The Breakthrough Factor: Creating Success and Happiness Through a Life of Value

The Breakthrough Factor: Creating Success and Happiness Through a Life of Value

by Henry Marsh


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Use the power of principles to transform your life.
In his repeated bids for Olympic gold, Henry Marsh learned that the highest degree of reward and satisfaction is to be found in the unswerving pursuit of personal excellence. The Breakthrough Factor is Marsh's comprehensive plan to achieve a life of value by determining what principles or values to live by and thus find the fulfillment and reward we all desire.
Here, Marsh provides a plan for clarifying dreams, rooting out negative influences, setting priorities, establishing plans of action, and meeting goals. He shows how to ensure incredible results in all spheres of life -- in relationships, financial circumstances, career decisions, physical health -- by making choices and arranging priorities around a fruitful set of values and beliefs.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780684847986
Publisher: Touchstone
Publication date: 12/15/1998
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.44(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Henry Marsh became the second American male runner to make four U.S. Olympic track teams in 1988. His career culminated with thirteen straight years as one of the top ten 3,000-meter steeplechase runners in the world -- three years as number one. He has also held the American record for an unprecedented nineteen years in a row. Marsh is a consultant for Franklin Covey, where he developed a curriculum for increasing personal and professional productivity, which has been used by corporations throughout the world. He addresses thousands every year at businesses, sales organizations, and schools.

Read an Excerpt


The Principle Made Me Do It!

There is an incredible power within each of us that is the way to achieving our personal best. It is the power of principles.

"It's the principle of the thing!" is a phrase that has been around our culture as long as anyone can remember. When all other reasons have been exhausted, it's the one given for continuing on. Beyond money, beyond power, beyond glory, even beyond winning, things are done simply "on principle."

Our principles make us do it.

This book is about principles. It's about what they are, how we get them, why we all have them, and what we use them for.

Most of all, it's about power. The incredible power of principles. A power so pervasive, so all encompassing, that there isn't anything any of us do that can't be traced back to its source. In short, our behavior is a reflection of the principles we choose to live by.

Some of us recognize and understand this power and use it for all it's worth. Others use it from time to time, but don't realize what it is they're using. And too often, many of us leave this source of power largely untapped in our lives, as if we had Michael Jordan on the team and kept him on the end of the bench.

This is not a book about morals. You'll find nothing here that preaches what values you ought to have; what you should believe. The focus is on recognizing that the beliefs we individually choose to live by are directly responsible for whatever quality of life we enjoy. There's just no getting around that. That's life! The key to enjoying peace, success, fulfillment, and contentment is putting in place those beliefs that will best produce those kinds of satisfying results. That's the challenge to each of us: to find out what beliefs allow us to realize our personal bests.

I use the phrase "personal best" because for thirteen years I competed in international athletics, and those were words I learned to greatly respect. I participated as a middle-distance runner on four United States Olympic teams. From 1977 through 1988 I was the top American in the 3,000-meter steeplechase -- and now, in my "retirement," I check the results every new track season to see if, and when, the American record of 8:09.17 I set in 1985 will fall.

However, that American record was built upon an athletic career of personal bests. Every year I attempted to improve my personal best. That was my measuring stick. Was I running faster than ever before? And each year as I set new personal bests I felt great personal fulfillment. Early in my career, when I ran my fastest time, it was simply my own personal best -- my own record. Later, when four of my personal bests were also American records, or American bests, they took on an added measure of notoriety. But those earlier "Individual" personal bests brought the same satisfaction as the American personal bests that came later.

Personally, I can tell you that my entire experience as an athlete was an extremely satisfying "run," and I'm convinced it was because I had principles that allowed me to concentrate on striving for my own personal best, rather than worrying about someone else's personal best. Because of those inward-directed principles, I was not only able to compete for as long as I did, but I was able to thoroughly enjoy the experience.

Just as I sought to achieve personal bests athletically, we can seek to achieve personal bests in all areas of our lives. In this book, we'll learn how. Better yet, we can achieve personal bests well after our physiological peak, or age -- which limits us athletically. We can have greater fulfillment every day we live upon the earth.

As a runner I happened to plug into the power of principles without consciously realizing what I was doing -- and not only did that save my career in the beginning, it saved me from experiencing a lot of unnecessary grief during those times when things didn't go my way. Looking back, all I can say is thank goodness my focus was on "personal best" and not "gold medal."

I understand now why I didn't quit, and why others either wanted to, or did. I understand now why I was able to avoid the angst that can so often be an integral part of a career as competitive as international track and field. I understand now why I was able to deal with what the world would term "devastating setbacks." It was because I had my own finish line. I could "win" when others only saw losing. I had a different principle.

So I am evidence "Exhibit A" in the pages that follow. I use myself as a living example of one who has experienced the power of principles in achieving one's personal best. It happened to me as a runner, and it happened to me again as an attorney. I graduated from law school, passed the bar exam, and began to practice law, all set to climb the legal ladder of fulfillment and success. But I discovered I was not cut out to spend my days in a law library, and I made a career change just when I was ready to cash in on all my years of preparation and training. In the pages that follow I detail the dynamics that caused that career change because they further help illustrate, and endorse, the power of applying beliefs that work for your own purposes. Not for anyone else's, but for your own.

I've been a few places and done a few things, and I've made some big principle-driven changes along the way that have made all the difference -- and if it's true that you can't effectively sell something unless you believe in it wholeheartedly yourself, in the chapters to come you'll see I've taken care of that requirement.

Like many of us, I happened quite by chance upon the power of principle-driven behavior. But it doesn't need to happen that way. It is possible to become consciously aware of our beliefs and take care that they drive the kind of behavior that will produce the quality of life we're seeking. It's possible to realize going in that our beliefs tell us what to do! Once we understand that, we can start putting those beliefs in place that will tell us to have a peaceful, meangingful, enjoyable life -- in other words, to achieve our personal best.


A few years ago I saw a bumper sticker that read: GUNS DON'T KILL PEOPLE, PEOPLE KILL PEOPLE. I thought the point was well made. A gun is powerless until somebody decides to use it. A gun has no mind of its own; it can't make decisions. It is simply the extension of the behavior of the person using it, a whim at the beck and call of whoever's finger is on the trigger.

To illustrate the point, here are two names for you: Mahatma Gandhi and Adolf Hitler.

In many significant ways, these men were alike. By all accounts, they each had superior intelligence, excellent speaking skills, powers of persuasion, and the ability to inspire others to follow them and embrace their causes. They were goal setters. They had charisma. In short, they each had the qualities of leadership.

But despite their similarities, they couldn't have behaved much more differently.

Hitler's politics were fueled by beliefs of superiority. He believed in the supremacy of the Aryan race and acted accordingly. Armed with this belief, he was able to order the execution of millions of people and invade and dominate millions more. Gandhi, on the other hand, acted according to an entirely different set of beliefs, based on the sanctity of all human life. Because the Indian leader's aims were to improve the quality of life for his people, his behavior was on the other end of the spectrum from Hitler's. Whereas Hitler embraced violence, Gandhi eschewed it. One waged war. One waged peace.

Both behaved according to their personal truths -- and that made all the difference.


We all behave according to beliefs. We can't help it. We can't avoid it. There's no getting around it. It's a universal thing. It's like eating and sleeping. If we're alive, we do it. Whether we do it consciously or subconsciously, we all do it.

The simple act of breathing can actually help illustrate this distinction between conscious and subconscious action. Most of us go through our days breathing every few seconds and hardly give it a conscious thought. But those who understand the values of breathing do give it a conscious thought. Proper diaphragm breathing -- inhaling deep into the diaphragm, or stomach, area to ensure a full exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide -- allows for better circulation, sharper instincts, and optimum coordination. Athletes learn how to breathe. So do dancers and performers and those who practice Yoga and other forms of meditation. Breathing, at its best, lets us fall to sleep, calms us down, makes us healthier, and helps us make free throws and perform a virtuoso Swan Lake. Breathing is in fact a tremendous power, whether we realize it or not. Some people use it as a power quite naturally. But most don't. Most have to either work at it, or they end up not getting the most out of something valuable that's completely available to them.

It's the same with principle-driven behavior. We are all driven by our beliefs, every last one of us. Our behavior unavoidably is a mirror image of our beliefs, but most of us are unaware of the power inherent in that natural resource. We use it unconsciously. We use it without even knowing it. We have the power of a Ferrari under the hood, and we barely touch the gas pedal.

To really tap into this power source -- and, as a result, to achieve our personal best -- we need to understand it, understand that we have it, and understand what to do with it.

Time and again, I have seen the importance of getting in touch with beliefs and the behavior that they drive. When that behavior delivers unsatisfactory results, it only makes sense that it ought to be changed, for the most basic of reasons: Who doesn't want to have satisfactory results in their lives? The only way to effectively change behavior is by changing the belief that's prompting it.

Through my involvement with Franklin Quest Company, now Franklin Covey Company, I have become an avid student, and ardent proponent, of seeking to achieve one's personal best through belief-driven behavior. It has not only become my life's work, but it's helped me to understand just how much more effective and valuable it is when it is understood. It's helped me realize that some of the belief changes I personally went through earlier in my life could have occurred much earlier -- if I had known then what I know now.

I have seen countless people, many of whose stories are included in this book, who have benefited greatly by consciously seeking to better their lives through principle-driven behavior. The quality of their lives improved by first identifying their current beliefs, then recognizing the need to change the beliefs that were driving destructive behavior, and, finally, doing what was necessary to change them.

As with anything worthwhile, it's not always easy. Once in place, a belief -- whether it's good for us or bad for us -- can be mighty stubborn and difficult to budge. There are physiological factors at work, as well as psychological ones, that make us as loath to give up on a belief-in-place as we would a thousand-dollar bill.


We'll see in the following pages that too often we're unwitting accomplices in unproductive plots that undermine the quality of our own lives, plots that are usually entirely self-determined! We'll see that many of our beliefs were acquired in our youth, before we even realized what we were acquiring -- and how, as a result, we can easily get caught up in unrelenting cycles of negative behavior that perpetuate the same unsatisfactory results.

We'll see the danger in short-term, diversionary remedies, modern-day "fixes" that don't get to the core of our problems, that don't really effect change, but only mask the pain -- pain that is a direct result of not realizing our needs. We'll see how these short-term cures, which do nothing about changing our beliefs, can turn into addictions that are capable of further entrenching us in unwanted and unproductive patterns: addictions that range from drug dependence (legal and illegal) to oversleeping to shopping; addictions that contribute to the modern-day diseases such as most forms of hypertension, numerous forms of depression, and many other stress-related problems so prevalent in our society. We'll see how just coping with these diseases can occupy an enormous amount of time, energy, and expense and prevent us from building the kind of lives we really want by getting to the root of our behavior: our beliefs.

We'll explore the importance of having positive "self-talks," to maintain our newfound powers, and the importance of practicing preventive maintenance. We'll talk about the importance of being well-rounded and of getting in touch with what we want most -- as opposed to what we want now! We'll examine the basic needs we all share and the way they unavoidably affect our satisfaction with life. We'll probe constructive ways to get beyond the static of daily life and understand what our beliefs really are; and how to begin to achieve our personal best by learning how to come up with our own theoretical new beliefs.

We'll explore control -- not the need for it, but the need to understand it -- the need to know what we can control and what we can't and act accordingly. There are no cure-alls to avoid hardships. Obstacles are a given. Life is not always fair, and even having correct beliefs in place won't change that. But having them in place puts life's obstacles in a perspective that makes them manageable. We can flow around them instead of constantly bumping into them head-on.


This book is about quality of life: an owner's manual on how to achieve our personal best in life, both personally and professionally, through principle-driven behavior. When we know what's driving us, then we're in a position to see if it will take us where we want to go. There are tips here to help us know -- and, once we know, understand how to go about realizing our potential.

Principle-driven behavior is driven from within. The purpose of this book isn't to identify beliefs that are right or wrong. Instead, we'll identify beliefs that are either correct or incorrect, depending on the behavior they drive and the needs that are satisfied as a result.

It is within the reach of each of us, independently, to establish beliefs that are correct for us, beliefs that in turn will drive behavior that will produce satisfying results in our individual lives.

What do we really want? That's the universal question. Do we want to be a better salesman, a better husband or wife, a better parent, a better golfer or bowler, a better CEO, a better public speaker? Do we want to have better health, better security, a better feeling about ourselves?

I don't care what it is, we can achieve it by finding the correct belief.

We can search for our correct beliefs in a wide variety of places, both from within and without. People whose results we admire -- and don't admire -- whether we know them personally or not, from all walks of life, are fair game: from leaders of commerce and politics, from sports figures to coworkers, from our friends and neighbors to members of our own family. If we observe their behavior and find we would like to emulate it, then our task becomes a simple one of understanding the belief that drives that behavior and adopting it as one of our own. The opposite holds, too. Once we've identified them, we're also in a position to avoid the beliefs of those whose behavior we find harmful and unfulfilling.

The key is finding those beliefs, not merely observing behavior as is so often our natural tendency. Imitating may be the most sincere form of flattery, but it isn't the best way to achieve our personal best. When I was a teenager, I remember going to the movies and watching Robert Redford in Jeremiah Johnson, a movie about a mountain man. The lead character made a big impact on me. I liked his toughness, his ability to handle difficult situations. I left the theater deciding I would be like Jeremiah Johnson, and for a few days I acted like him, not saying much, holding a kind of steely stare -- an impenetrable mountain man. But the impersonation, such as it was, soon passed. I returned to being me. In order to effectively behave like Jeremiah Johnson, I would have needed to get in touch with the beliefs that drove him. Since I wasn't willing to chuck everything I had, buy a mule, and head into the wilderness, I didn't have much of a chance to truly understand what those beliefs might have been.

I could have done that. If it had been important enough to me, if I had felt it would have greatly enhanced my quality of life, I could have headed for the hills.


Beyond "borrowing" the beliefs we see and admire in others, it's when we objectively identify our own beliefs that we buy ourselves real freedom: true freedom that allows us to be in charge of ourselves; to not feel like we have to copy others or be slaves to conformity. When we know that we have the authority to alter those beliefs that bring us undue stress, unhappiness, pain, and sadness, that lower our quality of life -- even if they might seem to work for others -- we're in a position to truly chart our own course. We have ownership over ourselves.

In my days as a steeplechase runner, there was a time when I made a significant change in my training philosophy and technique, a change I was able to make only because of a new outlook I formed about my training principles. It had to do with my hurdling style. I had always gone off the same foot when jumping over a hurdle, just like everyone else. But I decided I wouldn't do that anymore. I decided I'd practice at being able to jump off either foot -- because I felt that would work better for me. I could clear the hurdles wrongfooted. It was unorthodox. Nobody coached it that way at the time. Few ran that way. But I said, "So what?" and tried it anyway. The only reason I was able to do that was because I'd decided not to look at how others did it anymore. I'd adopted a new belief. It was that decision that freed me up to go ahead and be unconventional. And it did help. Without that change, and some others I'll talk about in detail later, I don't believe I'd have made my first Olympic team, let alone the other three. In short, I gave myself the freedom to chart my own course and achieve the best that was in me.


The power I stumbled onto and then tapped into that allowed me to dramatically improve was the very power this book is about: the power of achieving personal best through principle-driven behavior. I know firsthand that it is capable of bringing about truly dramatic results. I know it can result in feelings of personal control, self-management, contentment, and inner peace. Altering our beliefs -- the way we look at life -- really can facilitate significant change in meaning in our lives.

Whether we realize it or not, beliefs fuel us. They are what generate our actions or our inactions. They can propel us, thrust us, urge us on, catapult us, move us -- choose your verb -- and, conversely, they can inhibit us, freeze us up, delay us, and hold us back.

In Webster's New World Dictionary a principle is defined as "the ultimate source, origin, or cause of something," and "a fundamental truth, law, doctrine, or motivating force, upon which others are based."

In this book we will use Webster's definition of "principle" to see how our "personal truths" interact with "fundamental truths" or principles to forcefully motivate each of us. Since we form our personal truths based on what we believe will meet our needs, we will use the term "belief" interchangeably with "personal truth."


It thrills me to realize that what first worked for me in college wasn't a quirk or a fluke, but a power that is both timeless and universal: the power of achieving personal best through principle-driven behavior. It's the same power that drove Benjamin Franklin to all his accomplishments more than 200 years ago (he understood it). It's the same power that can drive us all to the lives we'd like to have.

In the following pages we'll walk through the whys, the wherefores, and the how-tos of meaningful change. Together, we will uncover what truly motivates us, what drives us in our lives. We'll look at those things that produce the unhappinesses in our lives, as well as the happinesses, and realize just how much control we have over both areas.

In the book's first half we will look at a very powerful behavior model called the Franklin Covey Reality Model, a device that enables us to better see what drives us in our lives, what motivates us, and why we behave the way we do. As a visual tool, the Reality Model can help us see just how our beliefs, behavior, results, and needs are all interrelated. It helps us visualize how those things we learned in our early formative years are in fact powerfully driving us yet today. We'll realize that only by accurately identifying our true beliefs can we put ourselves in a position to change those beliefs that we discover aren't correct for our life's goals; and by changing those beliefs, we'll drive the behavior that will fulfill our potential.

We'll also look at the physical, mental, and emotional challenges that we all encounter, and we'll look at the importance of analyzing our actions "over time."

In the book's second half we'll look at specific steps we can take to achieve our personal best through principle-driven behavior. We'll look at things we can do to build ourselves up. We'll look at ways we can take control of those events that cause us anxiety and contribute to feelings of little or no control.

Most important, we'll look at time-proven ways to effectively form new correct beliefs and eliminate those incorrect beliefs that produce unproductive behavior, undesirable results, and feelings of despair in our lives. We'll look at the need to focus on what works for us -- the need to focus on what will produce lives of contentment and inner peace. We'll learn how to take the theory outlined in the following pages and apply it in our lives so the theory becomes reality.

As I have traveled back and forth across America in my work, crisscrossing the nation from corporation to corporation, I have had a ringside seat, as it were, from which to observe people making dramatic improvements in their lives through principle-driven behavior. It's a thrilling sight. I'd like you to see those sights through my eyes.

You'll see I'm a big fan of achieving personal best through principle-driven behavior. I'm a recipient of the positive benefits myself, and I've seen many others benefit as well. This power we're about to explore has helped me appreciate the ability we all have to control our own lives, to become our best. It's a power that's helped me avoid a lot of negativity and has greatly enhanced my quality of life. For one thing, I know it helped me run faster. I know it can help you run faster, too.

Henry Marsh

August 1997

Copyright © 1997 by Franklin Covey Co.

Table of Contents

Principle-Driven Behavior: The Need-Belief Behavior Connection
Blame It on Third Grade
It Works!
When the Pain Is Great Enough
Diseases of Choice
Don't Sacrifice What You Want Most for What You Want Now
Exercise Only on the Days That You Eat
The Choices Are All Ours
Control What You Can and What You Can't
Why Ask Why?
Practice Makes Perception
Personal Peace
Practical Application
A More Correct Belief
Change Happens

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