30-Acting with Purpose
Successful people maintain a positive focus in life no matter what is going on around them. They stay focused on their past successes rather than their past failures. They also look to next action steps they need to take to get them closer to the fulfillment of their goals. They refuse to be distracted by obstacles that life presents.
I updated this module while on airplane bound for New York City from California. I could choose to:
- Watch a movie,
- Read a book,
- Listen to music, or
- Work toward projects that align with my goals.
Since neither emails nor phone calls will disturb me while flying, I’ll use this time to read and edit the remaining modules of this course. It’s an example of acting and purpose—the very subject of this module.
We should always work to accomplish the goals that we say are important to us.
As a younger man, I didn’t understand the importance of action. If we want to reach our highest potential, we’ve got to begin by taking small steps. With incremental progress, we put ourselves in a position for new opportunities. When we understand this lesson, we can more easily appreciate the urgency of making good decisions. A relationship exists between our choices today and our prospect for success in the weeks, months, and decades ahead.
This reality is as true after a person’s release from prison as it is valid during the time a person serves.
When I transferred from the county jail to a high-security penitentiary, I didn’t understand how the system operated. Since I defined success as emerging from prison strong, with my dignity intact, and with opportunities to build a fulfilling life, I had to prepare. When I transitioned to the community after finishing my sentence, I wanted to work on projects that would have an impact on making a better community. But I also would need to earn a living.
With that vision, I could take the next step toward preparing, acting in ways that aligned with the SMART goals I set. For example:
- I would earn a university degree within my first ten years of confinement.
- I would become a published author within my first ten years of imprisonment.
- Within my first decade, I would persuade ten mentors to help me prepare for success.
I could measure progress toward achieving each of those specific goals if I pursued them with a 100% commitment. That commitment would lead to my aspiration of getting out of prison successfully—as I defined success. On the flip side, if I didn’t act in deliberate, decisive ways, I would have a plan that lacked follow through. Without action, I could not convert my aspirations into reality.
I would have to act, taking incremental steps every day.
People in prison face obstacles, just like everyone else. While incarcerated, people may spend weeks or months on lockdown or in the Special Housing Unit. From the time I served in solitary confinement, I know the limitations of living in isolation. I also know that regardless of where administrators confine us, we can always choose how we will act. We can advance our progress toward goals, or we can complain.
We take incremental action steps while locked in a cell, just like we can take incremental action steps if we’re sitting on a cross-country flight in an airplane seat.
When we’re locked in a cell, we may not be able to attend programs. We cannot connect with family as easily. I spent months in the SHU during the decades that I served in prison. While alone, I took small steps that aligned with my values and goals to keep productive. With small action steps, I could move closer to success.
When people act in ways that align with how they define success, they develop strength and confidence, knowing that they’re taking another step toward reaching their aspirations.
People in prison must become comfortable with being uncomfortable. They should expect to pass through tough times now and in the future. Those tough times represent a part of the success journey, and we must accept reality: There is always more struggle to come.
What does “being comfortable with being uncomfortable” mean to you?