In a few weeks I will be facilitating a weekend retreat for an organization in my local community. The theme of the retreat is “Self-leadership” and I will be delivering a very special class that I don’t often get to teach called “Strategies for Success.” It is basically an advanced life skills class, a superb opportunity to stop and take stock of your life and make sure that things are going in the right direction for what you hope to achieve in your life. As part of the class I have assigned some homework for each of the participants. I asked them to write down the four most important things they have ever learned in their lives. I told them to imagine that if they knew they were going to die tomorrow, what four pieces of wisdom would they want to pass along to their family and friends. I thought that was a great question, so I wanted to share my answer with you.
1. You become what you focus on and similar to the people you surround yourself with. Whatever you fill your mind with, what you think about, watch, read, listen to… and whomever you chose to spend your time with, will in large part determine what your life will look like five years from today. And because information and people are the two strongest drivers of your future, you should take pro-active control of them as much as is humanly possible. Fill your mind with wonderful ideas, valuable knowledge and uplifting information… and surround yourself with smart, talented and supportive people. Doing these two things consistently will have a huge positive impact on your life.
2. People do what seems easy and convenient in their lives, not what is best for them. We often know what we need to do to improve our lives, but many times it means making a tough decision or putting in a lot of hard work – and unfortunately most people (myself sometimes included) do not want to make the hard decision or do the difficult work – so they pick the path of least resistance. They go with what is easy, what is convenient, what is right in front of them, what other people tell them to do or what everybody else seems to be doing. But that is not the right answer. Those who succeed in life are the ones that have the discipline and courage to do the tough things, make the hard decisions – to do what they know is absolutely the right thing for them to do – the best thing for their future — regardless of the difficulty or effort required. A great life does not come about from chance, fate or good luck — it is a direct result of the decisions you make and the actions you take. That is why what you do today, determines who you will be tomorrow.
3. If you work hard on your job you will make a living. If you work hard on yourself you will make a life! To this day it still surprises me how many people have absolutely no clear plan or direction for their lives. They hope that they will make more money, hope that they get a promotion, hope that they will have a good marriage, hope that they raise good kids, hope they will have a comfortable retirement… Hope is NOT a strategy! The people who enjoy a happy, successful, joyful and balanced life have that life because they have worked hard to create it. They read, study and learn everything they can about building a wonderful life. They become experts on their own success. They ask successful and happy people for advice. They surround themselves with a wide network of people that want to see them succeed. They are constantly working on themselves to learn the ideas, attitudes, behaviors and skills necessary to take them to where they truly want to go in life. They have a clear picture of their own unique definition of success and strive with focused effort to make that dream a reality. They realize that no one else is coming to save them. No one else can make their life happy and successful but them. They understand that their life is their responsibility, so they set out every day with the goal of making themselves better and better, so that their life becomes better and better. They understand that there is no secret formula of success, but the real formula is quite simple:
- Decide exactly what it is that you truly want from your life. A clear, values-based vision of the life you deeply desire to live.
- Determine specifically what it will honestly take to achieve that success – the Who, What Where, When, How and Why of the path to attain your dreams.
- Then get up every single day and work on doing what it takes to “Pay the Price” of achieving what you want in your life. Constantly curious, constantly thinking, constantly asking for help and advice, constantly taking massive action to make your vision into reality.
4. Tell the truth. I know this last one seems obvious, but it is fundamental to having a successful and happy life. Nothing can hurt you if you simply tell the truth.
Well, at least for right now, these are my top four. I can think of a lot of other great ideas, but these would be at the top of my list.
I would like to invite you to put your top four in the comments section – it would be great if a whole bunch of people contributed their most important lessons learned – it would be a very interesting list to read.
Thanks so much — hope this helped — John