Recently I’ve had a transformational experience, I don’t feel tired anymore, I’m more enthusiastic at both work and life. I’m just generally happier. Nothing much have changed externally. I have the same problems, new problems have come up and I'm still living my normal daily life. In the past months, I’ve been making some purposeful changes and I’m going to share with you three mindset hacks that worked to immediately improve my quality of life.
#1 True Happiness Comes From Mindfulness
I know a guy who weren’t necessarily well-educated but a brilliant businessman. He had professionals from all over the world working for him. The last time I checked, his business had over 150 staff. I thought that the money, success and the regionally recognised awards he received would make him happy. He had every conceivable reasons to be happy, but he wasn’t. There were two things this man lacked:
- his inability to appreciate what he already had and
- his flawed mindset of expecting constant success.
Helen Keller tells a story about her friend who has just returned from a walk into the woods. When Keller asked how she found the walk, the friend replied: “Nothing much….” In response to this Keller writes:
Business never sleeps and there are bound to be challenges. The problem wasn’t so much that he was focused on the challenges and he’s burning desire to make more money, but in his failure to see and appreciate what he already had. Everyone has different values and there’s nothing wrong with wanting more money (in fact, this is a rule I live by as discussed on 4 Principles That Will Make You Rich), but only if he had appreciated and paid more attention to the small miracles in his everyday life. I’m sure he would have been much, much happier. I know this because I used to closely work with him.
He had no time for his family. He never went on vacations (and I mean never) and his schedule was filled with useless meetings that distressed him. He could not accept the seasonal dips in sales, aspired to continuously expand with or without marketing. He was a perfectionist and ‘No’ was never an answer. I guess he was just too driven and probably, it was this trait that brought him to where he is now. For this, I still respect the guy but when will he stop? When is it really enough for him? Expecting constant happiness (happiness was synonymous with more money for him) is a flawed mindset that will set yourself up for disappointment.
As outlined in the book ‘Even Happier’ by Tal Ben-Shahar, “the key difference between the Perfectionist and the Optimalist is that the former essentially rejects reality while the latter accepts it.” A perfectionist doesn’t expect nor allows hiccups in business or life. They expect a smooth and a free-of-obstacle path towards their goals when inevitably, it isn’t. Whenever there was a roadblock in the business he would get frustrated and could not cope. He’s anger vented out to the employees. While a perfectionist rejects this reality, what we really need to become is an optimalist. Optimalist is a person who understands and accepts failure as an integral part of life and success. By accepting the reality, optimalists are able to cope, acknowledge the lessons learned and become more resilient.
#2 Success Comes From Constant Change
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” I’m sure you’ve asked this question or been asked on numerous occasions. When asked, “Who are you” or “What do you do?”, the most common response given is their occupation. “I work at Walmart”, “I’m a photographer”, and in the case for me, “I’m a chiropractor.”
Yes, you should be congruent with the values you live by and the services you provide but what you do for a living does not define you as a person. Life is all about growth and change. Life was never meant to be static. Don’t let your profession define who you are and limit yourself from becoming or doing something completely different.
My first degree in university was pharmacology. I studied drugs, its cellular effects on the human body and what to prescribe and what not to for certain diseases. The study of drugs is in stark contrast to what I preach now as a chiropractor. I didn’t let my education or what I do stop me from exploring other paths in life. I’m grateful that I changed my profession so that work is congruent with what I believe in (despite taking 4 additional years of tertiary education and internship!).
Today I dream of being an influencer of health and alternative medicine, empowering people’s mind and body to help them become better versions of themselves. That’s a big difference to what a pharmacologist or a chiropractor would do in their normal day life. I’m constantly experimenting and designing my life in the ways I want to live. Life is a design process, a continual exploration of what we want, whom we want to be and what we want to do. This is the only way to create a truly successful life.
Designing life in your own terms may sound too idealistic. We all have obligations and responsibilities after all. Bill Burnett, the executive director of The Design Program at Stanford, shares a tip from his book “Designing Your Life.” He writes that designing your life becomes easier if you followed the rule: “if it’s not actionable, it’s not a problem.”
He gives examples and the comparisons between gravity biking and changing the average income of a full-time poet shared below:
- To change the median income of poets, you’d somehow have to alter the market for poetry and get people to buy more poetry or pay more for it.
- Well, you could try for that. You could write letters to the editor in praise of poetry.
- You could knock on doors to get people out to the poetry night at your local coffeehouse.
- This one is a long shot.
- Even though you can work on this “problem” in a way that wasn’t possible with gravity, we’d recommend that you accept it as an inactionable situation.
- If you do that, then your attention is freed to start designing other solutions to other problems.
- You can’t change gravity
- You’d have to relocate the earth’s orbit to pull that off, and that’s a pretty crazy goal.
- Skip it. Just accept it.
- When you accept it, you are free to work around that situation and find something that is actionable.
- For example, that cyclist could invest in a lighter bicycle.
- She could try losing some weight.
- She could learn the latest techniques for climbing more effectively
The key idea in life design is that you don’t get stuck on something that you have effectively no chance of succeeding at all. Designing your life and living a life that you truly want is attainable if you accept reality. The author goes on to say, “We are all for aggressive and world-changing goals. Please do fight City Hall. Oppose injustice. Work for women’s rights. Pursue food justice. End homelessness. Combat global warming. But do it smart. If you become open-minded enough to accept reality, you’ll be freed to reframe an actionable problem and design a way to participate in the world on things that matter to you and might even work.”
What did you dream of doing or becoming when you were a child?
What are you not happy about right now?
Is there a way to improve your life?
These are some of the key questions we forget to ask ourselves. The growing number of responsibilities and repetitive lifestyles made us lose control over our lives. We no longer get to choose what we do or who we become. Most of the time we are either being told to or running on autopilot. Living a successful life means living on your own terms. You set the rules and you get to decide. Designing your life starts where you are NOT where you wish you were. Not where you think you should be. But right where you are today.
#3 Bust The Myths Of Ageing and Stay Forever Young
Negative stereotypes about getting older can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In ‘To Age Well, Change How You Feel About Aging’ published by The Wall Street Journal states that: “In test after test, researchers are finding that if we think about getting older in terms of decline or disability, our health likely will suffer. If on the other hand, we see ageing in terms of opportunity and growth, our bodies respond in kind.” The first step to ageing gracefully is to have the correct mindset and understand the difference between the myths and facts on ageing.
As seen in the graph above, many older adults report a better quality of life than younger adults. Another myth we naturally came to believe is that one's mental capacity reaches peak at the age of 25 and starts a gradual decline. However, Dr Maxwell Maltz MD writes in his book Psycho-Cybernetics that “the latest findings show that a man reaches his peak mentally somewhere around the age of 35 and maintains the same level until well past 70. Such nonsense as “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” still persists despite the fact that numerous researchers have shown that learning ability is about as good at 70 as it is at 17.”
Dr Hans Selye recommends exercise to stay forever young. Due to the myths that we assume with old age, older adults begin to taper off both physical and mental activities. Lack of exercise leads to the constriction of blood vessels and make them virtually disappear. Blood vessels are the supply of life-giving blood that feeds all body tissues and removes waste products. Dr Maxwell Maltz writes, “Dr Selye has cultivated animal cell cultures within a living animal’s body by implanting a hollow tube. For some unknown reason biologically, new and “young” cells form inside this tube. Untended, however, they die within a month. However, if the fluid in the tube is washed daily, and waste products removed, the cells live indefinitely. They remain eternally “young” and neither “age” nor “die.” Dr Selye suggests that this may be the mechanism of ageing and that if so, “old age” can be postponed by slowing down the rate of waste production, or by helping the system to get rid of waste. In the human body, the capillaries (finer blood vessels) are the channels through which waste is removed. It has definitely been established that lack of exercise and inactivity literally “dries up” the capillaries.“
This suggests that both of our physical and mental capacity is unaffected by ageing. Yes, our joints do get stiffer. We can’t run as far as before. But most of them are attributed to our lack of exercise, being overly cautious and believing that our prime time is over. We age, not by years, but by events and our emotional reactions to them. This is evident when we learn of icons who become ultra successful in their 40s and 50s. They include the likes of Stan Lee who created his first hit comic at 39-years-old, Vera Wang who became a world’s premier designer at the age 40 and Samuel Jackson who became a famous actor at age 43. Business Insider lists 24 people who became highly successful after age 40 here.
Your thoughts can release abilities beyond normal limits. Having the right mindset is the key to personal fulfilment, success and youth. The amazing part is that it doesn’t require a lot of effort. It’s a choice.
Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck asked the question:
“Why do some people achieve their potential while others of equal talent do not?”
“Why do some succeed while others fail?”
After three decades of research, Dweck proposes that achieving your potential “do not lie in your actual ability or intelligence. Instead, it stems from your belief about where this ability and intelligence comes from and how it can be developed.” It’s all about the mindset. What are some of your self-limiting beliefs and thoughts? Let me know in comment section below and I’ll be more than happy to discuss them with you.