Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage - Anais Nin
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; Genius will not; Education will not. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent - Calvin Coolidge

It is the conversations we have with ourselves that determine our actions and choices in life. To raise the quality of our actions and contributions to our families, work organisations, communities and society at large, we need to raise the quality of our conversations with ourselves. The more we succeed in doing so, the better we are able to balance continuous challenging of ourselves with satisfaction about what we were able to achieve. When one of the two (challenging ourselves or enjoyment in what we do) stops, the other follows and life becomes miserable.

Jesus told the story of a man who went on a journey and entrusted his assets to his workers. Each of the three workers received an amount of money to look after on their master's behalf. The two who received five and two talents (a money measurement) respectively, through their work doubled the amount that was given to them. The third one however dug a hole in the ground and hid the money in it. A long time went past before the master came back. He was happy to see that two of the workers doubled the amount that was given to them. He praised them as faithful and promised them more responsibility. The third one who hid the money in the ground immediately came up with an excuse: 'I knew that you were a hard man... so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.' The master rebuked him, said he was lazy and then took the money from him and gave it to the worker who had ten talents after doubling the five that was given to him.

What would the conversation have been that the lazy worker had with himself? Probably something like 'I cannot risk the chance of losing the money. I fear my master will be very angry with me. Better if I go and hide it.' Even given a long time to reflect on his decision, his thinking didn't change. He did not apply his thinking and energy to do the best he can with the responsibility given to him. He got used to the thoughts of excusing himself for not doing anything. His main concern and consideration was self-protection. The other two however knew that their efforts were not about themselves and their own kingdoms, but how they can best serve their master. If we have the disposition to serve others well, we stop looking for excuses and start looking for opportunities.

If our conversations with ourselves are dominated by the question 'what is in it for me?', we will find it impossible to truly connect with others. We will find it impossible to enrich our lives with good quality relationships. The many different dimensions of life that can grow and awaken our spirit, will escape us. The man who lives by himself and for himself is likely to be corrupted by the company he keeps, as Charles Parkhurst said.

Another challenging conversation with ourselves is when we doubt ourselves. Even the most self-confident among us will experience self-doubt from time to time. It is that feeling of uncertainty about your ability to accomplish something. As a result the sense of insecurity can lead to hesitation and indecision. We can even abandon our course or radically compromise our expectations. We therefore need to take the feeling of self-doubt seriously and find ways to overcome it. To grow belief in yourself is fundamentally a spiritual, not a mental, exercise. Keep in mind that when we conquer doubt, it yields stronger resolve.

Our determination will always be greater once we successfully meet challenges to our self-confidence. Once we develop a history meeting doubt head on and conquering it, we become much less susceptible to its influence. It will still surface from time to time, but we will see it coming, and know how to neutralise it. It is important to recognise and acknowledge your doubt. Try to identify the source or the area of your life that creates your sense of uncertainty. Then work out an action plan to overcome it. What small steps can you take in that area that will give you a sense of making progress that will build your confidence?

Tied in with the above conversations with yourself, is the conversation about discipline. Discipline comes from the belief that Aristotle articulated: We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. If we allow ourselves to keep on questioning the use or enjoyment of earlier resolutions, we will never unlock latent potential and we will never reap the fruits of doing something that is right and good consistently. To master our weaknesses for distractions that prevent us from forming habits of excellence is hard and never fully complete, but it makes all the difference! In some areas, due to our natural personal preferences, we find it a lot easier than in others. Yet, there are disciplines we know are necessary for excellence. Our dedication to those disciplines will earlier or later proof their value.

Lastly, a key question that set the trend of our thoughts repeatedly, is: Do I expect things from others that I am not prepared to do myself? Am I selective in how I apply standards? Do I, in my thoughts, paint myself as a victim or do I accept the responsibility of my free will to create a path for myself. In Henry Beecher's words: Never excuse yourself. Never pity yourself. Be a hard master to yourself - and be lenient to everybody else.

Find out about Dr Gerhard's 32 Leadership Principles Online Journey at

Author's Bio: 

Dr Gerhard van Rensburg has been practicing as a full-time leadership and executive coach since 2002. His coaching focus is the development of leadership. He published two leadership books, The Leadership Challenge in Africa, and Leadership Thoughts. He strongly believes that we need to be lifelong learners in the areas of our vision, character and relationships. Growth in these areas form the foundation to our career and leadership growth. His approach in coaching is to partner with people as a facilitator of their growth, particularly as leaders in the workplace – thereby optimizing potential and positive results. In doing so he integrates the various relevant contexts and perspectives.

He developed an online leadership development program in 2012/3 named '32 Leadership Principles to unlock your potential' (