When I was a kid, I wanted to change the world. I believed that if I willed it hard enough, it could come true.
It hasn’t worked yet. At least not to the level I wanted.
Along the way, I learned that there are traits that are characteristics of a world-changer. These aren’t skills you master in a classroom, and they aren’t usually taught on the job. But if you possess these qualities and you cultivate a life lived around them, you’ll discover that they become the crucial traits to a successful life.
Self-Awareness is the ability to see yourself clearly. If you’ve ever taken a selfie and then deleted it, you’ve avoided this skill. It is our tendency to do two things: to see ourselves at only our best angle and to see ourselves at only our worst angle. This goes far beyond appearance into our hearts. Without the power of self-awareness, we will live with blind spots about our character deficits, and over-exaggerate our character virtues. This will lead us to take action with inaccurate information about our abilities, flaws and ourselves. Cultivating self-awareness is placing ourselves in God’s presence with the desire to accept knowledge about ourselves on both sides of the spectrum—where we’ve not been clear the depth of our depravity as well as the strength of our abilities.
Self-efficacy is the belief that you can accomplish what you set out to do. This may sound simple, but in reality, our true belief that we can be successful at life is built from a complex set of factors, including our previous success, vicarious experience from watching others, beliefs we’ve developed from the feedback of others feedback, and our own temperament. Cultivating this trait requires a strong filter on where we receive truth about ourselves and the how we define a “good life.”
If our understanding of the world is built from social media streams and reality shows, then our fundamental understanding of how we can succeed will be skewed. We will develop unrealistic expectations for what we think we should be for the world and will surely fail. Self-efficacy is the resilient power to set a goal worth attaining and then stick to it, regardless of setbacks. Perhaps a better word for this is God Efficacy—the belief that we can accomplish what God sets out for us to do. Seeking an understanding of godly success through scripture and then trusting God will make good on his promises creates an inner resolve and strength that sustains us through even the most difficult times.
Courage is the ignitor for self-awareness and self-efficacy. Without courage, you’ll never take action on the insights found in self-awareness and the dreams born by self-efficacy. Courage is the grit needed to confess your deep character flaws when you’ve realized they are holding you back. Courage is the same grit needed to work full time and enroll in graduate school when you realize your dreams will take more education.
Courage says I am not yet what I can be, and I can do something about it. Facing the truth of ourselves without courage is depressing. Having dreams of what our lives can be without courage is self-sabotaging. Nothing worthwhile happens without hard work—and in order to overcome the inevitable difficulties, courage will be required.
Thankfully, we serve a God who promises to “never leave us or forsake us,” (Deuteronomy 31:6) who offers us “life, and life to the full.” (John 10:10) When we are in Christ, He calls us to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2). This is an ongoing, ever-deepening process that truly takes work—the power of the Holy Spirit, who is actively, consistently, gently and lovingly drawing you into truth and closer to Christ. We are not called as Christians to passively be shaped by the forces of this world, but to place ourselves in God’s hands, knowing that he’s shaping us through our circumstances to receive His fullness, freedom and joy.