The president and co-founder of a local charity that directly cares for homeless people in our area is a 38-year-old musician and tattoo artist who’s covered from head to toe with tattoos and piercings, and has long brown dreadlocks that dangle below his waistline. He’s been running the charity since he was 20 and has helped hundreds of people get back on their feet, including a woman I know personally who is now a successful entrepreneur.
I just had a short, inspiring conversation with this unlikely hero a few minutes ago, and now I’m sitting here thinking about the dozens of happy, successful people I know like him who ignore stereotypes, negativity, and naysayers, and go against the grain to make a difference by doing things their own way… the right way.
And following in their footsteps isn’t hard either; you just have to start ignoring…
- Other people’s judgments.
It’s OK to listen to others, but not at the full expense of your own intuition. Throughout your life there will be many times when the world gets real quiet and the only thing left is the beat of your own heart. So you’d better learn the sound of it, otherwise you’ll never understand what it’s telling you.
When you spend too much time concentrating on everyone else’s perception of you, or who everyone else wants you to be, you eventually forget who you truly are. So don’t fear the judgments of others; you know in your heart who you are and what’s true to you. You don’t have to be someone else to impress and inspire people. Let them be impressed and inspired by the real YOU. Honestly, what does life matter if you lose yourself along the way? Even your mentors should teach you HOW to think, not WHAT to think. So if someone – anyone – is belittling your truth, it might be time to turn the other way.
- Old troubles from the past.
You can’t change what has already happened, so choose to look ahead instead of behind you. Don’t stress. Do your best. Forget the rest. Your past mistakes are meant to guide you, not define you. Life is a beautiful circle. You’re strong because you know your weaknesses. You’re wise because you’ve been foolish. You can laugh now because you’ve known sadness.
It’s crazy how you always end up where you’re meant to be – how even the most tragic and stressful situations eventually teach you important lessons that you never dreamed you were going to learn. Remember, oftentimes when things are falling apart, they are actually falling into place. Just because you’re not where you want to be today doesn’t mean you won’t be there someday. Everything is going to be come together – maybe not today, but eventually. (Angel and I cover this in more detail in the “Adversity” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- Each day’s little frustrations.
A bad day is just a bad day. It comes and it goes. Choose not to make it anything more. You will find that it’s necessary to let some things go simply for the reason that they’re heavy on your heart and soul. Go ahead and let go of them. Don’t clamp shackles to your own ankles. It’s incredibly easy to enjoy more of your life right now, no matter what the situation. It’s just a matter of dropping the layers of nonsense that are weighing you down.
Behind every beautiful day, there has been some kind of struggle. You fall, you rise, you make mistakes, you live, you learn. You’re human, not perfect. You’ve been hurt, but you’re alive. Think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive today – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, and to chase the things you love. Sometimes there is sadness in your journey, but there is also lots of beauty. You must keep putting one foot in front of the other even when it hurts, for you will never know what is waiting for you just around the bend.
Follow this daily to-do list and you’ll be just fine:
- The necessary pain of hard work and growth.
There are two types of pain in life: pain that hurts you, and pain that changes you. But when you learn from it, they are one and the same. If you want something, you must endure the pain of working for it. It’s that simple. If you’re not where you want to be right now, take the time to visualize yourself in the place you want to be and take the first step in that direction. You may not be able to change your destination in a day, but you can change your direction right now.
Remember, strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you couldn’t. Tough situations build strong, successful people. No matter how much it hurts now, you have to hold your head up, grit your teeth, and keep going. In the end, consistent action speaks for itself. So focus diligently, work hard in silence, and let your success be your noise.
- Insignificant busywork.
In the beginning, you need to say “yes” to a lot of things to discover and establish your goals. Later on, you need to say “no” to a lot of things and concentrate on your goals. Stop over-committing and trying to do too much at once. Start saying “no” more often. If you never say “no,” you will take on too much and all you will achieve is stress and frustration.
As Bruce Lee once said, “It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.” Many of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important. Don’t be one of them. It’s not what we claim are our priorities, but how we spend our time each day that reveals the truth. Let your daily actions reflect your highest priorities. (Read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.)
- Impatient thoughts.
Patience is not about waiting; it’s the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard for what you believe in. It’s the willingness to stay focused, confidently staking one small step at a time, knowing that the way you move a mountain is by moving one stone at a time. Every stone you move, no matter how small, is progress.
Whether you are working on improving your health, learning a new skill, or getting a business venture off the ground, you can’t expect instant gratification. Instead, you must dedicate yourself to the best of your ability and understand that real change takes time. Sometimes it may be hard to see your progress. Sometimes it will be frustrating when the results you seek don’t appear as quickly as you had hoped. Still, you are advancing. Hang in there. You may be moving things along slowly, but you are still moving a mountain.
- The things that can’t be controlled.
Never force anything. Do your best, then let it be. If it’s meant to be, it will be. Don’t hold yourself down with things you can’t control. Stop talking about the problem and start thinking about the solution. Forget what could go wrong for a sec and think of what is already right.
Remember, change happens for a reason. Roll with it. It won’t be ideal or easy at first, but it will be worth it in the end. When times are good and everything is comfortably in order, it’s easy to become complacent and forget how skillful and resourceful you are capable of being. Unanticipated troubles are necessary evils that push you forward, because they eventually end, but the lessons and growth you gain from them last a lifetime.
- Unfounded fears.
Life is about overcoming fear and taking risks. If you don’t take risks, you won’t know what you’re capable of. If you don’t risk anything, you risk everything. Truth be told, nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to expand your comfort zone so you can experience things and understand more… so that you may fear less in the long run.
The reality, of course, is we all get afraid sometimes. It’s not about not being afraid, but what you do when you feel that way. When you feel doubt, or fear, or anxiety, or frustration, know that you can let it go just as surely as you can pull your hand away from a flame. Keep your mind focused on the goodness, on the possibilities and on your most treasured goals. What begins in your mind ends up in your life. Think continually of the way you would like to be, let these thoughts drive your actions, and your reality will reliably catch up with your thinking. (Read Daring Greatly.)
- The mind’s endless stream of doubts.
Believe in yourself through tough times. Believe in your capacity to succeed. Believe that your relationships are worth the effort. Believe that people make mistakes on their way to greatness. Believe that people can be foolish and intelligent, selfish and generous, and stressed and happy all at once. Believe that very few people hurt others on purpose. Believe that there are many roads to what’s right. Believe in your intuition, especially when you have to choose between two good paths. Believe that the answers are out there waiting. Believe that life will surprise you again and again. Believe that the journey is the destination. Believe that it’s all worth your while.
Or as Roald Dahl once said, “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
The floor is yours…