The afternoon always understands what the morning never even suspected.
Every day. All the time.
YOU are telling yourself a story right now.
And this story is simply a collection of beliefs that ultimately makes you what you are – it lays the foundation for every action you take or don’t take in life. In essence, you build yourself out of this story, one day at a time.
For a while, everything aligns just fine, or so it seems, and life is good.
But then at some point, perhaps sometime in your thirties, forties or fifties, you get slapped with a harsh reality that doesn’t even slightly align with the story you’ve been telling yourself. And it hurts! As you struggle to cope with the pain you’re feeling, you are slapped again and again with similar realities. It goes on like this until you realize that the story you’ve been telling yourself and holding on to all these years is the primary source of your pain because the beliefs that support the story are utterly and hopelessly false.
It isn’t easy, but you have to accept it. You have to seriously sit down with yourself and come to grips with the reality that you were wrong about it all along. What you believed to be true was just an illusion built on false beliefs – a story – that never really was what you thought it was.
This is your awakening!
Although it hurts in the beginning, it’s a beautiful thing in the long run.
As time passes, awareness gradually becomes the new foundation of your journey.
Your story gets rewritten with powerful truths.
And you learn to let go of countless false beliefs, like these…
- The belief that waiting until tomorrow makes sense – We know deep down that life is short, and that death will come to all of us eventually, and yet we are infinitely surprised when it comes to someone we know. It’s like walking up a flight of stairs with a distracted mind, and misjudging the final step. You expected there to be one more stair than there is, so you find yourself off balance, before your mind shifts back to the present moment and how the world really is. Truth be told, someday there REALLY won’t be a tomorrow! And this harsh reality needs to be respected. I was actually reminded of this earlier today when I was chatting with a 72-year-old course student about regrets, and she started our call by saying (I’m sharing this with permission): “Why didn’t I learn to accept and appreciate it all, and treat every day like it was the last time? Honestly, my biggest regret is how often I believed in tomorrow.” … May we all take heed to her words and learn from them.
- The belief that you must find your motivation somewhere outside yourself – The most common problem with motivation, often not understood until later in life, is that when we say we’re looking for motivation, it implies that our motivation is somehow hiding behind a tree or under a rock somewhere. But that’s far from the truth. The truth is, our motivation comes from doing the right things. When our efforts have meaning behind them it motivates us to take the next step. For me – and we’re all different – I am motivated primarily by two core ambitions: first, knowing more today than I knew yesterday, especially as doing so relates to meaningful projects and desires, and second, easing the pain of others. Living by these two core ambitions on a daily basis, and regularly reflecting on the progress I’m making, invigorates me, personally and professionally. So think about it: Underneath all the things you say you have to do, at the end of each day, what is the significance and value you hope to create?
- The belief that everyone else knows what’s best for you – Give yourself the space to listen to your own voice—your own soul. Too many people listen to the noise of the world and get lost in the crowd. But YOU can choose differently! Don’t watch too much TV, don’t read every fashion blog, and don’t consume too much mass media news. Find the strength to fill your time with meaningful experiences. The space and time you are occupying at this very moment is LIFE, and if you’re worrying about the Kardashians or Lebron James or some other famous face, then you are disempowered. You’re giving your life away to marketing and media hocus-pocus, which is created by big companies to ultimately motivate you to want to look a certain way and be a certain way. This is absolutely tragic, this kind of thinking! It’s all just a distraction from what is real and good. What is real and good is YOU and your friends and your family, your loves, your highs, your hopes, and your dreams. You know this already! Listen to what your heart is telling you! Eventually, one way or another, you WILL. Because there will inevitably come a day when you’ll finally be wise enough and strong enough to do so.
- The belief that all the instant notifications and distractions are worth it – Distractions are in the palms of our hands these days, but we need to remember to lookup more often. We need to learn to be more human again. Don’t avoid eye contact. Don’t hide behind gadgets. Smile often. Ask about people’s stories. Listen. You can’t connect with anyone, including yourself unless you are undistracted and present. And you can’t be either of the two when you’re Facebooking, Instagramming or Snapchatting your life away on your smartphone. You just can’t! If you are constantly attached to your smartphone and only listening with your ears as your eyes check for the next social update, you are ripping yourself off of actually experiencing real relationships and real life. The same is true for texting too. Yes, someday you will be slapped with the reality of a missed MEMORY being far more unsettling than a missed TEXT!
- The belief that being busy is beneficial – “Am I making meaningful use of this scarce and precious day?” It’s a simple question Marc and I challenge our live event attendees and course students to ask themselves anytime they feel busyness overwhelming them. And it’s a question that seems to gain relevance as we gain life experience. Time gradually shows us how fleeting our lives really are. Filling every day with busyness makes no sense, and yet it’s tempting to do just that. Resist the temptation! Leave space! Your ultimate goal is living a life uncluttered by most of the distractions people fill their lives with, leaving you with space for what truly matters. A life that isn’t constant busyness, rushing, and resistance, but instead mindful contemplation, creation, and connection with people and projects you truly love.
- The belief that knowledge alone is enough – Learning by itself is great in the near term, but it doesn’t cut it in the long run if you plan on making positive changes in your life. It’s one thing to know all twelve steps necessary to recover from alcoholism, for example, but it’s another thing entirely to dedicate yourself to actually carrying out each one of those steps. The acquisition of knowledge doesn’t mean you’re growing – growing happens when what you know changes how you live. At some point, we all learn this lesson, often the hard way, by realizing that we haven’t made any real progress. But then we take action because that’s how real progress happens… and everything changes, for the better.
- The belief that faster is better – In our youth it seems like faster is better, but in time we gradually witness the power of ‘slow and steady at work. We come to learn that no act of love, kindness, or diligence, no matter how small, is ever wasted. The fact that you can plant a seed and it becomes a tree, share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another’s, smile at someone and receive a smile in return, is proof that YOU can make a big difference in life and business, even if it can’t be done all at once. So don’t break your back today. Remind yourself that you can’t lift 1,000 pounds all at once. Yet you can easily lift one pound 1,000 times, especially when you spread the lifting over a series of days. Tiny, repeated, daily efforts will get you there. (Marc and I build tiny, life-changing, daily rituals with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of the Getting Back to Happy Course.)
- The belief that comfort is the end goal – A very popular and harmful addiction in this world is the draw of comfort. Don’t be someone who never asks, “how?” or never pulls back further to ask, “why?” Too many young people don’t ask these questions because they know the answers would require substantial disruption to their comfort zone, and they don’t want to endure it. But that’s how the human mind grows, and eventually, we all learn this, one way or another. When our minds are stretched with new questions and resulting experiences, they never shrink back to their previous dimensions – we are forevermore competent and capable. Truth be told, emotional discomfort in life, when accepted, rises, crests, and crashes in a series of waves. Each wave washes an old layer of us away and deposits treasures we never expected to find. Out goes inexperience, in comes awareness; out goes frustration, in comes resilience; out goes hatred, in comes kindness. And so on and so forth…
- The belief that you are at the center of the universe – When we’re young, we all have the tendency to place ourselves at the center of everything, and see every outcome from the viewpoint of how it affects us personally. But as we grow up and broaden our horizons, we begin to see that our self-centered thinking has lots of baggage that comes along with it – from feeling sorry for ourselves when things aren’t going exactly as expected, to doubting ourselves when we fail to be perfect. And we realize that shifting our focus onto others for a while can help. It’s one of life’s great paradoxes: when we serve others we end up benefiting as much if not more than those we serve. So whenever you feel stuck, try to shift your focus from your circumstances to the circumstances of those around you. Instead of asking, “What’s wrong with me?” ask, “How can I help you?” Find someone who could use an extra hand and make a small, reasonable offer they can’t refuse. The perspective you gain will guide you forward.
- The belief that everyone is capable of being kind and loving – Not everyone will appreciate what you do for them, and not everyone will do for you as you do for them, because not everyone has the same heart as you. That’s reality. And you’ll eventually realize that you’ll be endlessly disappointed if you expect things to be different. So be kind and loving to people because you want to be, and don’t let your expectations get the best of you. With that said, however, you do ultimately have to figure out who’s worth your long-term attention and who’s just taking advantage of you. If your time and energy is misspent on the wrong people for the wrong reasons, you can end up in a tedious cycle of fleeting friendships, superficial romances that are as thrilling as they are meaningless, and a general sense of wondering why you always seem to be running in place chasing validation and affection.
- The belief that you can save certain (overly dramatic) people from themselves – You will gradually learn that you simply can’t save some people from themselves, so don’t get sucked too deep into their drama today. Those who make perpetual chaos of their lives won’t appreciate you interfering with the commotion they’ve created, anyway. They want your “poor baby” sympathy, but they don’t want to change. They don’t want their lives fixed by you. They don’t want their problems solved, their emotional addictions and distractions taken away, their stories resolved, or their messes cleaned up. Because what would they have left? They don’t know and they aren’t ready to know yet. And it’s not your job to tell them.
- The belief that forgiveness isn’t needed – In time, we learn about the power and importance of forgiveness, and we learn about its limitations. We learn that a broken relationship that’s mended through forgiveness can be even stronger than it once was. And, of course, we learn that this isn’t always the case either. Because forgiveness doesn’t necessarily lead to healed relationships. That’s not the point. Some relationships aren’t meant to be, and should NOT be. But you must forgive anyway, for your own sake, and then let what’s meant to be, BE. Forgiveness allows you to focus on the future without combating the past. When you forgive someone you are making a promise not to hold the unchangeable past against your present self. It has nothing to do with freeing a criminal of his or her crime, and everything to do with freeing yourself of the burden of being an eternal victim.
- The belief that outer beauty is a top priority – As you grow older, what you look like on the outside becomes less and less of an issue, and who you are on the inside becomes the primary point of interest. You gradually learn that infatuating yourself with someone simply for what they look like on the outside is like choosing your favorite food based on color instead of taste. And you start paying more attention to the innate, invisible, unquantifiable characteristics that create lasting attraction. Just as some people enjoy the smell of mint, while others prefer the scent of cinnamon, there is an undeniable, magnetic draw that attracts you to the qualities of certain people. Sometimes it’s even the scars your soul shares with them that reels you in and creates the very hinges that hold you together in the long run.
- The belief that you can buy your way to long-term happiness – There are two basic kinds of happiness in life – fleeting and enduring. The fleeting type is most commonly acquired through the anticipation and acquisition of new material (or digital) possessions, while the enduring type is attained through the gradual growth of your mind – the experiences, lessons, and realizations that ultimately bring more awareness, acceptance, and peace into your consciousness. At a young age, it might be difficult to decipher the difference between fleeting and enduring happiness, but as time rolls on it becomes vividly obvious that the latter is far more satisfying. So start today by challenging yourself to be less impressed by the things you own, and be more impressed by the life you live. (Marc and I discuss this in more detail in the “Simplicity” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- The belief that all your fears and worries will come true – Someday when you look back over your life you’ll realize that nearly all of your anxious worries and fears never came to be – they were completely unjustified and pointless. So why not wake up and realize this right now. What worries you masters you! And worrying will never change the outcome anyway. But a positive attitude can change everything over time. When you look back over the last few days, how many moments did you ruin with needless worry and negativity? Although there’s nothing you can do about these lost moments, there’s plenty you can do about the one you’re living through right now, and the ones that are still to come.
- The belief that failure is the end of the world – You want to know the difference between a master and a beginner? The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried. Behind every great invention, creation, or work of art is a hundred failed attempts to make it, but these attempts are simply never shown to us. The truth is, you may not succeed in the exact way you hoped you would, within the exact time frame you hoped you would, but you will learn and grow from your experiences and failures, and you will be better off in the end. You will ultimately learn that there’s no exact path in life that you have to stay on to get what you want. What you want will come with noticing the progress you’ve made, and understanding that every lesson is a step forward.
- The belief in every guarantee of safety and security – Too often, especially when we’re young and a bit naive, we buy into the illusions and guarantees of safety and security. We purchase triple premium insurance, we lock ourselves in our homes, and we seal ourselves off from large parts of the world, all in an effort to be safe and secure. But the older we grow, the more we realize there are no sure things in this world. The nature of the world is constantly evolving. Reserving yourself with numerous safety and security measures is usually no safer in the long run than exposing yourself, and then simply using common sense to navigate forward. And it is far more fulfilling to dare yourself to the mighty experiences life has to offer than to hide forever in a bubble of safety and security, only to leave the majority of your life sealed up and unlived.
- The belief that someday you will feel 100% complete, across the board – As you live, you’ll gradually find peace in the thought that you can’t ever have it all or know it all. You are always just a fraction of the whole. For if you weren’t, there would be nothing more to experience. So value what you know, and also value the countless things you don’t yet understand. For in what you do not understand, there is the joy of growth. Life will always be incomplete and a bit asymmetrical. Appreciate this and embrace it. Be happy and sad at the same time, be hungry and thankful at the same time, be nervous and excited at the same time, and be OK with it.
- The belief in how things are “supposed” to be – As you get older you will find that life isn’t necessarily any easier or harder than you thought it was going to be; it’s just that the easy and the hard aren’t exactly the way you had anticipated, and don’t always occur when you expect them to. This isn’t a bad thing; it makes life interesting. With a positive attitude you will often be pleasantly surprised. When you stop expecting things to be a certain way, you can appreciate them for what they are. Ultimately you will realize that life’s greatest gifts are rarely wrapped the way you expected.
- The belief that starting over is not an option – No one wins a game of chess by only moving forward; sometimes you have to move backward to put yourself in a position to win. Think about how this relates to your life. Sometimes when it feels like you’re running into one dead end after another, it’s actually a sign that you’re not on the right path. Maybe you were meant to hang a left back when you took a right, and that’s perfectly fine. Life gradually teaches us that U-turns are allowed. So turn around when you must! There’s a big difference between giving up and starting over in the right direction. And there are three little words that can release you from your past mistakes and regrets, and get you back on track. These words are: “From now on…”
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