Seven years ago, my life was in the gutter. But after 15 years of addiction, a near-death experience finally gave me the wakeup call I needed. After several months in detox and treatment, I began reading about personal growth, and one line, in particular, hit me square in the face:
“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” — Thomas Jefferson
Having lost my entire adult life to addiction, mostly through inaction, it felt like I’d nothing to lose by going in the opposite direction. So instead of sitting at home and pitying myself about lost years, I followed the advice of Mr. Jefferson and went out and got busy.
That was in 2013, and since then I’ve become a published author, a keynote speaker, a business owner, a life change strategist, and lecturer at the top two universities in Ireland, all while pursuing a Ph.D. in a subject that I love.
That said, here are five more quotes that slapped me into life, waking me up from my slumber. If you need it, I’m hoping they will slap you too.
“It’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.”―Randy Pausch
It’s easy to make excuses — it saves you having to act — but where is that going to get you? Absolutely nowhere. You might not have had many lucky breaks in life, but so what. This doesn’t mean you can’t make things happen.
If you want to grow — both personally and professionally — you need to stop making excuses. Successful people know this, no matter what their starting point in life. Play your own hand, or the world will play it for you.
“The words you speak become the house you live in.” — Hafiz
We all have a story, and this is written by the words we use. If you tell yourself you’re anxious, you’re going to act accordingly. If you tell yourself you suck, it’s likely that you will. It is, therefore, crucial that you choose your words carefully, especially when you’re talking to yourself.
Words that stop you from taking action include “I can’t”, “if only”, and “I must”. These should be replaced with action words such as “I will”, “I choose to”, and “let’s look at this another way”.
In challenging situations, you should also track the questions you ask yourself. For instance, replacing “why me?” with “what can I do about this?” will instill a sense of strength, directing you towards corrective action, rather than blaming the world for your problems.
‘Don’t give in to your fears. If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart.’―Paulo Coelho
If you’re following your heart, and you’re not breaking the law, don’t be afraid to challenge societal norms. Follow your passion when people think you should play it safe. When the crowd goes one way, you go the other. If it feels right, go with your gut.
When I found sobriety in 2013, my family wanted me to play it safe. “Do something you’re familiar with,” they said, “don’t take any risks.” It came out of both love and fear, but in reality, they were playing by societal norms.
Luckily for me, my heart was singing loud and clear. Having experienced a perspective shift in detox, I became intensely curious about the human mind. I wanted to go to college to learn about human suffering, why my own suffering disappeared, and to share these experiences with others.
My head was telling me to get a normal job, but my heart was screaming at me to follow your passion. That was nearly 7 years ago. I’ve just published my memoir, and in less than 12-months time, I’ll have completed my Ph.D.
“Don’t fear failure. Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail.” — Bruce Lee
Are you afraid of failure? If so, you’re not the only one. Fear of failure prevents many people from taking action, and as a result, reduces their potential success in life.
The question is, can you succeed without failing? No, not unless mediocrity fulfills you. The best way to learn is through failure. When you fail, you learn. And when you fail big, you learn big.
You might be worried about the consequences, but the fact is, the risks will be worth it, and you can always ask for forgiveness. As a mentor of mine once told me, “Asking for forgiveness is far easier than getting permission.”
‘Obstacles do not block the path. They are the path.’ — Zen Proverb
Challenges can be used as fuel. You don’t just want fuel — you need it for growth. Instead of merely coping with life, you need to lean into adversity and use it for growth.
If you want to practice this habit, you need to focus on progress when life throws you a curveball. It doesn’t have to be a major setback — opportunities for growth are everywhere.
If you find yourself getting stressed, you can use it as an opportunity to practice non-reactivity. If you fail at something, you can use it as a chance to learn a valuable lesson. You can also use challenging relationships as a chance to practice tolerance, compassion, or even your perspective-taking skills.
Every situation is an opportunity to grow, especially challenging ones. So instead of simply trying to cope, use challenges as fuel for growth.