One my goals in life is to stay hungry. No, I don’t enjoy missing a meal or not getting enough to eat. I’ve even learned not to miss lunch when I have a lot to do because I’ll normally end up scrounging around for a snack. And if I’m hungry enough, I’ll eat anything. Animal crackers, old leftovers, you name it. The only benefit of being hungry is that it focuses my mind and strengthens my will.
It is important to be hungry for things beyond food. In the area of health, relationships, finances, or professional advancement we all have a tendency to settle too soon. If good enough is below your potential to achieve, it isn’t good enough. Don’t get used to poor health, mediocre relationships, tight finances, or a boring profession if you can do something about it. But most people don’t consciously choose to live below their potential; they simply lose their hunger. Like everyone else, I struggle with the temptation to settle. However, I’ve found that there are some practices that consistently stoke my hunger for life.
First, it is important to have clear goals. In some areas this is easy. You could choose to invest 10% of your income, exercise five days a week, or get certified in a certain area related to your work. Other goals are more difficult to measure. How do you improve your key relationships by 10%? You may not be able to measure that directly, but could decide to take your spouse on a weekly date or read one book a month. Writing out clear goals will help you know whether or not you have achieved them and how much progress you have made. Once you begin hitting your goals in several areas of life, it becomes pretty addicting!
Another way to stay hungry is to imagine the benefits of achieving certain goals. Why do you want to earn more, know more, or be more healthy? How would that enable you to better serve your church, family, or community? Sometimes you can promise yourself a reward for reaching certain milestones. I am currently a full-time graduate student, which takes a toll on my family. One thing we all look forward to is going out to eat every time I finish a class. This is a very measurable goal with both an immediate and a long-term benefit. It makes the long hours a little easier.
A third key to stay hungry measuring progress. Anything worth improving can be measured, and should be. The simple act of measuring something will make you more aware of it. Do you know anyone who got a Fitbit and immediately started taking the stairs instead of the elevator? Why? Because now their steps were being measured, it’s that simple. Create a system to measure an important area of your life. This could be reading, exercise, net worth, or the amount of time you spend watching TV. You’ll be amazing at how powerful this one practice can be.
Finally, it is critical that you surround yourself with others who are also committed to personal growth. Your life will be the average of the four or five people you spend the most time with. Choose your friends and influences carefully. It has been said that we cannot choose the influence our friends will have on us, but we can choose our friends. In my life, some people inspire me, while negative or complacent people make me want to stay on the couch and watch another episode. The more of the first type of people in your life the better.
Never forget that you are ultimately the only person responsible for the decisions that you make. Your current habits and practices are perfectly calibrated to give you the results that you are experiencing in life right now. Most people I have met can accomplish far more than they currently are. But changing your trajectory will never happen by default. It requires you to stay hungry!