One of everyone’s goals in life is to live a happy life. However, were our forefathers even smarter than we thought when they put in the Declaration of Independence that we have the right to the pursuit of happiness? Is that all that there is, an endless pursuit of happiness that can never be reached? For many, this may seem like the case but I do not think so. I think that a lot of people have the equation to happiness wrong.
I saw a TED Talk that inspired this topic. It went on to say that most people try to surround themselves with things that will make them happy: a new car, a big house, a lot of money. The only problem is that these things will not create happiness. Don’t get me wrong, I believe this can enhance happiness but the happiness has to be there before these things can help.
Let’s look at an example. Say you had a lot of extra money so you decide to go on a vacation to Aruba with a couple of your closes friends. Now if you and your friends are already happy, you shouldn’t need to go to Aruba to be happy. You would probably be happy and have fun just hanging out at the mall. However, I am sure you would have more fun and be a little happy in Aruba experiencing new things and making new memories. Now take the same situation but add that friend or person you know that complaints about everything because they are always unhappy. They would always find something wrong with the vacation even if it was a once in a life time experience. That is because happiness is not something that can be pursued or created; it is an attitude you must have. The money and other material object can help improve this attitude but only you can change it.
Since people have a misunderstanding of where happiness comes from, they have the equation wrong. People believe that if they work hard and become successful, they will become happy. Does that sound about right? They know that with success come those material things or personal accolades that will make them happy. There is a problem with this equation though. What usually happens when you have become successful and reached your goal? Think of a runner. If a runner has a goal to run a mile in 5 minutes, when they reach that goal the will change it. They will make the next goal 4.5 minutes. The definition of success is always changing for us. If success is always changing then so is the equation which means that we never reach happiness.
What is the solution to this? Change the equation. Make the equation hard work + happiness = success. This equation can almost never fail. First, happiness is an attitude, a mindset, which means you control your happiness and can be happy at any time. Secondly, if you are happy nothing else really matters. If you are living in a box on the street I do not believe you will care if you are happy because you are happy! I am not suggestion quitting school and going to life in a box. I am saying if you are unhappy stop blaming the world and start looking at yourself. Don’t work to change your surroundings if you are unhappy, work to change you attitude.
Has anyone every given you praise, genuine praise, for your work but you didn’t see it? Did you ever wonder why that happens? It happens to me sometimes, especially with my writing. People say I am a good writer but sometimes I just don’t see what they are talking about. I figured out why that is and it comes down to one thing: potential. Ira Glass sums it up in pretty well.
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” -Ira Glass
I think he perfectly describes any work you do when you are short of your potential. Others look at it and may say it is good but you look at it and know something is missing. You know that there is that special something that you need to put your work over the top and reach your ambitions. However, in the beginning you do not know what that special something is and instead of realizing you just haven’t reached your potential yet, you think you are not good enough. The truth is though, you are good enough you just have not gotten their yet. You only feel that your work is missing something subconsciously we know we can do better.
This is why you need to strive to reach your full potential. Never settle for good enough, always aim for better than you ever imagined. No matter what it is that you are doing never stop improving because you never know how great you can really become. If you keep doing better than you previously did, one day you will look at yourself and your work and realize that it is the work you always knew you could do. Don’t stop there though! In fact, don’t stop ever! If you want to do something go out and do it. If you are not good at first keep working on it. You never know when you have reached your full potential so just keep trying to improving and always strive to be the person you are capable of becoming.
When you look at the picture above what do you see? I am going to guess you said plant seeds and if you said apple tree seeds, give yourself 2 extra points. However, if you said apple tree you get the grand prize (there’s not really a prize sorry). These seeds have the potential to become great trees with time and effort and this is why you should see a tree and not just seeds. This is similar to how our visions can come true if we put time and effort into them.
I got this idea from Eric Thomas, who is one of my favorite motivational speakers. I was watching a keynote speech he gave back in January and this was one of his main themes: to have vision. You will not succeed in life if you do not know what success looks like to you.
After listening to him I realized that this is why I am lost right now. I have so much passion and energy, so much drive and determination, but I do not have a vision of where I want it to lead too. I know that I want to be successful and I know I will not stop or quit until I am but I do not know what success means to me yet. I do not know when I will know either.
I am still changing who I am every day. If you asked me a year ago if I wanted to work with people I would have said absolutely not but now I love to interact with people, even if it is just saying hello in passing. I just get excited every time I talk to someone especially if they are new to me. I say all the time that it would take a lot for me to call someone a creep because I welcome total strangers coming up to talk to me. This is just one example of how I am constantly changing.
With this constant changing comes uncertainly: uncertainly of what I want my future to look like. This also means I do not know what success looks like at this point. The only thing that I am sure about my future is that I want a golden retriever and I would prefer to live near the beach. I lack the vision that Eric Thomas talked about in his presentation. Although I will work my butt off to get what I want, I don’t know what I want.
This is why it is so important to have that vision and define what success looks like for you. If you do, you have something to work for; something that will make you say, “I am not going to give up.” And (I know you aren’t supposed to start a sentence with and but I like to be a trend setter) once you have that vision you can’t give up on it because if you don’t give up, you can’t lose.
Today is the day I start defining my success. I will not get past this point and find my way in life if I don’t. Although I may have already known this, it wasn’t as clear as it is to me now. I challenge you all to start defining your own success. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what point in your life you’re at because we are constantly changing which means so is your definition of success.
How do you define success? What are you doing to do today to reach it?
Arthur, the man in this video, went through an amazing transformation that many, including experts, told him could not happen. He refused to accept that he wouldn’t be able to walk unassisted again. He wanted to change his life and knew it was possible. He knew it wasn’t going to be easy and he fell many times but the key was he got right back up. The part that inspires me the most is when he tried to walk. He fell right on his face. At this point many people would give up but he did not. He knew that “if he couldn’t do it today, that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be able to do it someday.” Imagine if everyone had that type of attitude. Imagine all we would accomplish.
The other day I was playing basketball with my younger neighbor who is just entering high school next year. We were catching up after I had been away at school all year. I asked him if he knew what he wanted to do later in life and he said be in the NFL and followed it up quickly with “but I will probably be a math teacher.” I didn’t think about it then but I wish I did because if he wants to he can get into the NFL. Yes, it wouldn’t be easy but it is possible and as Arthur demonstrates, that is all you need.
If you have a dream you have to go for it. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. The only things you can’t do in life are the things that are impossible and that is a very small list.
However, if you listen to the people who tell you that you can’t, then they are right because if you want something and it isn’t easy you are going to need to put your all into it. When the other people are taking a break, you have to be in there working hard. When the others give up because they did it wrong too many times, you have to do it until you get it right. When you feel like giving up, you have to dig deep and decided if you really want you dream. When no one else believes in you, you have to believe in yourself.
I am a firm believer in the old cliché you can accomplish whatever you put your mind too. Once I figure out what I want to put my mind to I am going to work as hard as I can to make sure it happens. I challenge you to do the same. Has there ever been a time where someone told you that you can’t do something and you proved them wrong? How did it feel?
Did you ever think about how Steve Jobs became Steve Jobs or how Bill Gates became Bill Gates? I say it is because they were not afraid. They were not afraid to take an idea they believed in that may have seemed crazy and run with it. They are not afraid to be the first one through the wall. They were not afraid to get a little bloody because the first one through the wall always gets bloody.
Breaking through that wall can be hard though. There will always be that part of you saying that what you are going after is a bad idea; that it won’t work. Don’t listen. Instead, think of the reason you are doing it in the first place. Listen to the part of you telling you why it is a good idea; why it will work. Let that part of you overwhelm you and whatever you do don’t listen to the doubters.
There will always be doubters. They will try to bring you down and tell you that you are wrong. They will tell you that what you are doing is stupid but that’s all apart of getting bloody. You have to prove those doubters wrong and turn them into followers. If you have that passion and that ambition and truly believe in what it is you are doing, you will make it work and the doubters will come to realize that; they will follow you. They will follow you because it is a lot easier to walk through a hole that someone else has made than to create your own hole.
That is why we cannot be afraid to be the first one through the wall. Yes, we are going to get a little bloody and it is going to be tough but everything worth doing is. If we don’t break through that wall someone else will or worse; no one else will. Think about that, you have an idea that has the potential to be great and maybe change the world but you let a wall stop you. The world will never be able to experience that greatness and not only do you lose but everyone does.
If I have an idea with a wall in front of it, I am going to start charging that wall. I will break through and leave a hole for others to follow. Are you going to let walls stop you? Has there ever been a time when you went after something and got a little bloody? How did you deal with it?
If you think about it we are really lucky: humans that is. We are lucky because we are alive. Out of all the billions of planets and stars in the universe, we ended up on the one that is able to support us. We beat the odds of about one and a billion. However, I do not like to believe in luck. When people believe in luck, they see others’ accomplishments as luck instead of as a result of hard work and perseverance. Also, they stop themselves from going out and achieving their own goals because they would rather wait and let luck make them happen than make them happen themselves. So I do not believe that humans are lucky. Instead, I believe that humans, that each and every one of us, is here for a reason. Whether we know it or not, there is a reason that we landed on this rock in the middle of nowhere.
Mark Twain hard it right when he said “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Although I agree with Mr. Twain, the days in-between are also important. The way you live those days decides whether or not you find the reason that you are alive. You can live each day just going through the motions but it may be hard to find your purpose. However, you can live each day as if our days on this rock are not endless, because our days are not endless, and make the most of them. You can change things up, experience new activities, get new perspectives on life and search for your purpose. The path this takes you down may not be the easiest to travel but I only imagine what the end of that path looks like. Knowing that if I look and fight hard enough I can find out why I exist, I do not see to many other things more worth fighting for. I may not have found my purpose yet and I may not know how but I will not give up until I find it. If you find yourself asking how exactly to go about finding your purpose, my recent post Finding Your Passion may help give you a good starting point.
We all have already experienced our first most important day and I am going to fight to experience my second day. Is the second day worth the fight to you?
Ever since I got to college, all I have heard is that I have to find my passion. I have to find what I love to do and do it. Every presenter I have seen, every advisor I have talked to, and every book that I have read says this is the key to living a fulfilling life. The only thing wrong with this is I have no idea how to do that. I have no clue where to go looking to find my passion. I do not know what steps to take to find my passion. All I know is that this is the most important task I will complete in my life and it seems to be by far the hardest.
This whole idea of finding my passion is really what got me started with this blog. I believe I have to find myself and figure out who I really am to find my passion. However, what freshman in college really knows who they are? We are still growing up in college. We still have so many lessons to learn, mistakes to make, and experiences to have and no time to do it. We have to worry about class, homework, extra-curricular activities, work work, socializing (of course), and so much more. How are we supposed to find time in the day with all of this to do what could be the hardest thing we have to do in life: figure out who we are? Even if we found time, how are we supposed to find ourselves?
Everyone tells us to find our passion and do what we love to do but not too many people tell us how to do that. Even if they do tell us they usually over simplify it, such as listen to your heart, which is not really that simple. Now I do not blame anyone for not telling me how to find myself because I do not believe it is something simple that you can look up on Wikihow.com (although I am sure they have the 10 step plan to finding yourself). I think that to find out who you are and who you want to be you need to work at it for a long time. You need to really look at yourself in the mirror. You need to observe yourself and see how you act in different situation and see what those actions tell you about yourself. For some people it is easier to find themselves and figure out what their passion is but for most of us it is a hard journey. I do not know any secrets how to make this journey shorter or where to even begin but I know the sooner you start this journey the better off you will be.
I am not really sure if I have a clear lesson today but if I did, it would probably be summed up by the quote that Steve Jobs reinvented (like everything else Apple creates), “Find what you love to do and you will never work a day in your live.” However, I am going to take this one step further and say that to find what you love to do you have to first find yourself. I am not saying I know the key to happiness but this would be my best guess: to know yourself and find your passion. Being happy seems to me to be the only thing that matters in life. If you are happy than it does not matter what type of job you have, how much money you make, what kind of house you have because you are happy with whatever you have. People believe that money and good fortune will bring them happiness but I believe that if you find yourself and you find your passion, then you will find your happiness.
I took the first steps on my journey to self-discovery. I know it is going to be hard and it may take longer than I would like but I also know it will be worth it. Have you taken the first steps on your journey?