Don’t let anyone fool you. We all have days when we wonder where our life is headed and whether we have what it takes to succeed — at work, at home or in relationships. It can be a day-by-day or even hour-by-hour effort to be true to ourselves, recover from disappointments and pursue a meaningful purpose.
You deserve to step out into the world with confidence, knowing you bring something of value to your work and into the lives of others — value no one else can offer. Even if you’ve made mistakes and disappointed yourself, you still have knowledge, skills and experiences that can have a significant impact on friends, family, clients and co-workers. You’ve sacrificed. You’ve had challenges like no one else. And you’ve overcome them.
Along the way, don’t you think you’ve learned lessons that could make the road easier for people around you? Yes. Yes, you have. To prove this (in your spare time), make a list of all the bits of wisdom and useful perspectives you’ve gained throughout your life. Think of the roles you’ve played — brother, son, parent, sister, co-worker, supervisor, church leader, coach, teacher, friend, advocate. My guess is you’ve worn more than one of those hats and your “wisdom list” would be very long. In each role, you’ve improved the life of someone. You’ve proposed solutions, inspired others to overcome tragedy, offered a listening ear or shared an insight that turned a challenge into success.
Too often, we fail to see the compounding effect of our lives. People pay attention and benefit from your example. Life’s adventures are never wasted, so don’t be tempted to think what you do doesn’t matter. Success for yourself and others may not appear today, but it will in the future.
What counts are kindnesses you’ve shown to others and gratitude for good things they’ve done for you. Every time you’ve put yourself in someone else’s “boots,” forgiven a mistake or inspired a smile, you’ve set an example others can follow. At the same time, you’ve changed your mindset to one of service versus self focus.
Consider yourself an explorer traversing new territory. Climbing a few mountains will be worth it in the end! Now, lace up those hiking boots and follow me through these simple steps for a more fulfilling life.
1. THINK OF YOUR LIFE AS CHAPTERS
It’s easy to look back over our lives and occasionally get down on ourselves for not making better choices — we should have studied harder, accepted another job, found new friends, bought a different house, re-enlisted or stuck with school long enough to graduate.
As my husband once told me, “There are no do-overs in life.” True, but we can always start fresh. And it’s easier if we say to ourselves, “Well, that chapter in my life is closed now. Tomorrow I open a new chapter where I can do things differently.”
This mindset shift is much more hopeful and constructive than belaboring all the mistakes we’ve made. You are not destined to repeat the past. You can break out of a destructive pattern, turn things around and write a new chapter in your life. People do it every day and so can you!
“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” — George Eliot/Mary Anne Evans
2. FIND ONE THING TO BE GRATEFUL FOR
Those who study happiness say that gratitude is the ticket! We can be grateful for getting out of bed, electrical power when we flip on the switch, the ability to walk and play with a loving pet — unless it’s a cat, and then just be grateful they let you live in the same house! Make a Grateful List and challenge yourself to add one thing to it every day.
You can also be thankful for what you will have in the future. If you want to be grateful for a healthy body, commit to a ten minute walk every day. If you want to be grateful you’ll retire one year earlier, add a few more dollars to your retirement account each month. Plant flowers and appreciate nature as you watch them grow.
It’s also possible to be grateful for what you remove from your life: television, alcohol, drugs, a toxic relationship, etc. By removing the “clutter,” you create space for good things to come into your life!
“…in the act of deciding what to eliminate, you place value on what’s left behind.” — Coco Chanel
3. GIVE YOURSELF MORE CREDIT
Do you give yourself enough credit for the wonderful human you are? You may have a talent or possess knowledge you are hesitant to share. You may think, “There are so many others who know far more than I or who are more accomplished. How can I ever compete? What do I have to offer that’s better or different?”
This thought pattern is a trap. It’ll keep you from sharing the gifts only you can offer. You know enough to help others, qualify for that promotion, win the competition, coach or create, etc. There are always people who will value your skills and expertise. Don’t lock them away simply because others arrived first.
You don’t need permission from anyone else. Don’t deprive the world of something that could make people’s lives happier, healthier and more fulfilling. Why shouldn’t you be the one who makes an impact? Stretch yourself. Dare to join in the game.
Fear has two meanings: forget everything and run OR face everything and rise. The choice is yours! — Author Unknown
This is the first three of 12 steps to Make the Most of Life. We all need inspiration and encouragement to create a better future. Many of these recommendations may be familiar to you, but hopefully a few will provide a new way of thinking.
See you on the next steps of our journey together!