There is nothing about the present that prevents you from making progress, one step at a time.
Throughout a decade of life, relationship, and small business coaching, Marc and I have witnessed people reinventing themselves at all ages — 48-year-olds starting families, 57-year-olds graduating from college for the first time, 71-year-olds starting successful businesses, and more. How did they do it? They started making gradual progress in their lives, step by step. And by doing so, they changed the trajectory of their future and their lives.
What you need to remember most right now is that it isn’t too late or too early to start making positive changes in your life. Your future is always affected by what you start doing today. Yet so many people wait around for some arbitrary date and time, like the New Year, to take the next step. Don’t be one of them! Don’t stall on yourself! It’s time to…
1. Start making your life your own.
Most of us are not raised to actively seek our calling. We may not even know that we have one. As kids we are seldom told we have a place in life that is uniquely ours alone. Instead, we are encouraged to believe that our life should somehow fulfill the expectations of others — that we should find our happiness and success exactly as they have found theirs. Rather than being taught to ask ourselves who we are, we are trained to ask others for permission. We are, in effect, schooled to live other people’s versions of our lives.
As the weeks roll into years, nearly every day of our lives is designed and developed by other people’s demands or opinions. And then one day when we break free to survey our dreams, seeking to fulfill ourselves, we see that most of our dreams have gone unfulfilled because we believed, and those around us believed, that what we wanted for ourselves was somehow impractical or beyond our reach. It’s time to unlearn these falsehoods and make changes. It takes courage to grow wiser and become who you really are. And today is the first day of the rest of your life.
2. Start subtracting what doesn’t belong in your life.
When you discover something that nourishes your soul and brings you joy — something that truly matters to you — care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life. And if you find that you don’t have enough time for what matters, stop doing things that don’t. In other words, start subtracting what isn’t working for you.
Every time you subtract negative from your life, you make room for more positive. Let that sink in. When things aren’t adding up in your life, begin subtracting. Life gets a lot simpler and more enjoyable when you clear the emotional and physical clutter that makes it unnecessarily complicated. And there’s so much you can let go of in life without losing a thing. It’s called growth. Letting go of the old makes way for the new. Letting go of what isn’t working makes way for what will. When the pain of holding on is worse than the pain of letting go, it’s time to let go and grow.
3. Start putting your heart and soul into the things you do.
There’s a big difference between empty fatigue and gratifying exhaustion. Life is short. Invest daily in meaningful activities. Too often we wait around because we think we need to “find” something new or different to be passionate about, but that’s not true. If you want more passion in your life, act accordingly right now. Put your whole heart and soul into the next thing you do. Not into tomorrow’s opportunities, but the opportunity right in front of you. Not into tomorrow’s tasks, but today’s tasks. Not into tomorrow’s run, but today’s run. Not into tomorrow’s conversations, but today’s conversations…
In the end, purpose is the reason you journey and passion is the fire that lights your way. So learn to believe in your heart that you’re meant to live each day full of purpose and passion — that each and every moment is worthy in its own way. I’m absolutely certain you have plenty in your life right now that’s worth your time, energy, and passionate focus. You have people and circumstances in your life that need you as much as you need them. You have a massive reservoir of passionate potential within you, just waiting. Stop waiting! There is no tomorrow. Put your heart and soul into what you’ve got right in front of you! Become it, let it become you, and great things will happen for you, to you, and because of you, sooner rather than later.
4. Start stretching yourself in the right ways.
There’s a big difference between empty fatigue and gratifying exhaustion. And again, many great things can be done in a day if you don’t always make that day tomorrow. Will it always be easy? No, but remember that when you’re struggling to make progress, that’s when you actually are. You want to be stretched to the edge of your ability — it needs to be hard and uncomfortable sometimes. Of course most of us don’t want to be uncomfortable, so we subconsciously run from the possibility of discomfort. The obvious problem with this is that, by running from discomfort, we are constrained to partake in only the opportunities within our comfort zones. And since our comfort zones are relativity small, we miss out on most of life’s greatest and healthiest experiences, and we get stuck in a debilitating cycle.
Choose differently starting today! Go to environments that expand your mind. Spend time with people who inspire you to stretch yourself. Read books. Grow. Get better. Your future is in your hands. (Note: Marc and I discuss this in more detail in the Success and Productivity chapters of “1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently”.)
5. Start leaving other people’s judgmental opinions alone.
When it happens, be sure to tune out the cheap shots people take at you. Don’t waste words on people who deserve your silence. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can say is nothing at all. So before you waste it on anger, spite, or frustration, think of how precious and irreplaceable your time is, and carry on with grace.
When Marc and I first started writing on this blog, I’d agonize over whether people would think what I was writing was good enough. I desperately hoped they’d like it, and oftentimes I’d catch myself imagining they didn’t. Then one day I realized how much energy I was wasting worrying about it. So I’ve gradually learned to relax with simply not knowing. Some problems in life, such as not knowing what others think of you, are not really meant to be resolved.
What you need to remember is that you can’t control how other people feel, or how they receive your energy. Anything you do or say gets filtered through a mindset occupied by whatever they are going through at the moment, which likely has nothing to do with you. Just keep doing your thing with as much love and passion as possible.
6. Start embracing your humanness.
“Human” is the only real label we are born with, yet we forget so easily. To become attached to a loaded label of overweight, divorced, diseased, rejected, or poor, is to be like the rain, that doesn’t know it is also the clouds… or the ice, that forgets it is water. For we are far more than the shape we’re currently in. And we, like the wind, water, and sky, will change forms many times in our lives, while forever remaining beautifully human.
So forgive yourself for the bad decisions you made, for the times you lacked understanding, for the choices that accidentally hurt others and yourself. Forgive yourself, for being young and reckless. These are all vital lessons. And what matters most right now is your willingness to grow from them.
Once we forgive ourselves and fully embrace our humanness, it’s almost funny to see how seamlessly we can adapt to life’s transitions — how we outgrow what we once thought we couldn’t live without, and then we fall in love with what we didn’t even know we wanted. Take this to heart. And don’t forget to pause before the end of the year to appreciate how far you’ve come. You’ve been through a lot, and you’ve grown a lot too. Give yourself credit for the steps you’ve taken, so you can step forward again, and again.
7. Start reminding yourself why every step matters.
In the end all the small things make a big difference. Every step is crucial. Life isn’t about a single moment of great triumph and attainment. It’s about the trials and errors that slowly get you there — the blood, sweat, tears, and the small, inconsequential things you do on a day-to-day basis. It all matters in the end — every step, every regret, every decision, every minor setback and minuscule win.
The seemingly useless happenings add up to something. The minimum-wage job you had in high school. The evenings you spent socializing with coworkers you never see anymore. The hours you spent writing thoughts on a personal blog that no one reads. Contemplations about elaborate future plans that never came to be. All those lonely nights spent reading novels and news columns and comic strips, questioning your own principles on life and sex and religion and whether or not you’re good enough just the way you are.
All of this has strengthened you. All of this has led you to every success you’ve ever had. All of this has made you who you are today. And all of this proves that you have the strength to deal with the challenges in front of you. So keep giving yourself grace, and carry on. (Note: “The Good Morning Journal: Powerful Prompts and Reflections to Start Every Day” is a great tool for this kind of self-reflection.)
Now, it’s your turn…
Yes, it’s your turn starting now! I hope you will have a delightful day, that you will dream boldly and dangerously, that you will leverage the reminders above to create something that didn’t exist before you took action, that you will love and be loved in return, and that you will find the strength to accept and grow from the outcomes you can’t change. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and wisdom in this crazy world), that you will, when you must, be wise with your decisions, and that you will always be extra kind to yourself and others… for the rest of the year and beyond!
And before you go, please leave Marc 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?
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