For a long time I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and I just sort of went along wherever life was taking me but pretty soon this approach had me discontent and frustrated with my situation.
Looking for answers I consumed tons of personal development material over a period of years and after a while a pattern started to emerge.
What I found were 5 key principles that kept coming up in different forms in the best material.
These are the principals that have had the greatest impact on me and put me in charge of my own life:
1. Take responsibility
“The fountain of content must spring up in the mind, and he who hath so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition, will waste his life in fruitless efforts and multiply the grief he proposes to remove.” – Samuel Johnson
As it turns out, this is the mother of all personal transformation. If you want anything to change in your life, you need to stop with the excuses and make it happen. Most of us are stuck in the role of the victim, blaming everything and everyone but ourselves for what is and what is not happening for us.
In psychology, this is known as the self-serving bias and refers to people’s tendencies to attribute successes to internal factors and failures to external ones. By doing that we get a comfortable way out of taking responsibility for our own situation.
But the truth is that our life is the result of the person that we have become. If we refuse to accept that and keep blaming our background, our parents, our teachers, our bosses, the economy and the society for everything that’s negative in our lives nothing is going to change.
Things won’t change unless you change how you do things. (Tweet this)
It’s not easy to let go of all of these excuses and accept responsability for your own situation. Particularly if you’ve done a lot of blaming throughout your life. But once you’ve made the commitment to take charge of your own life, the outcome is suddenly up to you instead of someone else. And that is extremely liberating.
2. Do your best
“Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.” – Miguel Angel Ruiz
When I was in high school, I used to put in the minimum amount of effort required from me. At times, I was lucky and got a higher grade than I should have had and I thought I got it made. Little did I know I was nurturing the mindset of an underachiever, practicing my mind to always go for the least resistance possible and in the process destroying my chances of productivity, effectiveness and growth down the road.
Don’t fall into the trap of always going for least resistance just because you can. Always put in performances that you can be proud of. If you can do this in one area of your life, soon it will spill over to others. Consider yourself a person who always do your best and start acting like it.
When you’re especially good at something, don’t get comfortable. Don’t be lazy when things are going well or you think little is required by you.
If it ain’t broke, fix it anyway. (Tweet this)
Even if it’s working it still needs maintaining and improvement. In sports, the top athletes work even harder on the areas where they excel because that’s where the edge is.
Also, remember that doing your best doesn’t mean pushing yourself too hard. At times doing your best means the ability to say no and to be able to learn from situations where you feel like you didn’t give your best performance, forgive yourself and improve for next time.
3. Be honest
“Well, if you’re true to yourself you’re going to be true to everyone else.” – John Wooden
Don’t lie to yourself. Always be in tune with what’s going on inside you. Let happy things make you happy and sad things make you sad.
Don’t suppress thoughts and feelings that are trying to tell you something. If you feel like something’s wrong, don’t ignore it. Even if it’s something you don’t know how to deal with.
Maybe you feel like your unhappy with your career path and don’t want to think about it.
But even if you don’t know how to deal with the problem, it’s always better to acknowledge the issue than to lie to yourself and pretend that you’re not hearing what your heart and body is telling you. Always pay attention and work on solving the issues your body and mind are trying to communicate to you, even if it’s hard.
As you start being honest with yourself it’ll also become easier to be honest with the people around you. When approaching others in this way, coming from an honest and sincere place, you’ll find that people will do the same for you. This way you’ll form deeper and more meaningful relationships much faster.
“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” – Soren Kierkegaard
Life is not supposed to be a grind. It’s supposed to be your laboratorium for constant experimentation. The more things you try, the better. Instead of getting through the day, learn to take from the day.
It’s your mission to make life as much fun and enjoyable as you can. Be dedicated in finding out what you want to do with your life and how to fill your days with the good stuff that gets you excited.
Minimize the boring stuff or cleverly turn them into enjoyable experiences. Get creative with this stuff. If doing the dishes is boring to you, make a ritual of it where you practice mindfulness or listen to an awesome audiobook or podcast while at it.
5. Always be learning
“Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom” – Jim Rohn
Be a serious student of life. Get curious about the world. Follow your excitement. If something has you intrigued, don’t let it slip. If you find something your interested in, shamelessly immerse yourself in it. It might just be your passion uncovering or something that will lead you to it.
Get a library card and start the habit of reading one book a week.
Prioritize learning new stuff. Whenever something is asking for your attention ask yourself: What will I learn from this? Choose the books, courses, new connections and deep conversations ahead of short-term entertainment such as TV, videogames and social media.
At the end of each day, make sure that you’ve learned something new.
Would you say that you’re in charge of your life? How did you get to that point? If you’re not, what’s stopping you?