 80% or 90% – I just think it would be enough to be a bit more optimistic than just 2%.
I do believe you have a better chance if you’re into personal development, however, I still believe the odds are actually against us. And the fact that that might piss you off doesn’t change the fact that that’s the way it is. Look at marriage. I don’t think many people go into marriages thinking they’re going to be one of the statistics of failure, however, 42% of marriages fail. Therefore, when you get married you are highly likely to get divorced. One assumes that people who get married feel like they’re the ones who are going to succeed – they’re the ones that will be the exception to the rule. But statistics show that just thinking like that isn’t going to change anything. The chances of your marriage succeeding, statistically, are just over fifty percent.
So here’s another question: if we don’t want to be the majority of people who are failing – failing to grow their business, failing to get healthy or lose weight, failing to have great relationships, failing to change their academic circumstances or raise their financial status – if we want to go against those statistics, what do we need to do? Believing in the possibility is a good first step. I think it’s possible that my marriage might not end up in divorce. I can’t have certainty about that but it’s a good place to start. If we exist in possibility, we can start to live into the potential that we have.
The bottom line is really simple – we will end up being a statistic unless we dramatically, significantly get involved in the process. This is really the main point I’m making here today.
If your parents divorced, the statistics show that you are much more likely to get a divorce. So, of course, our divorce statistics are going to get worse and worse. If we’re born into divorced families we’re more likely to get divorced, so when we do, our kids, who also now have divorced parents, are more likely to get divorced. It’s not surprising that the failure rates of marriage have steadily increased. I’m using marriage as an example because it really illustrates this idea that, statistically, your past equals your future.
Statistics show that whatever it is you are struggling with, you will continue to struggle. We know that most people who go on diet plans don’t succeed. We know that most people don’t actually resolve their weight issues. In other words, their past equals their future – they don’t create dramatic change. So, if you want to be the one that breaks that statistic, guess what? You can’t just go on the diet programme. Everybody else is going on the diet programme as well, and they’re failing. You can’t just want to lose weight. They all want to lose weight. You can’t even rely on believing that you want to lose weight because all of them probably believe that too.
So, what makes the difference for the marriages that succeed and the diet programs that work and the 2% of Americans that end up in better financial circumstances? What is it that makes those people successful against the odds? Is it just luck?
Having been in personal development for 25 years, I can tell you now that it takes significant levels of input to go against such huge statistics. These statistics we’re talking about aren’t just a few people. These are trends of entire nations, maybe even the world as a whole. If you want to stand in front of that tidal wave and say, ‘I don’t think it will be me, I hope it isn’t me’, it’s probably not going to be enough. You’re going to get swept up in that tidal wave of statistics and be another one that fails to dramatically change their financial circumstances or make a success of their business.
We know that most new businesses actually fail. Most business owners don’t go into business thinking it’s going to be them but statistically it is. What do they need to do? They need to significantly get involved in their business in order to change those circumstances. I’m going to keep banging that drum. Significantly get involved in the process.
You’ve heard the phrase, a product of the environment. It’s often used to describe a rogue, maybe someone in prison. It might be a delinquent teenager or similar. We use it to mean that their behaviour is a product of their environment growing up, a product of their family circumstances, a product of the system. We mean that they were created, cultivated, groomed in that environment. They are behaving in certain ways based on those experiences.
Here’s an example. Two kids grow up in the same household, maybe they’re even twins. Same household, exactly the same set of conditions. One changes their fortune, the other one doesn’t, yet they’re born into the same environment. We won’t get to the truth of the matter by looking at the macro level – the same parents, the same house, the same school. Actually, it’s all the tiny little nuances along the way that shaped the differences in those two children. There may have been a point in their life where one of them took one fork and one took another.
The processes that led to their decisions were really complicated equations, based on every experience they’ve ever had, every conversation. Their interpretations of other people, the world around them, the films they watched, the books they read – even if they read the same books and watched the same films – any slight differences in personality trait when they’re younger will mean that they will look at the world differently. Once you get that slight deviation it might interact with everything. Even though it’s the same thing they’re interacting with, they respond differently, and therefore, their lives can dramatically diverge.
It is the nuances for each individual in an environment that help us to see why one person would take one route but another from the same place would take another. You could say that there’s an element of chance here. What I mean is that the differences the two had in the perception of their environment – where one grew up thinking to do better for themselves while the other accepted that this is all life is going to be – were triggered by all of the information, all of the learning and interactions they’d had up until that point. And, for whatever reason, one of them had the thought to change and the other followed the default – this is how life is going to continue to be.
To some degree, the fact that you’re into personal development is luck! Somehow, for whatever reason, you came across it. Perhaps somebody mentioned it to you and it resonated with something in you. It wasn’t because you had a thought from nowhere. The thought you had was stimulated from within you, which means there had to be something you’d been exposed to at some point enabling that trigger of a thought to even occur to you.
When you saw this blog post, you tuned into it. When you got your first self-help book, like I did, you tuned into it. I want you to think like this; if you believe in possibility, if you want to create change, be really grateful because, to some degree, it is luck that you even think this way. There was no point in the past where you deliberately took this path. You might think you’re making a choice but what gives you the choice is all of your learning and understanding up to this point. Be grateful for that because I think the fact that you’re even thinking about possibility and change makes you lucky. What you do with that luck, however, is down to you. Do you give everything you’ve got to developing yourself, now you understand the possibility that lies ahead of you? Or do you take that bit of luck for granted and do nothing with it?
But to get back to what I was talking about – being products of our environment – this is my model. Think of it like film photography. You take a photo of your environment and then, later, you develop that photograph. In this analogy, what I’m really saying is that you are a product of your environment first and then your environment is a product of you. In other words, when you’re young you have no input. You’re not involved in the process of how you’re developing as a human being. Your personality traits are formed by your environment. The environment is imprinting itself on you. And then, later in your life, you start to play out these roles.
If you’re a parent, you know this. How many of us say, ‘I don’t want to be like that when I’m a dad’? Eventually, you have your children and then, guess what, one day you hear your mum’s or dad’s voice coming out of your mouth. These are latent programmes that get stored within us when we’re young and then, at some later point, like the photograph, they get developed and expressed.
Obviously, if we behave in the way that we learned to when we were younger from the environment we were in, we’ll produce a similar environment. This is why the American study shows that people born into an environment are going to express themselves in a way that creates a very similar pattern. This is just how it is.
The bottom line is really simple – does your past equal your future? Yes it does, unless you significantly get involved in changing it. And that’s my call to action.
If you’re passive in your life, statistics show that you are going to end up in a very similar place to where you started out. Statistics show that you’re not going to have a successful business – that your business will probably fail. Statistics show that your marriage will probably fail. Statistics show that you probably won’t lose the weight that you’re trying to lose. If you want to buck the trend and break away from those statistics, you have to get so involved in the process of change that you become the contradictory statistic to the overwhelming wave that says this is how you should end up.
Think about that. We’re a product of our environment and then our environment is a product of us. If we don’t make any change in the middle, we just develop the pictures that we took when we were younger. If we do personal development, if we get heavily involved in the process, then we get to develop different pictures for our future. That’s how we create change.
One of the most powerful things we can do to create change is get ourselves into environments that support us to be who we want to be. If we are a product of our environment growing up, the good news is we can continue to be a product of our environment throughout our life. The fact is that most of our development happens in our younger day and by the time we hit our late teens we have developed our personality traits – our personality is in place. But we can still continue to be developed by our environment.
If you never left the poverty environment, you’d never be exposed to anything new. Therefore, it would be very difficult, probably impossible, to create any change. But one of the things you can do, if you’ve got just a spark of possibility, is get yourself into inspiring environments that absolutely support you in being who you want to be. It’s one of our core missions at Success Groups. Out in the world, people will take you for who you are and who you’ve been. It’s like when you go back to your mum’s at Christmas. She still thinks that you’re her little girl or her little boy and she still mothers you because she sees you for who you were, not necessarily for who you are. At Success Groups, in the environments we create, we see you for who you are and who you are becoming – where you are going. All your baggage can be left at the door.
When you join us, we ask you to present yourself for who you are. This is who we treat you as, these are your goals, this is your objective, this is what you’re aiming for. We accept you as that person. It’s so powerful to get yourself into that environment. Within Success Groups, we have our Masterminds, which are physical environments where we all meet. With our online Success Group offering, we’re still creating the same environment. There are online environments which are not particularly positive places to be so make sure you seek out really positive environments that support you in being the best version of who you are today and support you in your endeavours towards continual growth – for you as a person and you as a business as well.
It’s not all doom and gloom. There is light at the end of the tunnel, as I said before. But I tell you now, and I can’t stress this enough, if you don’t get involved, you will become a statistic or have to rely on pure luck. Are you the lucky one that gets the marriage that succeeds? Or the diet plan that works? Are you the lucky one whose business didn’t fail? I don’t think that’s a particularly good strategy.
I want you to deliberately, significantly get involved in your personal growth, significantly get involved in your business development and break the statistics. Be the exception to the rule. If you want to transform your life, get yourself into positive environments. If you don’t have them around you, take a look at what we’ve created for you.