Achieve Anything In Just One Year
Be Inspired Daily to Live Your Dreams and Accomplish Your Goals
Copyright © 2010 by Jason Harvey
All rights reserved.
Published in Canada by Amazing Life Press
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, graphics, electronics, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher except in the case of reprints in the context of reviews, quotes, or references.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Data:
Achieve anything in just one year: be inspired daily to live your dreams and accomplish your goals / Jason Harvey.
1. Self-actualization (Psychology). 2. Goal (Psychology). 3. Success. I. Title.
BF637.S8H295 2009 158.1 C2009-906450-2
Book cover design: Stefan Chinof
The Simple Minds creep into John’s hazy blue dreams. They poke and prod him into wakefulness with their haunting drones that sound relaxed and confident at the same time. Don’t you forget about me. There is a hint of arrogance there. John smiles as the song takes him back to a time when he was fearless and hopeful. He sees himself waving goodbye to his parents in the rear-view mirror of his beat-up Honda Civic as he takes off in the direction of a brilliant sunrise.
John instinctively rubs his eyes in the blinding light and rolls onto his side. Neon green numbers slowly come into focus. 6:00 AM. Damn. He slams his hand down on the snooze button and cuts off the blaring song that reminds him of who he once was and what he hoped to be.
It’s not a decade ago anymore. John thinks to himself, “You’re an adult with a job and a family . . . and a life that is tied to alarm clocks and cell phones and computers. What happened to that idealistic young person who thought he would make a mark on the world? Is he lost?”
Slowly John unwinds himself from the sheets, trying not to wake his wife of ten years. He shuffles to the bathroom and opens the medicine cabinet without bothering to turn on the light. The reflection of a man he hardly knows anymore stares back at him as he brushes his teeth. Gray early-morning light creeps through the frosted window and matches the streaks of gray that have appeared at his temples. He doesn’t want to get dressed. He doesn’t want to go to work. He doesn’t want to dutifully fulfill every little, insignificant obligation he has today. John is tired of going through the motions and not getting anywhere. His journey through life has become uninteresting. The view is always the same.
What happened to that energized teenager driving toward opportunity? Is there any way John can bring him back? Right now his life is defined by scribbled appointments on a calendar, and it seems like his only accomplishment is successfully checking each activity off the list.
Does your life look a lot like John’s? Maybe it is entirely different. Maybe you are a twenty-three-year-old woman who still doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up. You have few family or financial obligations. Still, you empathize with John. You know what it’s like to feel stuck. You wonder where and when you lost speed and let your dreams be filed in the back of a drawer and stored in the basement of your thoughts.
The point is that life does not have to be a predictable, flat road to nowhere. You can change your choices and change your entire outlook. You can retrieve that motivation you experienced in more idealistic times and channel it toward new opportunities. A brilliant, shining you is eager to break free and fulfill your dreams, whether you are twenty years old or seventy. It’s time to nurture that spark and let it catch fire.
How do you do that? Do you start over completely? Should you drop your current life, move to a town where no one knows you, and assume a new identity? Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? The problem with that logic is that you haven’t changed the most important aspect of the equation—you.
Maybe what you really need to do is take a long, hard look at yourself and commit to small changes every day. That doesn’t sound very exciting, you may be thinking. But heed this warning: the rewards for quick fixes are shallow. This book is not an infomercial that promises a smarter, funnier, skinnier you in thirty days. Changing from the inside out takes time and practice, but the rewards are infinite. At this moment, you may not be able to change your specific life circumstances, but you can change yourself. You can take small steps toward great rewards.
With this book as a guide, you will begin to catalogue your dreams. You will take that file out of the basement and open it up, dig into your archives, and research what makes you tick. Every day for a full year you will find a quote and an accompanying lesson or story in this book. Every lesson will include one small idea for you to consider. You decide whether or not to follow each directive. The purpose is to explore new paths of self-awareness and fulfillment. Think of it as a series of experiments. Through experimentation you will find your own path, and it will lead you to opportunities that have been there all along, waiting for you to notice them.
This method is simple and requires nothing but honesty and a bit of work on your part. Are you willing to give it a shot? Are you curious to find out what you may discover about yourself? Would you like to witness how others respond to you when you start to grow into your own skin and own up to your potential?
Many of us capture the spark of motivation for a period of time, but then it fizzles out and drops us back into our familiar routines. This book is meant to give you a daily nudge or a daily glimmer of hope to keep you motivated. Change is not a one-time explosion of opportunity. It is a slow burning fire that needs to be tended constantly. These pages will provide fuel for your fire.
What are your dreams? What are the lofty goals you filed away? You can retrieve those bits of inspiration and mold your life into something that gives you a sense of satisfaction and pride. When you see your reflection in the mirror, you will recognize it . . . and smile.
How to Get Started
This book is designed to be used daily over the span of one year. You will need a quiet place and five to ten minutes, along with a pen and a notebook. So turn the page to Day 1 and begin your journey.
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.
What will your future hold? Have you even thought about it? Are you afraid to think about it? Are you looking forward to the future, or are you dreading it? Why?
Are you willing to have a little faith? What is faith? Sometimes it is described as a strong belief in something for which there is no proof. If that’s the case, then faith is exactly what you need right now.
You can’t predict the future. What you can do is let go of the baggage of your past and move forward without expectations. There is no evidence to prove this book will change your life. Take that first step in faith. Walk boldly into this endeavor, and have faith that if you are simply willing to make one small change at a time, you will begin to see huge results. You don’t need to see the whole staircase. You don’t need to put any limitations on your future. Just take that first step toward change.
Your lesson today is easy and fun. You get to dream about your staircase. Your assignment is to get a notebook. You can go to a bookstore and pick out a fancy journal or find a quirky spiral notebook at your local drug store. It can be silly or pretty or bold or non-descript. The only requirement is that you take it with you wherever you go. Keep that notebook with you for at least a week and write down your dreams whenever they pop into your head. It doesn’t matter if they are impossible. Don’t judge them. Just write them down. Have faith. Take that first step.
“It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
— J. K. Rowling
You shape your future every day through the choices you make. That’s sort of a hard one to swallow, isn’t it? It would be much easier to say you are a victim of circumstances. Then you don’t have to act. Your choices create your reality. They are far more important than aptitude or circumstance.
Say you have a boss who is constantly criticizing your work. They pick on you so much that you are starting to mistrust your ability to perform your job. You can choose to believe your boss, or you can trust yourself and leave the doubter in the dust. Think about how you respond to people who make you feel small. Why are you giving them power?
Does your level of education define you? Does it limit you? That, too, is a choice. You may not think you’re smart enough to earn a degree or apply for a better job. Is that really true, or did you choose not to do the work? There are a million ways to add to your abilities, and they don’t all come with huge price tags or scary entrance exams. Have you thought about seeking a mentor or applying for an apprenticeship? Have you even explored your talents to find out where your aptitudes lie?
Today, your assignment is to observe your choices. Look at every decision you make, from the food you eat to the time you spend on various tasks, to the people you choose to hang out with. Are you making choices that limit you or choices that nurture you?
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
A couple of days ago, you started a notebook of dreams. How is that going? Have you written anything down yet? If you haven’t, what are you waiting for? Get busy! You are not going to change by just reading this book. If you have been working on your dream notebook, pat yourself on the back. Good job! You are taking that first step in faith.
Today’s lesson is about boldness. It’s a wonderful word that means to have courage, to plunge forward even when there is risk involved. To be bold also means to be clear or distinct. Bold type is stronger. It stands out.
Be bold about your dreams. Take risks. There is genius in being bold, because it is the opposite of being shy and uneasy. It shows direction and commitment. You can either apologize for your life, or you can step up to the plate and go for it. What do you have to lose? A boring and unfulfilling life?
You don’t have to even believe in yourself to be bold. It’s like standing on the high dive for the first time. You don’t have to know what it’s going to feel like to plunge into that cold water. You just have to dive off.
Your assignment today is to look at some of your dreams. Pick one. What can you do to boldly go in the direction of that dream? Is there a clear and distinct move you can make today that will start to hurl you toward that goal? Would it really be so scary? What first step can you take in faith? The results may be magical.
“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”
— Scott Adams
You are a powerful being. Do you realize the immense authority you have at this very moment to influence the world?
If you are skeptical of this fact, now is the time to test it. Your assignment today (and every day forward if you choose) is to do at least one nice thing for someone else. It can be nothing bigger than offering a smile and a hand to an elderly woman in the grocery store or not honking at the guy who cuts you off in traffic. You have no idea of the ripple effect you set in motion when you scatter small acts of kindness around. They change the people you touch, and they change you.
There are two rules to keep in mind when carrying out this assignment. One, you have to be sincere. Don’t compliment someone on their bad haircut and then make fun of them behind their back. You must be honest and sincere when carrying out each act of kindness.
The second rule is you must not expect a single thing in return. Try not to take credit for the act. Anonymous acts of kindness are the best. Don’t worry about getting praise for your actions. You will be rewarded by a jolt of excitement and happiness when you carry out your good deed unnoticed. Don’t believe it? Try it, and see how you feel.
Here is a little secret: acts of kindness are not completely selfless. The ripple reverses itself, and you will begin to feel good from the inside out.
“Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”
— Winston Churchill
Destiny carries with it an unfortunate connotation. It sounds pre-determined, unchangeable, and inactive. Some people tend to think of destiny in the same way the main character sees her fate in the opera Carmen. She reads in the tarot cards that she’s going to die, and what happens? She dies. Not a darn thing she can do about it. It’s her destiny.
That’s not reality. What you choose to do every single minute of every single day shapes your destiny. Don’t sit around like Carmen in front of the bull ring waiting for destiny to come upon you. Choose your destiny before it chooses you.
Winston Churchill said destiny is a thing to be achieved because it takes real effort to fulfill your destiny. You can’t sit around waiting for destiny to show up. You must act. It’s time to own up to what is going on in your life today. What are you doing to steer the boat? Did you throw your life into cruise control a long time ago, or are you actively pointing yourself in the direction you want to travel?
Your assignment today is to take one step toward achieving your destiny. Chart your course. Look at your list of dreams and pick one thing you want to achieve by the end of this year. Congratulations! You have a destination and a timeframe. Now, what can you do to launch your journey? Is it compiling a list of recruiters to call? Is it getting on the Internet to search for a long-lost friend? You don’t have to reach your destination today. Just start the journey. Soon your destiny will be clear.
“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream, not only plan, but also believe.”
— Anatole France
You are destined to do great things in your life. It is okay to believe that. It’s true. In order to accomplish great things you must start small and think big. Allow yourself to imagine the impossible. You may start with a phrase like, “I would like a job I enjoy going to every day.” That’s a great dream. Now go bigger. Try something like, “I would like to be an influential person.”
Feel free to get specific and maybe even be a little selfish. No one will see this homework assignment but you. “I would like to travel the world” or “I would like to be a millionaire” is perfectly acceptable, if it is your dream. Nothing is too big, too silly, or too ridiculous. What can you imagine if you have no rules or boundaries? Add to your dream list whenever you can, and read through your dreams every day. Don’t forget them.
Dreams mean nothing if they are not followed by action. Here is your new assignment: start another list of Action Items in your notebook. This is a list of tasks you never seem to get around to doing. It may include items such as: clean out the garage; wash the windows; send a letter to your great aunt who is bed-ridden; learn a craft; take a load of old clothes to a charity. There should be nothing earth-shattering on this list. “Take over the world,” for example, would not be a good choice. This is just a list of simple things. You don’t have to do any of them today. Just create the list. What does this have to do with dreams? You’ll see.
“There are two cardinal sins from which all others spring: Impatience and Laziness.”
— Franz Kafka
I want it now! (But I don’t want to have to do anything to get it.) Sound at all familiar? One of the biggest obstacles to achieving your dreams is laziness. It’s hard to reverse sloth. You think about cleaning out your closets, but you are glued to Seinfeld reruns you’ve watched a million times. How can you catapult yourself off the couch and into action?
You must move, no matter what. You don’t have to find the cure to cancer today. Just find something simple that needs to be done and do it. The best antidote for laziness is putting one foot in front of the other. Don’t listen to the little voices in your head that whisper, I’ll start tomorrow. Ignore the equally damaging voices that whisper, “I should have done this three months ago.” Just go. Don’t think. Do.
Impatience is another looming roadblock. Maybe you’ve done the first few exercises in this book, but you’re not seeing results. Therefore, you’re thinking about regifting this book to your brother-in-law for Christmas. He’s a big, fat loser. He probably needs it worse than you, right? Wrong. Don’t let impatience halt your progress. Hang on. Don’t leave before the miracle occurs.
Your assignment today is to turn off the TV. Pick one action item and do it. Do not even consider the results or the rewards. Just launch yourself into action. When you’re done, congratulate yourself. You’ve conquered laziness and impatience today.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
— Helen Keller
You do not get any extra points for accomplishing things alone. In fact, one of the great keys to success is teamwork. Everyone has different talents and abilities, and when you pool your resources, you tend to witness amazing results. It just might be the big cosmic joke of humanity. Alone it is impossible, but together all things are possible.
A very important lesson in success is to acknowledge that some people are just better at certain tasks than you are. So if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! Band together with people you admire and see how powerful you are when united.
Helen Keller was deaf and blind and therefore had very little opportunity to connect with the outside world. Her potential for greatness was almost wasted. Then Annie Sullivan broke through her isolation. Together, they formed a bond and a way to communicate. Annie Sullivan took Helen Keller by the hand and brought her out of her isolation and into the world. She helped her achieve her dreams. Alone, Helen Keller would have accomplished very little. Together they did so much.
Through hard work and cooperation with her teacher and others, Helen Keller broke through her barriers and became a model of achievement. She was a prolific American author and lecturer, and she was an activist in many causes, including women’s suffrage and worker’s rights.
Today, your assignment is to think about your partnerships. Do you have any? Did you recently lend a hand to someone? Have you accepted help? Why or why not?
“What lies behind us, and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
A very important point to consider while you are working through this year is that your past and your future are totally irrelevant to achieving your dreams. They are insignificant details. What you want to concentrate on this year is what you’ve got going on inside.
You want to touch that flame in your soul that will allow you to do great things. It doesn’t matter if you’re not proud of your past accomplishments. It doesn’t matter if the uncertainty of the future terrifies you. What matters is doing that internal inventory to find out who you are and what you want out of life.
There is a powerhouse of potential locked inside you. How are you going to choose to use it? Would you rather keep it hidden and controlled, so that you don’t stick out in a crowd? Or would you secretly like to see what would happen if you unleashed your true potential on the world? Are you willing to take responsibility for yourself and your actions?
Your assignment today is to write a definition of yourself. Define yourself in three sentences or less. Then write down five things you really like about yourself and five things you wish you could change. Finally, if you could look deep inside, what color do you imagine your soul to be and why? Do this exercise quickly, and don’t spend too much time pondering your answers. Write down the first things that come to mind, and then leave it. Keep this definition in your notebook, and you will refer to it again a few months from now.
“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”
— Walt Disney
Do you get overwhelmed easily? Is it hard for you to finish things you’ve started? If something seems impossible, would you rather forget it and move on to something easier? Most people don’t like to attempt the impossible, but Walt Disney has a wonderful twist of logic when it comes to this word.
It really is fun to do the impossible. It’s like throwing a surprise party. You catch people off guard. You show them that their limitations don’t apply to you. It’s also a little like playing make-believe. What if you pretend a task isn’t impossible? You might just find a way to accomplish it if you don’t know the goal is supposed to be unattainable.
Why not? No one actually expects you to succeed, so go for it! There is a freedom in attempting the impossible. Failure is expected, so you have nowhere to go but up. And who defined it as impossible, anyway? How do you really know it can’t be done until you try?
Cultivate your devilish side today. You don’t have to accomplish the impossible, but it might be fun to practice the improbable. Think about something positive you could do that would completely shock people who know you. Let’s say you absolutely hate getting up in the morning. What would happen if you got up very early one morning, participated in some sort of physical exercise, and then brought breakfast to your family or co-workers? That might just send some of them into cardiac arrest. “You did what? But you hate the morning! It could be fun.”
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
— Jim Rohn
Yikes! It might be time to find some new friends.
Seriously, you are influenced by the people with whom you spend the bulk of your time. Who are those people? Think through a typical week in your life. Who do you hang out with most? Is it your family, people at work, or members of a church group, a book club, a hiking group? Who are your closest friends? Who do you go to for advice?
Some people respond to this statement with a feeling of helplessness. They didn’t choose their five people. They’re stuck with the group they have due to circumstances beyond their control. That is completely untrue. You cannot cry victim here. You have every right to choose the people around you. The controls are in your hands and no one else’s.
Seek out people you admire, and spend time with them. Do you have an elderly relative who holds a wealth of information about your heritage? Why not sit at her feet and let her tell you about your family? Is there someone at work you really admire? Sit down with them in the lunchroom and start a conversation.
Your assignment today is to take a critical look at the five people you spend the most time with. Are they individuals who inspire you? Do they make you laugh, or do they bring you down? Do they belittle you, or do they encourage you? Do they nurture you and allow you to grow, or do they squash your dreams every chance they get? You are influenced both positively and negatively by people around you. It is time to choose your friends wisely.
“Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time . . . The wait is simply too long.”
— Leonard Bernstein
Inspiration is not just for writers. It is a wonderful asset for achieving your dreams in any walk of life. Finding inspiration, though, is an interesting and sometimes frustrating journey. Most of us wait for it to hit, like nomads in the desert searching the sky for the possibility of rain.
Leonard Bernstein suggested that you can do more than wait. Develop a plan for the off time. Set an approach to life when you are not bubbling over with inspiration. You can accomplish just as much on an average, uninspired day, if you are in the practice of cultivating inspiration. The work is just a bit more tedious.
One terrific way to cultivate inspiration is to start a journal. Get in the practice of writing in your journal every day. If you don’t know what to say, write “I don’t know what to say.” Pretty soon you’ll get bored with that statement and write down what’s really on your mind. The key to journaling is honesty. This is not an assignment you will ever turn in to a teacher, so say what you really feel.
When you journal, you are turning over the earth of your mind and soul and getting it ready for planting ideas. Journaling is a non-judgmental task. Just write down what comes to mind. Let your pen on the paper be an extension of your thoughts. Do not try to think about what you are going to say first and then write it down. This is not meant to be a perfect composition. The action is much more important than the result.
“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.”
— Mother Teresa
It is easy to worry about the numbers. “I’m not spending enough time with my children.” “I don’t make enough money in my job.” “I only made it to the gym once this week.” “I gave a donation to a charity, but they need so much more.” That kind of worry leads to a feeling of being overwhelmed, and that’s a dangerous place. When you feel overwhelmed, you are precariously close to giving up.
Don’t let yourself go down that dark alley. Concentrate on the present. What can you do right now that would cause a positive ripple effect? Is one of your children struggling with math homework? Go help them right now. Is there a part-time job you can pick up a couple of nights a week to boost your income? Apply for it. Have you pursued new job opportunities recently that would include an increase in salary? It can’t hurt to look. Do you feel fat and flabby today? Go for a walk or get yourself to the gym no matter what. Concentrate on what you can do today, and force yourself to drop your worries about tomorrow every time they surface.
One of the best ways to get out of the funk of worry is to be helpful to someone else. It immediately takes your mind off of your own problems, and it feels good. Are you a member of a volunteer organization? You don’t have to necessarily join the Peace Corps to help. What can you do in your community today to help someone other than yourself? You will be surprised to see how reaching out to others will eventually help you.
“You have achieved success if you have lived well, laughed often and loved much.”
— Author Unknown
If you died today, would you be able to look back on your life with satisfaction, or would you feel like you missed out? Life is not merely meant to be endured. It is really meant to be celebrated every step of the way. Are you having fun yet?
Don’t wait for the big pay-off before you start enjoying your life. There is no proof to support the idea that successful people must pay their dues by toiling endlessly and forfeiting happiness for a number of years until they reach their goal. You can actually be happy and enjoy life all along the road to success. It’s true! Take off your blinders and look at the scenery. There is so much out there for you to experience. Life is a journey, not a destination. You have a 100 percent chance of dying, but it’s what you do between now and then that counts.
One of the greatest measures of success is friendship. Have you lived well with your friends and family? Do you isolate yourself from them, or do you get together and share laughter and love?
How do you define success? Is it purely monetary? What makes your life good? Do you agree with this quote? The definition of a successful life is different for everyone. It is up to you to define when and how you achieve success.
Your assignment today is to write down five things in your life for which you are grateful and five ways in which you are successful today.
“If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”
— Thomas Edison
What are you capable of doing? Do you have any idea? Have you ever tested your limits? Thomas Edison suggests that very few of us have a clue about our real capabilities. What might we accomplish if we work together using our resources to their fullest? It is an awesome thing to consider. How wonderful it would be to be part of a world where we all explored our capabilities. Is that a ridiculous dream? Not necessarily.
The first step in discovering your capabilities is to try new things. You have no idea what you are capable of until you try. Janet always thought it would be incredible to climb a mountain, but she wasn’t in very good shape. She set a date in early September and gave herself a year to work up the nerve. She walked with her best friend, Judy, four or five times a week. They started out walking around the block, but every week they increased their distance just a little. By August, the ladies were hiking nearly twenty miles a week.
Janet chose a relatively “easy” first mountain to climb. It was over 14,000 feet at the summit, but she could walk it without climbing gear. On the scheduled day, the sun shone brightly, and Janet huffed and puffed and stopped every few feet as she reached the summit, but she did it! The view was astounding. Janet hadn’t known what she was capable of until she tried.
Your assignment today is to try something new. If you don’t like it, you never have to do it again. Remove the chains that limit you and jump in to the unknown.
“In real life, I assure you, there is no such thing as algebra.”
— Fran Lebowitz
This may come as a great relief to those of you for whom math is not your strongest subject. The point of this quote is not to offend the mathematicians of the world. It simply points out that you don’t have to be brilliant in everything in order to be successful in life.
Lucky for us, real life offers numerous options for success. Your job is to find out which one fits you the best. Have you truly explored your talents? A good place to start is with things that actually interest you. You may be drawn to them because you have a certain aptitude in that area.
Andrew always loved the theatre. Ever since his parents took him to see Peter Pan in the second grade, he has been enthralled with the spectacle of a live stage production. As soon as he was old enough, he auditioned for plays, but he soon discovered performing in front of a crowd was not one of his true talents. He was crushed, but he remained on the periphery of the stage like a moth to a flame. Finally, someone put him to work hanging lights. Andrew is now an award-winning lighting designer. He makes magic on the stage through his artistic use of color and light. It took him a little while to figure it out, but he found his calling and achieved a level of success he never could have dreamed of when he was seven years old.
Your assignment today is to become a detective. Search for clues that might lead to your hidden talents. What do you really enjoy in life? What gets you excited? Think about all aspects of those items. Do you have an undiscovered talent hiding within them?
“The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”
Are you bored with your present life circumstances? It might be because you set your goals too low. No one likes to fail, but people often over-compensate by setting goals that are too easy to obtain. They reach them, and then they coast as long as they can, resisting a challenge or a new opportunity. They feel safe and secure in their accomplishments, even if they lead a slightly unfulfilling life.
This approach to life is a little like the duck-pond game at a carnival. Every duck has a number on its belly, so everyone is a winner. It’s the safest game at the carnival, but the prizes are usually pretty crappy. Do you want to have the guarantee of obtaining a prize, any prize, even if it’s a crappy one? Or would you rather go for the giant stuffed animal in the difficult game where very few winners emerge?
That’s a tough choice. You want to win. If you lose, you have nothing to show for your trouble. But what are you going to do with the mediocre toy once you win it? It will probably be discarded in a week or so when you move on to more exciting diversions.
Your assignment today is to take a look at where you are aiming. Examine the targets you have set in your professional life and your personal life. Are you aiming too low? If you haven’t even set your goals, your assignment is to find a few targets and take aim. It is very difficult to achieve success without seeing a goal before you. Find your targets and aim high.
“A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.”
— Dwight D. Eisenhower
Cultivating a sense of humor is one of the best weapons in your arsenal of success. Humor is healing and unifying, and it can also lead to great accomplishments. Why is humor such an effective weapon? It might be because laughter is something to which everyone relates. It allows people to see their commonalities rather than their differences.
If you want to be a leader, you must not take yourself so seriously. Life is too important to be taken seriously! Poke a little fun at yourself. Admit it when you fail, laugh, and move on. You will gain more admiration by taking responsibility for your foibles than by trying to cover them up.
If you find yourself acting as a mediator between disparate parties, humor is also a handy tool. Use it to release tension and help each side get a glimpse of how the other side sees things. If you can get people who disagree with each other to laugh at their situation for a moment, they will relax and be more receptive to a mutually agreeable solution. Humor releases tension and loosens people up so that they are willing to work together toward a common goal. It takes the heat off for a moment so that parties can cool down and get back to being productive.
Your assignment today is to look for examples of how humor can help in various situations in your life. Where can you apply humor to mend a relationship, ease someone’s burden, or bring people together?
“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
— Berthold Auerbach
Music is extraordinary. It is an amazing tool for inspiration. Whether you are a fan of chamber music or Led Zeppelin, you probably know how effective music is in altering your mood. If you are feeling frazzled, soothing tones can bring your pulse down to a manageable level. If you are lethargic, a driving melody will pick you up faster than a cup of coffee.
Music does have the power to wash off the dust of everyday life, to transport you, and to adjust your mood, so take advantage of its influence. Consider your array of choices. Through today’s technology, you have melodies throughout the centuries and across the globe at your fingertips. You may find you really have a connection to Gregorian chant, a form of music that was first notated back in the 10th century. The contemporary music of Tina Turner might make you feel powerful and energized. South African music provides a mind-boggling choice of styles from folk tunes to jive. Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony has the magical ability to transport you to a country scene and trap you in a driving rain storm.
Does music play a part in your daily life? Do you ever take time out to stop what you are doing and actively listen to your favorite tunes? Explore how music affects you. Find out more about its positive and powerful influence. It is one of many art forms that have a direct line into your soul.
Your assignment today is to get down and boogie! Spend at least ten minutes listening to music and observe how it affects your mood.
“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself.”
— Jim Rohn
Personal responsibility: two words that will give you the key to success. You are responsible for everything you do in life. If you truly want to change, you must start by looking in the mirror. It takes courage to take personal responsibility. It would be much easier to blame someone or something else for your problems or shortcomings.
Susan grew up in a small town. Her parents were abusive, and she had very few successful role models around her. She got pregnant when she was sixteen years old and dropped out of high school to raise her child as a single mother.
There were a host of people, places, and things Susan could blame for her situation, but she decided to take a different route. Susan couldn’t change the tiny town where she was born; she couldn’t change her parents; and she couldn’t pretend the little girl she held in her arms didn’t exist. She only had the power to change one thing—herself. That’s exactly what she did. Susan went to night school and got her GED. She read about a company she really admired in the newspaper and applied for an entry-level job. Once she had a foot in the door, she went back to night school and earned a bachelor’s degree, which led to her first of many promotions. Susan changed herself, and that changed her circumstances.
Your assignment is to think of at least one situation where you avoid personal responsibility. Make a plan to change yourself and take responsibility for your actions.
“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”
— Albert Einstein
Imagination is not a tool reserved for children. It is a very useful instrument for success. When was the last time you took imagination out of your toolbox? Is it old, rusty, neglected, and hidden under all of the other tools? It’s time to clean it off and play a little.
There is a very practical use for imagination. If you can’t imagine your life changing, then it’s simply not going to happen. Albert Einstein nailed it when he said imagination is a preview of coming attractions. You have to think something up before you can bring it into reality. If we didn’t use our imagination, we would never have invented airplanes, or the Internet . . . or indoor plumbing. Think of all the new ideas that pop up in our world every year. Are you astounded by the ability some people have to create new things? You possess that same capability within you. You can put it to good use simply by playing.
Today’s exercise is fun, and you may think it’s a little silly. Your task is to practice using your imagination. Give yourself permission to let your mind wander all day. Imagine your perfect life. Where do you live? What is your job like? Who do you hang out with? There are no rules here. You can live in a castle and be president of the world if you want.
Now, become even more childlike. Imagine you are a superhero, and you can use your powers to help three people. Who will you help and how?
This exercise may feel a little ridiculous to you, but it has a purpose. You are stretching your mind to visualize the impossible. That is a key ingredient to success. Have fun!
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
— T.S. Elliot
Are you willing to take risks in order to achieve success? That’s not such an easy question. This book is about achieving success one day at a time. The idea is that you can take small steps and reap great rewards. It sounds safe, not risky. But you also have to be willing to go out on a limb at some point. You have to step a little too far into the wilderness in order to find out what you might be missing. Are you willing to do that?
What would happen if you took a risk and failed? Would it be so terrible? Many of us are terrified of failure, but maybe it’s not so bad. Think about failure for a moment. If you try something new and fail, what will you do? You will pick yourself up and try something else. That’s not really the doomsday we make it out to be.
You cannot find success without also experiencing failure. They are twins attached at the hip. Almost every great person in history experienced an equal measure of failure before finding success. You have to be willing to get a little egg on your face if you want the big prize.
If you are afraid of risk, imagine that superhero you were yesterday. That person wouldn’t be afraid. Pretend you are fearless today. Walk up to the person you have admired from afar and ask him or her on a date. Talk to your boss about the raise you deserve. Reach out to the person you fought with months ago and swore you would never speak to again. Conquer your fear by experiencing it and moving through it. You don’t know what incredible things you will find in that wilderness.
“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
— Abraham Lincoln
Bill shuffled through life like Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh. He was always sad. He just couldn’t catch a break. It seemed as though a dark cloud followed Bill around, and he never got to feel the sunshine. Friends and family tried to snap him out of his funk, but he was a hopeless case. They suggested he see a doctor about his depression, but he ignored their recommendations. Bill watched other people who seemed to be happy, and he assumed they were faking it. Life was hard. Every time he thought things were going to get better, he was knocked right back down in the gutter. Why even bother?
Your first reaction to this story may be to empathize with Bill or at least feel sorry for him. But Bill chooses his sadness every day. He picks that gray, dingy sweater out of his closet and decides to put it on. He chooses to concentrate on his sadness and not turn it around by accepting the help and suggestions of people who care about him.
You cannot choose your circumstances. Life throws curveballs at everyone on this planet. You can choose your reaction to life. You have the power to select your mood just like you pick out your clothes. If you wake up feeling melancholy, you can take action to replace those thoughts with happier ones. Maybe you like the feel of that old, gray sweater. Maybe it’s more comfortable. Are you choosing sadness today? It’s completely up to you.
Your assignment is to experiment with the power you possess to be happy (if you want to be). List ten things that make you happy and do at least three of them. Then, do at least two random acts of kindness for someone else. How do you feel?
“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes.”
— Andrew Carnegie
One way to find happiness is to create goals. Unhappy people tend to be aimless. They are stuck in a cycle of despair that leads nowhere. If you set just one goal, it may become your lifeline out of despair and toward hope. Goal-oriented people have drive and purpose in life. They want to get up in the morning, because they have a plan to make their life better. They are looking forward to what the day will bring, not dreading it.
Your assignment today is to set a really exciting goal. It should be something that will take up your thoughts for awhile and require some imagination and creativity. It can be a totally frivolous goal, but choose something that will make you proud when you’ve achieved it.
Maybe you are short on cash, and your brother’s birthday is coming up in a few weeks. Set a goal to create a unique gift using your own skills and imagination. This few weeks of creativity will liberate your thoughts and will probably lead to ideas in other areas of your life. You might end up so proud of the result that you can’t wait for your brother to open his present.
Happiness does not happen randomly. It is the result of a series of actions. You have the power to make conditions right for happiness. You can choose happiness today by setting a goal that will command your thoughts, liberate your energy, and inspire your hopes.
“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”
— Albert Schweitzer
So many of us have this idea reversed. Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness actually has to come first. If you are engaged in what you are doing and you enjoy it, you will be successful.
Kate loved her job, but she always adopted a stern expression at work. She felt as though people took her more seriously if she was somber.
Finally, a wise co-worker asked, “Kate, do you like your job?”
“Why, yes,” she replied, a bit startled.
“Then, if you’re happy, let your face know it.”
Happiness is the key to success, and it is also contagious. If you love what you’re doing and you let yourself experience the joy of taking part in that action, you will be glowing with inspiration. Other people pick up on that. They will be drawn to you, because they want what you have.
Your assignment is to find something you love to do. Don’t just pick something you sort of enjoy. Find something you love to do. It doesn’t have to be the same thing you do for a living. The thing you love to do might be a volunteer activity or a hobby. Try out some new ideas if you don’t have a clue about what that thing is. Join a club or audit a class at your local community college. Experiment to find out what brings you joy and then take part in it. Success will be soon to follow.
“Face the worst. Believe the best. Do the most. Leave the rest.”
— Bishop Mel Wheatley
Whenever you feel stuck in life, it can be very difficult to find a way out of the darkness. This quote gives you a flashlight to navigate through the shadows. If you stick with these simple directions, you will emerge into the light before you know it.
Face the worst. What is going on in your life that you are avoiding? You will have to face it sooner or later, so you might as well get it over with and stop worrying about the ramifications. Face your problems head on and deal with them.
Believe the best. It is a waste of time to worry about bad things that might happen. If you’re going to let your mind wander, why not imagine a positive outcome? Believe the best will come to you. You deserve the best. Believe it will happen. If it doesn’t, you’re no worse off. You can deal with a less-than-ideal situation if and when it occurs.
Do the most. Do whatever you can to ensure you will end up with the best possible results. Have you done everything you can in a given situation, or are you hiding and hoping for the best? You need to do the footwork if you want to reap the benefits.
Leave the rest. There are aspects of life that are completely out of your control. Leave them alone. You are powerless over them. You can leave them to your god, to the universe, to chance, whatever works for you. Just let them be. Conserve your efforts for things you can change.
Your assignment today is to use this roadmap the next time you hit a roadblock. Take stock of your situation by examining each of these four principles.
“A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.”
— Francis Bacon
Joe was a lucky guy. It seemed like opportunity followed him everywhere. His projects at work always came out on top, he was in great shape, he had tons of connections, and he smiled all the time. It was nauseating! Some people just have all the luck.
In truth, Joe’s circumstances had very little to do with luck. He created opportunities rather than waiting for them to show up. Joe looked at everything he experienced as a way to grow and improve and learn something new. He observed others, and he tried new things. Soon, he saw opportunity budding all around him.
Joe had a friend who went to the gym regularly during lunch, so he decided to give it a try. He found the midday exercise to be exhilarating. It gave him a jolt of energy for the rest of the day and cleared his mind of the issues he had faced that morning. As a result of trying something new, Joe found a way to increase his concentration at work and also get in shape. He observed a colleague, tried something that person found to be helpful, and created an opportunity to get in shape and become more productive at work.
Joe didn’t wait for his doctor to tell him it was time to get rid of a few pounds. He didn’t wait for his friend to invite him to the gym. He noticed what was going on around him, and he created his own opportunity.
Your assignment today is to write down three ways in which you can create opportunity in your life. You have one week to follow through and make at least one of those opportunities a reality.
“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying; And this same flower that smiles today Tomorrow will be dying . . .”
— Robert Herrick
You have very few second chances in this life. Are you willing pass by a good opportunity? The flowers of chance are opening all around you. Do you see them?
Pick those lovely flowers of opportunity while they are blooming, because you may never get another chance. Gather precious moments with your children. Take a walk under the stars tonight, because they are too stunning to ignore. Give a project at work everything you’ve got, because you may not have a chance to go back and fix it later. Play in the snow, because it’s in your front yard right now. Listen to the music of the waves when you sit on the beach, because you may never hear such a beautiful melody again. Stand up and volunteer for that committee that is a little outside of your comfort zone, because now may be your only opportunity to do it.
Experience as much as you can in this wonderful world, because your stay here is finite and often far too short. You don’t know if you will get a second chance, so snatch up opportunities when you see them.
Grab on to life with both hands. Experience it. Don’t just go through the motions; don’t just get by. Be an active participant. You will find success in your experience. Your assignment today is to actively participate in your day as if it was your last day on earth. Make the most of everything you do. Enjoy every little moment.
“While we stop to think, we often miss our opportunity.”
— Publilius Syrus
We’ve been talking for the last several days about opportunity, and the one thing that keeps popping to the surface is living in the here and now and taking advantage of what is before you. Opportunity is strongly linked to living in the present rather than regretting the past or worrying about the future. You must act when opportunity shows up, and you can’t take action if you are not paying attention.
The quote above from the 1st century B.C. shows just how long humans have been looking for opportunity and finding the best ways to capture it. Grabbing opportunity has more to do with instinct and less to do with thinking. It’s a gut reaction to something new and exciting and potentially noteworthy.
Many of us tend to think of opportunity in business terms: a new job opportunity, an opportunity to make more money, an opportunity to show your boss what you’re worth. Opportunity also takes other forms. A random call from your mother may be an opportunity for you to tell her you love her. A solicitation from your favorite charity in the mail may be an opportunity for you to give back to your community.
Your assignment today is to look back through the previous week and list times when you have missed an opportunity. Journal for about fifteen minutes or so about why you didn’t grab on to those opportunities and what you could do in the future to make a different choice.
“A missed opportunity is worse than a defeat.”
This is the last day in our miniseries on opportunity, and it’s a sobering quote. Can missed opportunity really be worse than a defeat? Yes, it can! When you miss an opportunity, you didn’t even bother to show up for the game. It’s not as if you made an attempt and lost. You didn’t play.
It is worse than defeat, because you have no idea if you might have won. Every opportunity is a chance for success, and you can’t win if you don’t play. Are you in the game? Or are you standing on the sidelines watching the players go back and forth, never taking part in the action yourself?
It is risky to act when you see an opportunity, but you will never move forward if you don’t get in the game. You cannot obtain success if you do not grab onto opportunity. If you latch on to an opportunity and fail, you actually have achieved a certain amount of success. You know for certain what doesn’t work, and you can explore other options. If you miss the opportunity, you are left with nothing.
You may think it’s safer to stay away from opportunity, but when you do not participate in life, that, too, is a choice. You are making a decision not to grow and learn and stretch yourself. You are actively choosing not to achieve success when you let opportunity slip by. That’s not safe at all.
Your assignment today is to get in the game! Don’t miss an opportunity when you see one.
“If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.”
— Barack Obama
Are you on the right path? Is your life filled with activities that help you and others to flourish, or do you tend to partake in behaviors that send you on a detour away from success? If you are completely honest with yourself, you will know the answer.
You know intuitively if you are on the right or wrong path. You are aware at some level of whether or not you engage in behavior that is healthy mentally and physically, or unhealthy. When you are headed down the wrong path, and you know it, you might want to think about why you chose that road. Do you gain some amount of comfort from not living up to your potential? Why did you choose to be where you are? You do not have the luxury of saying it’s not your fault. You are not a victim. You choose every step of your journey.
Sometimes the more difficult task is to stay on the right path once you’ve found it. You may have an inkling you’re headed in the right direction, but you’re not getting the results you would like quickly enough.
That’s where patience comes in. You must be willing to keep walking, even if you don’t reap rewards immediately. You are in control of the path you choose, but you can’t mandate the amount of time it will take you to reach success. However, if you are on the right path, you will eventually make progress. You will find success.
Your assignment today is to take a look at your path. Are you on the right path or the wrong path? Are you getting impatient?
“My little [note]books were beginnings—they were the ground into which I dropped the seed . . . I would work in this way when I was out in the crowds, then put the stuff together at home.”
— Walt Whitman
Your very first assignment was to get a notebook. You may have discovered by now that having a notebook with you at all times can be extremely handy. Numerous successful individuals keep a notebook with them to jot down their ideas whenever they think of them. Do you keep your notebook handy? That is your assignment today.
Why? There is one very good reason: you never know when inspiration will hit. Walt Whitman was a wonderful observer, and he found many seeds of creative inspiration when he was out and about. He didn’t want to forget his best ideas by the time he returned home. Inspiration is a fleeting thing. It is front and center in your mind at one moment, and then the next minute it vanishes.
You may take a walk on a beautifully crisp blue morning and witness a hawk flying against the bright sky. The scene inspires you to write down a few lines. Those lines may become a poem, a song, or a new advertising campaign. They may even motivate you to use similar colors when you remodel your living room. Who knows?
The words Walt Whitman jotted down were beginnings. He recorded scraps of ideas and then put them together and worked on them more carefully at home. The notebook was a net to catch all of the ideas that floated to the surface. Walt Whitman did not judge the ideas he wrote down in his notebook. He knew they weren’t the final product. They were the ground into which he dropped the seed.
“My first notebook was a Big Five tablet, given to me [at age five] by my mother with the sensible suggestions that I stop whining and learn to amuse myself by writing down my thoughts.”
— Joan Didion
Joan Didion’s mother was no dummy. Her “no whining” attitude laid the groundwork for a great American writer. Joan Didion is yet another example of using a notebook as a tool for success.
A notebook is outwardly such a simple and unassuming item—boring even. But put it in the hands of a human being, and it has unlimited possibilities. It may become the next great novel or the plans for an invention or a sketch that will later become a sculpture.
Your assignment today is to stop whining and grab your notebook. Take it outside or to a quiet corner in your home or to a coffee shop, wherever you feel comfortable. Now, spend about thirty minutes amusing yourself. Write down whatever comes to mind; draw pictures; doodle in the margins; turn it upside down if you want or write in circles instead of along the lines. Break whatever rules you think exist for writing in notebooks. You don’t have to start on the first page. You can start at the end if you want. Today is a play day.
Did you bring a pen or pencil? Maybe you should try crayons instead . . . or markers or watercolors and a paintbrush. What other object could you use as a writing utensil? This assignment is not a college thesis. Your degree does not depend on it. Who cares what kind of silliness you create? The point is to amuse yourself and no one else. Have a little fun today!
“[John F. Kennedy] relishes notable writing, and has ever since he started collecting examples of good prose and putting them in a bound book, which he was still doing when he started running for president.”
— Benjamin C. Bradlee
You are not the only one with good ideas. Another way you can fill up your notebook is by writing down quotes from others that inspire you. One of the best ways to achieve success is to learn from others. John F. Kennedy collected quotes to inspire him, to remind him of significant ideas, and to help him along the road to success.
You have endless resources at your fingertips with the Internet. You can look up quotes on just about any subject. You may also pull good prose from a book you are reading or a newspaper article. Is there a colleague you admire at work? Write down some of the things they say as a way to learn from their behavior.
Sometimes the best quotes come from children. Are there any wise little ones in your life? Did they say something recently that was unusually wise or funny? Write it down. Don’t let their words be lost in the chatter that surrounds everyday life. Your assignment today is to write down three quotes in your notebook that came from someone besides you. How do those quotes make you feel? Are they inspiring? Depressing? Funny?
On Day 27 you were given a week to turn an opportunity into a reality. Have you had a chance to do that yet? If not, what are you waiting for? Get to work! You will come across hundreds of opportunities every day. Grab on to one of them. If you did it, way to go!
“You can observe a lot just by watching.”
— Yogi Berra
Leave it to Yogi Berra to state the obvious. He has been both cheered and jeered for his malapropisms, but sometimes the obvious is exactly what you need. Keep it simple. Yogiisms are part of Yogi Berra’s charm and part of his success.
How can you simplify your life today? One great way to do that is to become a good observer. Drop your agenda and expectations and turn your vision to others. It is amazing what you will pick up if you get out of yourself and watch the world from another’s perspective. It will give you the opportunity to become a better friend, a better spouse, a better coworker, and a more-well-rounded individual. Observation is quite a useful tool for success.
Your assignment today is to pretend the world is new. You just landed here on Earth, and there is nothing you can assume about human nature. Your task is to simply observe without judgment. Discard everything you know and start over objectively. Watch and take note. Jot down the things you find interesting in your notebook.
What are some important things you notice? How do people come together in a crisis? Who is the first to reach out and help? How do others react to that person? Can you identify people who are only concerned about their own well-being? How are they treated by others? Make a list of observations you would like to emulate and those you would not want to repeat. Through all of this, keep it simple. Watch and listen and learn.
“A few observations and much reasoning lead to error; many observations and a little reasoning lead to truth.”
— Alexis Carrel
Julie managed fifteen employees in a house cleaning service. She was walking by the window of her office and stopped to observe some of her employees loading a van to start the day. Angela was talking on her cell phone and pacing back and forth while the other employees loaded vacuums and mops and other equipment into the back of the van.
Julie shook her head and flicked her pen against her crossed arms. Obviously, Angela was not pulling her weight. Just yesterday she left a job early. Julie made a mental note to pull Angela aside at the end of the day and give her a final warning or she would have to find another job.
Did Julie make the right decision? How many observations did she use to come to her conclusion? The answer is two. Is that enough? Why didn’t Julie go outside and ask Angela about her phone call? Is there a reason she didn’t go directly to the source? Did she ask Angela or any of the other employees why she left early the day before? Should she have done so?
How many observations do you collect before you make a decision? The more observations you can assemble, the more accurate your picture. Your task today is to count the number of observations you gather before making a conclusion. Count them; write them down in your notebook; and work to increase the number throughout the day. More observing and less contemplating will get you closer to the truth.
“Thinking is more interesting than knowing, but less interesting than looking.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Goethe created a continuum with this quote. Knowing is the point when you arrive at the finish line. It’s the end of the game. Thinking is more interesting than knowing, because you are engaged. It’s enjoyable to allow your mind to turn over ideas and create new solutions. The best of them all is looking. Looking contains a surprise factor. You can never be quite sure what you’ll find when you look. It’s exciting. It also takes the pressure off you. You are not creating what you see. You are simply taking note of it.
Observation is not a difficult task. It is a discovery. Enjoy your chances to observe what’s going on around you. They will be exhilarating, and they can lead you back down Goethe’s continuum. Looking is thought provoking, and thinking will help you to become more knowledgeable. It is a continuous cycle of learning.
You give yourself more ammunition for success if you increase your observational skills. Observations are fuel for thought and knowledge. Your assignment today is to continue to collect observations in all aspects of your life. Observe how your son brushes his teeth; observe how the woman at the bus stop holds her packages and sighs while she waits for her ride; observe how the tips of your boss’s ears turn red right before he starts yelling at his employees.
Again, this task is not drudgery. Make it fun—but avoid making others uncomfortable. Your goal here is not to become a stalker. Just pay attention to what goes on around you.
“Speak little, do much.”
— Benjamin Franklin
Do you talk about the great things you want to do in life but never get around to actually accomplishing them? If you want to achieve success, now is the time to put your words into action. This is the point where many individuals get discouraged. It’s fun to dream up lofty accomplishments, but when it comes to the part where you have to put in some real work, the exercise loses some of its appeal to the average person.
But you are not average. This is where you have the opportunity to separate yourself from the pack. You will find that taking action is not as tiresome as you imagine. You don’t have to do anything that requires too much sacrifice. You just have to act.
You will now break away from the crowd simply by doing. You’ve already worked on becoming a good observer. That is one type of action that will lead to success. What are other things you can do today to send you on the road to achievement?
Don’t put undue pressure on yourself. You don’t have to come up with something brilliant. Just button your lip and get off the couch. That’s a great first step. Do you have unfinished projects around the house? Pick one and do it. You will feel great when you’re finished. Don’t get overwhelmed by all of the things you’ve left undone. Just pick one job and complete it. You can worry about other stuff another day.
Your assignment today is to pick one thing around the house that you have been meaning to complete and finish it. When you’re done, congratulate yourself with something fun and a little frivolous.
“When your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt.”
— Henry J. Kaiser
You are now becoming a person of action. How does it feel? It can be quite a powerful experience. Even a little bit of work gives you a large return in the form of pride and accomplishment.
Jonathon became a man of action. He started with little tasks and stayed in motion, and soon he found he was accomplishing things he never thought possible. He even built a workroom onto his house where he could follow his dream of woodworking.
When Jonathon’s wife entered his newly-finished workshop, she gasped as she gazed around. She had always known he was quite an artist when it came to woodworking, but she had no idea he had the gumption to follow through with something like this. Jonathon started many projects in the past, but he finished very few. Just months prior, she had been badgering him to get his unfinished woodblocks off of her craft table in the basement.
“This is beautiful!” She smiled.
Jonathon hiked up his pants and looked around, busting with pride. “Yep, I thought I would start off by building you a birdhouse; then I’m going to re-do all of the cabinets in the kitchen; next, I think I’ll design and build an entertainment center for the living room . . .”
Your assignment today is to continue to be a person of action. Don’t interrupt your efforts with talk. Get back to work.
“A superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions.”
Jonathon’s wife in yesterday’s story was at first impressed by his new workshop, but then she became immediately skeptical of his actions when he started to talk big about his future plans. At that point, she had only seen him carry out one project to completion. She didn’t have much evidence to suggest he would finish all of the other schemes he boasted about.
You must remember to be modest in speech even when you start to become a person of action. You will want to talk about what you’ve done, because you’re happy about your accomplishments. You are proud that you made a very important change in your life. That is a great triumph! But avoid the temptation to talk about what you’ve done. Pile up more actions instead to build your success.
Push forward in the action category, and you will be happily surprised with the results. You don’t have to tell anyone what you are doing. They will look at the evidence and realize you are someone who gets a job done. No further explanation is necessary at this point.
Your job today is to exceed in actions. Today you will avoid lethargy and stay in motion. Find out just how much you can accomplish in twenty-four hours. At the end of the day, make a list of everything you did in your notebook. How does it look? Could you have done more? This list is for your eyes only. Don’t show it to anyone else. The next day you will get back into action and keep the secret of your success to yourself.
“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, I used everything you gave me.”
— Erma Bombeck
What a wonderful demonstration of success it would be if you could say at the end of your life that you used up every single bit of talent you possess! It would be incredibly satisfying to know that you put all of the materials you were given to good use and built a happy and fulfilling existence. Now is your chance to make that happen.
There is really no need to conserve your talents. There is absolutely no reason to wait to use the skills you have been given. Don’t save your smarts for a rainy day. In fact, you are doing yourself a disservice by not using up your talents right now and sharing them with the rest of the world. You may find that you have a treasure within you that increases the more it is given away.
When you share your gifts in a way that betters the world around you, you will be blessed with riches beyond measure. You can consider yourself an immediate success, because you have been a positive force on earth.
What do you want to be able to say at the end of your life? Do you want to say I used everything you gave me, or do you want to say, I have a little bit left over? The talents you don’t use today are wasted. Do you want to live a wasteful life or a fulfilling life? The choice is yours.
Your assignment today is to use your talents. Don’t hide them or save them for just the right moment. You have a vast supply. Share your gifts with the rest of the world.
“You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result.”
— Mahatma Gandhi
This is the final day in a short series on action, and the message is simple: if you do nothing, that’s exactly what you’ll get—nothing.
You can’t predict the future, so it is impossible to know what results will come from your actions. They may be good or bad. It is understandable that you would have some trepidation about taking action when you are unsure of what might happen. You could fail. You also might be successful. There is no guarantee one way or the other.
Gandhi makes one very important point, though, and that is if you do nothing, there will be no result. You have no chance of winning. When that truth is brought to light, it makes the decision to take action quite a bit easier.
You picked up this book because you have a desire to be successful. You have a yearning to live up to what you know deep down you are capable of being. The only way you can do that is to take action.
Today, your task is to dig deep and consider actions that you can take right now that will lead to your success. Life is unpredictable, so you do not have the luxury of waiting any longer. Act now! If you do nothing today, you will receive nothing in return. How much better will you feel about yourself if you take action this very moment? There is a brand new world outside waiting for a contribution only you are uniquely qualified to give. Take action today.
“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.”
— Louisa May Alcott
This quote from Louisa May Alcott gives a striking depiction of the beauty of aspirations. Aspirations are goals floating high in the sky and shining in the sunlight. When you feel discouraged, you can look to them, believe in them, and follow them.
Every successful person fills their own imaginary sky with aspirations. It helps them to reach further and try harder and achieve more than they would have if they kept their face to ground and never looked up to the heavens.
One very important secret that successful people have discovered is that they do not have to achieve those highest aspirations. They simply have to strive for them, to follow where they lead. The final result is much less important than the journey toward that shining goal.
What do your aspirations look like? Are they sparkling in the sunlight like those of Louisa May Alcott? Are your dreams displayed openly in your mind’s eye? Or are they hidden in the darkness under piles of blankets or deep in a cave? Do you hide your highest aspirations even from yourself?
Your assignment today is to draw a picture of your aspirations. What do they look like? Are they diamonds sparkling in a midnight sky? Are they a strong flowing river that runs through a verdant forest? Draw a picture of your dreams.
“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”
— Leonardo da Vinci
Just when you thought you were done with all of that talk about action, here it is again. You can’t escape it! It is the main ingredient for success, so you will continue to be nudged toward doing. The wonderful thing about action is it’s not hard. It requires a tiny bit of bravery to put one foot forward and get moving, but that’s it. You don’t have to study to get into action. You just have to do it.
Marion’s doctor told her that her diabetes was becoming worrisome, and she really needed to lose weight and change her eating habits if she wanted to live a happier and healthier life. Marion listened intently to the doctor and was willing to make a change.
She bought a library full of self-help books to help her lose weight. She read them all and studied the pros and cons of each in preparation to make a change in her life. She did so much to prepare for change that she was practically an expert on nutrition and exercise, but Marion was still fifty pounds overweight, and her blood sugar levels were out of control.
Knowledge and willingness do not mean much if they are not followed by action. Do you find yourself in an endless cycle of preparation today? It’s time to break out of it and start doing. You will learn so much more by taking action.
Your assignment is to write down three ways you can take action today, and then actually do those three things. Don’t prepare; don’t wait until you’re willing; just do them.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
— Maya Angelou
How do you make people feel? Have you considered that? It is so important to be a positive influence on others. You can create an entire string of success by lifting others up and applauding their accomplishments and acknowledging their talents and good deeds.
Think of how many times you have noticed something good about someone else and neglected to acknowledge it. You know how wonderful it feels when someone pays you a compliment or congratulates you on a job well done. Do the same for others and see what happens.
Find ways to bring out the best in people around you. Concentrate on someone other than yourself for awhile. This is not a contest. Thinking of someone else will not put you behind on the road to success. It does not diminish your own talents. Spend some time concentrating on how the people around you feel. How can you help them feel better? What can you do to bring them success?
Your actions create a ripple effect that influences how others feel. Consider how people feel as a result of the things you do. Do you make people feel happy and safe and loved? Do you make others feel comfortable? Or do you worry people and leave them feeling like they are on pins and needles around you? Do you have a calming influence on others, or are you more like a tornado that tears through their lives?
Your assignment today is to observe how you make others feel.
“A person’s faults are largely what make him or her likable.”
— Anne Lamott
It’s hard to be perfect. Thank goodness it’s not a requirement for success. In fact, one of the unifying factors of humanity is our faults. We all have flaws, and the person who is aware of that and can laugh about it is much more likable than one who tries to appear perfect.
What are your faults? Do you know? Your assignment today is to make a list of your character defects. Be as honest as possible. You can start with the seven deadly sins as a guideline. They are lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. Every single one of us probably touches on each of these sins at some level.
You do not need to be exhaustive in your list of faults. The object of this lesson is not to throw you into a deep depression. It is simply an exercise in awareness. It is important to be aware of your blunders so that you can work on them, but it is also important to note that we all have faults. We are all fallible. We are the same in that respect. No one is free of flaws. Everyone has some difficulty to overcome.
You can achieve success by dealing with your shortcomings and having a sense of humor about life when you fail. How boring it would be to be perfect. There would be nothing to work on! Find the humor in your faults, but never stop working to overcome them. We all gain a bit of comfort in knowing that nobody is perfect. You can help others feel better by admitting your faults and dealing with them rather than attempting to give the impression of perfection.
“In a Nutshell: Six Ways to Make People Like You—
Principle 1: Become genuinely interested in other people.
Principle 2: Smile.
Principle 3: Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
Principle 4: Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
Principle 5: Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
Principle 6: Make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely.”
— Dale Carnegie
A couple of days ago, your assignment was to observe how you make others feel. What did you discover? Maybe you found out some pretty embarrassing facts about how you treat people. You might even have realized that people in general annoy you. You are not a people person, and you have no intention of becoming one.
If that is even remotely the case, it is time to readjust your thinking. You need people, and people need you. So get over yourself and start reaching out. Today you have a chance to put some principles into practice that will help you concentrate on others and help them feel great.
It is important for you to be genuinely interested in helping others and listening to their points of view if you want to have any chance of achieving success for yourself. You cannot know how rewarding it is to care about others until you make it a consistent part of your daily life. Your assignment today is to put Dale Carnegie’s principles to work. Forget about yourself for awhile and take a real interest in the people around you. Start with people you see every day. Do you even know the names of your neighbors? You can’t fake this task through half-hearted efforts at sincerity. You must be authentic.
“I can honestly say that I was never affected by the question of the success of an undertaking. If I felt it was the right thing to do, I was for it regardless of the possible outcome.”
— Golda Meir
It is impossible to predict whether or not a particular undertaking will be successful. So how do you choose which goals to strive for? Golda Meir has a terrific rule to go by: Ask yourself which one is the right thing to do.
There are many ways in which you can measure achievement. Happiness, influence, money, charity, and love are just a few ways in which you can evaluate your success. But the evaluation usually comes after the endeavor. You want to develop a clear sense of direction long before you look back on your choices. How do you know that you are on the road to success?
Think about what goes into your choices. Why did you choose your current job? How did you end up with the friends who surround you? Why do you choose to get up at a certain time in the morning or sleep in? Why did you decide to spend a holiday away from your family?
The most important test is to ask yourself if you did the right thing. The outcome really doesn’t matter if you know that you did what was right. If a project fails miserably, but you know you did the right thing, then you are still successful. If you are not selfish, and you reach out and help a person in need, you are successful.
Your assignment today is to ask yourself with each decision you make if you are doing the right thing. Change course if the answer is no.
“Those whom you can make like themselves will, I promise you, like you very well.”
— Lord Chesterfield
The last few days you have been concentrating on others. You may be starting to feel like you are trying to win some sort of popularity contest. What is the big deal about getting people to like you?
It is a big deal to want people to like you, because if they do, it means you make them feel good about themselves. Who wants to hang around someone who makes them feel small or ugly or incompetent? If you are well-liked, then you are successful at helping others feel good about who they are when they are with you.
It is important to stress again that this should never be a disingenuous undertaking. You have to honestly cultivate a desire to bring out the good in someone else. Highlight their strengths and compliment their achievements. Lift them up. Don’t make up things that aren’t true and fill people with hollow compliments just to complete this task and move on to your own success.
When you really search for the good in others, you end up finding out what is good about you. If you are able to have empathy with another human being, you have the right stuff to be a strong leader, a good friend, and a valuable person to be around.
Your assignment today is to continue to develop your skills in making people like themselves. Practice the delicate balance between compliment, encouragement, and belief in someone or something other than yourself.
“Life is about becoming more than we are.”
— Oprah Winfrey
Fifty days ago, you picked up this book and made a commitment to yourself to become more than who you thought you were. You knew that deep down you had more to contribute to the world, so you chose to explore new avenues of success through these pages. It is time to review your progress thus far.
First, you wrote down your dreams. Then, you took note of the choices you have made so far in life. You practiced a few random acts of kindness, and you took initial steps toward achieving your destiny. You followed those first steps with actions that would lead you toward new and exciting goals.
Next, you reviewed your partnerships and the people you spend time with on a regular basis. You started to define yourself and had fun imagining the impossible. You jotted down your thoughts and ideas in your journal and noted all of the things for which you are grateful. Gratitude was paid forward when you helped someone else.
You conducted experiments by trying something new and searching for your hidden talents, and then you re-examined your goals in life. You cultivated your sense of humor and played with the power of music. You took risks, practiced fearlessness, and seized opportunities. Finally, you paid attention to others and how you could be of service to them.
Congratulations! You have accomplished quite a lot in a few short weeks. Are you still reaching for more? Can you imagine what the rest of the year will hold?
“It’s loving and giving that make life worth living.”
In the movie Home Alone, a child’s dream comes true when he thinks his annoying family has vanished into thin air. He is suddenly free to do whatever he wants. He stays up late, eats ice cream for dinner, watches movies that he’s not supposed to watch, messes up his big brother’s room, and tries out his dad’s deodorant and after-shave lotion. He has a wonderful time alone . . . for a few hours.
Then suddenly, the child comes to the realization that he’s just not having that much fun on his own. He misses the love of his family, and he longs for a chance to share his life with them again.
Have you ever wished that everyone would just leave you alone and stop bothering you? Have you ever longed to have everything to yourself, just for one day? Be careful what you wish for.
The truly good things in life are loving and giving. They far exceed material possessions, power, or prestige. Why is that? Have you considered why a simple hug from a friend when you need it the most can completely turn your day around? Have you experienced what it feels like to give to someone who really needs your help?
Your assignment today is to get out your notebook and recall two or three experiences you have had that involve loving and giving. Then journal for a few pages about how loving and giving bring extra meaning to your life. What are ways in which you can add larger portions of those two ingredients to every day?
“Life is a game—play to win.”
— Al Neuharth
Jo Ann trudged through life. Everything was a chore to her. There were very few things she enjoyed in her day, and her sour mood made that very clear. She believed that life was work—hard work—and the people surrounding her were idiots. Jo Ann felt that she would be successful if she played the martyr and grudgingly fixed everyone else’s mistakes. She knew how to do things right, and that was her claim to fame.
What is life to you? Is it a chore? Is it drudgery? Do you feel grumpy most days? Does it seem to you like the object of your existence is to get through life, not to enjoy it?
Today’s exercise will provide you with an alternate perception of life. Think of life as a game. Stop taking yourself so seriously and start having a little bit of fun. Think of the way you dive into strategies when you play a game. You get right into the action and react to what is going on around you with energy and vibrancy. You can be fearless and take a few risks, because it’s just a game. But you are never too reckless. You play to win.
Your task today is to play the game of life. Whenever you start to take yourself too seriously, stop and think of what you would do if you were simply playing a game. What is the next move you want to make? What would be the right move? How can you play to win?
Energize your day by turning your thoughts upside down. Try out a risky move that may be just the right strategy to bring you success. If it doesn’t work, no big deal. It’s just a game. Laugh at your failures and learn from them. Then get back on the board and try a new strategy. Life is a game—play to win.
“Man is born to live, not to prepare for life.”
— Boris Pasternak
You are born to live. That is a fairly obvious statement. However, many of us don’t do what we were born to do. We don’t live. Instead, we spend far too much time preparing for life. What exactly are we getting ready for? If we look around, we will find we’re in the midst of it already.
Imagine you are the winner of a luxurious train trip. You can take anyone you want with you, and the journey promises to be filled with loads of exciting sites, spectacular events, and a few surprises. The train is pulling away from the station, and rather than hopping on, you choose instead to rearrange your suitcase in the terminal. That sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?
Think about your life right now. Are you rearranging your suitcase, or are you getting on that train? Are you preparing for life, or are you living it?
Your assignment today is to take a page of your notebook and draw a line vertically down the center of the page. On the left side of the line, list at least five ways in which you are preparing for life instead of living it. On the right side of the page list strategies you might use to change what you’re doing. How can you stop preparing and start living? What can you do today, at this very minute, to change your inaction into action?
Life is a journey that is just too wonderful to pass up. Get on the train!
“Remember no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt
As you navigate your road to success, you will come across roadblocks. We have mentioned them a few times already, and today we will talk about one particularly ominous one—individuals who make you feel inferior.
Do you have a boss, a coworker, a family member, or a friend who makes you feel like you are unworthy of having a successful life? Who is that person? It may be difficult to point them out, especially if they are someone you admire. Nevertheless, it is important to identify them. You must clearly label your roadblocks in order to find a way around them. Who makes you feel inferior?
Your assignment today is in two parts. First, write down who makes you feel inferior. List them by name. Then, write about what that individual does specifically to make you feel substandard. Do they make fun of you? Do they criticize your work? Do they ignore you? What actions do they take to make you feel bad?
The second part of your assignment is to take personal responsibility. You had a chance to complain about what they do to you in part one. Now, you must own up to the fact that you are allowing them to do it. You are giving them consent to make you feel bad. Open up your notebook again, and write about how you can change that. What can you do to take away their power? They cannot make you feel inferior without your consent. You know the truth, and you are in no way inferior to that person. Take responsibility for yourself and take back your power.
“The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
On Day 38 you worked on putting your words into action. You found out that it is often better to speak little and do much. Today, we will revisit that concept in a slightly different way. Actions almost always speak louder than words, and in fact, words will have a negative effect on your character if you don’t follow up with appropriate actions.
In the quote above, Ralph Waldo Emerson pokes fun at people who boast about themselves. They usually come across as untrustworthy, and we tend to question their behavior. You may know of someone who is a big talker. They sing their own praises whenever they get the chance, but they don’t actually do all the things they say they do. In fact, they are often missing in action when it’s time to do some real work.
Now for the tough question: are you one of those people? What do you talk about the most? Does it have anything to do with your reality? Do you talk about all of the wonderful trips you plan to take around the world, but the truth is you’ve really only taken one vacation, and it was two hours from home? Do you boast about what you would do if you ran the company, but you never take any concrete steps to become part of a management team? Do your actions match your words?
Your assignment today is to shut up. Refrain from talking about yourself. If you do good work, people will notice. You do not need to tell anyone how wonderful you are. If you do great deeds, those actions will speak for you. Trust that you will get the attention you deserve if you make the right choices and put your words into action.
“I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”
— Mark Twain
Samantha had a gift for imagining worst case scenarios. She spent a lot of mental energy thinking about what might happen to sabotage the good things in her life. When she got a promotion, Samantha worried for days about what would happen if she couldn’t handle the added responsibilities of her job. Her mind wandered through horrible scenes where she failed on projects and ended up being fired by the boss who originally promoted her.
She took those images with her to work every day and wore them like a heavy coat. Pretty soon, Samantha began to believe in her terrible imaginary things, and her misgivings showed up in her actions. Every day she was more paralyzed by fear and less effective in her job. She was living out her negative fantasies.
Do you have an active imagination? Imagination is a very powerful tool that may have a positive or negative effect on your everyday life. Your assignment today is to test that power. Use your imagination to visualize great things happening in your life. Imagine a successful presentation at work or a productive meeting. Imagine a fun day with relatives, free of bickering and pettiness. Imagine people turning to greet you when you enter a room, because you glow with excitement and positive energy. Drop any negative thoughts that enter your mind today, and concentrate on happy, useful, and positive visualizations. At the end of the day, write about your experience.
“You never know how a horse will pull until you hook him to a heavy load.”
— Bear Bryant
Bear Bryant was a long-time coach at the University of Alabama who was known for his trademark houndstooth hat. He was also a man of few words, but his carefully chosen gems are terrific phrases to ponder.
Consider what Bear Bryant is saying in the passage above. You really don’t know what you are capable of achieving until you hook yourself to a heavy load. It is natural to want things to go your way and grumble about the obstacles in your life. On the other hand, if those difficulties weren’t there, you would never have a chance to discover your true power.
You are not likely to unleash all of your potential unless you are forced into situations that require every bit of energy you hold. This year your goal is to achieve success, so every time you find yourself carrying a heavy load—celebrate! You are being handed exactly what you need to achieve more than you ever dreamed possible.
If you do not experience defeat, sorrow, pain, or setbacks along your life journey, then you will also never experience the uniquely satisfying achievement of pulling through those difficult times. On Day 52, we talked about life as a game you play to win. Do you want to miss that experience? If there is no challenge, there is no game.
Your task today is to look at your burdens with new eyes. Consider them as opportunities for success and chances to unleash your true power. You have no idea of your capabilities until you are hooked up to that heavy load.
“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”
— Samuel Johnson
Eleven days ago you explored Dale Carnegie’s six ways to make people like you. You discovered during that lesson that your efforts to make people like you are in vain if you are not sincere. Today you will have another chance to practice compassion toward others.
There are so many ways to measure success, but one of the most enduring examples is your interaction with those around you. You must develop a real interest in others. It’s a waste of time to go through the motions. You have to mean it. Look around you today and follow that old rule of treating others as you would like to be treated. Today you will come into contact with a number of people. Each one of them has their own story, their own obstacles, and their own triumphs. What can you do to treat them well? How can you make their day better?
Practice helping others without expecting anything in return. Do not underestimate the difference you make when you do something nice for someone who can do absolutely nothing for you in return. Every positive action you take on behalf of others builds your power and influence. You are creating an atmosphere of respect and love, and that is an incredibly rich environment for success.
Your assignment today is to give all your attention to others. Treat those around you as if they are unique and very special to you, because they are. Do not even entertain the thought of what you might get in return.
“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”
— Alice Walker
Are you a good observer? It is a crucial tool for success, but it comes in several parts. You must observe what is going on around you, but you also need to have an appreciation for what your five senses pick up.
When was the last time you noticed the color purple in a field? Have you recently stopped to savor the smell of a hot meal before diving in? What does your lover’s hand feel like when you hold it in your own? Can you appreciate the fascinating melody of children laughing, or does the sound simply annoy you? Do you relish the hot, strong taste of your first cup of coffee in the morning?
Your assignment today has three parts:
Stop for a moment. Stop running through your life as if it is a race, and the first one to the finish line wins. Next, look around and use your five senses to take in your environment. Finally, appreciate everything you notice. You are part of a very intricate and wonderful world. Find some gratitude in your heart for the gifts that surround you.
“Think what you feel, say what you think, do what you say, feel what you do.”
— Eric L. Mott
Today’s quote is the first in a series that will delve deeper into aspects of personal responsibility. If you look a little closer, you will find it is a circular guide to living a successful life.
Let’s break it down. The first part of the quote is think what you feel. That has to do with authenticity. Think about what you truly feel about your life. Are you living the life you want to live? Are you allowing your true feelings to surface, or are you masking them in some way?
The second part of the circle is say what you think. This section deals with honesty. Do you say what you think? Or do you spend a lot of time trying to figure out and say what people want to hear? Where do you score on the honesty meter?
The third portion of the circle is do what you say. It is imperative to have integrity in your life. Can you be counted on? Do you follow up on what you say you will do, or do you usually find excuses to get out of a promise?
The final part that brings the quote full circle is feel what you do. Practice mindfulness in all areas of your life. Do you experience life, or are you numb to what goes on around you and how you influence the world?
Your assignment today is to write down this quote on a sticky note or a piece of paper and keep it with you at all times. Take it out and ponder it whenever you get a chance. It will become a cornerstone for your work the next few days.
“We need to find the courage to say NO to the things and people that are not serving us if we want to rediscover ourselves and live our lives with authenticity.”
— Barbara De Angelis
Living an authentic life takes courage. You are presented with opportunities to veer off your true path every single day, and one of the hardest things to do is say no to those temptations.
You are not a feather floating aimlessly in the wind. You have a purpose in this life, and you are in control of achieving your destiny. Do you know what it is? Are you living an authentic life right now, or are you allowing people or things to distract you from your true identity and purpose?
Your assignment today is twofold. First, spend some time writing in your journal this morning. Write honestly about your dreams and desires for your life. Do not be afraid to put down on paper what you really want to achieve. Try very hard not to limit yourself. Let the truth come to the surface. What do you feel destined to do? You do not need to worry at this point about how you will achieve success. Just keep writing with truth in your heart, and you will begin to rediscover your authentic self.
The next part of your assignment is to practice saying no. You have uncovered some of your dreams. Now, you need to stay on the right path to achieve those dreams. If a person asks you to get involved in something today that you do not feel good about or that you strongly believe will lead you away from your true destiny, say no. The more you unearth your authenticity, the easier it will be for you to respectfully decline the detours.
“Serve others for they are reflections of the same Entity of which you are yourself another reflection. No one of you has any authenticity, except in reference to the Original. Feel always kinship with all creation.”
— Sri Sathya Sai Baba
When you zero in on authenticity, it is easy to become a bit self-absorbed. You are working very hard to discover your authentic self, which means you are concentrating on you. But truthfully, it’s not all about you.
If you want to live an authentic life, you must acknowledge the fact that you are connected to everyone and everything around you. You are not an island. You are part of humanity, and everything you do affects creation.
Think about the statement in this quote that says others are a reflection of the same Entity of which you are yourself a reflection. How do you know you are smart? Because someone outside of yourself has found value in your knowledge. How do you know you are funny? Because you see a smile reflected in a friend’s eyes. How do you know you have been disrespectful? Because you read the rejection on your victim’s face.
When you serve others, you are also serving yourself, because you are inseparable, just like drops of water in the ocean. Look at your reflection in a still pond. It is not you, but it is a part of you. You are similarly a reflection of the elements that surround you. If you serve others, their gratitude will be reflected back to you in various ways. If you reject those around you and disregard their own authenticity, you are setting in motion a ripple that will eventually come back and disrupt your own life.
Your assignment today is to serve others and observe your kinship with creation.
“Every man has three characters – that which he exhibits, that which he has, and that which he thinks he has.”
— Jean Baptiste Alphonse Karr
Alphonse Karr was a French critic and novelist who lived in the 1800s. He was known for his fresh perspective and his biting sense of humor, and he brings up a very important point in this quote. Many of us have multiple personalities. We have a character that we exhibit to the world; a true character buried somewhere deep inside; and a third character that we think is the truth, but probably has no basis in reality.
Today your task is to honestly look at your three characters through journaling. How do you portray yourself to the world? Are you outwardly pleasant to others, but inside you are seething with jealousy or outrage? Do your outsides match your insides?
Next, write about the characteristics you assume are part of your general makeup. What do you think you’re like? Are you serious, trustworthy, emotional, or silly? Name about ten adjectives that you believe describe your character.
Compare your list of characteristics with your earlier journal entry. Do they match up, or is Alphonse Karr correct in his assessment? Do you feel sometimes as though you have multiple personalities: the person you show the world, the person you are inside, and the person you wish you were? What can you do to unify your character?
Today’s task is a difficult one, and it requires a large dose of honesty. The closer you can get to the truth, the further you will travel on your road to success.
“The authentic self is the soul made visible.”
— Sarah Ban Breathnach
You’ve been doing a lot of digging the last few days to unearth your true self. How do you feel? It can be a painful process, but the results will be extraordinary. It is an incredible experience to discover the diamond in your soul and bring it out into the light to sparkle and shine in its unique brilliance.
Today is an assessment day. How have you been doing on your authenticity homework? Are you honest with yourself as you write in your journal? Is there more that you have not yet uncovered about your true self? Drop your fear and do it today. There is no time to waste.
Your authentic self is yearning to be made visible. Can you imagine what it would be like if you were transparent to the world? What kind of power would you feel if you allowed your true brilliance to emerge, rather than keeping it hidden under layers of fear and doubt?
If you make your authentic self visible, you will be living without regret or doubt or fear. When the truth is evident, there is nowhere to hide, no secrets to keep. You are open to receive and give fully to humanity. Doesn’t that sound exciting? What are you waiting for?
Are you afraid that your true self might be rejected? You’re right. There may be people who try to put you down for living an authentic life. But they hold absolutely no power over you. If you make your soul visible, you have the power of truth on your side.
“Honesty is better than any policy.”
— Immanuel Kant
You are now moving into the next part of the circle that was discussed on Day 60: honesty. You have already spent a lot of time with honesty as you worked to discover your authentic self, and you have an opportunity now to continue to make it an integral part of your everyday life.
Honesty is better than any policy. When you are in doubt over what to do in a given situation, the best tactic is to be honest. There is always a spot in your soul where you can draw on the truth. That place of honesty should be the core of all of your decisions.
Are you honest? Or do you spend more of your time developing policies that you think will help you get what you want? Honesty is not easy. Sometimes the honest road looks a little more harrowing than other directions. It can be a difficult path, but the route is always more direct, and the rewards are always greater. They may not be rewards that include money and prestige, but they will most likely include peace of mind, serenity, and happiness.
Your assignment today is to observe your actions. Were you honest? Did you take credit for something you didn’t do at work? Did you let your husband paint the kitchen a color you really don’t like, because you didn’t want to start an argument? Did you keep the extra dollar bill a cashier gave you by mistake? Did you say you were “fine” when really you felt depressed? Make a mental tally of how many times you are honest today.
“Nobody can boast of Honesty till they are try’d.”
— Susanna Centlivre
It’s pretty easy to say, “Sure, I’ll be honest. Sounds like a noble idea. Why not?” But you will never truly know if you are capable of honesty until you are tested. Honesty is not easy. It carries with it great rewards, but it is hard to put into action in certain situations.
What if your boss asked you to slightly alter some of the accounting books in order to give the business a tax break? Would you do it? If you practice honesty every day, the answer is simply no. However, when a situation like this comes up, you may start to consider the consequences of your actions. Then the decision is not so easy. If you refuse, will you be fired? How will you support your family?
Nagging questions about consequences may lead you on a detour from the truth. You start to rationalize your actions. What difference will one little change make in the big scheme of things? It will help the company, and you will keep your job. Maybe it would be safer not to make any waves. Next time you’ll stand up to your boss, but right now you need to worry about supporting your family. Soon the line between true and false is smudged.
It is very important to be vigilant in your quest to live an honest life. Integrity is so important if you want to achieve lasting success and be proud of your accomplishments. When you are faced with a chance to smudge the line between truth and falsehood today, your job is to choose the honest path. Do not consider the consequences. If you are honest, the details will take care of themselves.
“Hamlet: To be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand.”
— William Shakespeare
When you picked up this book, you had a desire to achieve success. You are learning every day about ways in which you can triumph in life and be that one person in ten thousand who stands out from the rest. Here’s your chance.
An honest person is the exception rather than the rule, as William Shakespeare points out through the words of Hamlet. If you want to be exceptional—if you want to stand out in a crowd—it is time to practice honesty in all of your affairs. Are you up for that challenge?
Before you give this honesty thing a real shot, you might want to explore some of your deep-down feelings on the subject. Do you truly believe that honesty is the road to success? Or are you skeptical? Is there a voice in your head saying, “Wait a minute, there are hundreds of successful people in the world who do not exhibit an ounce of honesty.”
You can certainly find dishonest people in positions of power across the globe, but they are not the ones to emulate. What kind of life do you want to live? If you want to stick out in a crowd as an example of living a great life, choose honesty as your path to success. You will be happier, and you won’t have to waste time looking over your shoulder and wondering when you will be caught in a web of lies.
Your assignment today is to write down five successful people you admire for their honesty. List the traits they have that you would like to adopt.
“If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.”
— Mark Twain
Another great advantage of honesty is that it’s uncomplicated. If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember your stories. You don’t have to keep track of the lies that you told people. Telling the truth is simple.
Johnny just didn’t feel like going to work. There was new-fallen snow up in the mountains, and he was yearning to take a day off and hit the ski slopes. The problem was that he didn’t want to use any more vacation days that month. He had a bank of sick days but only two vacation days left. So Johnny made up a little lie. He left a message for his boss early in the morning, before he would be in the office.
He plugged his nose and made his voice sound scratchy. “I’m sorry, sir. I have a terrible cold. I won’t be coming in to work today.”
Johnny grinned at his ingenuity as he piled his gear into the SUV and took off for the mountains. It was a great day of skiing. The lines weren’t long, because it was a weekday, and the sun shined brilliantly on the sparkling new powder.
Johnny stopped in at the ski lodge for a quick lunch, and his heart sank when saw a familiar face. It was his boss’s teenage son, who was on a high school skiing trip. As the young man walked toward him, smiling, Johnny’s mind raced for a plausible story to coincide with the lie he told the boy’s father that morning.
Have you been in a similar situation? Your assignment today is to journal about a time when you were caught in a lie. How did you feel?
“Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.”
— W. Clement Stone
You are now moving into the third section of the circle mentioned on Day 60. This part concentrates on integrity. Living your life with integrity is the real essence of becoming a success. You have started to shine a light on various truths in your life, and today you are encouraged to continue to practice doing the right thing in all situations.
If you have hidden from the truth in the past, it will be difficult to change your automatic, everyday actions. Cut yourself some slack. No one is perfect. Living your life with integrity does not happen immediately, especially if you have practiced patterns of behavior that are not truthful and take you away from an honest path.
Your goal today is to change your patterns and practice integrity. Tape a slip of paper to your bathroom mirror that lists three things:
1. Have the courage to say no.
2. Have the courage to face the truth.
3. Do the right thing because it is right.
Repeat this list out loud every morning when you get ready, and use these magic keys to live your life with integrity. They are tools at your disposal, but you have to have the courage to pick them up and use them.
“Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.”
— Samuel Johnson
On the road to success, you are constantly searching for knowledge. It is one of the essential elements of your journey. Integrity is nothing without knowledge. It’s like having a beautiful new car and no gas. There’s nothing wrong with the automobile. It looks great, and it’s in perfect working condition. But it won’t take you anywhere without fuel.
On the other hand, knowledge without integrity is dangerous. History has provided numerous examples of what happens when individuals armed with knowledge but lacking in integrity come to power.
In 1958, Mao Zedong implemented a five-year plan in China called the Great Leap Forward. It was intended to be a Soviet model for expansive economic growth. Unfortunately, the model was not successful, and subsequent efforts to mask its failure resulted in the malnutrition, starvation, and death of millions of Chinese citizens. If Mao and other leaders in his party would have had the courage to deal with the truth of the situation, countless lives would have been saved. But they wanted their new brainstorm to be a success, so they dropped their integrity and lied about the results.
There is no single element that will give you success. You must combine the best known tools, sharpen them, and practice using them every day. Your assignment is to research three historical figures that combined knowledge and integrity with winning results. What can you learn from their examples?
“Whatever happened to integrity?”
Let’s talk to your cynical side today. You’ve been working hard on lofty goals like integrity, honesty, and authenticity. Be candid now; is there a part of you that thinks this stuff is a little idealistic?
Do you buy into the idea that you must have integrity in order to truly achieve success, or do you think that’s a little naïve in the real world? Do you admire people who do whatever it takes to claw their way to the top? Or do you respect people who put integrity, honesty, and authenticity ahead of immediate material goals?
Get out that journal again and allow yourself to write down what you really feel. It is absolutely okay to doubt. Are you skeptical of this approach that says you must practice doing the right thing in order to achieve success? Visualize what your life will look like when you become a success. What does it include? Are you alone, or are you surrounded by friends and family? Are you happy, or are you discontent and overworked? Are you proud of your accomplishments?
Give your doubt and apprehension a voice today. Don’t stuff those feelings. Let them out. Try to specify your skepticism. Do you think the honest approach will work, or are you doubtful? What do you think about the statement that integrity is gone in our society today, and now you have to look out for yourself if you want to get ahead? Do you believe that? Do you consider yourself an idealist or a skeptic?
“One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised.”
— Chinua Achebe
Yesterday, you gave your skeptical side a voice. Today, you are going to give your idealistic side an opportunity for rebuttal. Feelings of doubt and skepticism are important to recognize and face, but what do they accomplish? They usually succeed in putting limits on you and your ability to achieve success. They create barriers.
An optimistic attitude removes barriers. You may consider a cheerful outlook to be idealistic and not based in reality, but who cares? Do you want to live a life with limits or one that is completely open to the possibility of success?
Your job today is to remove all barriers. Write down your perfect life. Do not be remotely realistic. Write a fairytale with yourself as the main character. If you had an unbelievably successful life today, what would it look like? Who would share it with you? What would you be doing? Where would you live? Take away all limits, and let yourself dream.
Now, why can’t you have that life? What’s stopping you? You have the will to succeed, and you are building your integrity through the exercises suggested in this book. You have taken steps to live up to your true potential. Doesn’t it feel good to reach for goals you never thought possible? Do not be discouraged, and whatever you do, do not allow compromise. You deserve to live the life of your dreams—right now. Remove your barriers; argue with the skeptical voice in your head; and go for it.
“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”
— Thich Nhat Hanh
Wouldn’t it be great if you had a limitless supply of gifts to give others? You do have one very precious and unlimited gift to give, and it comes with a catch. If you don’t give it away, its value in this moment is lost forever. That very special gift is your presence.
When you are present and mindful of what’s going on around you, you give the gift of yourself, and that has a value that cannot be measured. Think about how it works when you are on the receiving end. Do you have a great friend who is always there when you need to talk and who is genuinely interested in your life and your happiness? How does it feel to stand in the sunlight of that person’s attention? It’s great, isn’t it?
On the other hand, have you tried to have a conversation with someone who has no interest in talking with you? It makes you feel insignificant and small and maybe even invisible. Offering your presence seems like such a small thing, but mindfulness is extremely powerful. Your presence is a gift, and if you do not participate actively in the moment, you are devaluing your life as well as the lives of those around you.
Your assignment today is to practice mindfulness. It is the final portion of the circle that was introduced on Day 60. Whenever you start daydreaming about the past or the future, bring yourself back into the moment and participate in life. It is one of the greatest gifts you have to offer. This is not a dress rehearsal. You will never have these moments again.
“People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own soul.”
— Carl Jung
Today’s lesson is a sort of check-up. How are you doing on some of these soul searching exercises? They’re not as easy as they seem, are they? Have you been avoiding facing your own soul? Are you afraid of what you might find hidden within yourself? Or are you afraid you might have to actually do some of the work to achieve success when you find out that you are more than capable?
Jenny started reading this book a few months ago, but she stopped short at around Day 20. Today, she is not happy. She finds that she is irritable and quick to point out the flaws in others. What triggered her mood shift?
Maybe the work got just a little too uncomfortable. Jenny didn’t appreciate facing her own soul. She didn’t like having to take personal responsibility for her life. It was so much more comfortable to blame others for her lack of success. She was in a bad marriage. Her husband put limits on her, because he wanted her to stay home and raise their children. She knew she was far smarter than those around her in her part time job, but she wasn’t able to prove it, because she couldn’t work full time and also be available to pick the kids up from school. It wasn’t her fault. She had been dealt this deck of cards, and she had to live with it.
Jenny preferred to remain stuck and grumpy rather than facing the true desires of her soul. Are you facing your soul today, or are you looking for a distraction to avoid this ultimate confrontation?
“As long as we have practiced neither concentration nor mindfulness, the ego takes itself for granted and remains its usual normal size, as big as the people around one will allow.”
— Ayya Khema
Mindfulness is not just a gift you give to others. It is a way for you to have an accurate picture of life and your place within the world. Mindfulness is an opportunity to keep your ego in check. If you numb yourself to the world around you and choose to believe only select ego-boosting people and your own fantasies, you are not living in reality, and you will not achieve success. Concentrate on what is going on outside of you. Notice the world and other people, and acquire as much knowledge as you can from the things that surround you every day. Use all of your senses to experience life.
Concentrate on learning and participating rather than maintaining your image and status. You cannot achieve if you are not teachable. Practicing mindfulness gives you a constant lab and classroom and a lot of new opportunities for success.
Your assignment today is to take mindfulness to a more intense level. Concentrate on what is going on around you. Find out what happens when you intensely focus on all of the things that take place outside of yourself. It is a fascinating exercise. Try to jot down your experiences throughout the day. Then, at the end of the day write down a top-ten list of things you learned by concentrating on humanity and elements of this world. Make sure you incorporate all of your five senses into this exercise.
“Fundamentally mindfulness is a simple concept. Its power lies in its practice and its applications. Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. This kind of attention nurtures greater awareness, clarity, and acceptance of present-moment reality. It wakes us up to the fact that our lives unfold only in moments. If we are not fully present for many of those moments, we may not only miss what is most valuable in our lives but also fail to realize the richness and the depth of our possibilities for growth, and transformation.”
— Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness is such a valuable tool to build your awareness and stack up opportunities for growth and transformation. Today you will nurture your practice of mindfulness.
The quote above is a little longer than most of the quotes in this book, but it is a beautiful description of the benefits of mindfulness. Read the passage several times, and then make a pact with yourself. Promise to concentrate on mindfulness for at least one week by reading this passage every morning and then sitting quietly for five minutes with your eyes closed, concentrating on nothing but the rhythm of your breath. Then launch into the day with total abandon. When you find your mind wandering, gently bring your attention back to the moment and revel in your ability to participate fully in every single instant.
Practice the art of paying attention without judging. When you are actively participating and focusing on the day, you will not have an opportunity to judge. Judging takes you away from the moment. Stay in the present and reap the benefits of your increased awareness.
“When a thing is funny, search it for a hidden truth.”
— George Bernard Shaw
Humor is another terrific instrument that is very useful for building your success. It allows you to not take yourself too seriously, and it also softens the blow of a difficult hidden truth. It is sometimes hard to look at defects of character and work on them, but humor provides a sort of cushion that gives you room for change.
If you can laugh at yourself, then you are aware of your shortcomings. You can deal with them with a much lighter heart than you would through tools like fear, anger, or disapproval. Humor gives you the opportunity to respond with an action, rather than retreat in remorse or shame or guilt.
Woody Allen is one of the most prolific artists of our time. He is a successful writer, actor, director, playwright, musician, and comedian. One of his sharpest tools is humor. He pokes fun at his own neurosis, nervousness, and intellect, and even at his Jewish heritage and his identity as a true New Yorker. The reason Woody Allen is so funny is because his humor is based in truth. He can poke fun at himself, and that is endearing. It strikes a common chord with humanity. We’re all imperfect, and that’s funny when you think about it.
Your job today is to poke fun at yourself. Don’t worry about looking good all the time or being perfect. You’ll never attain those goals. The world loves imperfection, so show them what you’ve got. Bring out your truth through humor. Don’t beat yourself up. Laugh at yourself and be open to change.
“He who laughs, lasts!”
— Mary Pettibone Poole
Laughter is the secret weapon for happiness and success. It is the magic elixir that will change your outlook and probably lengthen your life. Why is it so healing and helpful? Who knows? If you are skeptical, give it a try and find out for yourself how it can transform your life.
You have a great assignment today. Your job is to laugh. That’s right, laugh. No excuses. It doesn’t matter if you just got fired, your dog died, and your wife kicked you out of the house. Find a reason to laugh. It will heal you.
It’s not that easy to just spontaneously break into laughter, so what can you do to get the ball rolling? Here are a few suggestions:
Rent a funny movie.
Call an old friend and talk about the stupid things you did when you were kids.
Spend about an hour with someone under the age of five.
Go to a comedy show.
Get underwear with smiley faces on it, and wear it to an important meeting. Your colleagues won’t know what you’re hiding.
Practice a random act of kindness on your grumpy neighbor.
Whatever you do, don’t take yourself seriously, and let that laughter bubble up and start to heal you from the inside out.
“A good laugh is sunshine in a house.”
— William Makepeace Thackeray
Mary sat at the reception encased in a wall of grief. She buried her husband that morning, her best friend for over fifty years. She wasn’t sure if she could ever be happy again. The bitter cold outside mimicked the brittle, icy hardness she felt in her heart. She had the uneasy feeling that at any moment she might shatter into a million pieces on the floor, and there would be nothing left of her. But that didn’t happen. She held her cup of tea stoically on her lap and halfheartedly listened to the continuous stream of condolences that floated past her.
One of Mary’s grandchildren was summoned to play a tune on the violin to cheer Grandma up. Mary grimaced as the six-year-old tucked her little violin under her chin and started to play one of three tunes in her repertoire. Unfortunately, the child had no idea that there were words to the song she played. It was an old traditional tune, and the culminating line was, “The old gray goose is dead.”
Mourners started to shift in an uncomfortable silence at the end of the performance, and then suddenly Mary started to giggle. Her giggles soon erupted into a huge belly laugh, and her granddaughter joined in, not really knowing why. Soon, the entire room was rolling with laughter. It was as if a burst of sunshine filled the room, and the healing began.
Your assignment today is to never underestimate the power of a good laugh. Take every opportunity to laugh today and every day. This is far too important a journey to be taken seriously.
“Never laugh at live dragons.”
— J.R.R. Tolkien
All right, so there’s a time to laugh and a time to run! But seriously, all of this information the last few days about laughter and happiness may be a little nauseating if your life is in crisis. You can’t slap on a happy face and pretend everything is okay if it’s not. The laughter therapy suggested two days ago in no way promotes insincerity or pretends certain realities in your life do not exist. Your laughter must be genuine. It has to burst forward from the depths of your soul. Sometimes real life prevents that from happening.
That is when you need to look at what is blocking you from happiness. What stops your laughter? Seek out those live dragons and face them. Are you grieving over the loss of a loved one? Are you in fear of financial ruin? Do you face the demons of addiction every day and lose?
Face your dragons and fight them head on. If you want to bring laughter back into your life, you need to clear out the scary stuff to make room for the sunlight. Give names to the dragons you face. Write them down in your journal today. Be honest and jot down specifically what blocks you from happiness. Then pick at least one of your dragons and devise a plan to battle it and win.
Live dragons aren’t funny at all, but dead ones are hilarious, because they can’t hurt you. Pick your battles today, and defeat the dragons that block your happiness. Be brave, and your reward will be a soul that is overflowing with joy.
“Let every man shovel out his own snow and the whole city will be passable.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Wouldn’t it be great if everyone just did what they were supposed to do? The world would be a much better place. But who is in charge of the plan? Do you want to be? That might be your problem. There are nearly seven billion people in the world, and every single one of us has a different agenda.
Now, here’s a news flash. You are not in charge. You don’t get to control whether or not your neighbor shovels his own snow, so stop wasting your time worrying about it. You are powerless over the actions of others. If you want to be successful, concentrate on your own actions. What can you do to make this world a better place? How can you contribute?
It is so easy to get stuck complaining about the actions of a boss, a spouse, a friend, a relative, or a co-worker and blame them for sabotaging your road to success.
“If she would have just done her job, I wouldn’t be in this mess!”
Does that line sound familiar? Has it come out of your mouth recently?
If you want to lower your stress level and move forward in life, you must stop worrying about the actions of others. Take personal responsibility and take action. What can you do to create change? What actions can you take to reach success?
Your assignment today is to leave other people alone. You cannot control them, and they probably don’t care about your opinion. Concentrate on what you can do to change your life, and focus on how you can be helpful to others rather than how you can boss them around.
“As you make your bed, so you must lie on it.”
— English Saying
Jimmy was not happy with his situation. He was deep in debt, and he resented the daily calls he received from creditors. He never picked up the phone, because he was afraid of who might be hounding him for a payment. On top of that, he hated his job. It didn’t allow him to make enough money to pay all his bills. His response was to put forth a halfhearted effort and call in sick often. Jimmy was under so much stress, he had no idea how to change his life. Success didn’t even cross his mind. He was worried about survival.
How did Jimmy end up in this situation? Was it just bad luck? The truth is, Jimmy overspent, and then he hid from his responsibilities rather than facing them. If he wants to change, he has to take personal responsibility for his situation. He has to admit fault and make a change. Jimmy made his bed, and he is going to have to lie on it. His situation is the direct result of his own actions.
This is not a tragic story. Jimmy has the power to change. He can face his creditors and work out a payment solution. He can show up at work and put in an honest effort that might lead to a promotion, or he can apply for a better job with a higher salary. But if Jimmy chooses to hide and not take responsibility, his crummy situation will just get worse.
Your assignment today is to look at the bed you made. What is your present situation? What actions did you take to get where you are today? What can you change in order to improve your life?
“Refuse to be average. Let your heart soar as high as it will.”
— A.W. Tozer
You are not average. There is no one on this earth exactly like you. You are unique, and you have special gifts to share. Are you letting your gifts out of the bag, or do you hide them from everyone—including yourself?
It is comfortable to fit in, to not stand out in a crowd, but that is not what you were made for. You were made to soar as high as you dare. You are uniquely qualified to bring your special talents out and follow your heart, but it feels risky to step away from the group. It’s frightening to fly without a safety net. You must have the courage to refuse to be average. You are throwing away your innate gifts if you fit in with everyone else.
Let your heart soar. Open up and follow your instincts for success. It is a thrilling experience to reach for new heights and test your abilities and strengths. Do you have a desire to experience that adventure?
Today try stepping away from the crowd. Journey out on your own and attempt something you have never done before. Do you have a special skill or aptitude that you have never really explored? Right now you must refuse to ignore it. Try it out! Take a class, join a club that focuses on the skill, or find a mentor who is willing to guide you. Aren’t you curious to see if it will bring you joy and success? You will never know if you don’t swallow your fear and try it.
Refuse to be average, and give your heart the opportunity to fly.
“Nobody can do it for you.”
— Ralph Cordiner
For the last several days, we have been concentrating again on personal responsibility. We will continually come back to it, because it requires constant attention. It also carries more power than you realize. If you want to achieve success, you have the opportunity to do it right now, but you have to take charge of your destiny.
Go back to your journal today and write about success. Compose your own personal definition of the word. Then write down some specific ways that you imagine you will be able attain your goal. Review the ideas you write down today and any previous material you find in your journal about attaining success. Take a look at what ingredients will be needed to follow through. Make a list of those ingredients.
Now, review that list. Cross off anything that you have delegated to someone else. Nobody can do this for you. For example, if you have “get a loan from my dad” on your list, cross it off. Your dad is not responsible for your success. This is your baby. What action can you take to get the money you need? Can you get an extra part-time job? Can you cut out some of the extra expenses in your life and save some cash?
This is not one of those jobs you can hire out. If you don’t like to clean, you can hire a maid (if you have the money). However, if you want to achieve success, there is no one you can call to do the dirty work. You have to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself. You can learn from others, but the effort must be all yours. Stop looking outside of yourself for the key to success. It lies within you.
“Learning to deal with setbacks, and maintaining the persistence and optimism necessary for childhood’s long road to mastery are the real foundations of lasting self-esteem.”
— Lilian G. Katz
You will experience setbacks on the road to success, but always remember that they are only temporary. You are on this journey for the rest of your life. You must build a strong foundation using the tools of persistence and optimism, and you will succeed.
Think about how marathon runners train for a big race. They spend months conditioning. They start with a manageable distance and increase it little by little. Every step they take builds their self-esteem. They set milestones and celebrate each achievement. Their success with smaller goals propels them to increase their drive and push to the next level. Sometimes injuries set them back a day or two or even longer. They attend to them through rest and rehabilitation, and then they get back on track. They are optimistic that they can achieve their goal, and they have the persistence to keep working until they do.
Are persistence and optimism words that describe how you travel on your journey through life? Compare your life path to training for a marathon. First, acknowledge your setbacks and deal with them. Then, dig up some optimism that will start to build your self-esteem. You don’t have to lie to yourself. Find something that is true, even if it is not very exciting. For example, “I am healthy today” may provide you with a dose of optimism on which to build. Finally, never give up. You are not running a short race. This is a marathon, and you have the time and opportunity to build your self-esteem and reach success.
“Success isn’t how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started.”
For the next eight days, you are going to have a chance to take an in-depth look at success and failure and compare these two very powerful words. Let’s start with the upside and dive a little deeper into what success means to you.
Read the proverb above. Does it coincide with your idea of success? Have you ever thought about success as the progress you make throughout your life instead of the end result?
Write about success as a journey instead of a finish line. You have the opportunity to be a success every single day if you take even one small step forward rather than remaining complacent or regressing. There are so many opportunities for you to thrive and to help others along their journey. Are you taking advantage of any of those opportunities right now?
The second part of your assignment today is to write about the distance you’ve come thus far. How are you doing? Where did you start, and where are you now? Have you gone forward or backward, or has it been a combination of both? Grab some markers and draw a graph of your journey toward success so far. What does that graph look like? Does it have huge peaks and valleys, or is it a steady climb? Maybe it was a steady climb, and then a particular event in your life caused a drop-off. Chart your success and imagine how you would like it to look from today forward.
“Success doesn’t come to you, you go to it.”
— Marva Collins
Do you truly want to be a success? Then get moving! You will never achieve success by waiting for it complacently, like one waits for a bus or Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. You must go and seek out success.
Think of success as a crafty little wild animal. You catch glimpses of it here and there, but for the most part it remains elusive. It will never come right to you and curl up on your lap. You must look for it in remote hiding places and eventually coax it out of its lair. You have to give success a reason to stick around by providing food to sustain it, a comfortable place to sleep, and plenty of attention.
Your assignment is to treat success like a wild—but very appealing—little animal. Do whatever you can today to find it and give it the proper environment in which to develop. What can you do right now to invite success into your life?
Consider the way you live your life today. Is it a nurturing environment for success? What does your home look like at this very moment? Is it neat, warm, and inviting, with everything pretty much in order, or does it look like a tornado roared through a few minutes ago? Do you surround yourself with interesting, fun, optimistic people who are also looking for ways to grow? Or are most of your friends complaining, negative individuals who don’t take good care of themselves and tend to bring you down?
Look around the environment you’ve created. If you were this little animal named Success, would you drop by and stay awhile?
“Eighty percent of success is showing up.”
— Woody Allen
Jessica finally worked up the nerve to look for a new job. She had been with her company for five years and had a very comfortable spot in the corporation, but she yearned for new challenges. That evening, Jessica went online to look for open positions in her line of work. She sent her résumé to ten promising enterprises and then sat back and waited. Nothing happened.
Every day she put in her usual 110 percent at her less-than-desirable job, and every night she went online to look for new job postings. Three months after she started her search, her cell phone rang. It was the human resources department of an exciting new technology firm, and they wanted her to come in for an interview.
Jessica was ecstatic. She took a day off of work for the interview and plunged forward into what was probably the most humiliating hour of her life. She was woefully underqualified for the position, and the executive interviewing her made that very clear.
Jessica returned to her ho-hum job the next day and put in her usual 110 percent only to find out at the end of the day that her office would be closing, and they were all out of a job. That’s when the miracle occurred. A client of hers had been watching her performance over the past few years. When the client found out Jessica was out of a job, she immediately offered her employment at her firm. Jessica’s new job included incredible opportunities, challenges, and a hefty raise.
Your assignment today is to show up. You never know what will happen.
“It took me twenty years to become an overnight success.”
— Eddie Cantor
How long do you think it will take you to become a success? The quote above is funny, but it holds a hidden truth. Very few people become an overnight success. It often takes years to create the life of your dreams.
Turn to a new page in your journal today and find some colored pencils or markers or even crayons. You homework is to draw your timeline to success. Feel free to include pictures and dates on the timeline that depict milestones you intend to reach along the way.
While you create this timeline, take some time to consider what you will really need to do in order to get from point A to point B. You don’t just wake up one morning and find out you are success. It takes planning and actual effort. So what are you going to do to get there?
You may want to take a college course in your field of interest or lose five pounds or join a networking organization. Put those things on the timeline and give yourself a target date of completion. Think about the gradual routes to success, too, and depict them throughout your timeline. They may include spending more time with family, taking a walk every evening after dinner, meditating, or offering to help others through volunteerism. Create an appealing timeline today that you can refer to for inspiration tomorrow and every day.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
— Thomas A. Edison
You’ve spent some time exploring success and ways in which you can attain it. Now, it is important to look at the flip side and come to terms with your observations and beliefs about failure.
Thomas Edison displayed a remarkably healthy view of failure in the quote above. When he was working on creating the electric light bulb, he dealt with thousands of roadblocks, but in the end he triumphed because he never considered failure a dead end. Instead, it was the discovery of something that didn’t work! His failures provided him with valuable information in his research. Edison was one of the most productive inventors in history. He held over 1,000 patents for his inventions, and he remains a model of success today. Did you know that he also excelled in failures?
How do you react to failure? Your assignment today is to journal about how you deal with it. When something doesn’t work, do you quit? Or does failure encourage you to work harder to find a better solution? Come up with three ways to change your present habits and deal with failure better.
Take a lesson from Thomas Edison today. If you want to achieve your biggest dreams, then you must practice turning failure into success. How can you use the knowledge you’ve gained from things that don’t work? What can you do differently the next time around? What did you learn from the experience? You never fail if you learn from your mistakes.
“In Life as in Football Fall Forward when you fall.”
— Arthur Guiterman
Arthur Guiterman was an American writer who was best known for his humorous poems that cut straight to the truth. In today’s quote, he offers up a valuable life lesson. When you fall—and you will fall—fall forward.
Many of us fear failure. There is no way we would subject ourselves to a heavy hitting atmosphere in life. We don’t want to get hurt, so we would rather not try to reach for some of those lofty goals that will bring us success. But what would happen if we get in the game and plan to get tackled?
Think about this for a moment. Would it take a little pressure off if you just assume you will fall down and plan for how you’re going to pick yourself back up? That might be less stressful than hoping and praying that you will get through life unscathed. The truth is, if you plan to reach success, you will experience failure. You will fall down. You have a choice, though. You have a choice to fall forward.
What exactly does it mean to fall forward? Write down your answer to that question in your journal. When something doesn’t work, find at least one lesson you can draw from the situation that will help you move forward in life. What did you learn? What can you change? What will you remember never to do again? How can you work more effectively with others to attain your goal the next time?
Your job today is to fall forward.
“Failure seldom stops you; what stops you is the fear of failure.”
— Jack Lemmon
You touched on fear a little bit yesterday. Have the courage today to take a look at your fears head on. Is it really failure that keeps you from reaching success, or is it fear? Does failure stop your progress, or does fear put on the breaks?
Failure gets a bad rap, but it is actually an integral part of success. It is essential for success. In fact, failure is the foundation of success. What do you think about that? Do you believe it?
When you learned to ride a bike, did you just hop on and take off? If you did, you are a freak of nature. Most kids experience a series of failures when they learn to ride a bike. Each failure teaches them something new about balance and coordination. They also may enlist the help of an adult or an older sibling or friend to run alongside and help them while they learn. Their fear of failure is overridden by the intense desire to ride a bike. Their failures become a foundation for their success, because they use them to learn. They modify their actions with each and every attempt, and pretty soon they’re flying through the neighborhood on their own.
Failure is not something to be feared. It is a very important tool for success. Launch into new adventures today with the abandon that you had when you learned to ride a bike. Let go of the brakes and fly down that hill. Experience the rush of adrenaline you get when you go for it. Let go of your fears. They have no place on the road to success.
“Failure teaches success.”
— Japanese Saying
Do you consider failure and success to be opposites? That is not unusual. They are antonyms in most dictionaries. Today, you have an opportunity to look at the connection between the two. What if failure was an instructor and success the pupil? If you go with that image today, it might alter your current way of thinking.
Failure generally has quite a negative connotation, but it wouldn’t be so horrible if it was thought of as a teacher. Failure provides help and insight and direction. Failure teaches success.
Pull out your journal and write for about thirty minutes on this Japanese saying. Does failure teach success in your life? Do you think this is a ridiculous statement, or are you intrigued by it? Try to come up with examples in your own life of how failure teaches success. Can you think of anything?
Failure and success may have once been opposites in your mind, black and white, good and bad. After reading the statement above, what new pictures do you think of for failure and success? Let your imagination take over and draw a few new images that emerge when you think of the idea that failure teaches success. How are these two concepts linked together?
You don’t have to hold on to your traditional views of anything. Part of achieving success is being willing to change. Are you willing to change your concept of failure?
“Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step; only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find the right road.”
— Dag Hammarskjold
Do you find yourself looking down to test the ground before taking your next step? What does that mean in your day-to-day life? It may mean that you seldom make a move unless it is completely safe and you have no chance of failure. Or it may mean that you get stuck in the minutia of life and lose track of your long-term goals.
If you want to pursue success, you must take risks. You don’t have to be reckless, but it’s time to get off the children’s rides and tackle the monster roller coaster. Fix your gaze on the far horizon and pursue those spectacular sights you see before you.
When you look back on your life, you want to be able to say, “Wow, what a ride! That was fun! I had no idea I could fly so high, and the view was incredible.”
It would be pretty sad to reach the end of your life and say, “What view? Well, I never got hurt; I never failed; but I really don’t know what I might have accomplished, because I was too afraid to try. I made sure I was safe on the ground at all times.”
You are not going to get another chance to visit this incredible theme park called life. What do you want to do while you’re here? Do you want to spend your entire time staring at the ground to make sure you don’t step in gum, or do you want to look up and take in the wonders that surround you?
Your assignment today is to go back through your journal and look at some of your dreams and goals for success. Then, fix your eyes on those goals and don’t look down.
“I believe life is a series of near misses. A lot of what we ascribe to luck is not luck at all. It’s seizing the day and accepting responsibility for your future. It’s seeing what other people don’t see and pursuing that vision.”
— Howard Schultz
Does it seem like other people have all the luck? Are you ready for a little of that luck to come your way for a change? Well, you don’t have to wait for that to happen. You’re sitting on a pot of gold right now, and you don’t even realize it. What makes you think other people are lucky and you’re not?
You will find that when you seize control of your life, you will start to get lucky. Imagine your wildly successful future. Create a vision for yourself, and then never lose sight of it. You are responsible for what happens in your life. You deserve to have success. It has nothing to do with luck. No matter what happens today, you have an opportunity to learn and grow from your experience. No matter what your circumstances, you have an opportunity to achieve success.
Pay extreme attention to what goes on around you. You will be presented with hundreds of opportunities to do something for someone, to learn something new, to try something you’ve never tried before, to look at something from someone else’s point of view, and to feel grateful for the life you have been given. These gold nuggets of opportunity rain down around you all day, every day. Grab them.
Seize the day, and you may suddenly start feeling like the luckiest person around.
“Commitment unlocks the doors of imagination, allows vision, and gives us the right stuff to turn our dream into reality.”
— James Womack
For the last couple of days, you have been concentrating on your vision for success. It is so important to have a vision, because without it you are essentially wandering through life without any direction or goal. Today, you have the opportunity to take your vision one step further. Your ultimate goal is to turn your vision into reality, right? How do you do that? Commitment is the answer.
It’s easy to come up with dreams for your life. We all like to dream. But the only way you will see your vision come true is if you back it up with commitment. You must buy in to the idea that you will actually achieve your dreams, or you are just fantasizing.
If you commit to your vision, you admit that you believe in it and you think you are capable of achieving it. You have taken an inner oath to act. When someone invites you to a party, you either commit to go, or you don’t. Once you say yes, you have given a sort of promise that you will take action and attend the event. The same is true with your vision for success. When you reach a level of commitment, you promise to take action. Are you ready to commit to your vision?
You may be thinking, “Of course I am! Why do you think I bought this book?”
Are you really ready to make that commitment? Write about your honest feelings today. If you commit to your dreams, you have to act. Write an oath to yourself about the commitment you are willing to make to honor your vision.
“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Those who look outside, dream. Those who look inside, awaken.”
— Carl Jung
Leonard scurried around the house crossing off items on his to-do list. He was so excited about his future. He was committed to his vision and already taking action to achieve success. Suddenly, he stopped in the middle of his living room. His heart sank. Leonard was hit right between the eyes with the realization that he didn’t have a clear vision.
Leonard didn’t need eyeglasses; he needed inner sharpness. Here he was running all over his house getting little things done, and he wasn’t entirely sure what his overall goal was—except to be a success. That really wasn’t a clear picture.
How do you sharpen your vision? The general notion that you want to be a success is not really detailed enough to give you the momentum you need to achieve it. Where do you go to make your vision clear?
You look inside your heart to find your true vision. One of the best ways to do that is to sit quietly and listen. Your heart whispers clues and suggestions to you all the time, but you have to be still in order to hear it.
In a few days, we will take an in-depth look at how prayer and meditation can help you listen to your heart. Today, your job is to find some time to sit quietly and listen. Find a few minutes in the day to slow down and look inside yourself. That is the first step to your awakening.
“When your mother is mad and asks you, ’Do I look stupid?’ it’s best not to answer her.”
— Meghan, Age 13
Do you like kids? Some people love kids, and others try desperately to avoid them. Whether you like them or not, kids are often our best teachers. They’re not old enough to be jaded, they look at life with fresh eyes, they can be painfully honest, and they don’t take themselves too seriously. Over the next few days, you are going to explore the wisdom of children and maybe even recapture some of that childlike innocence and wonder for yourself.
Did the quote above make you laugh out loud? If it brought even a smile to your face, take a moment to think about why. Meghan gives you some pretty blunt advice here. It’s obvious, and it’s funny, because it holds a truth that might save Meghan (and the rest of us) a lot of pain and suffering if we follow it.
When is it a good idea to keep your mouth shut? Start a list of several appropriate scenarios in your journal. Can you think of a time when you spoke up recently and shouldn’t have? What did you learn from that experience?
It is a very wise person who knows when not to speak. Talk is often overrated, and it can get you into a lot of trouble, too. What would your day be like if you concentrated on listening and tried to avoid talking? Give it a shot, and then write about your experience in your journal at the end of the day. What did you learn when you cultivated the art of keeping your mouth shut?
“Lying drives your conscience crazy.”
— Kyle, Age 10
Kyle just might grow up to be the next Gandhi . . . or Gandalf. He’s quite the wise sage at age ten. Lying does drive your conscience crazy. So why do we do it? Is it human nature? Why do we want to step into the insanity that is created when we lie?
It might be human nature to lie, but we also have the ability to stop the madness. On a scale of one to ten, how big of a liar are you? Be honest now! Deep down you know the right answer, so it doesn’t do any good to try to fool yourself. Everyone has told a lie at some point. Some do it a lot more than others. Think about the times that you’ve lied. How did the whole event play out? What happened? How did you feel about yourself when you lied? Did you get caught? Does it still nag on your conscience today?
Lying is cowardly, and it’s also a lot easier than the alternative. It is much more difficult to tell the truth and take responsibility for our actions. If you want to become a success, however, you need to clean up your act. You must tilt the scales in the opposite direction and tell the truth much more often than you lie.
If you do lie, and it hurts someone else, you must make amends. Go to that person, tell them the truth, and offer to do whatever it takes to make things right. That’s a scary thought, isn’t it? The only way you can obtain real success is to clean up your own garbage and do the right thing. You have to clear away the trash in your life to make room for the light of success to shine through. Lying is the chief litter bug in your conscience, and the garbage it leaves behind blocks your true potential.
“Just be yourself.”
— Jessie, Age 5
Just be yourself. What wonderful advice!
You have made it to Day 100 on your journey to become a success. What an accomplishment! How do you feel? Are you starting to feel more comfortable in your own skin? When you get into the actions that are suggested in these pages, you come closer and closer to your true self every day. You are unlocking the power that is within you. These exercises guide you toward discovering just who you are and what makes you unique.
If you want to achieve success, all you have to do is just be yourself. You have the goods. You are doing this work to uncover all of the dirt you put around yourself to cover up your true potential. You are digging up that precious diamond that is you and uncovering its brilliance. Just be yourself today. Be comfortable in your skin and thankful for your unique and brilliant gifts.
“You can’t hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.”
— Rosemary, Age 7
That is a very good point. If you want to hide broccoli, a glass of milk is not the way to go. So are you wondering why Rosemary’s quote is the centerpiece of Day 1? It’s amusing, but how can you learn about success from that statement?
How do you think Rosemary found out this truth? She probably tried it herself. Then what do you suppose she did? One can bet that she noted this fact and then moved on to more creative ways to hide broccoli. Rosemary learned from her mistakes, shared her experience with others, and built on her failure to find a successful solution.
This may all seem very obvious, childish, and a little trivial to you, but do you follow the same pattern in your adult life? When something doesn’t work out the way you planned, do you note it, share your discovery with others so that they don’t make the same mistake, and then change your tactics?
Many of us don’t. Instead, we complain, blame someone else, or maybe even try to hide the whole glass of milk with the broccoli in it rather than fixing the problem. When we become adults, we have a funny way of complicating simple situations. Today, your task is to simplify your decisions. Get back to the basics. If something doesn’t work, fix it. Don’t worry about what others will think of your failure. Just find a better solution. Act like a child today. Be direct in finding solutions to your problems. Your ego might not want to follow the correct route, but the path is usually clear. The route to success is undeviating. Stop trying to complicate it with detours to save face.
“It is OK to fail, but it is not OK to give up.”
— Kate, Age 8
Failure is no big deal. You will do it thousands of times in your life. What you cannot do is give up. Evidently, Kate learned this lesson at the ripe old age of eight. She is a bright girl. Many of us are still working on this one.
One of the most important attitudes for you to change if you truly want to achieve success is the desire to quit when you’re behind. The most successful people in history failed numerous times, but the one thing they did not do is quit. They never gave up. On Day 93 you learned that failure actually teaches success. You must have that ingredient in the mix if you want to achieve your dreams. Failure is not an option; it’s a given.
What you cannot ever, ever do is give up. You cannot take your ball and go home when you’re losing the game. If you do, then all is lost. If you stick around even if the other team is creaming you, your luck might change. You have to stay in the game, no matter what, or you have zero chance for success.
Every time you want to quit and give up on your dreams, think about Kate’s simple advice. It’s not okay to give up. It’s perfectly fine to fail and have setbacks and even look like an idiot sometimes. It’s not okay to throw in the towel and surrender.
Read Kate’s words of wisdom out loud over and over like a mantra. Then find a quiet corner somewhere and close your eyes. Breathe deeply and let your mind roll over Kate’s words. Sit there quietly for as long as you have time. It might be five minutes or an hour. Feel the power inside you grow as you resolve to never give up.
“It’s good to receive compliments, and it’s even better to give them.”
— Aaron, Age 17
Aaron reminds us of another very important ingredient of success: kindness to others. You know how great it feels when someone gives you a compliment. When was the last time you gave one out? Are you stingy with praise?
Write in your journal today about how often you give out compliments to people. As you know, it is worthless to give meaningless compliments. You must be sincere. How many times this week have you given someone sincere praise? Do you remember how the person reacted when you gave them a compliment? How did you feel when you were able to brighten someone else’s day? Imagine the ripple effect that occurs when you throw a positive pebble into the pond by complimenting someone.
You don’t have to be stingy with praise. There’s plenty of it to go around. Don’t worry, you won’t run out. Find the good in people today, and let them know that you appreciate them in your life. It would be a pretty lonely world without them.
The second part of your assignment is to also spend some time writing about how good you feel when you receive compliments. What does that do to your self-esteem? How does it improve your overall day? How does it change your perception of the person who gave you the compliment? Now, remember that you have the power to make someone else feel that way. What a gift! It’s priceless, but it doesn’t cost a penny.
Give the gift of praise every day. Remember Aaron’s advice. It’s good to receive compliments, and it’s even better to give them.
“Enthusiasm spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment.”
— Norman Vincent Peale
This is just great. It’s not enough that you have to do stuff for other people, but now you have to turn into some kind of manic cheerleader in order to achieve success? What will be next, motivational speaking? Evangelism?
You will be exploring enthusiasm for the next few days, but have no fear. You don’t have to get out the pom-poms and hop up and down like a crazy person. Enthusiasm is a little different than that.
Let’s start with a definition of the word. Enthusiasm originally meant inspiration or being in the presence of a god. Today, having enthusiasm is defined as; being excited, motivated, having an active or lively interest in something, or a certain intensity of feeling. Enthusiasm does not have to reach the point of fanaticism. It is a heightened interest.
Think about the successful people you know. They do have a sort of intensity, don’t they? That’s why they stick out from the crowd. They are fueled to accomplish great things, because they are extremely interested in what they are doing, and they believe in their work. They are inspired.
How can you cultivate your own enthusiasm? It’s not an easy thing to fake without looking completely insane. The key to finding enthusiasm is discovering what you love to do. What excites you? What do you do really well? You can’t be enthusiastic about something that barely interests you. Find your passions and pursue them. Your assignment is to write down what excites you or motivates you. What are you enthusiastic about today?
“Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
What possesses some people to make heroic efforts and accomplish what no one thought possible? How do they get the strength and stamina to perform such valiant deeds? The spark is enthusiasm.
Harriet Tubman was born a slave in Maryland in 1820. She worked as a house servant as a child and in fields when she reached her teen years. Even though Harriet Tubman was a slave, she knew deep inside that she was destined to do great things. She escaped her plantation and ran away to the north in 1849, and it was then that her destiny started to be revealed. Harriet Tubman did not stay in the safety of the northern region of the United States. Instead, she risked her life and returned to the south over and over again to help other slaves escape. She was an integral part of the Underground Railroad, which was a series of safe houses where slaves could stay on their journey to freedom.
Her enthusiasm for the antislavery movement gave her the power to succeed in extremely dangerous situations. Among hundreds of other slaves, she helped her seventy-year-old parents escape and was even a spy for the north during the Civil War. Harriet Tubman had an intense belief in freedom, and that sparked her effort to achieve the impossible. Her enthusiasm helped her to become a stunning success.
Do you want to accomplish great things in your life? Then find out what you believe in, what excites you, and what sparks your intense interest. That is where you will cultivate enthusiasm and have the opportunity to achieve success.
“Creativity is a natural extension of our enthusiasm.”
— Earl Nightingale
Once you begin to build enthusiasm, creativity is the natural next step. You may not think you are a creative person right now, but when you find something you are passionate about, you will be surprised at how it draws out your creativity.
When you strive for success, you are searching for that one thing that really piques your interest and makes you feel as though you have something important to contribute. Once you find it, your interest and excitement build. You start to look for ways to improve all aspects of it, and then your creativity kicks in. That is when you know you are really following your destiny. Your insides are telling you that you can add value to what you are focused on. You have an impulse to get involved and make changes for the better.
Write down the names of two or three individuals who you think are creative. What character traits do they share? What do they do that makes them creative? Is creativity a designation reserved for artistic types only, or do you know of any creative people in the business world, healthcare, construction, or other fields?
Now, take a look at your own creativity. Do you consider yourself a creative person? If not, what is stopping your creativity? Can you think of ways to make it flow more freely? What can you do to nurture your creativity?
Enthusiasm and creativity are naturally linked. When you find something you really feel enthusiastic about, you will want to study it and get involved in it. Then, your creative ability will emerge—if you let it.
“The sense of this word among the Greeks affords the noblest definition of it: enthusiasm signifies God in us.”
— Madame de Staël
On Day 104, we mentioned that the original Greek definition of enthusiasm is “being in the presence of a God”. We haven’t really touched much on spirituality yet, but how do you feel about that definition? Does enthusiasm feel like something bigger than just you?
Explore your thoughts on the word “enthusiasm” as defined as “God in us” and write in your journal about what comes up. You can have a strong religious background or be an atheist and still ponder this definition. Being in touch with your spiritual views is a very important part of your individual identity and therefore an important ingredient for your success. You don’t have to adhere to a specific religious belief in order to be successful, but it is important to explore your beliefs and your values. The better you know yourself, the more capable you will be of reaching success.
Read the quote above one more time. What is your gut reaction to reading it? Is it negative, indifferent, or positive? Why?
Remember, there is no right or wrong answer here. The only thing you must do is be honest with yourself. You don’t have to agree with any of the statements mentioned. Explore your thoughts and emotions on the subject honestly. Do you think of enthusiasm as God within you, or do you prefer another definition? What is your favorite definition of enthusiasm? Write it down and put it somewhere you will see it at least once a day for a week.
“Attempt the impossible in order to improve your work.”
— Bette Davis
“That’s impossible!” Dan cried when he looked over the business proposal his partner handed him. “There is no way I can find the money to start this new branch of the business. This will never work. You might as well forget about it.”
He threw the proposal back across the desk at his partner and swiveled his chair around so that his back was to the man when he collected the loose pages and left the room in defeat. Dan cracked his knuckles and stared out the window, setting his jaw against the brilliant sunshine coming in through the blinds. There was nothing wrong with their mediocre business just the way it was. It was safe. They earned a decent living. Why did his partner always want to change things?
What do you think about Dan’s reaction? Do you identify more with Dan or with his partner? Are you willing to take risks, or would you rather play it safe?
Now, consider this for a moment. How exactly does Dan know the task is impossible? Has he tried it before? That’s a curious question, isn’t it? You really don’t know what’s impossible until you try it and fail. Even then, it might be possible if you learn from your failure and alter your plan accordingly. We’ve already established that failure teaches success. So why not give the impossible a shot?
Maybe it’s time to attempt the impossible. At the very least, you are likely to get further than you’ve ever gone before. Write about your thoughts on merits or insanity of attempting the impossible.
“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”
— Pablo Picasso
You will be considering the impossible for the next few days. Don’t worry, you will not be attempting the impossible yet—just thinking about it. Yesterday, you had an opportunity to jot down your initial thoughts on the merits or the insanity of attempting the impossible. Today, you get to think about what you might get out of attempting that which you cannot do.
Picasso was quite a successful and prolific artist. According to this quote, he attempted impossible things all the time. Could that have been one of his tools for success? Why would he try to do things that he could not do? Did he enjoy defeat? He says he did them to learn.
It’s a bold move to launch into something you cannot do. There is no safety or familiarity in that task, no chance to prove your knowledge and skill. It takes guts to be willing to learn something without the guarantee of success.
That is precisely why some people do it. They want to expand their knowledge, and they are willing to drop their egos and learn a new skill. In a way, they are heroic. It is a wonderful idea when you think about it. You are always armed with the potential to change and grow and learn new things. You just have to build up the nerve to make an attempt.
Your assignment is to choose three things you cannot do at this moment but you would like to do someday. You don’t have to attempt the impossible; just write down your goals for future reference.
“When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, suddenly the work will finish itself.”
— Karen von Blixen-Finecke
You may not know the name Karen von Blixen-Finecke. However, you may be familiar with her pen name, Isak Dinesen. Karen von Blixen-Finecke was a Danish author who wrote in both English and Danish. Two of her most famous English works were Out of Africa and Babette’s Feast, both of which were turned into stunning motion pictures. She offers very wise advice in this quote about a tactic that can be used when attempting the impossible.
When you are up against a seemingly insurmountable task, it’s best to break it down into smaller, more manageable parts. Then you can chip away at it a little bit at a time, and before you know it, you’ll be surprised to find that it’s finished.
It is intimidating to attempt the impossible. It sounds so . . . big. But if you start with a small portion at a time, suddenly the project seems manageable. Breaking difficult tasks down into smaller parts also gives you minor victories along the road to your ultimate goal. You can celebrate each milestone and know that it is getting you closer to success.
Take a look at the three impossible tasks you wrote down yesterday. Pick one and brainstorm ways in which you can break it down into smaller sections and work on it a little bit at a time. Come up with a date for completion, and then put your smaller goals along a timeline leading to your final goal. You now have a plan to achieve the impossible. When do you start?
“The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a man’s determination.”
— Tommy Lasorda
Determination is the fire in the furnace of every successful person. Only you decide whether or not something is possible, because you are the only one who has the power to give up on yourself or continue on until you achieve success. You are completely in charge of your level of determination. On a scale of one to ten, how much determination do you have? What can you do to build that fire of determination inside of you?
Well, you can do a number of things. First of all, pick a task that you feel strongly about. Do something that stirs your passions and sparks your creativity. Pick something that has real meaning to you. You’re not going to drum up a whole lot of determination if you’re barely interested in a project.
Secondly, break it down. You learned yesterday that it’s easier to achieve the impossible if you break it down into smaller chunks. Your determination to succeed will build every time you reach a milestone.
Third, be a hero and take that risk. Don’t be afraid to fail, because you know that you will learn from your mistakes. Failure teaches success. You don’t know what you are capable of achieving until you try.
Finally, launch into your impossible dreams with unbridled enthusiasm. Don’t hold back and never, ever quit. You control the fire in the furnace. How determined are you to succeed?
“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”
— Johannes Eckhart
Over the next few days, you are going to take a look at what prayer and meditation can do to help you on the road to success. If religion of any sort makes you queasy, don’t worry. Your next assignment is not to join a monastery. You will have an opportunity to take a non-denominational look at the value of each and decide for yourself if they will be useful tools in your quest for success.
Prayer is simply a form of communication. It’s a chance for you to talk. For some, it is communication with their god. For others, it may be a petition that is sent out to the universe or humanity as a whole. A prayer can be a request, a petition, a thank you, or just a thought that you don’t want to keep to yourself. It’s really up to you who or what you address in your prayer.
A lot of prayers seem to start with, “HELP ME!”
Johannes Eckhart suggests that the most important prayer is, “Thank you.”
What are you thankful for in this world? Make a list, and then find a quiet spot in your home or outside and read the list out loud. Thank God or the universe—or the doorknob if you can’t think of anything suitable to pray to—for these things. Communicate your gratitude out loud.
Prayer helps you to be mindful of what is important in your life. It helps you to put words to your joys and concerns and hopes and dreams. Give prayer a try every day this week, even if all you say is, “Thank you.”
“Everything can be used as an invitation to meditation. A smile, a face in the subway, the sight of a small flower growing in the crack of a cement pavement, a fall of rich cloth in a shop window, the way the sun lights up flower pots on a window sill. Be alert for any sign of beauty or grace. Offer up every joy, be awake at all moments, to the news that is always arriving out of silence (Rainer Maria Rilke).”
— Sogyal Rinpoche
Cindy had heard about the benefits of meditation for years, and she finally decided to try it for herself. She bought Meditation for Dummies and a bunch of CDs that included chanting monks, flutes, and wind chimes. She even found a fancy animal print pillow to sit on while she got “spiritual.”
She followed all of the instructions in the book, but she felt ridiculous. Time crawled by, and she was lucky if she could sit still for two minutes, let alone a half hour. One time she sat on her fancy animal-print pillow for a full forty-five minutes, but she didn’t think she could officially call it meditating. Her own snoring woke her up.
After a solid month of attempts, Cindy finally gave up in disgust. She couldn’t do meditation the right way, and she hated trying and failing every day. Maybe meditation wasn’t for everyone. She put away her pillow and her CDs and moved on.
Have you ever tried meditation and quit, because you got too fidgety trying to follow the rules? There is good news for you today! There are no rules to meditation. That’s right. You don’t have to twist your legs into a pretzel, chant words you don’t understand, and listen to freaky music to reap the benefits of meditation. All you have to do is be silent and pay attention. Your assignment today is to try silence.
“To meditate is to observe simultaneously the formation of thought and breath, and then let it go, without complicating it, without formalizing it, without identifying with it, without rejecting it, letting it follow its own way.”
— Allen Ginsberg
One of the great gifts of meditation is that the rewards far exceed the effort. As was mentioned before, there are really no rules for meditation. There are a few suggestions that seem to work very well for people, and they are to breathe, to be silent, and then just observe what happens. That’s it. Trying meditation is one of the easiest assignments you will have in this book.
Give it a whirl today. You don’t have to find a special spot in a dark room with soothing music. You can do it in the car on the way to work, on the subway, in your room, at your desk, at the gym, on your bike, in your favorite chair, wherever you want. Just take a few minutes to be silent. Feel your breathing. Then, observe the thoughts that bubble up when you have this small opportunity to be quiet for a minute.
Do not judge your thoughts. Just notice them and let them flow on by. Some people like to imagine their thoughts like clouds that pass before their eyes slowly and softly. You watch them, but you don’t analyze them or reach for them or try to do something with them at this moment. You just see them float on by.
You may be surprised at what thoughts pop up in the silence. You are opening a window to your soul when you take the time to be quiet, and sometimes amazing ideas show up on one of those puffy clouds. Other times, your body might just enjoy the break. In this exercise, though, the results don’t matter. It’s the action of meditation that counts.
“I have never wished there was a God to call on—I have often wished there was a God to thank.”
— F. Scott Fitzgerald
Meditation is an exercise in listening, and prayer is an exercise in communicating. They are both opportunities for reflection. Today, you will have another occasion to see if prayer is a useful tool in your life.
You do not have to believe in a particular god in order to pray. It is primarily a form of communication, so there are no prerequisite beliefs in order for it to be useful. If you do not believe in a god, then pick anything outside of yourself, and point your prayers in that direction. The idea is that you communicate with something outside of you. This is your chance to get your grievances, concerns, hopes, dreams, or fears out into the open so that they don’t weigh so heavily on your soul.
If you had an opportunity to give God or the universe (or your coffeemaker) a call, what would you say? Would you have a list of grievances several pages long? Maybe you’ve been saving a wish list of requests. You might also just want to say, “Hey, thanks. This has been a pretty cool ride so far.”
Give prayer a try today. Just like meditation, there are no rules. Prayer is an opening for you to communicate your feelings without necessarily having to confide in another living person. Your prayer can be as short as “Please!” or “Thank you!” On the other hand, if you have a lot on your mind, you can pray for as long as you want. Communicate today through prayer and observe how you feel afterward.
“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”
— Beverly Sills
For the next few days, you will be studying the topic of endurance. One of the most important things to consider as you strive for success is that you are in a long distance race. The road to success is not a fifty-yard dash. There will be victories along the way, but the path stretches throughout your life.
Now that you are aware of that, take your time. Enjoy the view. Don’t bother with the shortcuts, because they’re not going to take you where you really want to go. Part of the joy of success is to discover the places that are worth going. Where do you want to travel in this marathon? What would you like to see?
Choose a path that will strengthen your mind, your heart, and your soul. That is not usually the easiest and shortest route, but it is always the most rewarding. Be patient with yourself as you travel. Celebrate all of your victories. Rejoice when you pass each mile marker, because you are on a path that is gradually fulfilling your dreams.
You spent some time over the last few months discovering your dreams and passions in life. Are you on a path that is leading toward them? Did you take a shortcut to obtain immediate gratification, or do you feel like you’re on a road that leads to your destiny? Shortcuts might emerge in the form of frivolous pursuits, shallow relationships, greedy endeavors, or any number of distractions that send you on a detour from your true path. Look out for those shortcuts and resist taking the easier and less rewarding route. Your assignment is to journal about the path you are on today.
“Excellence is not a singular act, but a habit. You are what you repeatedly do.”
— Shaquille O’Neal (paraphrasing Aristotle)
Success is not a one-time deal. It’s a habit. If you truly want to be successful, you have to put in the work . . . continuously. Remember, endurance is important on this road to accomplishment. If you are pursuing your passions, then the effort shouldn’t bother you at all. It will be enjoyable.
Great athletes do not become successful by accident. They practice their skills over and over. They train like crazy to be the best—but they love the work, so all that sweat is worth it. Are you putting some sweat into your success? Are you practicing daily to achieve your dreams? Or do you still think success will be a one-time event that hits you over the head like a giant hammer when you least expect it?
Unfortunately, the things that sum you up are not the result of a one-time explosion of achievement. You are what you repeatedly do. If you repeatedly eat Twinkies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, then you can call yourself a creampuff. On the other hand, if you are in the habit of reading trade journals in your field of interest and applying what you learn to your day-to-day activities, then you are practicing excellence.
Your task today is to add one thing to your routine that you can do every day to practice success. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. A few options might be to get up a half hour early and practice meditation, hit the gym, take a continuing education class, or sign up for volunteer work with an organization you admire. Small steps taken continuously will get you miles ahead on the road to success.
“A lie has speed, but truth has endurance.”
— Edgar J. Mohn
Another important thing to consider when focusing on your endurance is the truth. If you are about to run a marathon, you make sure you have a really good pair of shoes. You want those shoes to be made with the best material that will stand up through the continual beating they’re going to take when your feet hit the road. Durability is infinitely more important than speed.
Similarly, you cannot build your journey to success on lies. A lie might provide you with a shortcut, it might look flashy and take you somewhere very fast, but it is not made of sturdy material. It will not stand the test of time, and soon it will be worthless on the road to success.
Assemble your success with sturdy materials. Make sure you have a strong foundation built in truth. That means if you don’t understand how to do something or you don’t have the necessary skills, the first thing you need to do is admit it. Be honest about your limitations, and be willing to learn new things and practice until you have the level of proficiency you need. That might take some time, but it is worth it. You are building a really sturdy pair of shoes for your success marathon.
Today’s homework is fun. Pull out those crayons, markers, or colored pencils again, and draw your pair of shoes. You are preparing to enter the success marathon. What do you want your shoes to look like? What will they be made of? Let your imagination go crazy with this assignment.
“Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing but to turn it into glory.”
— William Barclay
Endurance equals victory. Have you ever thought of it that way? You might equate endurance with something that is tedious, boring, and painful. Do you think if endurance is involved the event is going to be long and hard? You may be partially right. But what is the outcome? If you endure, that means you make it through. You win! You’re still standing at the end of the game. Endurance will lead you to glory, so it’s a trait you want to cultivate.
Another great thing about endurance is that it is a real achievement. It is never handed to you. It requires some sort of effort. If you endured something, you took it all the way to the end. You followed through, and you should be congratulated. You did not quit; you did not give up. You continued on to victory.
Is there anything going on in your life today that is unresolved? Is your endurance being tested in any area of your life right now? Write about that specific experience. How do you plan to endure? Imagine how great you will feel when you make it to the conclusion of this part of your journey. What a victory it will be! The outcome doesn’t matter. What matters is that you carried through to the end. You played the game until the final buzzer. That alone makes you a success.
Consider how you can use endurance to turn the hard things in your life into glory. How can you win simply by never giving up? What can you do to make sure you go all the way to the finish line?
“The burden becomes light that is shared by love.”
— Publius Ovidius Naso
All of this talk of endurance makes the road to success sound very arduous, doesn’t it? Are you starting to think that maybe success is not all it’s cracked up to be? Maybe you don’t really want to run a marathon. You’re not built for that kind of test. You prefer short walks to epic adventures.
There is good news for you today. You don’t have to attack this journey in its entirety. Break it down into those short walks. Travel a little bit at a time. You can run this marathon in a series of small jaunts. Take whatever number of miles you can handle in one effort, rest a bit, and then move on. Soon, you will look behind you and realize that you’ve come a long, long way. The only thing you must do is continue moving forward. There is another bit of good news: you have an opportunity to lighten the load you carry. You have already explored how important relationships are to success. Here is your opportunity to share the load through love. Love pumps air into every burden, and suddenly your cargo is as light as a feather.
Do not be stingy with love. Share your love and compassion with others. Lighten their load by giving them a hand, showing empathy, or simply offering a smile or a laugh. The more you love others, the lighter your own load will become. A race that tests your endurance is so much easier when you share the burden with those you love.
Your assignment today is to use love to lighten someone’s load.
“The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.”
— Thomas Edison
Health and nutrition will be the topic for the next few days, and this quote by Thomas Edison is a great way to kick it off. There are so many small steps you can take through diet and exercise that will increase your chance of success. Thomas Edison was not the first or only person to believe that nutrition can be used to treat the human frame. That is wonderful news! You don’t have to invest in expensive or painful treatments to improve your health and well being. Just practice making good food choices and incorporating some type of exercise into your routine.
This subject may be stressful for some of you. Maybe food is an ongoing issue in your life; maybe it’s not. Either way, you will probably pick up new and interesting information about yourself during the next week. Take an honest and non-judgmental look at what you put in your body and be willing to consider a few changes. There will not be a weigh-in later on, so don’t get nervous. This is a self-assessment. It’s a chance for you to get honest with yourself about your good and bad nutrition habits.
Your first assignment is to keep a food journal for one week. Get a pocket-size notebook that you can keep with you all the time, and write down every single thing you eat or drink each day. Don’t try to change your habits yet; just observe them. You will have a chance to go back and analyze later. For one week, all you need to do is document what goes into your body.
“Never eat more than you can lift.”
— Miss Piggy
While you are getting your food journal underway, let’s go over a couple of simple rules when it comes to nutrition. Miss Piggy offers the first one. Gluttony isn’t pretty. Try to avoid ridiculous food portions.
Notice the rule has nothing to do with avoiding particular foods. Instead, it suggests that you practice moderation. Most people enjoy pizza once in awhile. No problem! But a large, double cheese, stuffed crust, extra pepperoni every day fills you up with garbage that has nowhere to go but your waistline.
While you are filling out your food journal, think about your portions. Do you tend to supersize it? Or do you stick with pretty modest portions? Do you like to eat until you are so stuffed you can barely get up from the table? Or do you pick at your food and always leave a meal without feeling completely satisfied? Do you find yourself somewhere in between those two extremes?
Go back through your memory and try to remember the best meal you ever had. What did you eat that made you feel so good? Did you feel energized or sleepy, comfortable or stuffed, satisfied or wanting more?
Finally, write about your emotions as they relate to food. What do you eat when you’re sad? What do you eat when you are excited? What time of day do you enjoy food the most? Does food ever make you feel guilty? Is eating enjoyable to you, or is it a necessity that doesn’t provide much pleasure? Explore how you view food.
“A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools.”
— Spanish Proverb
This proverb highlights another simple thought to keep in mind. Take care of yourself, because you are the instrument of your success. If you were a successful mechanic, you would take very good care of your tools, because they help you to succeed. If you were a painter, you would pay special attention to how you store your paints so they don’t dry out. They are your means of expression, so you must make sure they are well cared for. If you were a computer programmer, you would constantly update your computer so it has the best software and the strongest protection from hackers.
Think about your body as a tool. It is literally the instrument of your success. Unfortunately, you can’t drop off your body somewhere for repairs on the path to achievement and pick it up when it’s fixed and in better working order. You’re stuck with it, whether it is working well or not. Your journey will be cut short if you don’t take care of yourself and make sure you are in good working condition.
In order to achieve your dreams, you want to have the best equipment you can find. You don’t want rusty tools that have fallen into disrepair. You want clean and vibrant tools so that you have every opportunity to put your best effort forward.
Write about how you take care of your health. Are you too busy to eat right and exercise regularly? Is health the last thing you think of when you are striving to make a difference in this world? Do you view your body as a tool for your success?
“The five S’s of sports training are: stamina, speed, strength, skill, and spirit; but the greatest of these is spirit.”
— Ken Doherty
Now let’s move on to the exercise side of taking care of your body. Have you ever taken part in rigorous sports training? If you have, you know that it is extremely hard work. If you have not, it sounds exciting and even a little heroic, doesn’t it? Most of us have watched the Olympics and been awestruck at athletes from across the globe competing at the top of their field. We marvel at what they are able to accomplish physically.
You have an opportunity to feel the excitement and gratification of physical accomplishment on your own level. Are you willing to push yourself a little in order to experience the success of a healthy and strong body? Your goal does not have to be participation in the Olympic Games. Concentrate only on making forward progress.
You may be thinking, “I am not good at sports. This is going to be torture.” It doesn’t have to be. It can be a joyful and enlightening experience if you’re open to it. Take a look at the quote above. The most important aspect of sports training is spirit. If you go into this project with excitement, you have already accomplished the most important part.
Imagine how great you will feel if you push yourself just a little bit harder each day. If you don’t presently exercise at all, then start. If you do, then kick up the intensity. You do not have to kill yourself. Your goal is to gradually and continually increase your stamina, speed, strength, and skill. The key to your success is spirit. Launch into this like you’re training for the Olympics, and enjoy witnessing how your body responds to healthy action.
“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.”
— Doug Larson
Today you are going to give yourself a break. You have been psyching yourself up to eat healthy and exercise, but let’s take a moment to get real. There are foods that you really enjoy that aren’t the best for you. Do you have to give them up forever in order to be successful?
Absolutely not. You do have the opportunity to tweak your regular routine to get healthier and stronger, but nobody is perfect. Allow yourself an occasional indulgence. Give yourself a day off from exercise. The point here is not to become perfect. No one will achieve that. You want to look at the overall picture.
So you had a hot fudge sundae last night. So what? What did you do the rest of the week? If you had a hot fudge sundae every day, you might want to rethink your choices. If it was a one-time indulgence, good for you! Life is not meant to be complete drudgery. Have a little fun sometimes. Those once-in-awhile treats are a lot more pleasurable if they only happen once in awhile. Enjoy them!
Your assignment today is to either skip exercise or eat something that is not particularly healthy. Don’t feel guilty. Enjoy this little delight. Tomorrow, you will go back to your regular routine and continue to progress gradually in the areas of exercise and nutrition.
Nobody is perfect. Enjoy small indulgences and then get back on track.
“Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy.”
— Isaac Newton
You have already explored the fact that you cannot reach success on your own. You need other people in your life. No one is an island, and it is important to be aware of how we are all connected. Over the next few days, you are going to further investigate ways in which you can get along with others. It is important to always be aware of how you relate to the people around you, particularly if you want to live a successful life.
Do you have tact? Do you even know what that means in your everyday life? Isaac Newton offers a great definition. Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy. It is truly an art.
Why do you think it might be so difficult to be tactful in various situations? Usually, the ego gets in the way. Someone says or does something particularly stupid, and you want to point it out. Your ego wants to show them that you’re superior. It’s even worse if they do something stupid and it affects you in some way. Then you feel superior and annoyed.
How do you curb those natural urges to let the person know they are a complete idiot? Try empathy first. Think about what it would be like if you were them. How embarrassed would you be if someone pointed out your shortcomings? It wouldn’t feel good, would it? Another way that you can make your point without making an enemy is to identify your own flaws. Maybe you’ve made a similar mistake in the past. You can share your story and how you found a better solution.
Practice tact today and give your ego the day off.
“True friendship is like sound health, the value of it is seldom known until it be lost.”
— Charles Caleb Colton
How many friends do you have? These are not just mere acquaintances, but true friends who would be there for you no matter what. How many people would consider you a friend? Are you someone who people can come to if they need a person to confide in? Do you lift your friends up when they’re down?
Human beings need friendships just as much as we need food, water, and other essentials. We have the unique capacity to share each other’s burdens and help one another through life. Do you nurture your friendships? Have you utilized this rare gift to its fullest? If not, you are discarding a very important tool for success.
Take a look at your friendships today. Where do you fall short? Is there someone you haven’t called in awhile? Is there a friend you can help today? When was the last time you told your friends that they are important in your life?
Write about your friendships. Have you lost a friend recently? Why? What does it feel like when you lose a friendship? There can be very legitimate reasons for ending a friendship, but it is almost always a painful process. Journal about what you can do to increase your circle of friends and take good care of the friends you have.
Friendship is a most precious gift. Do you treat it like that? Or do you tend to use your friends when you need them and discard them when you don’t? These are some tough questions to ask yourself. Try to avoid feeling guilty about the current state of your friendships and instead plan concrete actions that will strengthen these ties.
“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”
— Tenzin Gyatso
You have been keeping a food journal for one week now. Take a few minutes today to review it. Do you see any patterns? Pick out one thing you would like to change about your diet and start today. Maybe you would like to drink less soda, stop eating late at night, or avoid snacking in the afternoon. Pick one item and change your routine for the better.
Now, back to relationships. Do you believe your primary purpose in life is to help others, or do you think others should help you? That is a pretty important distinction. Living your life in service to others is quite different from living a life where you expect others to serve you. Draw a horizontal line across the middle of one of the pages in your journal. Put “helping others” on the left end of the line and “others helping you” on the right side of the line. Where do you fall? Are you habitually helpful, or do you really require help from others much more often than you give it? Put a red dot on the line to represent where you are today. Then, put a green dot on the line to show where you would like to be a month from now.
When you think about being a success, do you imagine living in a mansion with hundreds of servants taking care of your every need? Well, that’s not such a horrible image. Now you have a chance to add to your vision of success. How do you see yourself helping others—or at least not hurting them? How will you use your success for the good of someone else?
“Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.”
— Thomas Merton
Compassion carries a little more weight than empathy. When you are empathetic, you relate to how someone feels. That is a very important first step in relationships. When you are compassionate, you have a desire to help. Compassion identifies the fact of interdependence and carries with it the impulse to act. If you want to succeed in this world, then you have to take action to improve your world. It wouldn’t be very satisfying to be a success on a planet that is otherwise falling apart.
Your success is inextricably related to the well being and success of those around you. Success is not a ranking system. Many of us continue to think of it as a contest that we must win and others must lose, but that is not the case at all. You will bring others with you if you are truly successful. There will not be first, second, and third place medals given out at the end of the journey. There is no limit to the number of people who reach success.
Take empathy one step further today and practice compassion. That means when you see someone suffering, take action to help that person. It’s not good enough to just think, “Poor guy. It would be a bummer to be in his shoes.” You’ve evolved beyond that now. It is your job to offer assistance.
You will reach success if you reach out to others. If you don’t believe that’s true, give it a try for a few weeks. Witness how your life changes when you practice compassion. Discover the rewards of helping others. You may be astonished at the results. Success has nothing to do with elbowing out the competition. You must practice compassion to reach it.
“It’s the most breathtakingly ironic things about living: the fact that we are all . . . alone. Singular. And yet what we seek—what saves us—is our connection to others.”
— Wally Lamb
Your connection to others is what saves you from being completely alone. It is human nature to seek out those connections. You yearn for them, and they will bring real meaning to your life. So this isn’t just about learning to tolerate people or get along with them in spite of your differences. Your saving grace is the connection you have to those around you. Think about that today. People are not merely to be tolerated and occasionally helped. They are your saviors. It puts a different spin on things, doesn’t it?
Conduct a little experiment. Treat the people you come across today as if you have been searching for them your whole life. They are pearls in the ocean of your existence; they are treasures that you are thrilled to discover. When you make a connection with another human being, you are winning the lottery.
Why do this? Because that’s what it’s all about. Your connection to others is the name of the game. Do you want success? Then strengthen your relationships and notice the value of the people around you. If you don’t, it’s like being offered a treasure chest full of precious jewels and not even bothering to look at them.
People are not annoyances. They are fascinating and wonderful and unique and fallible—just like you. Don’t pass up the chance to experience the treasures that surround you every day. Stop and spend time with others. Add your own treasure to the chest, and become an integral part of the world in which you live.
“Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will be delightful, old age will bring few regrets, and life will become a beautiful success.”
— Louisa May Alcott
Playtime is just as important as the hours you put into work. Isn’t that great? You really must schedule time to play. Many people do not realize the importance of downtime until it’s too late and they are completely burned out on work. Does that sound familiar? Do you assume that you will be a success if you keep your nose in your work and your focus only on the endless tasks ahead of you?
The truth is you will be much more productive—and happier—if you reserve time to play a little each day. When your mind has a chance to relax and follow its own whims, there is no telling what brainstorms will emerge. You just might be handed some great ideas to consider when you return to work.
Louisa May Alcott brings up another very important point in this quote. Understand the worth of time. Schedule wisely. Time is a very precious commodity, and it should not be wasted. Playtime is not a misuse of your minutes, but the time you spend in indecision, fear, or remorse is a complete waste.
Your assignment today is to look at how you spend your time. Go over your calendar from last week and point out spots where you could have used your time more wisely. What are some things you can do to exclude wasteful time and add productive minutes for work and play?
“Necessity may be the mother of invention, but play is certainly the father.”
— Roger von Oech
In order to reach your full potential in life, you must draw on your fun side as well as your pragmatic side. Don’t get too serious about achieving success. It will block your true talents. You are not a machine. You’re a multi-faceted person, and one of the most beautiful aspects of your personality probably (hopefully) includes a little playfulness.
Think back to an assignment you did on Day 67. You started to construct a list of people you admire. Now is a great time to add to that list. Write down three or four additional people who you would like to emulate. Take some time to list all of the appealing aspects of their personalities. Are they fun people to be around? Are they inspiring? Are they smart? Do they have endless energy to accomplish the impossible? Do they seem at ease or comfortable in their own skin? Do others feel good when they are around them?
Highly successful people are rarely one-dimensional. They have a great combo of drive and frivolity in their lives, and it comes through not only in their ideas and innovations, but also in their ability to turn their dreams into reality. Successful people also share a knack of striking a great balance between necessity and play. They are almost annoyingly relaxed, and that might be because they’re happy. They enjoy life every day. They didn’t wait for the big payoff before they had a little fun. They realized early on that play is an important ingredient to success.
Practice your own success today by striking a balance between necessity and play
“For the main characteristic of play—whether of child or adult—is not its content but its mode. Play is an approach to action, not a form of activity.”
— Jerome Bruner
Here is a great secret: play is an approach to action. That is one of the reasons why it is so important to success. The pressures of real life can paralyze you with fear, but play almost never causes that reaction. When you play, you couldn’t care less about the outcome. It’s not real life. It doesn’t count. You can screw up as much as you want and experiment with all sorts of ideas, because you’re just messing around.
The content of your play is not all that important, either. It’s not a project you plan to turn in to your boss; it’s not a test; it’s not even something you will hold onto past the present moment. The immediacy of play is very liberating to your mind and body. You have the sense that you will not be held accountable for whatever happens, so you are willing to take a few more risks.
Play is an event that takes place almost exclusively in the present. Have you ever planned out every detail of how you will play? No. That makes no sense. Part of the idea of play is that it’s unpredictable. You’re just goofing around. The results are anyone’s guess.
Your assignment today is to play. You can do anything you want. Go to a playground and swing on the swings; sit down and draw or color; play a sport with some friends; take in a movie; or get out a board game and invite a few people over. Just go with whatever you feel like doing. After your playtime is over, think about how play is an approach to action and consider ways that play can help you when you get stuck in real life.
“Playing reduces stress, improves life, and increases creativity. Who doesn’t want that?”
— Stevanne Auerbach
What about the guilt factor? You can’t really take time out to play, can you? You’ve got lots of important adult things to do. What kind of guilt would you feel if you stopped working and sat on a swing for a half hour? That would be ridiculous and a waste of thirty minutes.
Stop those nasty little voices in your head that are admonishing you for taking time to play. It is not a waste of time. In fact, the opposite is true. Play is essential. Look at the evidence Stevanne Auerbach gives in the quote above.
Play has many advantages:
It reduces stress.
It improves the quality of life.
It increases creativity.
Seriously, who wouldn’t want that? Those are all important ingredients for a healthy, happy, and successful life. Do you feel guilty about play because it’s enjoyable? Well, here’s a news flash: you don’t have to suffer mightily in order to win success. Enjoy the ride! Not all of your tasks along the way will be difficult. If you are following your passion in life, most of the journey will be pleasurable. Get out there and play!
“Play keeps us vital and alive. It gives us an enthusiasm for life that is irreplaceable. Without it, life just doesn’t taste good.”
— Lucia Capocchione
Let’s launch into your project first this time. You have probably already discovered that it’s a good idea to keep colored pencils, crayons, or markers handy while reading this book. It’s time to bring them out again. Your task today is to draw a picture of how you feel when you play. It doesn’t have to be an actual picture of you, if you don’t want. It can be a series of symbols or colors or scenes. Whatever you feel represents how you feel inside when you play.
Now draw another picture of how you feel when you work. What pictorial description can you make for the way you feel emotionally when you do your chores or take care of the business side of life?
When you’re done, put both pictures side by side. Do they look similar, or are they drastically different? Take a close look at the differences between both drawings.
The quote above provides a perfect description of the importance of play in your life. Without play, life just doesn’t taste good. You need a little hot sauce on your meal—a little spice in your life. You need more than a series of tasks to complete in order to feel fulfilled and happy. Play brings your enthusiasm out. It gives color to an otherwise black-and-white picture.
You simply cannot achieve success without play. It is the extra vitality you must have to be a notch above ordinary. Enjoy the spice that play puts into your life.
“Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.”
— L. Frank Baum
Yes, breathing is good. In fact, it’s essential. But you already know that. Did you also know that it is a powerful tool in your toolbox for success—and not just because it keeps you alive? Over the next few days you will have a chance to try some exercises that will help you master breathing techniques that may become very useful as you travel the road to success.
Breathing is not only a life-giving element, but it is also a healing element. When you learn to monitor and control your breath at certain times, you can lower your heart rate, increase your ability to pay attention, relax, tap into your inner voice, and get in tune with your own body rhythms. Breath is the center of everything, and it can work for you in more ways than you may currently realize.
Your assignment for the beginning of this series on breath is to become a sort of scientist for a day. Observe your breathing as if you are observing a specimen. This may be more difficult than you think. Oftentimes, the minute you start to think about something that is as automatic as breathing you become self-conscious and uneasy with your breath. That’s no excuse to quit. Continue on, and it will get easier. What do you observe about your breathing? Where do you feel it in your body? Do you breathe through your nose or your mouth? Do you feel it in your chest or your belly? Write down all of your observations. Breath is essential and transformational. Enjoy the next few days of discovery.
“Many people now are seeking organic ways to heal themselves and feel good . . . Breathwork is the ideal alternative. It is free and completely within our conscious control.”
— Gay Hendricks, PhD
Organic remedies are all the rage these days. Everyone is learning the benefits of ginger, pomegranate, green tea, and various other cures. The easiest and cheapest natural remedy is breathing. It is free, and you can practice its healing powers anytime you want.
Maggie wanted to change the way she reacted in stressful situations. Her biggest stressor was her boss. She got flustered whenever her boss asked her questions, and she ended up sounding like an idiot. She was a fairly intelligent person most of the time, but the minute her boss started firing questions at her, she felt her heart rate spiral and her confidence plummet.
A friend who was involved in a daily yoga class suggested that Maggie pay attention to her breathing when she got in those situations and consciously take a breath before she responded. Maggie thought she might as well give it a try, and the very next day she had an opportunity. Her boss walked into her office and launched into a series of questions about a new project. Maggie took one split second to breathe in and out, and then she answered. The result astonished her. That one second gave her a chance collect her thoughts, and instead of a reacting like she was defending herself in a dodge ball game, she came back with a calm and intelligent response.
Every time someone asks you a question today, breathe before you react. Observe the difference in your response.
“Focusing on the act of breathing clears the mind of all daily distractions and clears our energy enabling us to better connect with the Spirit within.”
— Author Unknown
You know by now that you want to reach the spirit within you to tap into your true talents and unearth your unique gifts. Breathing is the express train to that place. You’ve studied meditation, and it is centered in breath, so you have already experienced what it’s like to use your breath to slow down and listen to your inner voice.
The other great benefit of breathing is that it’s like hiring a maid to tidy up your brain. If you focus on nothing but breathing, you will start to remove the chatter in your head. You will clear away the voices that are constantly saying things like: “Do I look fat in these jeans?” “Did I pay the phone bill this month?” “What should I have for supper?” “Did my son wash his hands after he played with the dog?”
That chatter is not important in the big scheme of life, and concentrating on your breath for a few minutes a day will help you brush away the small stuff to make room for your next big inspiration. You could have a great idea floating around in your head right now, but it’s lost in the crowd of your minor, distracting chit-chat.
Your assignment today is to take ten minutes to concentrate on your breathing. Find a place where you will not be interrupted—even if you have to lock yourself in the bathroom. Inhale for three seconds and exhale for three seconds. Then breathe in for four seconds and exhale for three seconds and onward until you get to ten. Then reverse the numbers and exhale longer than you inhale. Don’t assess; just practice.
“Watch breath, soften belly, open heart, has become a wake-up call for mindfulness and mercy, which takes people beyond the mind-body of suffering into the deep peace of their healing.”
— Stephen Levine
Breathing exercises, when practiced regularly, will give you the gift of peace. Measured breathing helps you to slow down and sets up an environment of mindfulness that automatically invites peace, healing, and a feeling of centeredness. You deserve to take the time to practice breathing and connect to your inner self.
You’ve already had some practice watching your breath and counting your inhalations and exhalations. Now add a soft belly to the exercise. That’s right, a soft belly. You may have spent your whole life trying to suck in your tummy. Now is your chance to let it relax a little. Nobody’s watching. Try it!
A relaxed belly allows you to breathe more deeply. Let the muscles of your belly relax, and then take in a nice, slow breath. A breath that goes down into the belly is much fuller and more relaxing than one that goes into the chest. Try both so that you can experience the difference for yourself. First, take a deep breath high in your chest. Raise your shoulders, too, if you want. Then, let it out. It’s a relief to let that breath go, isn’t it? It promotes tension rather than relieving it.
Now take a long, slow breath into your belly. It’s as if you are a round jug filling with water. Exhale. You should be feeling even more grounded and relaxed. Let your breath fill downward into your body instead of up around your chest and neck when you practice your ten minutes of breathing today.
“Fear less, hope more; eat less, chew more; whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more; hate less, love more; and all good things are yours.”
— Swedish Proverb
Leave it to the Swedish to sum it all up. Evidently, they are a practical bunch! Write this proverb down on a piece of paper and post it on your bathroom mirror, the cupboard where you keep your coffee cups, or anywhere you will see it daily. It sums up many of the topics you have been studying so far in order to achieve success. Concentrate on “whine less, breathe more” today.
Doug had an excuse for everything. He whined and complained nonstop. When he thought about it, he wasn’t even sure why he did it. At some point it had become a bad habit. He took a breath in, and he exhaled a litany of complaints, even if no one was listening. His constant complaining was blocking his opportunity for success.
Doug talked to a counselor about his problem, and the counselor suggested that he exhale without words. He had gotten used to whining when he exhaled. He needed to replace that with silence. For the next couple of weeks he practiced a different habit. He inhaled and exhaled twice before he let himself say anything. By that time he usually forgot what he was going to complain about. It broke him of his habit.
The truth is Doug wasn’t all that upset about any of those little things. He just got used to complaining. He needed to change his automatic reaction. By simply breathing, he changed his bad habit and made room for inspiration to replace his complaints. Follow Doug’s lead and whine less, breathe more today.
“The healthiest competition occurs when average people win by putting above average effort.”
— Colin Powell
Success doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with how brilliant you are in a given field. It has much more to do with your passion and your purpose. Average people accomplish extraordinary things every single day. They are able to do it, because they put in above-average effort.
Do you want to win this game, or are you just along for the ride? There is nothing standing in the way of you achieving success except you. If you really want this, then put in the effort. You can’t fake passion or purpose in life. Most people do not stumble into success through halfhearted efforts. They put everything they have into their dreams, because they believe they were meant to win. They are single-minded about their goals, and they believe without a doubt that they must be achieved.
Have you found something you are passionate about yet, or did you get bored and stop looking for it? If you have not done so, now is the time to find that one thing that really fires you up and makes you want to put forth a herculean effort. It is so much easier to achieve success when you believe strongly in what you are doing. It is also the healthiest way to compete. When you feel that you have a true purpose in what you are doing, you will be willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen.
Find that special purpose in your life today. If you have discovered your passion, then plot out ways that you can put an above-average effort into following it.
“Great minds have purposes, others have wishes.”
— Washington Irving
What’s the difference between a purpose and a wish? Write down your own definition of each in your journal before you read further.
Everyone has wishes. You might wish you were taller . . . or shorter. Maybe you wish you could sing. You might even wish you had something nicer to wear to a party you plan to attend this evening. Wishes are often dreams that will not come true without divine intervention or a fairy godmother. They are things that you want, but you don’t have the power to get on your own. There is very little chance that you can make your own wish come true. You might have the power to make someone else’s wish come true, but not your own.
A purpose is different. If you have a purpose, you are going to make it happen. You have a clear goal, and you’re drawn to it like a magnet. There is power in purpose. You follow your purpose in life, because it’s what you were meant to do. It’s your destiny. You are compelled to accomplish it. Wishes don’t have that kind of power.
Turn to a new page in your journal and make two columns. In one column write your purposes. What are you compelled or destined to do? In the other column write your wishes. These are the things you wish for on a star. Once you’ve finished, you can rip off the wishes side and throw it away. It’s fun to think about your wishes, but you personally can’t do much about them. Concentrate on your purposes. Focus in on them and direct all your talents to achieving those goals. You have the power to do it.
“Spirit . . . has fifty times the strength and staying power of brawn and muscle.”
You had an opportunity to think about spirit on Day 124 when you were studying the advantages of sports training. Today you will look at how it can add strength to other areas of your life.
Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 when he took his position at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was the first African-American to play for major league baseball. That in itself was a success, but Jackie Robinson had to prove that he had staying power. His spirit in the face of hate mail, death threats, and physical violence was a testament to the passion and the purpose he possessed. He paved the road for change and showed an entire country how to move toward integration and understanding.
Jackie Robinson knew his purpose. He never fought back when he was hit with pitches or insults. Instead, he let his spirit shine. He played in 151 out of 154 games, batted .297, and stole twice as many bases as any other player in the league. Jackie Robinson became the major league’s first Rookie of the Year.
How did he accomplish so much when so many people wanted to see him fail? He had spirit on his side. He didn’t need to use brawn. He had no use for ugly words and fighting. He had a purpose and a passion for baseball. Jackie Robinson knew he had a right to play in the major leagues, and he proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt in his very first year. How can you follow his lead and use your spirit instead of brawn to accomplish great things?
“The human race may be compared to a writer. At the outset a writer has often only a vague general notion of the plan of his work, and of the thought he intends to elaborate. As he proceeds, penetrating his material, laboring to express himself efficiently, he lays a firmer grasp on his thought; he finds himself. So the human race is writing its story, finding itself, discovering its own underlying purpose, revising, recasting a tale pathetic often, yet none the less sublime.”
— Felix Adler
You have been working very hard to discover your passion and purpose. If you feel like you are not quite there yet, do not despair. Keep searching. Consider this quote by Felix Adler and compare yourself to a writer. As you write your own history, you do not know for sure how it will turn out. You follow various leads, and the plot unfolds through time.
You don’t have to know exactly how you will achieve success. If you put in the work and continually search for your true passion and purpose, you will be on the right road. Everyone reaches milestones of achievement at different times. No one takes exactly the same path. Stay true to yourself and constantly explore your talents and your ability to contribute in a positive way to the world. You don’t know how the book will turn out, but you can take action to make sure it is an interesting story.
Some people know their purpose in life practically from the moment they are born. They are lucky ones. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart knew he was an exceptional musician when he was still a kid. He wrote his first symphonies at around age eight or nine. But you don’t have to be a child prodigy to have a successful life. Follow your passions, do things for others, and search for your purpose. Write a chapter in your own history today. Find yourself.
“I’m doing what I think I was put on this earth to do. And I’m really grateful to have something that I’m passionate about and that I think is profoundly important.”
— Marian Wright Edelman
Finding something that you are passionate about is not just a vehicle for success. It is a gift and something for which to be profoundly grateful. This book stresses that you continue to search for your purpose and passion in life, because it is an incredible feeling to know that you are doing what you were put on this earth to do. Have you experienced that feeling yet? If you have not, then keep searching like your life depends on it. If you have, then continue on that road and give everything you have to the things you believe are important.
Marian Wright Edelman established the Children’s Defense Fund in 1973. It is a vibrant voice for poor, minority, and handicapped children, and the organization has made an impact on innumerable lives. She is grateful to have something that she is passionate about, and her purpose is fulfilled every day when children are given help and hope. Marian Wright Edelman’s résumé is filled with purpose and passion, and the Children’s Defense Fund is one of many contributions she has made to this world.
Are you doing what you were put on earth to do? Do you feel happy and proud of what you have done to influence the world around you? Spend some time writing in your journal today about your purpose and passion. Ask yourself if you are doing everything to pursue your purpose in life, or if you have gotten a little lazy. You are not going to get a second chance. Start doing what you were meant to do today.
“ . . . When it’s over, I want to say all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms. When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular, and real. I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument. I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”
— Mary Oliver
None of us wants to think about death. If your life ended today, would you be satisfied with how you spent your time here, or would you be wondering if you could have done more?
Your assignment on Day 146 is to write your obituary. That might sound slightly morbid, but it is actually an opportunity for you to think about how to get the most out of life right now. It’s a dangerous move to put off your success and procrastinate participating in life. You have no idea how much time you have left to embrace it.
Don’t get too depressed about this assignment. You are not going to imagine that you kick the bucket today. Write about what they will say after you’ve lived a long, full life. What do you want people to remember about you? What do you hope they will say at your funeral? If you have a chance for assessment in an afterlife, will you give yourself a good grade? Imagine how it will feel to know you were an active participant in the world, rather than a visitor. What can you do today to make sure that happens?
“Our days are numbered. One of the primary goals in our lives should be to prepare for our last day. The legacy we leave is not just in our possessions, but in the quality of our lives. What preparations should we be making now? The greatest waste in all of our earth, which cannot be recycled or reclaimed, is our waste of the time that God has given us each day.”
— Billy Graham
Yesterday you wrote your obituary. It was probably a sobering exercise and maybe not that much fun, but it’s important to look at the big picture. Have you thought about your legacy? As Billy Graham says in this quote, it’s not just about the possessions you leave behind. You have an opportunity to contribute to the world in so many ways that have nothing to do with money or things. You will live forever if you touch the heart of someone else while you are here.
Kathy’s grandmother died five years ago, but she left a rich legacy. She was not a wealthy woman. In fact, she was quite poor. But Kathy thinks about her every day, and in some ways she models her life after her grandma. Kathy has a beautiful, clean home where family and friends are always welcome. Her grandma taught her that it is an act of love to clean your house until it shines. It shows everyone who enters that you care about yourself and about them. She also taught Kathy that it’s important to leave the light on and welcome family and friends whenever they need a safe haven or a place to feel loved. Kathy’s grandmother lives on in Kathy’s actions. She didn’t waste her time on earth. She filled her days with joy and love and gave that wealth away every day.
Write about a person in your life who left you a rich legacy. How would you like to emulate that person?
“The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example.”
— Benjamin Disraeli
Who are your heroes? Everyone has at least a handful of people who are heroes to them. What traits make someone a hero?
The most common response people give when describing their heroes is that they offer a great example. Heroes are larger-than-life examples of how to be a success. They are legendary, because they had the tenacity to live life to the fullest and seemed to make all of the right decisions when faced with adversity.
Heroes also live by a code. They have a high standard for themselves, and they follow that standard in all of their affairs. They set the bar way up in the stratosphere, and they achieve success because they are willing to adhere to their higher standards.
Your assignment today is to become a hero. This is not a joke. Today you will become a hero. There is no reason you cannot be one. The first thing you need is a mission statement. This will be your code to live by. It states clearly what your overall goals are in life. It says who you want to be. Write your mission statement today and live by it from now on. How would you like to define your purpose in life? Here is your chance to get it down on paper. You can’t ignore your aspirations. They are part of your innermost self. Now, what you must do is attempt to live up to those aspirations.
Be a hero today. Set your standards high in your mission statement and live by your own code of success.
“Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished. If you’re alive, it isn’t.”
— Richard Bach
You became a hero yesterday. How does it feel? Are you a little uncomfortable with that title? Do you think you already messed it up and don’t deserve to be a hero anymore? Here’s the good news: you get a chance to start over every day—every minute if you choose.
It is admirable to set lofty goals and try to live up to them, but you will fail sometimes. Even heroes fail. The beauty of life is that as long as you’re breathing, you get a do-over. You have an opportunity to change the way things are every single day and every single moment.
You don’t live in a static world. Your mission continues as long as you are alive, and you will be presented with a ton of new opportunities for change and growth throughout your journey. You have absolutely no idea what today holds, but there is one thing you can do to make it a good day. Participate!
Dive into your mission today, and remember the code you wrote yesterday describing your standards for how you want to live your life. You aren’t done yet. In fact, you’re just getting started. Enjoy your mission. It is completely, uniquely yours. At the end of the day, write in your journal about how the mission went on Day 149. List at least three things that were a success, and then list a few things that you could improve next time around. Then reset, recharge, and get ready to continue your mission tomorrow.
“Life without a purpose is a languid, drifting thing; every day we ought to review our purpose, saying to ourselves, “This day let me make a sound beginning, for what we have hitherto done is naught!”
— Thomas Kempis
You have done some pretty amazing things in the first 150 days of this book. Look back through your journal and review all of the work you’ve done. You are laying a very solid foundation for success, and chances are you are already starting to see a change in yourself.
Today you have a chance to review and reflect on the last fifty days in particular. Write about how you are changing and what it feels like to find your purpose in life and reveal the gifts you have to offer.
In a few short days you have practiced personal responsibility and kindness to others. You found out that failure is no big deal. You learned that you can actually cultivate enthusiasm without acting like a crazed lunatic. You have been a hero and attempted the impossible. You gave prayer and meditation a shot, and either or both of those might be part of your daily routine now. You have also gotten used to the fact that achieving success is a long-distance race. You will need to develop endurance to continue on this journey. You nourished your mind and body through health and fitness work and breathing exercises, and you even got to play a little. Finally, you discovered just how important relationships are in your life and you resolved to improve your ability to interact with those around you in a positive way.
You have done amazing work. Rest today and enjoy your accomplishments.
“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
— Jack London
Barry was ready for success. He had his goals in mind; he could envision a future full of achievement. He was just waiting for inspiration to hit him. Well, here’s a news flash for Barry: nothing is going to happen if you sit back and wait. You have to go after inspiration with a club.
Many people think inspiration is the ticket to success, but they don’t believe they have any control over how and when inspiration hits them. That is simply not true. Inspiration is nothing more than a great original idea, and it has very little to do with chance. In addition, it can’t be your ticket to success unless you follow it up with some leg work to turn your great idea into a reality.
So how do you get an inspiration? Can you force it? You can practice making conditions right for inspiration, and the more you practice, the better your ideas will be. Your assignment today is to list things that inspire you. Does music inspire you? Maybe art does the trick. Some people get inspired by getting out into nature—taking a hike in the woods or sitting by the ocean or skiing in the mountains. What gives you a sense of awe and wonder? What perks up your senses and makes you feel grateful to be alive?
Find out what inspires you. If you don’t know yet, then try things until you hit on a particularly inspiring event. Practice putting yourself in a place of wonder. It will get your mind in gear and help you tap into that innermost spot where your unique talents are waiting to be discovered. Don’t sit around waiting for inspiration. Go after it right now.
“Wait a minute. Maybe I can do anything.”
— Janis Joplin
You have done a lot of great work over the last 151 days. Are you starting to feel a little brazen? Can you sense the power you have within yourself to change your life and reach for success? It has always been there, and through this work you are uncovering layers of dirt that have been covering it up. How does it feel to know you’ve got the goods?
It can be an epiphany when you realize you have every right to be successful. It’s not just that you deserve to be successful; you have the talent to do it. You are not mediocre. You are not undeserving. You are actually entitled to be successful. There is absolutely nothing holding you back. Maybe you can do anything.
Today you get to have an ego the size of an elephant. (That doesn’t give you license to be mean to anyone, by the way.) You are all that—and a bag of chips. It doesn’t matter if you recently gained twenty pounds, lost your job, and got a gigantic zit on the end of your nose. Who cares? Even when you’re a complete mess, you are beautiful in the eyes of creation. You might be a beautiful mess, but you’re still lovely. And you deserve success, so get back in the game and prove to yourself that you can do anything.
No one else has your unique talents and gifts, and it’s about time you unleash them on the world. What do you want to do today? What goals do you want to strive for next? Pretend you have a huge ego today and zero doubts about your capabilities. Now write in your journal about everything you are going to accomplish. You can do anything . . . anything. So what’s it going to be?
“So-called inspiration is no more than an extreme example of a process which constantly goes on in the minds of all of us.”
— Anthony Storr
Inspiration is a process. It’s not a one-time sledgehammer over-the-head kind of deal. It’s constantly going on, and it gets really intense when you make the conditions just right for it to grow.
Dana started to practice inspiration. She went to museums, wrote in her journal often, and went for jogs in the park by her home. Most importantly, she spent some time alone each day. She had three kids and a host of commitments between work and family activities, but she still spent at least fifteen minutes of quiet time each day, just to give her mind a break. Before Dana practiced inspiration, she was constantly ticking off a to-do list in her head of things she needed to do each day. She was preoccupied with the minutia of her life and never got a look at the big picture. She was often overwhelmed, and there didn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get things done.
Finally, Dana made a commitment to practice inspiration. She took that fifteen minutes of quiet time each day, and she scheduled a date with herself at least once a week to do something that inspired her. Within weeks she noticed a change. She was no longer preoccupied with the little things. Suddenly, her mind was working overtime in other areas. Out of the blue she would get a great idea for a project at work or think of something she wanted to do to help a friend in need. Inspiration came at her from all angles and when she least expected it. Are you willing to make a similar commitment for a week?
“You are the embodiment of the information you choose to accept and act upon. To change your circumstances you need to change your thinking and subsequent actions.”
— Adlin Sinclair
You may remember way back on Day 2 you considered the fact that you are not a victim of circumstances. Your choices landed you right where you are at this moment. Personal responsibility is not the easiest road, but it is the most rewarding. Take responsibility for your actions, and your chances for success will multiply exponentially.
You have no control over what people say or do, so you can stop worrying about trying to change others. You have absolute control over what information you choose to accept and act upon. If someone tells you that you are stupid, you can choose to accept that information, or you can choose to throw it away as useless and false. It is not the fault of the person who uttered those ridiculous words. It is your fault if you believe them.
Think about what information you accept and what information you discard today. Dig deep and ask yourself if you have bought into any statements that are blatantly false. Don’t feel bad if you have. You have the opportunity to discard those untrue statements right now and collect information that is more conducive to your success.
On the other hand, sometimes the truth hurts. If someone tells you that you are not qualified for a particular job, do they have a point? Maybe it’s time to take a class and get qualified. Remember that you are the one who gets to decide what is true and what is false. You pick the information you will act upon. What information will you choose to collect and act on today?
“Just don’t give up on trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.”
— Ella Fitzgerald
Are you afraid to do what you really want to do? Why? Do you think if you fail you will have nothing left? Consider this: if you don’t do what you really want to do in life, what kind of life are you living?
Ella Fitzgerald provides a wonderful message in the quote for today. The final results really don’t matter. If you do what you really want to do, if you follow your heart’s desire, then there is love and inspiration involved in your actions. When you have those two things, you can’t possibly go wrong. The process is just as important as the end result. Life is short. Do what you really want to do.
Let’s say you really want to be a singer. You’ve been listening to Ella your whole life, and you want more than anything to sing like she does. But you’re afraid. What if you find out you’re no good? That doesn’t matter. Do you love to sing? Then give it a shot. Take voice lessons, join a choir, or go to karaoke night at your local tavern. Experience what it feels like to let your pipes make a joyful noise.
You might be a horrible singer. The people at karaoke night might start throwing pretzels at you and boo you off the stage. Who cares? You did it. You did something you really wanted to do. Check it off the list and sing in the shower from now on. Maybe you’ll discover that you’re pretty good, and months later you find yourself on TV in front of millions of people on American Idol. You won’t know the answer unless you do it.
“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.”
— Don Marquis
Ann was the queen of procrastination. She actually thought it was a good strategy. She let herself believe that if she put things off long enough, either someone else would do them for her, or she would find a way to get them done in a shorter amount of time because she was under the gun. She enjoyed the adrenaline rush she got when a deadline was looming. Never mind the fact that half the time Ann had to ask for an extension. She was happy with her strategy, but her boss was not thrilled at all with her performance.
Ann may have been comfortable with her plan, but it was not a good one. She spent all of her time catching up, and therefore she had no opportunity to get ahead in life. When she was constantly working on yesterday’s tasks, she never had the opportunity to reach forward for success.
If you want to have a successful life, you should be so far ahead of the pack that you are making news rather than reading yesterday’s news. Success comes with responsibility, and you have to be willing to work a little harder to get to the front of the line. Keeping up with yesterday is worthless. To achieve success you have to create the future.
Your assignment today is to stop procrastinating. If there is any part of your life right now where you are behind, take the extra time you need to catch up. Don’t start anything new until you complete old business. You will get a huge amount of satisfaction out of tying up your loose ends and taking responsibility for completing your jobs. Then you can move forward and focus on the future uninhibited.
“Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny.”
— Steven Pressfield
Do you think that you’ll change your life after something else happens? You want success, but you envision it happening down the road a ways. The conditions need to be just right. You’ll start that new business after the kids go off to college. You’ll talk to your boss about a raise right after you complete a project. You plan to start dating again . . . after you lose ten pounds.
Stop waiting. This is the moment for change, and you have the power to do it. You control your destiny. Thousands of choices are made every day—by you—that lead you toward success or away from it. It is true that you are completely powerless over other people, places, and things, but you do have the power to alter your own destiny, and there is no point in waiting. Work with or around or over or under the circumstances that you face, but never lose sight of your destiny.
Your job today is to do something. You have no excuse to wait until tomorrow. Take this moment to change your life. Don’t even open your journal today. Your assignment is not to write about your goals and dreams. Your job is to get out there and start working toward them. What can you do to use the power you have within you to change your destiny today? There are a number of actions to take. Pick one and take action. You have done a lot of writing about things you can do to achieve success. Now you have to stop dreaming and start doing.
“Tomorrow, every Fault is to be amended; but that Tomorrow never comes.”
— Benjamin Franklin
Tomorrow I’ll eat better; tomorrow I’ll go to the gym; tomorrow I’ll sign up for that computer class; tomorrow I’ll apologize to my spouse for the way I treated him or her; tomorrow I’ll work more and surf the Internet less. Sound familiar?
Tomorrow never comes.
Today is your reality check. You almost never do all those things you plan to do “tomorrow.” Procrastination is a trickster. It helps you feel comfortable with complacency. It lets you be lazy. Procrastination is a liar, too. It talks you into thinking that you are taking action by planning to take action on a future date. Not true. That date will never come. Planning is not doing. You are no closer to your goals if you say you will do something tomorrow. Your intentions don’t carry any weight at all in the real world. If you have a heart attack today, it doesn’t matter that you intended to get to the gym and eat better “tomorrow” for years.
You have to fight your impulse to procrastinate with everything you’ve got if you want to move forward in life. If you want to stay right where you are, then feel free to put off the actions that might bring you success. It’s your choice. Remember, you have the power and no one else.
Watch yourself today. What are you putting off until tomorrow? What are you actually getting done? Evaluate whether you are moving forward or standing still. Don’t forget that tomorrow never comes.
“Procrastination is the thief of time.”
— Edward Young
Yesterday you read that procrastination is a trickster and a liar. Well, it’s a thief, too. In other words, you don’t want to hang around with procrastination for very long. It’s a shady character in a bad neighborhood.
How is procrastination a thief? Think about what happens when you procrastinate. When you plan to put something off, you have to come up with a reason why, to make yourself feel better. You could spend all afternoon talking yourself into procrastination.
Tomorrow will be better, because I’ll have more time. Wait. I won’t have more time tomorrow. I’ve got three major appointments. Well, next week will be really ideal, because I’ll be done with one project by then, and I think I don’t have to take the kids to soccer practice that week and . . . oh, wait. I do have to take them to soccer. Okay, well, maybe I should start the whole thing next month. That’s a great idea! Start fresh next month. I’m not going to let myself feel guilty about this. I’m a very busy person. Life just gets in the way sometimes . . .
In the time that you took to have that conversation with yourself you could have gotten several things done. Procrastination is the thief of time. It takes planning, and the ridiculous thing is you are planning to not do something. It’s a complete waste of time. Spend today not procrastinating.
“If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.”
You’ve been reading about procrastination for the last several days, but today you will get a chance for rebuttal if you are a chronic procrastinator. There is a very slight difference between procrastination and doing things at the last minute. Ann kind of had a good point on Day 156 when she admitted that she enjoyed the adrenaline rush of working with a deadline looming. Some people actually do their best work that way. Are you one of those adrenaline junkies? That’s not all bad.
The important distinction is that you have to meet your deadlines. If you wait until the last minute to do something, that’s fine if you produce great work on time. But you must complete the job using all of your talents to the fullest. Pay attention to the results. If you’re churning out fabulous ideas and contributing everything you have, it doesn’t matter if you wait until the last minute. The point is that you did it, and you did it well.
Ask yourself if you are one of those people who enjoys the rush of doing things at the last minute. If the answer is yes, then take a close look at your results. Are you really showing the world everything you’ve got when you get things done at the last minute? If the answer is yes again, great! Knock yourself out. Have fun with the drama of sweating out last-minute deadlines. If the answer is no, maybe you should rethink your strategy. You have an incredible amount of talent within you. Everyone lets their gifts emerge in different ways. If you need more time to give your unique talents a chance to work their magic, don’t wait until the last minute. If you don’t, more power to you. Do it at the eleventh hour.
“I was irrevocably betrothed to laughter, the sound of which has always seemed to me to be the most civilized music in the world.”
— Peter Ustinov
Laughter is music. It is a delight to the soul and a wonderful way to tap into your inner self. You have read about many quiet and meditative ways to reach inside and draw out your unique talents, but the music of laughter has that same ability. It’s hard to fake laughter if you’re not really amused, so it comes from a place of truth and pure joy. When you really start to laugh it is like a song that bubbles up from a very deep place inside of you. It taps into your soul and opens you up. Laughter has the power to remove barriers and let you to enjoy the moment.
Laughter is a very present activity. It takes place right now. You laugh in immediate reaction to something you see or hear or do. Laughter will take you right out of regrets of the past or worries over what the future holds. It happens now, and then it’s gone. You have to enjoy it while you’ve got it.
Your assignment today is to take part in something that makes you laugh. Watch a funny movie, hang out with a friend who makes you giggle, or go to a comedy club. Or you could even try something that you haven’t done in a long time. When was the last time you went roller skating? That might give you a chuckle or two if you try it again.
Put yourself in situations where you might break out into hysterical laughter. Laughter is great medicine. It has the power to heal you emotionally and even physically. Stop taking yourself so seriously and have a little fun today.
“The more you find out about the world, the more opportunities there are to laugh at it.”
— Peter Nye
Life is funny. If you stop and take a good, long look at all the crazy things going on in this world, you will have ample opportunity to laugh. Have you noticed what a mixed-up group of weirdoes we are? It’s pretty hilarious when you think about it.
Go find a public place today and sit down and observe the human species in action. You can choose to go to a park, the library, a coffeehouse, or a mall, whatever makes you happy. Pick a place where you will have an opportunity to observe a lot of people. Bring your journal with you and jot down some of the things about this world that are really funny to you when you look at them. Study the way people interact with each other. Observe how they dress and talk and the kinds of gadgets they use when they’re out and about. Take apart every facet of our civilization and look at it as if it you have never seen it before.
Ask yourself what you have learned about life in the last twenty years that makes you laugh when you think about the absurdity of it. You may draw a blank at first, but think about this question for awhile, and soon you will probably come up with quite a few answers.
Life is wonderful and funny and crazy . . . and a little absurd. Enjoy it. Laugh at it. When you stop thinking of the world as a place that’s doomed and start thinking about it as a beautiful, unique, and very funny mix of opportunities, then the door is open for change.
“Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on.”
— Bob Newhart
Laughter provides a great buffer. If you completely mess something up, but you are able to stop and laugh at yourself, then you are in great shape. Have you ever tried it as a response to failure? It works beautifully. Laugh first, and then think about what to do to make it right.
Laughter gives you distance. It takes away the personal sting of falling short. Everyone screws up sometime, and it doesn’t feel very good when it happens. For some reason when we fail we think that no one else in the entire world has ever done so. That’s simply not true. If you want to prove your success, then don’t bother trying to be perfect. A sign of a successful person is how he or she deals with the aftermath of a mistake. Try laughter this week as a first step in dealing with failure. You will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you are able to recover from disappointment.
Laughter puts that cushion between you and the event. It lets you drop your ego and pick up the pieces and move on. When you put a little distance between yourself and your failure, you can see more clearly what needs to be done to make things right. On the other hand, if you are not able to laugh at yourself and you take failure very personally, you will dig a pretty deep hole of disappointment, and change won’t happen anytime soon.
Laughter is a wonderful—and efficient—coping mechanism. Practice using it whenever you face a disappointing outcome.
“Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.”
— Lord Byron
Never pass up a chance for a good laugh. The healing effects of laughter are no joke. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, and those are your body’s own natural painkillers. Recent studies have found that laughter can actually help prevent heart disease. It can also relieve stress, restore hope, and enhance your immune system. It keeps the cognitive function of elderly individuals in shape and lowers blood pressure. It’s even a good exercise for deep breathing techniques.
So why not laugh whenever you get a chance?
Maybe you’re thinking, “I’m just not that funny.”
You don’t have to be. There are loads of comedians out there. They need an audience. You can add humor to your life just by reacting to funny people or situations— or laughing at yourself in funny situations. Don’t worry; you don’t have to come up with your own material. Day-to-day circumstances will provide more than enough opportunities to laugh.
Maybe you’re afraid that you don’t really see the humorous side of things. Do you take life more seriously than everyone else most of the time? That’s okay. You can practice humor. Watch what other people find funny and observe their joy. Soon you may be able to identify with their humor and let go of your serious side a little. It’s not healthy to be serious all the time. It’s not going to make you successful faster. Learn to laugh, and then take advantage of this free medicine whenever you get the opportunity.
“Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.”
— W.H. Auden
For the last several days, you’ve learned about a number of positive reasons to have laughter in your life. One of the biggest advantages of laughter is its ability to draw people together. Laughter is a way to relate to each other that is purely positive. It is a shared experience in the present, and there is nothing serious or judgmental or sad or depressing about it.
Think about the five people that you enjoy spending time with the most. They may each have very different personalities and interests, and you’ve probably shared a number of positive and negative events with them. Is it safe to bet that most or all of them share one trait—the ability to make you laugh?
Laughter is a terrific tool for friendship. If you want to be a good friend to others, laugh with them. You know that you are not an island. You need other people in your life to share your joys and your sorrows. Humor is a way for you to be a really good and healthy and healing friend.
Your assignment today is to journal about what kind of friend you are. What characteristics do you have that make you a good friend? Then write about what characteristics your friends have that you really love. Can you learn anything from your best friends? How can you be a better friend? Spend some time with your friends over the next few days and watch how laughter draws you together.
“Almost anything is easier to get into than to get out of.”
— Agnes Allen
“What have I done?” Eli muttered to himself as he stared at the pile of bills on his desk.
Six months ago Eli launched a new business, and now he had nothing but debt to show for it. He had been so sure that he had the right stuff to pull it off. He had a great idea, and he took action. Soon he was buying office furniture, ordering materials, and building his website. It was so easy to get started. But then nothing happened.
Eli didn’t get clients as quickly as he had hoped. He sat in his office staring at his brand-new furnishings and high-tech website, but there was nothing much to do without customers. It had been so easy to launch this endeavor, but in six short months he had managed to fail. How was he going to get out of this mess?
Have you been in a similar situation? Have you felt like quitting when you were barely out of the starting gate? It’s easy to get excited and then end up in so deep that you have no idea how to get out. Eli found himself in that spot, but he did climb out of the hole. He took it one step at a time. First, he got a part-time job to help pay down his current debt. Then, he researched strategies to build his audience. He knew he had a great idea, but he hadn’t yet reached his audience. He became a master of network marketing, and six months later his business started to see a trickle of customers. One year later, he was making some real money. You can find your way out of any mess one step at a time, just like you found your way in. It might take longer, but be patient and keep moving forward.
“All things are difficult before they are easy.”
— Thomas Fuller
Another excuse we have for giving up before we find success is to say that the job is too difficult.
It’s too hard.
I’m not smart enough.
I’ll never learn this.
I’m just not cut out for this job.
Have you used those phrases? Think about the endeavors that you quit before you were successful. Were you really not smart enough, or did you give up too soon? Journal about your experiences with dashed dreams or projects that you gave up on in the past. What stopped you from trudging forward?
Things are almost always difficult before they are easy. There is a learning curve, and you have to be patient enough to get through it. Impatience is a big offender when it comes to ruining an opportunity for success. We all want success, and most of us want it right now. We’re not willing to wait.
If you want a true and lasting success, you have to be patient, and you have to be willing to learn new things. No one is immediately an expert. Embrace the opportunity to learn. It will eventually get easier, and you will find success if you are willing to be patient.
“To overcome difficulties is to experience the full delight of existence.”
— Arthur Schopenhauer
That’s right. The difficulties you face are gifts. When you face a roadblock on your journey and you find a way around it, that is when you get to experience the full delight of existence. Every difficulty you overcome is a small dose of success. It feels great. You have not really lived until you have had an opportunity to face a problem head on and find a way to resolve it.
Look at your difficulties in a different light today. Change them into opportunities to really live life to the fullest. No one gets through life without facing some challenges. How are you going to react to them when they show up? What would happen if you decided to welcome your difficulties?
You can whine and moan and wish that you didn’t have the problems you have, or you can choose a different route. Practice walking through your difficulties today knowing that they are offering you the chance to experience the full delight of existence. Find out what you can learn from your situation and how you can change. Come to the problem like a student who is eager and willing to discover new solutions.
Your reaction to difficulties is completely up to you. You will either choose to cause yourself more suffering by procrastinating, complaining, and wishing circumstances were different, or you will take steps to overcome your difficulties. You have the power to choose delight or misery. What will it be?
“The harder the nut, the sweeter the kernel.”
Pam is a novelist. Her latest book caused her more problems than she could ever have imagined. None of her previous books had been so difficult to write. She almost threw it in the trash numerous times before it was complete. She gritted her teeth and pushed forward every day, even if she didn’t have much to show for her efforts sometimes. Eventually Pam finished the manuscript, and a big-time publisher snatched it up almost immediately. It was her sweetest victory.
When Pam was interviewed a year and a half later, she talked about how the book was her hardest project ever and her greatest reward. It was not just because it made it to The New York Times Best Seller list. It was because she struggled and wrestled with it from the day she started writing it. The entire project was “like pulling teeth,” as Pam liked to say. She would go for days without feeling like she made any progress at all, and then she would get a small glimmer of hope that gave her the strength to continue.
This was a victory for Pam, because she stuck it out. She ran the entire marathon, and that made her a success long before the publisher accepted her manuscript, long before the reviews, and years before she sold her millionth copy. She had an intense feeling of satisfaction, because she cracked that nut. She stuck out the hard days, and she finished.
How do you want to feel when you look back on your achievements? Do you want the satisfaction of having done everything you could do to finish the race? Or do you want to wonder if you quit before getting to the sweet kernel of success?
“No tree becomes rooted and sturdy unless many a wind assails it. For by its very tossing it tightens its grip and plants its roots more securely; the fragile trees are those that have grown in a sunny valley.”
— Seneca the Younger
Your fortitude develops through the storms you face in life. You don’t need to build character and spirit and drive if you will never be tested. But in this world you will most likely face a few tempests if you hang around long enough. Growing up in a sunny spot where nothing ever threatens you sounds nice, but it won’t give you the chance to build sturdy roots and find out exactly how strong you are. You must face difficult times and prove that you can weather the storm.
If you are at a place right now where you feel as though the winds are assailing you from all directions and you are battered and broken, don’t lose hope. The storms of life will strengthen you and allow you to grow firm in your convictions and the knowledge that you have the ability to endure and thrive.
If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?
That question is asked by psychologists, reporters, and even potential bosses in interviews. What’s your answer? Your assignment today is to once again put your artists’ tools to work. Get out those colored pencils, crayons, or markers and draw yourself if you were a tree. Have you developed strong roots that allow you to stand firm against the wind, or are you frail and easily bent? What kind of tree do you want to be?
“The two great springs of life, Hope and Fear.”
— William Hazlitt
Hope and fear are two highly motivating factors. Which one rules your life?
Does fear motivate most of your decisions? It is an instinctual response to certain situations. If you are in a physically dangerous situation, then fear is a great natural response. For example, if a mugger tries to attack you, your fear instinct might help you to fight back or run faster than you ever have before. That primal intuition is valuable in fight or flight situations.
What about internal fears? Do you allow your mental fears to motivate your actions? Fear is useful if you’re being chased by a bear, but it might cause you to lapse into inaction when less-obvious factors are involved. What are your fears? List them in your journal today. Do you fear being promoted to a job where you have more responsibility? Do you fear talking in front of other people? Name your fears today.
Now let’s turn to hope. How does hope work in your life? Does it motivate you? What are you hopeful about today? Some people think of hope as a sort of vague idea, but it can be a very concrete reason to take action. What are your hopes? Do you hope you can find a new job? Do you hope that your kids will grow up safe and happy?
Look at your lists of hopes and fears, and work on crossing fears off your list and adding to your list of hopes. Hope has amazing power to motivate people. It is a positive force in this world that should not be underestimated. Fear is useful at times, too, but it should not be overestimated.
“We should often blush at our noblest deeds if the world were to see all their underlying motives.”
— La Rochefoucauld
Yesterday you considered fear and hope as motivating factors in your life. What are your other motives? A motive is anything that causes you to take action. Motives can be noble; they can be pure; they can also be sneaky, underhanded, or selfish. Someone may have questionable motives, and that means that they probably aren’t taking action for the right reasons.
What are your motives for obtaining success? Are your motives selfish, or are they noble? When you complimented your boss on his tie this morning, what were your motives? When you got up to grab a midnight snack after everyone else in the house went to sleep, what were your motives then? Sometimes very noble actions come out of very underhanded motives. It might not matter what the original motives were if the result is a positive contribution to the world.
What are your thoughts on motives? Do you strive to have pure motives, or do you want to get things done any way you can? Do you care if greed, selfishness, or fame is a motivating factor in achieving success? Or do you think impure motives somehow taint the final prize?
Motives are very interesting, because they are not always clear even to the person taking action. Think about your motives behind achieving success. Try to be as truthful as possible when you write in your journal about motives today.
“All actions are judged by the motive prompting them.”
Anita didn’t care if she lied, cheated, or stole to get to the top. She was completely focused on achieving success at any cost. Her single-mindedness left many broken relationships in its wake, but she didn’t care. Anita knew that once she was a success, no one would remember her motives. She would have everything, and she would be loved for her achievements.
She was wrong. Anita did achieve success, but when she reached the top of the mountain, she was all alone. People didn’t want to come anywhere near her, because she had turned into a pretty hateful person as she clawed her way to the top. Anita’s motives had not been the least bit honorable. She forgot that she could not use the people around her as opportunities for advancement. She needed to cultivate relationships and find ways to contribute positively to the lives of others rather than only taking what she could get from them.
It was lonely at the top for Anita. She had riches and power, but she had no friends. People judged her motives and decided they wanted no part of her. She was wealthy on the outside but bankrupt on the inside. Anita sat in a house filled with every luxury, but it wasn’t a home. She couldn’t even buy friends, because they were afraid she would unleash her ruthless behavior on them eventually. She learned too late that the most precious treasures are human relationships.
What are your motives? You will be judged by them.
“Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind.”
— Eric Hoffer
Yesterday you viewed the downside of having impure motives. Today you will have a chance to look at what might happen if your motives tend toward the positive side. You don’t have to be like Gandhi, but you can practice having good motives, and it could change your life.
According to Eric Hoffer, kindness can become its own motive. If you are kind to others, you will become a kind person by default. That makes sense when you think about it. It would be impossible to consistently offer kindness to others and remain an ugly person on the inside. You cannot put your life in compartments like that. Eventually, the real motives shine through, ugly or beautiful. You are the sum of your actions and your motives, and it’s very difficult to separate them and only show one or the other to the world.
Think about the intuitive feelings you get when you are around a genuinely nice person. You immediately feel at ease and happy and important in their life. On the other hand, you probably can spot a faker a mile away. How do you feel when you deal with someone who is outwardly nice to you, but you can tell it’s only because they want something?
Practice having good motives today. You might be a selfish person most of the time, but you can change that. Practice acts of kindness and you will become kind. There is no way around it.
“Had it been merely vanity that had made him do his one good deed? Or the desire for a new sensation? . . . Or that passion to act a part that sometimes makes us do things finer than we are ourselves?”
— Oscar Wilde
What happens if you just don’t feel like a “good” person? Do you wish people thought you were? Well, that’s a good start. If you would like to have pure motives and do good things in the world, but you are still drawn to the dark side, you have to practice changing your motives. That starts with actions.
Let’s say you are a liar, a cheat, and a thief. You can change. The first step is to pretend. No kidding. You can act as if you are full of good motives. Do things that you think a nice person might do and try to stop thinking about what you will get out of it. That’s all you have to do. You don’t have to suddenly change your stripes. Just act like the person you want to be, and eventually your actions will change who you are.
Are you skeptical? Give it a try. You don’t have to believe. Get proof. Give yourself a month and start practicing. This doesn’t work if you do one good deed and then forget about it the rest of the month. You have to continue to act the part. Perform as many good acts as you can for thirty days and then take a look at your results. Are people nicer to you in return? How do you feel on the inside? Has your self-image improved at all?
By the way, this works if you are basically a good person, too. You can be even better just by pretending for awhile. Let your actions dictate who you are for a period of time, and then evaluate the changes you see in yourself.
“It’s choice—not chance—that determines your destiny.”
— Jean Nidetch
Your destiny is not in any way related to chance. People who fulfill their destinies are not merely lucky. They choose success. They go after what they want, and they achieved it. It has nothing to do with chance. You’re not playing a card game here or rolling the dice to find out the outcome. This is real life. You determine what happens next.
You create your destiny every day through the choices you make. It’s not necessarily just the big choices, either, like what you decide to major in if you go to college, where you plan to live, or if you want to get married or remain single. Your destiny is determined by all of the millions of little choices you make, too. They may seem insignificant when you make them, but they add up like change in your pocket, and pretty soon you’re looking at substantial life choices.
If you choose to go to the gym today, you are shaping your destiny of becoming a healthy and strong individual. If you choose to help a friend in need, you are also fulfilling your destiny. You are creating a perception in their mind that you are a caring and loving friend they can count on. Let’s say you choose to go to a one-day job fair just to check out your options. It may only be a couple of hours out of your entire life, but it could change your destiny.
Refuse to let chance rule your destiny. Be aware of your choices today and remember that the small decisions have just as much power to shape your destiny as the big ones.
“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.”
— John Wayne
What will you do with the gift of a brand new day? Think about the way John Wayne describes it in the quote above. It is brand new when it arrives, and it is placed right in the palms of your hands. You can do whatever you want with a new day. What’s it going to be?
The pristine nature of a perfect new day is exciting. It is brimming with potential. When you wake in the morning, absolutely anything can happen to shape your destiny. You might discover something you never knew about yourself, or you could get the satisfaction of conquering a big problem at work or at home. Maybe you will spend some quality time with your family and remember how important those people are in your life and how much they add color and vibrancy to your days.
Your assignment today is to write down some of the things you learned from yesterday. It’s so important not to waste the gift of a new day by repeating old mistakes. Life is too short to play reruns of the less-than-perfect parts of your life. Write down the lessons you’ve learned, and apply them to this new day.
The universe wants you to learn from life and take each new morning in your hands like the precious gift that it is and mold it into your destiny. Be prepared to shape today into a beautiful day, no matter what outside forces blow through your life. Today is perfect, and tomorrow will be, too. They are in your hands. Have you learned from yesterday?
“What we call the secret of happiness is no more a secret than our willingness to choose life.”
— Leo Buscaglia
Dawn was miserable 99 percent of the time. She was a beautiful, smart woman brimming with potential, but she refused to step up and try something new or change the way she had always lived her life. She sat over coffee with her friends and complained about her weight, her job, and her relationships at least once a week. They offered ideas and advice from their own life experiences, but she looked at them skeptically as if to say, “well, you’re lucky. I’m not. This is just the way my life is.”
As a direct result of her actions (or inaction), Dawn was completely unhappy with the direction her life was headed. She had been in a string of mediocre relationships, never meeting anyone who was captivating enough to consider marrying. Her job was reliable but boring. At work her own clients told her she could do better, but their comments fell on deaf ears.
One day when Dawn returned from work to her small apartment, she sank to the floor like a wilted flower. “Will I ever know happiness?” she sighed to herself through tears of frustration.
Dawn held the secret of happiness within her all along, but she had to get up off the floor and be willing to choose life.
What do you do to choose life today? Are you happy? If the answer is no, you now have the secret of happiness. Choose life.
“In every single thing you do, you are choosing a direction. Your life is a product of choices.”
— Dr. Kathleen Hall
You have been considering your choices in life for several days now. If you’ve actively participated in the exercises of the last 178 days, you realize by now that this book will offer you no chance to pass the buck. You can’t blame anyone but yourself for your present circumstances. That can be a slightly depressing thought, but it is also liberating. It doesn’t mean that everything is your fault. It means that you have the power to change anything you want from here on out.
It is exhilarating to find out that life is a product of your choices. Think about the alternative. How disheartening would it be to find out life is the product of other people’s choices? You would be tempted to give up on the whole journey if you had no say in the direction. Lucky for you, that is not the case.
Your assignment is to look back on the last seven days of your life. Write down all the choices you made over the last week in your journal. That’s a pretty daunting task, isn’t it? You most likely made thousands of choices, but just come up with the highlights. Next to each choice write a few words about the direction you took as a result of that choice. Now sit back and examine the results of your week. How does it look as a whole? Did you make good choices for the most part? If your plotted your direction on a chart, would it be all over the place, would it be all downhill, or would you be steadily climbing toward success? Your life is a product of your choices. Take them seriously.
“I believe that we are solely responsible for our choices, and we have to accept the consequences of every deed, word, and thought throughout our lifetime.”
— Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
It is extremely liberating to know that you always get to choose the direction you take in life. You are in complete control. Unfortunately, that also comes with some responsibility. If you want to accept the glory when you achieve success, you also must be willing to accept the consequences when you screw up.
Do you believe there are consequences to every deed, word, and thought you have throughout your lifetime? Write in your journal for at least fifteen minutes to answer to that question. Are there always consequences, or do you feel like you probably get away with some things in life unscathed? Can there be consequences to your thoughts if you don’t follow through and act on them?
Consider this brain teaser: if you really can’t stand someone at work, but you never say anything mean to them or do anything harmful to that person, are there any consequences to your thoughts?
Do you think about consequences much? It can be debilitating to worry too much about consequences and never have the guts to move forward and take action. But it can also be damaging if you forge ahead without regard to the potential penalties. There must be a balance. Your choices can bring you success, but there will be good or bad consequences to all of your actions. You have to take responsibility for it all if you want to take credit for any of it.
“Uncertainty is the refuge of hope.”
— Henri Frederic Amiel
Uncertainty doesn’t have a very good connotation, especially when you think about it in relation to your life. It brings up thoughts of doubt, mistrust, and skepticism. You would probably rather have guarantees. If you use uncertainty to describe your situation, it sounds like you don’t believe in yourself.
Your assignment on Day 181 is to consider an alternate definition of uncertainty. What if uncertainty means that there are no limits to the possibilities before you? Your future is uncertain, because it hasn’t been decided yet whether it’s going to be really good, great, or over-the-top fantastic. The sky is the limit to what you can achieve if your future is uncertain. If it’s guaranteed, then you’re stuck with what you’ve got.
Write down in your journal all of the things that have not yet been determined in your life. What is uncertain? Make a list of everything you can think of that’s still up for grabs.
What you have just done is create a list of opportunities. You can do anything you want with that list. Go for it, because nothing is set in stone. You can be wildly successful in any of those areas if you choose to chase the opportunities.
What steps can you take to turn even one uncertainty on that list into a huge opportunity for success? You can use the ambiguity it represents to break all the rules and go for it. Uncertainty is the refuge of hope. The fact that the future is yet to be decided means that you still have an opportunity to shape your success.
“Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.”
It is unpleasant to be doubtful, but doubt occupies some part of any thinking person’s life. The fact that you have doubts shows that you are considering situations from every angle. You realize that you might not have all the right answers, and you seek further confirmation. There is nothing wrong with that. Doubt often leads to striving for knowledge, and that can ultimately bring you success.
Certainty, on the other hand, is completely absurd. There is almost nothing that you can claim with absolute certainty. For example, you do not know what will happen in the future. You might have a pretty good hunch about things, but you cannot predict any of it without a doubt. If someone is certain about their future, be very wary of this individual. They are either delusional, or they’re pulling your leg.
A feeling of certainty about things can also bring with it a position of close-mindedness. Tina’s grandmother was certain that all people in the acting profession had loose morals, but that was not reality. It was what she guessed to be true, and she refused to think about whether or not she could be wrong. She wouldn’t let doubt concerning her convictions lead her to search for the truth. She wanted to be right, and she didn’t want to think about it too much, so she fabricated a certainty in her mind.
Pay attention to where and when you have doubts today. Let your doubts lead you to new knowledge, and don’t worry if they make you feel uncomfortable for a brief period.
“Without a measureless and perpetual uncertainty, the drama of human life would be destroyed.”
— Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill was right. There would be no drama in life if we didn’t have uncertainty. We don’t know how this book ends, and that’s part of the fun. Can you imagine how boring your life would be if everything was certain? Not only would you miss the surprises in life, but you also wouldn’t have an opportunity to change your destiny.
A few days ago you pondered the idea that your days include thousands of choices, and each one of those choices shapes your destiny. Everyone else in this world is doing the same thing, and that is why our collective future is uncertain. There are billions of variables. The drama of human life unfolds before us moment by moment in all its beauty and tragedy. Do you really want to know how it turns out? You are a lead character in this drama. How is your plot developing?
Uncertainty is something you can count on every day for the rest of your life. You can choose to fret about it and rail against it and wish it wasn’t so, or you can choose to revel in its possibilities and take advantage of the perpetual uncertainty. Have fun with the drama of life. Take healthy risks and see what happens. Try something new and find out where it takes you. Run a little bit longer on the treadmill or get on one of those weird-looking machines that you’ve never used before at the gym and find out which muscles will be sore tomorrow.
Embrace the drama of human life in all of its uncertainty. It is your story.
“The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next.”
— Ursula K. Le Guin
Don was a terrific businessperson. He had great instincts and quite a bit of knowledge in his field, but unfortunately he also had a high level of fear. He couldn’t stand the uncertainty of not knowing how a new job opportunity would turn out. Therefore, Don often passed up new opportunities. He waited for a sure thing to come along, and it never did.
Years later, Don was still in about the same place he started with the firm. He had all of the skills he needed to be promoted, but he found the uncertainty intolerable. When he refused to take risks, he forfeited his chance to reach the level of success that he was capable of obtaining. Don wanted to feel as though he was in control of the outcome at all times, and that severely limited him.
How are you at tolerating uncertainty in your life? Write about your feelings in your journal today. If you can’t stand uncertainty, there are a few things you can do to combat your feelings. First of all, list your fears. What are you afraid of when you don’t know what comes next? Write down your worst fears and get them out in the open. Another thing you can do is take action. You have the power to shape your future by taking positive steps to make the conditions right for a successful outcome. You don’t know what comes next, but you do know how to actively chase your future. Uncertainty is what makes life possible. Learn to embrace uncertainty with wonder and excitement, not dread and fear.
“Uncertainty and mystery are energies of life. Don’t let them scare you unduly, for they keep boredom at bay and spark creativity.”
— R.I. Fitzhenry
Do you like a good mystery? You’re living one right now. Your life does not have to be a horror film, though. It can be an exciting mystery, where the twists and turns lead to a successful conclusion. Don’t be scared of uncertainty. You know that the person who freezes with fear in a scary movie usually bites the dust. You don’t want to be that character. Anything can happen. Uncertainty might not lead to your destruction. It might be just the inspiration you are seeking to get to your happy ending.
Have you ever considered the idea that uncertainty and mystery are the energy that fuels your life? They can be your muses and propel you to follow your creative impulse. Not knowing what is going to happen sparks the question “what if.” That draws out your unique talents. You don’t know what the right answer is, so you are free to wonder about the possibilities.
List the ten best movies you have ever seen. Then take a look at your list and put those movies in categories. Are they love stories, mysteries, scary movies, adventure films, or something else? How do you think the movies you enjoy reflect your real life? Are they parallel to your life, or are they completely opposite? Do you like heart pounding thrillers, but in real life you rarely leave the house after dark?
Is the movie of your life a boring remake of an old, predictable theme? Or is your movie filled with excitement and surprises at every turn?
“We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.”
— John Naisbitt
Unless you have been living in a cave for the last few years, you know that we are lucky enough to exist in a time when technology makes massive amounts of information easily accessible. You can Google just about anything and instantly receive hundreds of reports, articles, blogs, websites, and the like describing the topic of interest. In many ways, that is a huge advantage. You have access to information now that would have been difficult to find a few short years ago. The opportunity for you to collect hoards of information without ever leaving your home is infinite.
That is an incredibly exciting prospect, because it levels the playing field. You have an equal opportunity today. You can access much of the same information that other people use to obtain success. If you are willing to do the work, you can gather up all sorts of facts and figures that will help you achieve your dreams.
On the other hand, information means nothing if it is not verified or applicable to your life. What you are ultimately striving for is knowledge. What’s the difference? Journal for a few minutes today about what you believe the difference is between information and knowledge.
Here are a few more questions to consider while you are writing in your journal: When you look something up on the Internet, how do you know it’s true? What information do you look for, and how do you use it? Are you drowning in information but starved for knowledge today?
“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.”
— Benjamin Spock
Another interesting side effect of this “information age” is that many people stop trusting their instincts. They want to check their ideas with an expert before making any sudden moves.
Brenda was tired of her children spending too much time on the computer. When she was a kid, she was always outside playing with the other children in the neighborhood. She fondly remembers the forts they made and the elaborate games they cooked up in each other’s backyards. Their parents had to yell at them to come inside when it was dinnertime, because they were having such a great time together.
Brenda wanted to encourage her own children to get out of the house and into some physical activity, too. She herded them out of their rooms where they were isolated on their laptops, chatting with friends online and playing video games.
“Why don’t you go outside and play for awhile?” Brenda suggested. “It’s a beautiful day.”
The kids agreed, but all three of them momentarily ducked back into their rooms to prepare. When she followed them, she found out they were looking up ideas online for games to play outside.
This might sound like a ridiculous story to you, but it happens all the time. How often do you check online to see if your instincts fit in with what the general population is doing? Are there ways you can trust yourself more?
“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.”
— Kofi Annan
Kofi Annan was the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, serving from 1997 to 2006, and he won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2001 jointly with the United Nations. He speaks English, French, and several African languages fluently. Kofi Annan has used his education as a powerful tool to become a global leader and work diligently on important issues from human rights to the world economy. One of his strengths is his knowledge. He has the ability to look at problems individually and also globally and highlight the point that personal issues affect the entire world.
The biography of Kofi Annan is a powerful testament to the fact that knowledge is power, whether you agree with his policies and decisions or not. Information is liberating, and education is the premise of progress.
You have no excuse to remain in the dark today. You have access to the tools that will bring you knowledge and aid your progress in this world. How are you building your knowledge right now? What are you doing to liberate yourself from the bonds of ignorance? No one is going to take those steps for you. You cannot blame your lack of education for your failure. You can obtain knowledge in so many ways today, and you do not have to pay a heavy tuition to get it.
What are you doing to obtain the knowledge you need to achieve success in your life?
“Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.”
— Gertrude Stein
Paul had a flat tire one morning. He went online immediately to find the tire shops closest to his house. None of them were open yet, so he called in to work and told his boss he would be a bit late. In the meantime, Paul spent an hour on the Internet. By the time the shop opened at eight o’clock in the morning, Paul had checked out the bus and train routes online, used MapQuest to find out how many miles it was to his office, and used another site calculate the time it would take to ride a bike there, joined an online carpooling network, and submitted a down payment for an electric-assist bicycle.
Paul could have done some work from home, but instead he got sucked into the black hole of information that is available to him through any number of technological devices. He started looking for answers, and his common sense went right out the window.
Has this ever happened to you on some level? You are on the receiving end of a lot of information every day through TV, radio, and the Internet, not to mention other human beings who have also picked up tidbits they would like to share. What do you do to stop the noise and maintain your common sense?
Information isn’t everything. It is also important to have face-to-face communication, relationships, wonder, and peace and quiet, among other things. What can you practice in your everyday life to make sure that you don’t lose your common sense when you go searching for information?
“Technology is so much fun but we can drown in our technology. The fog of information can drive out knowledge.”
— Daniel J. Boorstin
You have been thinking and writing in your journal about the difference between information and knowledge for several days now. What are some of the conclusions you have drawn?
Information is merely a collection of data. Knowledge is what you have when you are able to turn information into understanding. It usually comes through experiencing whatever you are learning about. A blind person could be given a stack of information on paper, but it would mean nothing to them, because they have no way of turning that information into understanding. A person who is born and raised at the North Pole could hear stories about what it’s like to live in Florida, but they don’t have real knowledge of what it feels like to sit in the blazing sun and sweat on a sandy beach in Ft. Meyers in July until they are able to experience it themselves.
Information can be a tool for success, but it is important to build your skills at picking out only the information that is important to you and then utilizing that information to develop your knowledge. If you are greedy with information and grab a hold of everything you can get, you will be swimming in data, and it will be difficult to figure out what is important to your ultimate success and what isn’t. Technology is a lot of fun, and it can certainly help you get ahead in life. Just make sure that you are not drowning in information.
“One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can’t utter.”
— James Earl Jones
James Earl Jones is an extraordinary American actor, who is probably most widely known for his portrayal of Darth Vader in the popular Star Wars movies. Did you know he is also a stutterer? He said in an interview that he practically gave up talking until high school when an English teacher found out he secretly wrote poetry.
The teacher said, “No one will believe you wrote this, Jim. You should get up in front of the class and read it.”
The mere idea must have struck terror into the heart of James Earl Jones, but it was a big compliment coming from his teacher. He wanted very badly to prove that the poem was his, so he overcame his fear and got up in front of the class. He was able to read the entire poem without stuttering.
The teacher’s response was, “Now we have something to work with.”
It’s hard to believe that someone with the big, booming, confident voice of James Earl Jones was afraid to speak in public when he was a young man. What an amazing talent emerged when he was able to overcome his obstacle and continue to move toward his destiny.
What obstacles do you face today? List them in your journal. Then write about ways you can overcome them. No one on earth is without challenges. The trick is to conquer them and continue on toward your goal. Success will be so much sweeter after you’ve overcome difficulty to get to the rewards.
“We do on stage things that are supposed to happen off. Which is a kind of integrity, if you look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.”
— Tom Stoppard
Theatre is not real. Sometimes it imitates real life, but it is a fantasy world. However, there is a very important real-life lesson that can be learned from life on the stage. Every exit is an entrance somewhere else.
What would happen if you treated your real life that way? Often an exit seems like the end of something in the real world. If you are fired from a job, you may think you will never find such a great position in another firm. You feel like you are at a dead end, or at least a brick wall. Change that thinking. The end of your job is actually the first day of a new adventure, and you have no idea where that new entrance will take you. You suddenly have opportunities that you never had before. You can try your hand at a completely different profession if you want. Maybe you left an accounting firm, but you’ve always secretly wanted to be a chef. Now’s your chance! What a terrific twist of fate!
You are the one who chooses whether an event is labeled as an obstacle or an opportunity. You are writing this script. A change in plans is only devastating if you make it so. Pick one of the obstacles you listed yesterday and work on some concrete ways you can turn the obstacle into an opportunity. How can you make that exit and entrance to a whole new world? Don’t come up with a superficial answer to this assignment. Really get into some tangible ways that you can change your circumstances. You are in control of this play, and you can choose where this entrance will lead you.
“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”
— Henry Ford
Chad was only five years old when he was captured in a fire in his apartment building. His mother rushed to retrieve his baby brother from a crib in the bedroom, and when she returned, Chad was gone. He had been too scared to stay put and retreated to the roof to escape the smoke and flames.
A firefighter found him coughing on a ledge twenty-five stories above the ground, and he coached Chad along the narrow ridge and into the safety of a cherry picker where the he was waiting with open arms.
After a tearful reunion with his mother, Chad was interviewed by one of the local TV news crews. They asked him how he was able to have the courage to balance along that thin ledge to safety.
Chad replied simply, “I walked to the fireman.”
Sometimes it’s best not to even look at obstacles. They can be a frightening sight. If you keep your eyes fixed on your goal and continue moving forward, you may never know about some of the close calls you had along the way.
What are some ways that you can concentrate on your goals for success and avoid wasting time and energy worrying about the obstacles along your path? That doesn’t mean that you remain ignorant of the problems you face. The suggestion here is that you give more time and attention to your goals. Obstacles can be frightening, and the more you pay attention to them, the stronger they become. Don’t give them an audience.
“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.”
— Frank A. Clark
That is an interesting quote, isn’t it? What was your initial reaction when you read those words by Frank A. Clark? Your assignment today is to journal for twenty minutes using that quote as a topic. Try to keep your hand moving the entire time. Don’t stop writing, no matter what. One enlightening form of journaling is to keep the pen moving even if you are writing “I don’t know what to write” across the page. Eventually, your honest feelings will emerge if you keep practicing putting pen to paper and don’t give your mind any time off to rest or distract you.
You choose your path in life. Did you pick an easy hike? Did you try to find a route that had few or no obstacles? If the answer is yes, how do you like the journey so far? Are you bored out of your mind? Maybe you feel like you’re walking in circles, because the view never really changes.
You can change your path right now. You can opt for more treacherous terrain if you’re up for the challenge. The bigger the challenge, the greater the rewards. Would you like to travel along an interesting road that is sometimes laced with failure but leads to spectacular views, or would you rather take an easy path that leads nowhere? It’s completely up to you. You are the tour guide on this excursion.
Just remember, if you are not happy with where you are you have the power to alter your trip itinerary. Do you want to travel to new heights, or do you want to go nowhere?
“There seemed to be endless obstacles . . . it seemed that the root cause of them all was fear.”
— Joanna Field
You have been journaling about overcoming obstacles for the last several days. Obstacles do come up in life. That’s something you can count on. How many of them did you create yourself?
Some of the obstacles you face in life are just there. You didn’t put them there. They are a byproduct of living in an unpredictable world. Your challenge is to find a way to overcome them when you encounter them.
But what about the obstacles you create?
You may be thinking, “What? I don’t create obstacles. Why would I sabotage myself?”
Are you sure about that? You might be doubling the obstructions you face by creating obstacles that aren’t really there. Those obstacles are trickier to deal with, because they change shape. They get bigger when your fear grows, and they show up when you feel the most vulnerable. Those are also the obstacles that you have the power to obliterate completely. You don’t have to deal with them. You can zap them out of your life.
Look back at the list of obstacles you made in your journal several days ago. Take a close look at them and try to ascertain whether they are real or a fabrication you created in your mind. If you find out some of those obstacles are a product of your imagination, you can cross them right off your list. Zap their power. They can’t hurt you. You can walk right through them.
“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious . . . and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
— Walt Disney
It’s not very productive to look backwards. You can’t do anything about your past. On the other hand, you can do anything you want with your future. Walt Disney was a stunning example of success because he was always moving forward.
Curiosity is a great tool for moving forward, because it lacks judgment. You don’t ask if something is correct or perfect. You ask yourself questions like:
What does that do?
Where does that path lead?
What would happen if I do this?
What would that look like?
What if I looked at it this way?
I know what’s behind door number one. Now what’s behind door number two?
When was the last time you used the tool of curiosity to lead you toward success? Have you asked any of these questions or similar ones lately? Make time to be curious today. Don’t worry about past mistakes. They don’t matter anymore. Keep moving forward. You’ve got an endless supply of doors to open and paths to walk down.
“The most important thing to remember is this: To be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become.”
— W. E. B. Du Bois
It’s hard to give up things. Watch any TV game show, and you will see people struggling with it. They can keep the one thousand dollars, or they can go for the big money. What will it be? They sweat and stammer and look back at their loved ones in the audience for guidance. Gosh, a thousand dollars would be nice, but I could become a millionaire if I let go of this cash and take one more risk!
You have to be ready to give up things if you want to make progress. It’s like taking a trip. You can’t bring your entire closet full of clothes with you when you go on vacation. Just take what you need and leave the rest. It’s a good rule to go by on your journey toward success, too. You don’t have to take everything with you. You don’t need it all. There are items that make up what you are today that you can leave behind to make room for what you might become.
What are some of the things you can give up? Well, you certainly have no need for fear. Leave that at home. What about the beliefs you have about yourself that are no longer true? Those are great things to ditch, and your load will be much lighter. Maybe you used to think you were not smart, but recent experience has taught you otherwise. Drop that old belief. Did you use to think you weren’t worthy of success? Well, that’s completely untrue now. Give up that dusty old thing and make room for your new image. Write about what you are willing to give up today for what you might become.
“The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.”
— Oliver Wendell Holmes
Steven had an ultimate goal in mind, and when he made it to that spot, to that X on the map he had drawn for himself, he would consider himself a success. He did make it to the X, and he stood there admiring his achievements with a grand feeling of satisfaction. Steven had a great job, a huge house, and three sports cars in the garage. That was his goal, and he achieved it.
The one thing Steven didn’t learn on his journey to achieve his dreams was that it doesn’t matter where he stands today. What matters is the direction he is moving. The game isn’t over until you’re six feet under. He will be faced with the same question today as he was yesterday: what are you doing to move forward in life?
The truth is you are not striving for a gold star or a first place ribbon. You are looking for the fulfillment that comes every day when you learn something new or help another individual on their journey or triumph over an obstacle that stands in your way. Knowledge and love and compassion are signs of success, not obtaining the coolest toys on the block. Material things are nice, but personal fulfillment is even better.
Are you standing still or moving? What direction are you moving today? Are you following your destiny, or are you on a detour somewhere lost in a forest of superficial desires and looking for an X on the map?
“Discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or a nation.”
— Oscar Wilde
Think back to the times when you’ve made a lot of progress in your life. What brought on the impulse to move forward? Write about a few instances in your journal and try to remember exactly what initiated your progress. Did you have an inspiration? Were you solving a problem? What was the catalyst that caused your growth spurt?
Sometimes progress does not come out of a positive feeling of wanting to move forward. It more often comes from feelings of discontent. Even though moving forward is a good thing, it’s much easier and more comfortable to stay in the same spot. Therefore, it takes a strong feeling of discomfort to get in gear. Things have to get pretty bad before most people are willing to change.
The formation of the United States came out of the massive discontent of British colonies in America. Their situation finally got so bad that they were willing to fight for independence. Apartheid, a system that institutionalized racial discrimination in South Africa, caused years of discontent, and ultimately it was dismantled in 1994 as a result of the combined discontent represented by demonstrations, riots, and international pressure. In 1980, Gdask , Poland, was the site of a labor strike that resulted in the recognition of the first non-Communist trade union in the Soviet Eastern Bloc. The discontent of those 17,000 shipbuilders was one of the first steps toward the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe. Discontent cannot be underestimated as a powerful tool for progress. It has been the first step for change throughout time.
“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”
— C. S. Lewis
Welcome to Day 200! You have made a huge accomplishment by coming this far in your work to achieve your dreams. You are more than halfway through the year, and if you are diligently working on the exercises presented in this book, change is starting to occur in your life whether you recognize it yet or not.
Progress doesn’t happen all at once. It is a gradual transformation that becomes more and more visible over a period of time. You should take time to congratulate yourself today for the hard work you have put into achieving success. You have more to learn, greater opportunities for growth, and thousands of new chances for progress ahead.
Do you feel like you are on the right road today? This moment of reflection on should give you an opportunity to make sure you are traveling down the correct path. It’s easy to get off and end up on the wrong road. Actually, it’s not that terrible if you think that’s what you’ve done. You learn from your mistakes just as much as your triumphs. Maybe you tried your hand at a new job opportunity, and it just doesn’t seem right for you. That’s okay. Admit when you’ve made a mistake and change. As C. S. Lewis mentions in the quote above, the guy who turns back the soonest when he realizes he is on the wrong road is the most progressive. Notice it doesn’t say the guy who never makes any mistakes is the most progressive.
“Sometimes questions are more important than answers.”
— Nancy Willard
What? How can questions be more important than answers? You are striving for success, and that means you should be finding the answers. You should be getting to the truth, reaching your destiny, and making things work. You want conclusions, not questions.
Not true! Questions will lead you down new and inspiring roads. Where do answers lead you? If you already have a conclusion, why would you go exploring?
When you start really asking questions and pondering the things you don’t know, that is when you have the ability to reach beyond your current abilities. Questions open doors and give you choices. Answers tie everything up in a neat bow and close things up. Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. End of discussion.
Are you asking enough questions? Do you prefer to be the know-it-all in the group, or would you rather be the one with the least experience who is willing to learn new things? Maybe you fall somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.
Ask questions today. That’s not just a general idea, it’s a directive. Try to ask more questions than provide answers today and see where it takes you. At the end of the day, journal about your experience as a result of this assignment. Did the questions open any doors for you? Did they change your current way of thinking? Did you gain any valuable knowledge from the questions you asked? Make it a daily practice to ask questions and actively search for new information. The more you seek, the more you’ll find.
“Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton asked why.”
— Bernard Baruch
Sometimes asking questions is not the most popular thing to do. People around you might think you’re a troublemaker . . . or just plain stupid. Are you willing to go out on a limb—just like Newton did—and ask why?
Asking questions is a character-building experience, and that’s a good thing. The more you can be true to yourself and not worry about what the rest of the crowd is doing, the better. It doesn’t matter if your co-workers are snickering behind your back. You have an honest motive when you ask why. You are gaining knowledge and increasing your chances of success. You might also ask a question they’ve been wondering about for months and were too afraid to voice.
If you don’t understand something, ask. It’s much better to admit you need help and learn something new than it is to pretend you know what you’re doing and then get caught in your ignorance. It’s okay to be curious. In fact, it’s the sure sign of someone on the road to success.
Trust that every single question you ask will lead you to a greater understanding of the world you live in. Find something today that you don’t know everything about. Ask questions and find some answers so that you have a deeper understanding of that subject by the end of the day.
“Be curious always! For knowledge will not acquire you; you must acquire it.”
— Sudie Back
Jennifer worked in a bookstore, and she was complaining one day to her coworker that she had nothing new to look forward to in her life.
“It’s the same old thing, day in and day out. I come here, I sell books, I go home. How am I ever going to learn anything new and interesting?”
Her coworker was a high school junior at least fifteen years younger than Jennifer. He glanced around the store and then looked at her blankly, unsure of how to respond. You see, the high school student couldn’t wait to get to work at the bookstore three times a week, because he was surrounded by shelves and shelves of undiscovered territory. He could work there for years and never fully take advantage of all of the information at his fingertips.
The young man had no idea what to say to Jennifer. The books weren’t going to jump off the shelves and into her brain. She needed to have enough curiosity to wonder what was on all of those beautifully bound pages.
Are you waiting for knowledge to acquire you? It’s not going to happen while you are sitting there doing nothing. Get into action and go after knowledge. Go to a bookstore today and stroll along the shelves. What subjects interest you? Grab a book or two and take them home with you (after paying, of course). You can do the same exercise in the library if you don’t want to spend any money. Acquire a little knowledge today. Read something new and find out how it feels to increase your depth of knowledge.
“There are no foolish questions, and no man becomes a fool until he has stopped asking questions.”
— Charles Proteus Steinmetz
What happens when curiosity dies?
That is not good.
You should be curious about things always. Curiosity is the centerpiece of progress. Think about how many great men and women achieved incredible success because they were curious. Can you name a few people who are in our history books today because they asked questions and went after the answers? Open up your journal and brainstorm the names of individuals who are famous in our world today because of their curiosity.
Take one or two of those historical people and learn a little bit more about them today. Go online and pull up their biographies or stop by your local library and do a little research. What did you find out about them? How were they treated by their peers when they first started to find the answers to the questions they asked? How exactly did they achieve success through their discoveries? What can you learn from them and apply to your own life?
Don’t let anyone make you feel like a fool for asking questions. You can relax in the awareness that you can never possibly have too much knowledge. You are the smart one to indulge your curiosity. It is a fool who stops asking questions.
“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”
— Ellen Parr
Curiosity is a gift. It’s a gift and a cure, and it should be accepted with the joy and reverence it deserves. Curiosity relieves you of boredom. It gives meaning to your life. When you are searching for answers you have hope and optimism about how your life (and maybe even the lives of others) will change as a result of the knowledge you pick up to satisfy your curiosity.
On the other hand, curiosity can drive you crazy! Have you ever been so completely wrapped up in something that you can’t eat or sleep? Curiosity can very easily turn into obsession.
Thomas Edison kept a cot in his lab, because he never got much sleep. He had to take catnaps during the day to catch up. His mind was constantly turning over new ideas and asking questions that kept him up at night as he pondered them and looked for solutions.
You don’t have to become an insomniac to be successful, but it isn’t so terrible if curiosity cuts into your quality snooze time every once in a while. It’s a better alternative than complete boredom. The next morning you may be sleepy, but you will also be satisfied.
Sometimes people talk about curiosity as a disease for which there is no cure, but they say that with a twinkle in their eye. They know how exhilarating it is to pursue knowledge. Let your curiosity get a little out of control this week and enjoy the rewards.
“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.”
— Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss)
The next few days will be spent exploring the benefits of fantasy. Dr. Seuss says in the quote above that fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. Do you agree? Or do you consider fantasy a waste of valuable time? Write about your thoughts.
Fantasy has to do with complete creative play. When you fantasize, you allow yourself to ponder improbable or impractical events. It doesn’t matter if what you are thinking about is totally unrealistic. Fantasy removes all limits to your imagination.