“They make it look so easy.”
I hear this phrase all the time. At some point in my life, I’m sure I’ve uttered those words myself. When we see stories about successful people and get the condensed version of how they made their way, it looks like it took very, very little effort. Meanwhile, everyone out there who’s built their own wealth or launched a business knows it’s never that simple.
I share your frustration over this. How-to books and motivational lessons often touch on stories that aren’t relatable. They fail to account for your specific hardships, or just address someone with impeccable luck who had everything go their way. If you’re trying to figure out how to create your success but using the model of a lottery winner, it’s going to be an uphill battle.
Success stories rarely translate from one person to the next. Aside from the variables that make each of our paths unique, you can’t compare your future to another person’s past. If you’re looking at another person’s triumphs and you can’t imagine finding the same prosperity, you have to remember you’re analyzing the culmination of lots of hard work.
Instead of emulating a result, you need to find your process. You have to nitpick through the habits and rituals that others used to achieve great things and start taking similar action. Unfortunately, it can be a long time before you see results. Fortunately, a lot of these steps are incredibly easy to take.
I’m going to throw out six simple activities that can ultimately change the course of your life. On their own, none of these will make your dreams come true. Used as a catalyst to shake things up, increase your productivity or improve your daily routine, any of these actions can be the first step toward brighter horizons.
On a difficulty scale measuring 1-10, this might land at zero. Aside from finding the pen and paper, you don’t have to exert yourself or spend more than a minute thinking and writing.
If this simple action has the power to change lives, why don’t more people do it? I can’t speak for everyone, but I assume it’s a general lack of belief. People don’t believe something this trivial can have an impact, and they feel embarrassed just by trying. It’s easy to be cynical about this kind of thing, especially for those prone to overanalyzing and relying on clearly defined logic.
If that sounds like you, allow me to present a logical reason why writing down goals and dreams can actually lead to results. If you don’t take the time to define what you want, you might be going through life without much direction. Your goals could be attainably close, but as long as you keep fumbling around blindly, you won’t find them.
By taking a couple seconds to write down a few wishes, hopes and dreams, you force yourself to look at what you really want. Whatever you write can be imperfect and you can always make a new list later, but this exceptionally simple action will give you a little perspective on what you truly hope to accomplish.
Once your list is written, put it on your nightstand or by the coffee maker. Make sure it’s somewhere you’ll see it every day. If you read that list often enough, those goals will stay at the forefront of your mind and you’ll be quicker to notice opportunities and be proactive when given the chance.
One of the greatest enemies of success is stagnation. I mean, if you’re looking to change your life, you won’t get there by avoiding change, right?
If you wait for an opportunity to do something new, expect to wait for a long, long time. You have to stop going through the motions if you want to see a real shift in your life, and sometimes the best way to do that is stepping outside your comfort zone. If you want to really feel the results, get as far outside your comfort zone as you can.
When you do something you A) really don’t want to, or B) never would have thought to do, there are usually two possible outcomes: you either end up loving it or find out it wasn’t as awful as you’d expected. Chances of a life-altering skydive that turns you into a professional skydiving instructor are pretty low; chances of you surviving the jump from a plane and thinking, “hm, I wonder what else I can survive” are significantly higher.
If you’re worried skydiving is the only fear worth facing, don’t fret. The thing that terrifies you can be as simple as asking strangers for help. You probably don’t consider yourself acutely terrified of asking a gas station attendant for directions, but a lot of people have legitimate nerves when it comes to engaging with people they don’t know. If that’s true for you, striking up conversation with your Uber driver might just be the thing that broadens your horizons.
If this one isn’t making sense to you yet, think about the people you admire. Think about the confidence they display, the fearlessness with which they approach their business. I promise you they aren’t fearless; they just stopped avoiding the things that scare them.
The hardest of all the easy steps. We all know physical activity promotes good health and happy endorphins, and yet the majority of us find any and every reason to push it off. Why?
Essentially, most people don’t find exercise enjoyable. When you consider fitness routines, you think of all the most tiresome options, like running, weightlifting or using a rowing machine. You have to convince yourself to do something you don’t like for an hour, and then you have to find the time to do it. That’s an easy proposal to decline.
We also get caught up in the results of physical fitness, and that can be discouraging. You have to put in loads of effort before seeing any noticeable changes, making the whole thing feel like a waste of time. If you’re going to exercise consistently and reap the benefits, you’ll only succeed if you create a routine that works and makes you happy.
For starters, don’t put the cart before the horse. People look at exercise and try to find the quickest way to a six-pack, and that’s not a good strategy. Instead, figure out which type of exercise you can realistically commit to. Walking or riding your bike to work? 10 minutes of push ups and sit ups every other day? Joining a casual soccer or softball league? Over time, any of these can have a positive effect on your fitness. Better yet, they can all have an immediate effect on your mental health.
If you go for a five-minute jog, you’re going to feel good about it. Even if you don’t turn it into a regular thing and start running marathons, a quick burst of exercise can put you in a new headspace and break you out of a prolonged rut. Do it more and more frequently and you’ll start getting addicted to the rush of endorphins. Before too long, almost by accident, you could end up with that six-pack.
You already know exercise is good. I want you to believe it’s not as hard as running 10 miles every day. Just like a savings account, you can start small and watch your efforts grow. It’s definitely worth it.
People wanting change frequently feel stuck or stifled in their careers. When 40 hours of your week get eaten by a job you don’t love, it’s no surprise you might want to mix things up.
Quitting takes a lot of guts and might be a bad choice, while looking for a new position comes with no guarantees. If you feel trapped in your job but don’t feel empowered to make a big change, you still have the option to start somewhere small: your lunch break.
For 30 or 60 minutes, you’re in charge of your life. You don’t have to please bosses or look over your shoulder because that time is yours. You have the option to spend that break staring at your food and hoping the seconds pass slowly, or you can use those minutes for something that matters.
How can you make use of such a short amount of time? Any of these options might work:
● Building your website
● Searching for a side hustle
● Listening to new music or podcasts
● Learning a new language
● Learning pretty much anything
● Reviewing local restaurants
Anything can be a hobby. The point is to stop spending your daily break at your underwhelming job by continuing to be underwhelmed. Take a little action that might boost your mood or make you hopeful about a future prospect. Do it in earneset and you’ll probably head back to your desk with a little pep in your step. Can you imagine feeling accomplished instead of defeated during the second half of your work shift? It’s not that far-fetched.
TV makes itself very easy to watch. There are lots of good shows to choose from, no shortage of platforms on which to watch, and your brain gets to fall into sleep mode while you do it. Knowing television provides such a simple escape… might I suggest doing less of it?
You don’t have to go cold turkey on your Netflix and HBO, but leaving an extra 20 minutes at the end of the day to flex a different part of your brain can be a very healthy choice. First of all, reading absolutely exercises another section of your thinker, and all sorts of head doctors will tell you why that’s good. More importantly, you’re bound to learn different things from reading than you do watching the tube.
When I was struggling with debt and trying to learn about the money management, I read a lot of stuff and learned invaluable information from that literature. TV programs about money weren’t bad, but my brain just didn’t absorb those between-commercial segments as well as it did when reading. I think this goes for most things we want to learn about, from world events to tips for cooking a perfect brisket.
If you fall asleep every night while watching TV, you could be doing better by your brain. Similarly, if you start each day with morning shows that drone on in the background while you drink coffee and let your eyes gloss over, consider reading a few pages of a book instead.
Reading is our best means of becoming better writers, and as we become more inundated with acronyms and colloquialisms on social media, picking up a novel by an actual author provides one of the few ways we can remind ourselves how to spell. When you write well, you communicate more effectively, and that’s an important skill no matter who you are or what you do.
Go to the library, get a book for free, start reading it tonight before bed. Easy as pie and the right thing to do.
Just like the embarrassment felt when jotting down a list of dreams, people get embarrassed to talk about their goals. Whether it’s the fear of sounding too idealistic or too naive, communicating optimism makes a lot of people turn red in the face.
To be blunt, you probably won’t achieve any goals you’re too shy to talk about. Without verbalizing these ambitions, they stay locked in your head and don’t get a chance to develop. Being shy or nervous isn’t a good reason to deprive yourself of the success you want.
That said, I understand these feelings. You’re afraid of getting judged, or of voicing your objectives and then being labeled a failure when things don’t come to pass. Those concerns have merit, but again, not enough merit to toss your dreams aside.
Since those fears won’t go away on their own, you have to work around them. Lots of people hire a life coach, spending money in exchange for the safety of knowing they’re talking to someone who wants to help them set and achieve goals. That’s an option if you have the money, and it’s something that can prove very rewarding.
Of course, you don’t have to pay to discuss your goals; you just have to find the right person to talk to. Believe it or not, you’re probably surrounded by people who have big aspirations they wish they could talk about. Your friends and family might not share the same goals as you, but they have the same desire to achieve big things.
You can take this step as far as you want. Start a weekly meeting where everyone talks about their dreams and actions they’ve taken to move forward, or bother Allison in the cubicle next to yours a few times a month to get her thoughts on your current plans. Either of those is a big step in the right direction.
If you read this and still feel like discussing your dreams is stupid, you’re missing the point. If you have big dreams you want to share with the world, you don’t get to bottle those up. Change takes action, and you can’t act on the things you try to keep hidden from everyone.
Nothing on this list has to wait until tomorrow. I don’t want you to rush these actions and put in a halfhearted effort, but I also want you to kick things into gear sooner than later. Waiting to act is probably the reason you feel stuck, so it’s time to break the cycle.
Success doesn’t come easy, but it isn’t as evasive as you might think. Simple steps can lead to great things when you act with purpose.