If it were possible to narrow down the Johnson Letter Lessons to a list of the top ten, this one would be in the running—it’s that important.
No matter where you are in life, no matter what age you are, no matter where you work or where you live, no matter what your family situation is, no matter how much money you have or don’t have, no matter what your physical health is (or isn’t), no matter what your personality type is, no matter what someone has or hasn’t done to you, this truth still holds true—your life is perfectly designed to produce the result you’re currently getting.
- If you’re in school and you’re not getting the grades you want or you are and you’re getting straight A’s (a Johnson family expectation), this truth is still true
- If you’re out of shape and overweight or you’re in shape and competing athletically for a championship, this truth is still true
- If you’re having a difficult relationship with someone (let’s say a parent or spouse or child) or you’re in a place of great bliss in your relationship with that same family member, this truth is still true
- If you’re struggling with your ability to remember things or you’ve trained your brain to remember everything, this truth is still true
- If you’re struggling financially because you’ve consistently spent more than you’ve taken in or you’ve got a ton of money in the bank because you’ve consistently lived below your means and have saved and invested well, this truth is still true
It doesn’t matter what area of life you’re talking about, this truth is always true.
Now, on one hand, that makes this truth rather depressing. Why? Because you and I have areas of our lives that we’re not happy/thrilled with and what we like to do when that happens is to make excuses for them. However, this truth eliminates all of those excuses.
On the other hand, this truth is incredibly liberating because it shows each of us the path forward. It lets us know that every problem we face, everything we’re not happy with in our lives, is the result of something in the system of our lives that’s out of alignment with what we desire—and that’s good. Why? Because you can only feel unhappy when you want something more (in other words, if you’re unhappy with the state of your marriage or your finances or your grades or your health it means you desire something better—and that is very good news).
So how can you take and use this truth to help you build the kind of life you want and obtain the results you desire? Well, here are a few ideas.
I. Eliminate Excuse-Making From Your Options List
Since Genesis 3 and the conversation between Adam and God over him (Adam) eating the fruit that he was forbidden to eat (where he first blamed God and then Eve for his choice to eat the forbidden fruit, “The woman you gave me, she gave me some fruit to eat and I ate”), there has been a longstanding multi-millennial human tradition of excuse-making. So, as long as you think that making an excuse for doing something wrong or getting a poor result is an option, you’ll probably take it.
As long as you think that you can get away with saying things like
- “Sorry, that’s just me, I’m a procrastinator” (or “I’m just a _____” you fill in)
- “It’s not my fault, [insert name like Paul] made me do it”
- “My schedule is too full. I just don’t have enough time to ______”
- “I don’t have enough money to eat healthy (or do X)”
- “My boss doesn’t pay me enough. I have to use my credit cards just to get by.”
- “I was too tired to study for my exam”
- “It’s [insert name like Paula’s] fault. She’s making me angry.”
You’ll be stuck. Excuse-making, by definition, because it eliminates personal responsibility, automatically deflates the power you need in order to make the changes you need to make to ensure progress toward the result you want.
So eliminate all excuse-making from the options list of responses you have at your disposal whenever something doesn’t go right or doesn’t produce the result you want.
When you stop allowing yourself the option of using an excuse, you automatically empower yourself to make the changes you need to make in order to get the results you want because you’ve taken ownership of the result.
For example, if you blow a test and you can’t use an excuse, what’s left? Exactly. Just you. And once you’re the only thing left, that’s when you can move on to step two.
II. Trace the Result Back to Find the Cause of Your Problem
You and I live in a cause and effect universe. Every effect/result always has a cause (other than the original uncaused cause, the beginning of the universe, which is something only God can do). So, whenever you see a result that you don’t like in your life (and you’ve eliminated all excuses), the next thing you need to do is trace that effect back to see what the original cause was (or causes were).
For example, using the blown test example above as a less than happy result, what could be some of the potential causes?
- Did you not study enough? Back in my Accounting 101 class at UW-Madison, the average study time for an A was 40 hours. Anything less than that was something lower than an A
- Did you not do the assigned readings?
- Did you not do the homework?
- Did you not pay attention in class?
- Did you not get enough sleep the night before?
- Did you not understand something and then not ask the teacher for help?
- Did you not master the underlying material (for ex. if you didn’t master Algebra I, Algebra II will be rather difficult)?
- Have you not trained your memory to retain large amounts of data?
- Are you weak in building a logical argument (if it’s an essay type test)?
- Are you weak in your literary or grammatical skills?
- Do you have poor test prep strategies?
- Did you have a fight with your boyfriend/girlfriend the night before?
- Etc. You get the idea.
Every result has a cause. If you want to make changes in your life, you simply need to trace the problem back to find the original causes so you can change them. Remember, your life is perfectly designed to produce the result you’re currently getting. If you don’t like the result, trace the problem back to find the original cause (or causes).
In the end, most causes usually come back to a handful of reasons.
- A belief that needs to be changed (for ex. from “I can’t” to “I can”)
- A behavior that needs to be changed (i.e. eating too many simple carbs if you’re trying to lose weight)
- A physical posture that needs to be changed (i.e. the way you use your body)
- A standard that needs to be changed (for ex. if you accept less than excellent work as okay, that’s a standard that needs to be changed)
- A system that needs to be changed (for ex. if you “never have enough money to save” just depositing your check and hoping that you’ll move some over to your savings/investment account is a bad system. You probably need to automate it).
Once you have some ideas about what you think the cause is (or causes are), then you’re ready for step three
III. Keep Changing the Cause Until You Get The Result Your Want
While a lot of people like to make life seem complicated, at its core, life isn’t as complicated as you’ve been told. In this cause and effect world in which you and I live, if we don’t like an effect, all we need to do is change the cause. Change the cause, change the effect. Pretty simple.
In other words, if you don’t like blowing exams, change the cause(s). Maybe you have to talk with your teacher and get some remedial help. Or maybe you need to develop a better test preparation system. Or maybe you need to take better notes in class. Or maybe you need to learn to read more actively so you can retain more information? Or maybe you need to form a study group. Etc. In other words, you keep changing the causes until you find a way to consistently deliver the results you want (in this case, straight A’s).
Or if you’re not succeeding at work at the pace you’d like, maybe you need to find a mentor. Or maybe you need to go back to school. Or maybe you need to enhance a skill set. Or maybe you need to work on an interpersonal skill. Or maybe you need to improve your productivity. Or maybe you need to volunteer for more projects in your company. Or maybe you need to develop your leadership skills. Or maybe you need to …. you get the idea. You keep changing the causes until you get the result you want (in this case, a higher level job).
Or if you’re not happy with the status of a relationship, maybe you need to have a conversation with that person about something that happened that you haven’t discussed but it’s affected you and your relationship. Or maybe you need to adjust your work or school schedule so you have more time to invest in that relationship. Or maybe you have to learn how to think like the other person thinks (i.e. no one else is like you so don’t assume they are or ever will be). Or maybe you need to confess something. Or forgive something. Or maybe you need to learn some better relational skills (like active listening). Remember, change the cause, change the result (in this case, a better relationship).
No matter what you do in this life, you can’t escape this lesson. So, don’t try. Embrace it. Own in. Make it yours. And you’ll reap the benefits of this truth for the rest of your life. Your life is perfectly designed to produce the results you’re currently getting. Whenever you don’t like the results you’re currently getting (in any area of your life), make sure you
- Eliminate excuse-making from your options list
- Trace the result back to find the cause of your problem
- Keep changing the cause until you get the result you want
So one last thing. In order to make this Johnson Letter lesson operational, what in your life are you not happy with right now? Take one of those items and walk them through these three steps to see what happens. I think you’ll be amazed!
To your accelerated success!