FORGET SUCCESS: Pursue a meaningful, balanced and healthy lifestyle
“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with unexpected success: — Henry David Thoreau.
Unfortunately, the mainstream notion of success is to have that car or that house or that money or be famous, but life is more profound than pursuing status and wealth. Therefore, the key thing is, disregard success and instead, revert to what burns bright inside of you and reminisce the feelings you experienced when you thought about your dreams and how it felt, if you could accomplish them. Because when you bring alive your dreams, the world becomes your oyster.
Reviving those dreams and following them confidently as Henry David Thoreau suggests, will lead to unexpected success (as a by-product). Above all, following your dreams enable you to live meaningful, fulfilling and happy lives and what a better result than focusing on success? So, I say, forget about success, chase something more profound. Your dreams.
Chasing your dreams is better than chasing the limiting or limited narrative of success. Dream big and convert them into bold, audacious and attainable goals with well-defined plan expressed in continuous and consistent actions. Simply put, in the words of Nelson Mandela, “There is no passion to be found in playing small — in settling for a life that is less than one you are capable of living”.
Trust your gut instincts and have confidence in your decisions. No one knows what’s best for you except you. And for you to advance confidently in the direction of your dreams, it takes two powerful traits that are essential for personal expansion and greatness; (1) Self-discipline and (2) Grit.
Once upon a time in a conference in Washington DC, Brian Tracey bumped into Kop Kopmeyer and invited him to his table to chat over lunch. Kop had four bestselling books at the time, each of which contains 250 success principles that he had derived from 50 years of research and study.
At that point, Brian Tracey had read each of those books more than once, cover to cover. After they had chatted for a while, he asked him a very interesting question. Of all the 1,000 success principles that you have discovered, which do you think is the most important [one]? Kopmeyer smiled with a twinkle in his eye and answered without hesitation.
“The most important success principle of all was stated by Elbert Hubbard, one of the prolific writers in American history, at the beginning of twentieth century. He said ‘Self-discipline is the ability to do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not’”, He went on to say; “There are other 999 success principles that I have found in my reading and experience, but without self-discipline, none of them work. With self-discipline, they all work”.
Scheduling your important tasks will help you know what to do, and when exactly to do what. And most importantly, if you understand the true meaning of self-discipline, you won’t only do what’s necessary but whatever it takes, no matter how you feel. Self-discipline is the key ingredient in the recipe needed to bring your goals into reality or monetary equivalent.
Angela Duckworth defines grit as “passion and perseverance for long term goals”. From the second part of Nelson Mandela’s quote above, one can conclude that passion is found or develops as you pursue big things in life. It is something that develops as you become the master at whatever you do over time through hard work. The bigger the goal, the greater the passion or energy you feel as you progress towards the attainment of that goal.
“Passion is energy”, states Oprah Winfrey, you need to “feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you”. That is exactly what your dreams should do to you; spark an excitement that will ignite fire into your soul. According to Ferdinand Foch, “The most powerful weapon on earth is the soul on fire”. When your soul is on fire, you will persevere fearlessly in the direction of your dreams because your energy or passion is kindled. Passion breeds optimism and charisma — with those attributes at your command, you become unstoppable. Pursuing your passion in life is key to your happiness.
In his excellent book, The Monk who sold his Ferrari, Robin S. Sharma says “The secret to happiness is simple: find out what you truly love to do and then direct all your energy towards doing it. If you truly study the happiest, healthiest, most satisfied people of our world, you will see that each and every one of them has found their passion in life, and then spent their days pursuing it. This calling is almost always one that, in some way, serves others. Once you are concentrating your mind power and energy on a pursuit that you love, abundance flows into your life, and all your desires are fulfilled with ease and grace”.
The question then is, how do you know when you have found your true passion? What is it that you can do day-in and day-out without getting tired or bored and still look forward on doing it the next day, the next month, or next year and for a lifetime with excitement? If you think and feel like, for instance, your passion is to be a doctor, then start by asking yourself why. Why do you want to be a doctor? Or why do you want to start a business? Or why do you want to be a president of an organization or even of your country? This question will liberate you and help you determine whether you like being a doctor or you truly love being a doctor — or any other profession or endeavor for that matter.
Simon Sinek wrote a classic book that illustrated with practical examples of famous people and great organizations that achieved amazing things and attributed their success to one thing. They all started with WHY. The book claims that, Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr and Apple Inc. (among others) are prime examples of individuals and companies that started with WHY and then accomplished great things for themselves. As some of you may know, the title of this book is “Start With Why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action”. The “WHY” is key.
Moreover, you need to dig deep into your why in order to be sure if you have truly found your passion. The author of Millionaire Success Habit, Dean Graziosi — offers a simple exercise, which he calls “seven levels deep” that helps you determine your true why. You need a partner to do this exercise effectively, the role of the partner will be to ask you the why questions based on each answer you give. The exercise allows you to move progressively deeper into your why by asking “why” questions seven times– each one based on the previous answer. “I‘m not sure why seven is a magical number that gets you where you need to go, but it is always the right number” Says Dean.
For instance, if you want to be a doctor. Your first answer might be, “Since high school, it has always been my dream to be a doctor since an incident where I stepped up to save a boys’ life after he collapsed and bled through his nose due to scorching heat of a summer day”. Out of curiosity, your partner might ask you. “What is it you did in saving that boys’ life during that hot summer day?”
Your answer may be “I will never forget that day, the memory is so vivid as if it happened yesterday. The poor boy was walking few steps in front of me with his two friends and he suddenly collapsed, the two friends were stunned when it happened and didn’t know what to do. A few minutes later, more than 20 kids were above him screaming and asking for help. I knew what might be happening to him after learning some DIY surviving tips I learned from the camps my parents used to take me during holidays. Nonchalantly, I stepped ahead of the kids who surrounded him and kneeled over his head; put the palm of my hand over his forehead to feel his temperature. He was burning, even though he didn’t sweat much.
Fortunately I had my water bottle in my backpack, and a handkerchief I used to wipe my chair and table in class. All I did was wet the handkerchief and put it on his forehead, asked his friends to help me remove his jersey, loosen his belt, took off his shoes and then put both my hands on his chest and pumped it only three times. He coughed his way back into life. The crowed was stunned; I put the bottle of water in his mouth to drink and after a few sips. He stood on his feet and dusted himself off. Few minutes later, one teacher came and took him to the staff room for further checkups as he was still looking dazed. I was hailed a hero and I couldn’t wait to go home and tell my parents. I was so proud of myself.
Wow, that is marvelous; your partner might compliment you for a job well done and further ask. “Why was it so important for you to save that boy’s life and why did you feel so proud after helping him?
Note, this is the second Why question. You may then answer and say, “One day during the holiday camps, one of the instructors mentioned a quote by Dalai Lama, which said that ‘Our prime purpose in life is to serve others, and if you can’t, at least do not hurt them’. After helping that boy in school, I realized my purpose in life was to serve others by saving their lives because that made me feel good about myself, and later figured medicine would the best career for me to fulfill my dream of saving lives. Luckily, I was enjoying biology, mathematics and physical science, which were principal requirement in medicine”.
That might be your second answer. You should continue doing this exercise with your partner until you reach at least your seventh answer from the why questions. After the exercise, if you feel terrific and proud of the answers you give, your life will never be the same again because you have truly discovered your strong why, or your passion in life.
“When your WHY is strong enough, you’ll figure out how. You have to know why you do what you do, what is it that is important for you. When your why is clear and powerful, you’ll figure out the means to make it happen. That’s how faith as a principle of power works”- Benjamin Hardy. He who has a why to live can bear almost any how — Friedrich Nietzsche. Enough about passion, now let’s move to the second component of Grit: Perseverance.
To stay passionately focused and motivated until your dreams come to fruition, persistence or perseverance is the pillar holding the bridge between those goals and their achievement. You might then be wondering, what the bridge is? According to Jim Rohn, it is discipline. The pillar of any great bridge (persistence in this case), must be built and developed from hard, rock solid foundation.
In his legendary book, Think and Grow Rich, author Napoleon Hill list four steps that are needed to develop persistence.
i) Definite purpose backed by burning desire for its fulfillment.
- You know your goals, write them down and read them every day to keep that desire (passion) burning.
ii) Definite plan, expressed in continuous action.
- Schedule your plans, in weeks, months or whatever works for you. Relentless actions on your plans give you a sense of progress, the greatest motivator of all.
iii) A mind closed tightly against all negative and discouraging influence including negative suggestions of relatives, friends and acquaintances.
- To avoid falling victim of such negativity, allow the wisdom of Albert Einstein to soak into your mind “Stay away from negative people; they have a problem for every solution”. Choose your network diligently; they are your net-worth after all.
iv) A friendly alliance with one or two more persons who will encourage one to follow through with both plans and purpose.
- Seek a coach or mentor for every aspect of your life you need to develop. Invariably, choose your mentor or friendly alliance with great scrutiny. As Jim Rohn says, “you are the average of five people you spend the most time with”.
Now you have grit, your passion is inextinguishable and your perseverance is fully fledged. Moreover, you have mastered the art of self-discipline. Subsequently, you will feel more in control of your life, you will be happier and powerful as a person.
Therefore, with both self-discipline and grit, you can be assured to surmount any obstacle that might deter you from achieving your goals and living the balanced and healthy lifestyle you desire and deserve. Make a decision and endeavor to lead a richer, fuller, happier and fulfilling life. Your chief aim should be to use self-discipline primarily in all five basic components of your life. Namely;
1. Your health
Your health is the most important aspect of your life and you should therefore give it first priority. Pray for your health, pray for your safety, pray for your appetite, and pray for good quality sleep. Health is like a keystone habit that enables you to make sound decision about other aspects of your life. Many research studies single out health as the primary interest for adults.
To be generally healthy, you need to strike the right balance between your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellness. Avoid excess, do everything in moderation.
(a) Physically, your diet and exercises determines the fitness and your general well-being. Opt for exercises, which involve a lot of aerobic activities and your diet should be mostly Mediterranean (Sea food, fruit and veggies, nuts, protein, wholegrain food, etc). For as much as you need to exercise to stay active and feel vital, your body needs proper rest to recharge and recover. Good quality sleeps, 7+ hours daily, as recommended by Benjamin Hardy, Author of Willpower Doesn’t work, does the trick. Other authors such as Eric Barker — author of (Barking up the wrong tree) and Brian Tracey recommends 8 hours of sleep. However, it’s worth to note that it is not the quantity of sleep that is important, but quality.
(b) Mentally, “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking” Marcus Aurelius. I also agree with Dale Carnegie when he says, “Everybody in the world is seeking happiness — and there is one sure way to find it. That is by controlling your thoughts. Happiness doesn’t depend on outward conditions. It depends on inner conditions.” According to Buddha, “we are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make our worlds.”
© Emotionally, practices such as meditation and yoga help the mind to stay calm and resilient in the face of adversity. “Yoga and meditation are where my soul, body and mind harmoniously combine in a state of bliss, gratitude and appreciation for something greater and bigger than myself.” — Lauren Williamson.
According to Robin S. Sharma, “Solitude and quiet connect you to your creative source and release the limitless intelligence of the universe. This inner quietness brings with it a wealth of benefits including a deep sense of well-being, inner peace and boundless energy. You will even sleep better and enjoy a reward feeling of balance in your day-to-day activities.”
(d) Spiritually, nothing will help you as much as prayer, reading and pray-reading your bible. We talk to God through prayer, and we listen to Him through pray-reading and meditation. “All people who are happy have God within them” — Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist.
2. Your Time
The law of forced efficiency states that “There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important things”. “I don’t have time” used to be my mantra whenever a great idea for self-improvement crossed my mind. It was until I realized that none of us have time but we can always make time to do the things that gives us a sense of fulfillment and joy when we pursue them.
Time wasted can never be restored, which means we must never let time pass while doing things that do not serve our purpose or are not important to us. Therefore, we have to discipline ourselves to channel all our energies and time on our greatest priorities. “The essence of time management is for you is to discipline yourself to set clear priorities and then stick to those priorities.” — Brian Tracey
3. Your family
The proverb “Blood is thicker than water” means that family relationships and loyalties are the strongest and most important ones. Family is everything; wherever you find that connection, be it within your immediate family or planetary family. Prioritize your family and connections. Never be consumed with your work in the expense of quality time with your family. The company or organization you work for will never be on your bedside all the time when you are dead sick in hospital even if they pay you a seven-figure salary. Most often than not, family (blood or not) tends to be there when the going is tough and they are the faces that bid us farewell on our deathbed if we strengthen that connection”.
Use communication to build mutual trust and respect in your family for lifelong and healthy relationship. Communication is key to keep the family together and united by a strong bond of unfeigned love. If you stay far away from your family, make it a point to visit them every weekend. If you work abroad, keep the communication open and discipline yourself to contact them every single day if possible and use every opportunity during holidays or whenever you get leave to see them. Stay in touch, nothing is more important than that.
4. Your career
Most people cannot clearly distinguish between a job, a career and calling. Undoubtedly, the minority of those who understand the difference are the happiest and most fulfilled individuals who live their lives with minimal amounts of stress. Amy Werzesniewski of Yale University made a clear distinction as follows:
“Job — Is a way to pay your bills
Career — A path towards increasing better work
Calling — It’s work that is an important part of your life and vital to your identity”
The majority of people are content with having a job despite hating those jobs in the first place. “As long as the bills are paid, everything is fine”, they say. Taking every opportunity available to learn using the advantages in their careers to improve themselves is never a priority to them. They don’t bother to make time to think about their dreams, what they ever wanted to do with their live and most sadly, they don’t do anything or take action to follow their callings. Yet they marvel at the agony of their lives despite having a job.
The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts. In other words, your mindset determines your happiness and the quality of your life. Make a decision to utilize every opportunity available in your company or organization to upgrade your skills, which are in line with your calling and empower yourself so you may follow passion with ease and grace. “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen” — Ralph Waldo Emerson. You can do it all without having to quit your job, it’s just a matter of prioritizing and managing your time effectively.
5. Your relationships
Last, but not least on the list of five basic components of enhancing a meaningful and balance lifestyle that will give you long lasting happiness and fulfillment you desire and deserve, is the relationships you have with your friends and co-workers or any person you have crossed paths with. The principal rule, which is absolutely necessary to your emotional and mental health is, the ability to differentiate between transactional and transformational relationships. Resolve today to invest all your time and energy on the transformational relationships. The kind of relationships that transform you to be a better version of yourself so you can also improve not only those close or around you but the world you live in.
On the other hand, transactional relationships are those where, for instance, if a person offers you some kind of help or do you a favor, they expect you or even worse, demand that you return the favor or pay them. This kind of relationship drains you emotionally and leave you feeling unsatisfied or unfulfilled. Someone may say, “I always do this and that for you” or “Remember when you were down and out, I was there for you”, so you must do me a favor”. This is emotional blackmail and surely, people like that are manipulative. It is better to avoid such people at all costs. Among other things that contributes to happiness, is to give without expecting anything in return. However, that principle does not exist in transactional relationship.
Discipline yourself to keep in touch with your friends at least once a week and make plans to see them in person on some weekends. Technology has made life simple nowadays if we use it effectively and it allows us communicate via several platforms. If you can’t call, send a text, if you can’t text, send an email. If you can’t send an email, use any social platform such as Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp to let your friends know that you think and care about them. The goal is never to be a stranger.
In conclusion, you can achieve a long-lasting happiness by finding meaning in your dreams when you strike a balance through self-discipline and do the following seven life changing things.
1. Believing in yourself,
2. Living a healthy lifestyle with a sense of gratitude and contribution
3. Living a life of faith
4. Empowering yourself through continuous and never ending improvement through reading and experimentation
5. Managing your time
6. Following your dreams or passion
7. Keeping in touch with your family and friends
Finally, thanks to Victor Frankl for his wisdom in realizing that “Success, like happiness, cannot be pursued, it must ensue.” Even though success must not be your primary focus, it is part of the deal package for those who gravitate toward endeavors that form an important part of their lives and vital to their identity. Remember, success is a by-product for those who dare to follow their dreams and work tirelessly and confidently for their attainment.