“It shouldn’t be easy to be amazing. Then everything would be. It’s the things you fight for and struggle with before earning that have the greatest worth. When something’s difficult to come by, you’ll do that much more to make sure it’s even harder – or impossible – to lose.”
— Sarah Dessen
There is no shortcut to anywhere worth going. There is no substitute for doing the work. Meditate on this every day: “I will do the work.” As Einstein once said, “Genius is 1% talent and 99% effort.” You must run to be a runner. You must write to be a writer. You must actively attend to your relationships if you want them to flourish.
By all means, find ways to be more efficient. But make no mistake that it takes diligent effort to build something worthwhile. There are certainly some success stories out there about people who excelled rather quickly, but you will usually find they had put in years of related work long before anyone was paying attention to their seemingly rapid success. In other words, their current state of achievement is simply all those years of work coming together flawlessly in the present.
The most effective way to handle what must be done is to do it. Put in the required labor. Don’t sell yourself short by taking shortcuts like these:
1. Taking the easiest route possible.
Someday you will look back on your life and realize that everything worthwhile you’ve ever accomplished initially challenged you. And that is as it should be, because big challenges often prepare ordinary people for extraordinary success.
Every struggle arises for a reason – for experience or a lesson. A great journey is never easy, and no dose of adversity along the way is ever a waste of time if you learn and grow from it.
Remember, an arrow can only be shot by pulling it backwards, and such is life. When life is pulling you back with difficulties, it means it’s going to eventually launch you forward in a positive direction. So keep focusing, and keep aiming!
2. Settling for the way things are by default.
The decision to settle for mediocrity is a real killer. If you settle for just anything, you’ll never know what you’re truly worthy of. There is ample time for you to be who you want to be. Despite the struggles that you might be facing, never give up on yourself. Don’t just take the easy way out and settle for less than what you know you are capable of.
Realize that it’s not always about trying to fix something that’s broken either. Sometimes it’s about starting over and creating something new. Sometimes you need to distance yourself to see things clearly. Sometimes growing stronger means growing apart from old habits, relationships, and situations, and finding something different that truly moves you – something that gets you so excited you can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning. That’s what LIVING is all about. Don’t settle. (Angel and I cover this in more detail in the “Self-Love” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
3. Leaving everything to chance.
It’s not what you do every once in a while, but what you dedicate yourself to on a daily basis that makes a difference in the end. Having a plan, even a flawed one at first, is better than no plan at all.
Don’t trap yourself, endlessly, in a state where you are unable to ask for directions, even though you’re terribly lost, simply because you don’t know your destination. Figure out what you want. When you get real about the true feelings you crave, you end up surprising yourself with an abundance of new opportunities and possibilities.
Bottom line: One day your life will flash before your eyes. Do your best every day to make sure it’s worth watching. Work towards something that brings meaning to your moments.
4. Following the crowd.
Allen Ginsberg once said, “Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.” In other words, in this crazy world that’s trying to make you like everyone else, find the courage to be your incredible self.
Never let what other people expect from you dictate what you expect from yourself. Clarity about your true desires is so liberating because you get to stop proving yourself to everyone, including yourself.
We have all been placed on this earth to discover our own way, and we will never be happy if we live someone else’s idea of life. So stop being ashamed of how you feel. You have the right to feel any emotion that comes to you, and to follow a path that makes you happy. Don’t compare yourself to others, or get discouraged by the success of others. Follow your intuition, never give up on yourself, and stop expecting others to understand your journey, especially if they have not walked your same path. (Read The Road Less Traveled.)
5. Putting things off.
Be frank with yourself. The things you say you will deal with later rarely get done. It’s time to get up and make an immediate difference in your life. You know all those things you’ve been meaning to get done for the past month, year, etc.? Pick one right now and start doing it. Get your hands dirty, challenge your mind, and get sweaty if you have to. Break out of your comforting lull and get involved. If you feel crummy, it’ll make you feel better. If you already feel good, it will make you feel great.
Ultimately, you will not be judged by what you say; you will be judged by what you do. Wake up each morning determined, so you can go to bed satisfied. Have the courage and discipline today to do what is needed instead of simply what is convenient. Or as Pablo Picasso once said, “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”
6. Ignoring people instead of forgiving them.
Forgetting people who hurt you is your gift to them; forgiving people who hurt you is your gift to yourself. Always forgive others, not because they necessarily deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace of mind. We are all one, so when we forgive others we forgive ourselves, which is the first step in the healing process. Without forgiveness, the potential for true happiness in your life is limited.
In addition, we often tell ourselves that we’re better off without some people in our lives, and while this can be true, you should also build forgiveness into your character. Keep in mind that some relationships will temporarily split, only to come back together twice as strong as before. Forgiveness alone makes this possible. (Read The Mastery of Love.)
7. Cutting too many corners with your important relationships.
It hurts to love someone and not be loved in return, but what hurts even more is to love someone and never find the time to let them know how you feel. There is no greater sadness than holding on to the loving words and deeds you never delivered to those you love.
The people you take for granted today may turn out to be the only ones you need tomorrow. So make plenty of time for those who truly matter. The best gift you can give them is the purity of your full attention. Just be present with them and pay attention to the little things, because when you really miss someone, you miss the little things the most, like just laughing together.
The journey begins when we are born. The destination is death. So the journey is far superior to the destination. Don’t sell yourself short! Make your journey worthwhile every single day, because the distance we each get to travel is a mystery.
Getting where you want to go in life is not about finding a shortcut, it’s about putting in the required time and effort. You have to set goals and fulfill your commitments, even when no one would notice but you, and know in your heart why doing so matters.
What would you add to this post? When have you cut yourself short by trying to take a shortcut in life? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with us.
Photo by: Vinoth Chandar