I don’t have anywhere near all the answers, but here are a few lessons that I’ve learned throughout my life that’ve helped me live a more positive and fulfilling life.
Note: For those who have seen some of this, the new stuff starts at #14.
1) Be the hero of your own story.
Whatever mistakes you’ve made up until now are off the table – the only thing that matters from this point on is how you move forward starting today.
Imagine you’re the main character in a video game, or you’re playing the starring role in the supremely megafantastic movie called YOUR LIFE – act accordingly.
What would they do? What choices would they make?
Don’t wait around or expect anyone else to create your own success or happiness – that’s entirely yours to make.
The princess is in another castle and nobody is gonna save her but you (high five if you get this reference).
“Be your own hero, it’s cheaper than a movie ticket.” – Douglas Horton
Action step: Watch your favorite movie montage, video game scene or TV moment. Find out what drew you to it (was it the character’s intensity, confidence, charisma? What about their ability to handle a tough situation or stand up for themselves?) then apply it to your own life in any situation that you can.
2) Fail often. Fail better.
“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” – Henry Ford
Action step: Pick back up (or start) something that failure, or fear of it, kept you from pursuing.
3) Empty your mind
Whether your goal is to look like Hugh JACKEDman or simply get rid of the extra fluff that has taken up residence on your body, odds are you’re holding on to some beliefs that do nothing more than hold you back.
It could be “knowing” that you have to eat x amount of meals a day, or “knowing” that if you eat certain foods you’ll never get the body that you want.
Open yourself to different possibilities. There are no absolutes, only options…and options are great because that means cake, and cake is AWESOME!
Action step: Identify at least one idea/belief that does nothing but hold you back or hinder your progress. Once you’ve done that, write down ways that you can act that run counter to those ideas. Give it time and do this for several weeks, taking note of any changes, positive or negative, that’ve occured.
Example: I must eat every 2 hours, despite it being a chore and my lifestyle beginning to suffer.
Action: For a month, increase the length of time between your meals and see how you respond.
4) Build momentum
Whatever your goal is, do whatever you have to do to get it, then do everything in your power to keep from losing it.
Unless of course you’re in a negative momentum spiral, then please feel free to stomp both feet into the ground Flinstone style to stop and get yourself on the right path.
Action step: Identify one thing , small or large, that you really want to accomplish. Decide on a first step then do it, no matter what. If you want to write a book but haven’t written anything since you came up with the idea, shut off your phone, go to a place where you can write and sit there until you’ve made headway on the project. This could be on the weekend or you may even have to call in sick from work.
Extreme? Yup, but the “OH HELL YEAH!” feeling you get from finally making progress far outweighs any monetary or time sacrifice you made to make it happen.
After this, keep going on a daily, or at the very least weekly, basis. It doesn’t matter how small, just DO NOT lose the momentum you’ve gained. Small progression is better than no progression.
5) Do the simple things every day
Smile and laugh everyday.
Be positive and act positively as often as you can.
Pass up as many opportunities as possible to be a downer, asshat or general negative vibe bringer.
Action step: This one is easy – start with smiling and laughing and see where it takes you. Even if you don’ feel like it, this is one of those instances where faking it until you make it works wonders.
6) Death, defeat and life domination
The average life expectancy.
One of these days we’re going to die – and who knows then? This is the most empowering thing you will ever hear.
How many days, months or years have passed by without us having really lived them?
Doesn’t matter. Starting today, begin the process of doing more of what you love and what makes you happy vs what sucks and what drains you.
Tell the people close to you that you love ’em.
Reach out to and old friend you haven’t talked to in awhile and see what’s up.
Start surrounding yourself with those who say “why not?” instead of only asking “why?”
Write down a list of big dreams and little dreams, no matter how lame they may seem, and start pursuing them ALL like a damn cheetah with a rocketpack attached to it.
One day you will wake up and there won’t be anymore time to do the things you’ve always wanted – do it now.
“You have exactly one life in which to do everything you’ll ever do. Act accordingly.” – Colin Wright
Action step: Whenever you screw up, take a step back and laugh. Seriously, laugh. Did you die? If you’re reading this then you’re still in the game. Revel in this fact and get back to being awesome because you never know when your time will come.
7) Find inspiration daily
Whatever you’re doing, a mega dose of inspiration can help keep you going, take it to the next level or transform it into something wild & completely different.
So find that inspiration.
The best part? It’s everywhere.
Read a book by your favorite author.
Get out and explore nature (watch out for rabid wildebeests).
Listen to a dope podcast or some awesome music.
Find someone who is doing great things and thank them, because if they can do it then it’s within your own powers of awesomeness to do it as well.
Do this and do it daily; first thing in the morning so that you set the awesome tone for your day.
Make yourself aware of what’s possible in this world and be surprised at how it starts to change your own life.“If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Action step: Do one of the above things on a daily basis, preferably first thing in the morning, or create your own inspirational ritual. For some it’s horseback riding and jigsaw puzzles, and for others it’s daily meditation.
8) Learn from your past, then let go
Spaceships don’t have rear-view mirrors for a reason (ok, several reasons).Treat your past experiences as the best teacher of all, but once you’re done, you’re done. Don’t look back and expect to learn something new from constantly analyzing or “re-taking” that same class over and over and over again.The same issues tend to keep popping up in life until the lesson is learned. If that’s happening, learn it once and for all and stop the cycle so you can moonwalk forward into the rest of your life.
“Going over your past is like sitting in a crap film and watching it over and over and over and over again expecting the ending to change, when it’s not. It’s not going to.” – Jules Murphy Wyman
Action step: Identify a moment from your past that’s still haunting you. Set aside some time to really analyze why it’s bothering you and extract as many possible positive takeaways or lessons that you can (there is always something, no matter how it may seem). Use those to improve your life from that point forward and put the past to rest.
This could range from anything to diet mishaps to romantic relationship mistakes.
9) Stop hiding
By not doing it, you’re not only robbing the world of your awesomeness, but you’ll never be able to step out and realize your full potential.Don’t try to be someone else – they’ll always be better at it than you could ever dream of being. Life is way too short to be a half-ass version of something that’s already out there.
“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successfull personality and duplicate it.” – Bruce Lee
Action step: Seriously, you’re theshit.com*, so start by surrounding yourself with people with whom you can really be yourself with, online or in person. Gain confidence from these interactions. Sneak bits and pieces that you feel comfortable with into your daily life. Identify what’s awesome about you (asking friends or those close to you can help if you don’t have the slightest clue) and start amplifying it.
10) Be kind
Never underestimate the power of a smile, a kind gesture, sympathetic word or a listening ear – all of which are easy to give and cost you nothing. You never know what someone right next to you is going through, and if it will be the difference between a craptastic day and one filled with a little sunshine and hope.
“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.” – George Washington Carver
Action step: Be giving with your time, knowledge, money, kindness, connections or influence when you can. Give in such a way that the person who receives it can’t possibly return the favor.
11) Be grateful
Practice gratitude daily.Take 5 minutes at the end of your day to chill and write down a small list of the things that made you smile, laugh, or that you’re glad are a part of your life. There’s ALWAYS something to be grateful about, especially when you look down at that list and realize that a lot of people out there have it worse off than you do and could use a few of those things.
“If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get.” – Frank A. Clark
Action step: Make that list! I’ll know if you don’t 😉
12) Be positive and believe in yourself
Being an optimist won’t solve all your problems, but what’s the alternative? There isn’t much sense in being anything else.
If you’re constantly filling your head with negative thoughts, odds are they’ll lead you straight towards negative actions, self-doubt and increase the general suckitude of life by 10384398%.Suck City isn’t a cool place to live at all.
Think of each setback as a challenge to see the positive, spin the situation back around, making it better than it was before.
“You’ve done it before and you can do it now. See the positive possibilities. Redirect the substantial energy of your frustration and turn it into positive, effective, unstoppable determination.” – Ralph Marston
Action step: From now until the day you die, work on developing a positive mindset via positive thoughts and actions, and chase the defeatist and negative mindset out of your brain and life. Never say “it is what it is”.
13) Tell safety to suck it
Playing it safe is the riskiest thing that you can do.Do what everyone else does and your results will the same as theirs – average. And you’re better than average.
Be bold. Be yourself. Take a chance.
What’s the absolute worst that can happen? Death. Let’s be real though: what you want to do isn’t going to even come close to killing you, even though it may feel like it at times.
Use this to your advantage and run towards necessary risk instead of away from it. No failure is too large to recover from. No setback is too great to power through like a champ. Nothing hurts more than a death by 1,000 small cuts, letting each day that passes mark another day that you didn’t move closer, even if only a small way, towards your dreams.
Action step: Do something epic. Do something heroic. Do something awesome. Whatever you wanna call it, DO NOT settle for mediocrity. Do things that make the world better for you having been here.
Here are some resources to help:
The Flinch by Julien Smith
14) Be present (thanks to reader Jordan Ayres)
With the humongous list of things to do and more ways to distract ourselves than ever, it’s easy to lose site of what’s important – RIGHT NOW; not sulking about the past or worrying about the future. The most important thing that we can get ourselves and others is our undivided attention.
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” – Henry David Thoreau
Action step: Be actively involved with what you’re doing. When you’re with friends/family, turn of your cell phone or leave it in the car if you have the habit of constantly checking it like you’re Superman on call (guilty as charged). Focus on one task while minimizing all other distraction that pull you away from it.
15) Treat money like a tool
Wads of flimsy, funny looking cash. Computer generated codes that tell us that those numbers in our online banking accounts are real. It’s wild how much meaning and emotion we attach to money. If I drop a penny, I won’t even blink, but if a $100 bill blows out my hand I might chase it through the streets until the end of time.
At the end of the day, money is just a means to an end. Nothing more.
If you’re grinding and struggling to make ends meet and buried under piles of debt, that’s pretty stressful. Once you have your basic needs met though, more money only makes you happier up to a certain point.
If you chase the dollar for no other reason than to make more of it, you’ll eventually slip and fall in a puddle of weaksauce and unhappiness.
“I can live without money, but I can’t live without love.” – Judy Garland
Action Step: Instead of buying more things, use it to create as many amazing experiences as you can for yourself and those you love. Happiness will surely follow.
Surround yourself with friends and people that are better than you in areas that you want to improve in. Learn from them, let them push you out of your comfort zone and it’s only a matter of time before you level up as well.
“Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.” – William Butler Yeats
Action Step: Reach out to people that you want to learn from within your network or outside of it. Pay it forward and be ready to reciprocate when someone reaches out to you in the same way.
17) Quit the internet
Just kidding! But seriously.
The internet is one helluva drug, especially when you throw Facebook likes, retweets and all other forms of social media into the mix. It can, and will, consume more time then you’ll ever want to publicly admit., taking a large chunk of your emotions along for the ride.
On the flip side, I’ve made a ton of very good friends thanks to the power of the interwebz, amazing people I otherwise would have never known. I’ve traveled to Ireland, released a product and will be hanging out with one of my favorite authors soon because of it.
Here’s how to maximize the good while minimizing the bad.
“Our brains are not wired to be made happy by the internet. Saying the web is important to your life is like saying that television is important. It might be social, sure, but it’s still media. It can help connect but it also divides in a very fundamental way.” – Julien Smith
Action Step: Use social media/the net to connect – and then take it offline as soon as possible. Talk with them on the phone. Send hilarious videos back and forth (hi, Kellie Davis). Video chat with them on Skype. Meet with them in the flesh whenever possible. Take it beyond the text.
18) Stomp out comparison
Think you’re strong (or good at anything)? Go on Youtube and prepare to be knocked down a few levels.
Someone will always be “better” than you at something, but it doesn’t matter. Be inspired by them, using it to push yourself further, and nothing more. If they can do it, it’s within your power as well while also applying your own unique spin on it.
DON’T compare your haves to their haves. It only leads a negative mindset. Rock your individual talents like a boss and let what makes you unique shine.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Action Step: Use that to light a fire under your own buttcheeks and to do things in your own unique way. You’re the only person you need to compare yourself to. Strive to make yourself just 0.001% more awesome than you were yesterday, and you’ve won in a big bad way.
19) Hug it out. Forgive quickly (thanks to Marianne Kane)
If you’re angry at someone or something, get over it – fast.
Either change the situation, change your outlook on the situation, or change yourself.
If you can the other person can talk it out and get over it together, even better. That ensuing feeling of relief and “ahhhhhhhh”ness feels amazing. Wrongs have been righted and balance has once again been restored to the force. It’s like make-up sex for your soul.
Regardless, let go of whatever anger or resentment you’re holding within yourself. If you don’t, you’re doing far more harm to yourself than anyone else ever could.
Forgiveness is for you, first and foremost.
“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” – Nelson Mandela
20) Be yourself
We all have something within us that no one else can duplicate.
Embrace it and let the confidence that you feel positively spread into other areas of your life.
The world needs more people who have come alive instead of wondering if they can.
“Do not quench your inspiration and your imagination; do not become the slave of your model.” – Vincent Van Gogh
Sometimes you don’t win.
Sometimes things don’t turn out as planned.
Sometimes you don’t end up with who you want to be with.
Sometime you just don’t have feel like continuing on anymore.
So, what do you do?
There’s a lesson to be learned in everything, and sometimes that lesson is to engage in the beautiful comeback. To refuse to be defeated and come back better than you were before.
“Why do we fall, sir? So we might learn to pick ourselves up.” – Alfred Pennyworth
22) Be the hero of someone’s story (thanks to Lou Schuler)
Husband. Wife. Friend. Employee. Writer.
We all have different roles that we play in the lives of people we love and care about. Our actions and how well we play our part has a direct influence on their life, so we better get in there and give our best performance. Wow them with how much you care in the capacity that you’re in.
Difficult? Yep. Worthwhile? Definitely.
Never underestimate your ability to be a positive influence on someone else.
23) Explore (thanks to Jen Sinkler)
We all have an itch inside, reminding us that we should be doing more with our brief time on this planet.
Most will ignore it for many reasons. Others will follow their curiosity and see just how deep the rabbit hole goes.
Which sounds more fun?
You don’t have to make grand changes right off the bat. It could be as simple as trying new foods that you’ve been too scared to dig in to, or traveling to different part of your country. Gain confidence from these mini explorations. You owe it to yourself to explore and scratch away at the self-imposed boundaries of your own life, interests and passions and see where they take you.
And one day if your adventures take you far from your comfort zone, the possibility of what lies ahead scaring and exciting you at the same time, then you know you’re on the right path. Push forward.
Hey Rog! This is an awesome list. This is the stuff that best sellers are made of!
Dilpreet Bhatia says
Love the point of quitting the internet. just going to shut it off after putting this comment.
Thanks for putting it all back in perspective!!
Roger Lawson II says
Seriously, the internet can really kill the vibe of your life if you let it. It’s something I still struggle with at times but I’m much better at it than before. Thanks for reading!
Dilpreet Bhatia says
Thanks Buddy….Sometimes we forget to be in present…and enjoy…rather than wasting planning for something that might never happen!!
it was really inspiring! thanks you make my day 🙂
from now on I am a new person and u are my idol
After a failed attempt at suicide I landed on this article and now more than ever just realise how much I have to live for…thank you so much!
some guy says
Hey. I read a lot of self-help web pages and the likes but i’ve got to say, i don’t think i’ve ever been this inspired. Great job. I really love the quote from George Washington Carver, it’s really deep and sums life up nicely.