If it keeps you busy, but will hurt you someday, it’s something you will regret. Don’t sell yourself short.
There’s a big difference between empty fatigue and gratifying exhaustion. Life is too short not to focus more on what matters. And life is definitely too short to chase things that leave you with lingering regrets.
So let’s discuss three common dreams — or prevalent fantasies — many of us quietly strive for (myself included for many years), that are really just traps. These pursuits tend to lead us in circles and gradually move us farther away from where we ultimately want to be in life. Because despite what our better judgment tells us, we tend to attach to…
1. The dream of overcoming the odds in an unsupportive environment.
No matter how strong you are, and no matter how much determination and willpower you have, if you keep yourself positioned in an environment that works against your best intentions, you will eventually succumb to that environment.
This is where so many of us make life-altering missteps. When we find ourselves struggling to make progress in an unhealthy environment, we somehow believe that we have no other choice — that positioning ourselves in a more supportive environment, even for short intervals, is impossible. So rather than working in a supportive environment that pushes us forward, we expend all our energy trying to pull the baggage of an unhealthy environment along with us. And eventually, despite our best efforts, we run out of energy.
The key thing to remember here is that, as a human being, your environment immensely affects you. And, consequently, one of the best uses of your energy is to consciously choose and design working and living environments for yourself that support and facilitate the outcomes you intend to achieve.
For example, if you’re trying to reduce your alcohol consumption, you must…
- Spend less time around people that consume alcohol.
- Spend less time in social environments that promote alcohol consumption.
Because if you don’t your willpower will eventually collapse…
“One more drink won’t hurt, right?”
You need to set clear boundaries, commit, and then reconfigure your environment to make the achievement of your commitment possible.
Let’s think about some other common examples:
- If you want to lose weight, your best bet is to spend more time in healthy environments with people who eat healthy and exercise on a regular basis.
- If you want to become a paid, professional comedian — a goal one of our Getting Back to Happy Course students recently achieved — your best bet is to surround yourself with professional comedians, do local gigs together, share experiences, and orient your living and working environment to that goal.
- If you want to overcome your struggles and live a happier life, your best bet is to spend more time communicating with people who share these same intentions. This can be achieved through local support groups, personal-growth conferences, or online via courses and supportive communities.
The bottom line is that strength, determination, and willpower will only get you so far. If you want to make a substantial, positive, long-term change in your life, you also have to change your environment accordingly. This is truly the foundation of how we evolve as human beings. We mold and adapt to our environments, gradually, for better or worse. Thus, conscious growth involves decisively seeking out or creating enriching environments that encourage you to grow.
2. The dream of eventually “finding your passion” someday.
Learn to believe in your heart that you’re meant to live each day full of passion and purpose — that each and every moment is worthy in its own way. And remind yourself that passion is not something you find in life; it’s something you do. When you want to find the passion and inner strength needed to change your situation, you have to push yourself to step forward.
Many of us are still hopelessly trying to “find our passion” — something that we believe will lead us closer to happiness, success, or the life situation we ultimately want. And I say “hopelessly” primarily because passion can’t really be found. When we say we’re trying to find our passion, it implies that our passion is somehow hiding behind a tree or under a rock somewhere. But that’s far from the truth. The truth is, our passion comes from doing things right. If you’re waiting to somehow “find your passion” somewhere outside yourself, so you finally have a reason to put your whole heart and soul into your life and the changes you need to make, you’ll likely be waiting around for an eternity.
On the other hand, if you’re tired of waiting, and you’d rather live more passionately starting today and experience small positive changes, it’s time to proactively inject passion into the very next thing you do. Think about it:
- When was the last time you sat down and had a conversation with someone nearby, with zero distractions and 100 percent focus?
- When was the last time you exercised and put every bit of effort you could muster into it?
- When was the last time you truly tried — truly tried — to do your very best?
Like most of us, you’re likely putting a halfhearted effort into most of the things you do on a daily basis. Because you’re still waiting. You’re still waiting to “find” something to be passionate about — some magical reason to step into the life you want to create for yourself. But you need to do the exact opposite!
When I was a kid my grandmother used to tell me, “Stop waiting for better opportunities. The one you have in front of you is the best opportunity.” She also said, “Too often we spend too much time making it perfect in our heads before we ever even do it. Stop waiting for perfection and just do your best with what you have today, and then improve it tomorrow.”
Believe it or not, recent psychological research indirectly reinforces my grandmother’s sentiments. For many years, psychologists believed our minds could directly affect our physical state of being, but never the other way around. Nowadays, however, it is widely documented that our bodies — for example, our momentary facial expressions and body posture — can directly affect our mental state of being too. So while it’s true that we change from the inside out, we also change from the outside in. And you can make this reality work for you. If you want more passion and happiness in your life right now, act accordingly right now.
Put your heart and soul into something!
Not into tomorrow’s opportunities, but into the opportunity right in front of you.
Not into tomorrow’s tasks, but into today’s tasks.
Not into tomorrow’s run, but into today’s run.
Not into tomorrow’s relationships, but into today’s relationships.
Angel and I are certain you have plenty in your life right now that’s worth your time and energy. You have people and circumstances in your life that need you as much as you need them. You have a massive reservoir of potential passion within you, just waiting… STOP WAITING!
3. The dream of achieving “success” just as other people have defined it.
When I was growing up there was a mostly quiet yet unanimously agreed upon definition of what success looked like in my family. Although it was rarely discussed openly, it was implied through various conversations and decisions I was directly or indirectly included in.
All of my immediate and extended family members were in one of two groups:
- College educated with a comfortable salaried job at a large corporation
- Blue-collar worker who diligently worked his or her way up the corporate ladder at a large corporation
The major commonality being a steady paycheck from an established corporation. That was the implicitly agreed upon definition of success in my family. And by that definition, I was a failure, and still am.
I earned a college degree, but I opted to hop between several small startup companies out of college instead. My paychecks were low and the stability of my work was inconsistent at best (but I was learning). Then, a few years down the road, amidst a landslide of personal tragedies, I quit my day job to focus full-time on a side project called Marc and Angel Hack Life (you may have heard of it) that Angel and I had been gradually developing and supporting on nights and weekends.
Needless to say, my family was very skeptical of my evolving career path and decisions.
At some point, however, I realized I had to give up my family’s definition of success.
And I had to give up everyone else’s definition of success too.
Of course, doing so was easier said than done. The definitions of success that I had grown up around, and the beliefs they carried, were so deeply embedded in the traditions and narratives I was accustomed to that they had very much become a benchmark by which I measured my life. So it took me awhile to get my head straight about what success meant to me. And to a certain extent I’m sure you can relate, because no one is immune to this phenomena. Even the most seasoned entrepreneurs and creative types I know still get caught up in the overplayed ideas of fame and fortune being symbols of success.
The bottom line is that, although quite challenging, giving up other people’s definition of success is incredibly liberating and ultimately leads to the fullest expression of who YOU are.
Just think about it…
Other people aren’t going to live with the results of your choices. So why should you live according to their contrived definition of success?
Have you recently stopped to ask yourself what success means to YOU right now?
Or have you simply adopted your definition and beliefs from everyone around you?
For far too many us, the answer is the latter.
A coaching client recently told Angel and me that she wanted to become a millionaire to satisfy certain milestones for success that she had set for herself. But as we dug deeper into her story and her reasoning, it became evident that a number of her reasons for wanting to be a millionaire didn’t require a million dollars to achieve. She had just been conditioned to believe they did. And she literally laughed out loud when she realized this.
By understanding the essence of your goals and how YOU define success, it’s easier to give up other people’s contrived definitions and beliefs. And remember, the point is not that one measure of success is any better or worse than another. The point is that you get to choose how you define it for yourself.
Simply recognize that the more conscious and deliberate you can be about what success means for YOU, the more empowered you will be to pursue the path that’s true for you, and the less regret you will feel at the end of your journey. (Note: “The Good Morning Journal: Powerful Prompts and Reflections to Start Every Day” is a great tool for this kind of daily self-reflection and self-validation.)
Now, it’s your turn…
Yes, it’s your turn to practice paying attention to the beauty and practicality of living a more intentional life, with passion and purpose in healthy environments…
But before you go, please leave Angel and me a comment below and let us know what you think of this essay. Your feedback is important to us. 🙂
Which one of the points above resonated the most today?
Finally, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to sign-up for our free newsletter to receive new articles like this in your inbox each week.