I’m going to describe someone to you. Perhaps you already know this individual.
This person always seem to hold all the chips? Consistently pull the right cards, make the right moves and things continuously play out in their favor. You know who I’m talking about. Two months ago you received yet another invitation card celebrating another milestone they just hit. If you don’t then maybe you are that person. If so, hats off to you!
I happen to be good friends with one of these superhuman creatures. For the sake of this blog we’ll call her Jenna. I met Jenna several years ago when I was just beginning my graduate program and we instantly clicked and became fairly good friends. I was drawn to her because she always radiated this positive, reassuring energy that always made me feel at ease with life.
At the time, I was unsure of myself in terms of what I wanted to do career wise, where I wanted to live and what direction my life was headed. So it was refreshing to talk with someone who had a clear direction and plan of where they wanted to be and what they wanted to achieve, and also took strides to make the plan a reality.
Jenna was a couple years my senior, just crossed her mid-twenties at the time, another reason I enjoyed her company, she was so mature. She was independent, had a pretty decent job in technology and a wonderful boyfriend. I remember always being marveled at her exquisitely clean and charmingly decorated apartment that felt like plush hotel living which put my college style living to shame.
About a year after meeting Jenna she announced of her plans to move closer to her boyfriend who lived about 4 hours away. Within a month she landed a higher paying job in the city, got engaged several months later and shortly after that she was walking down the aisle. Several months later, she announced that she was expecting and shortly after, I was informed that she and her husband had purchased their first home and in addition she had successfully launched her first business. It was just fantastic, the good news came one after the next and it appeared as though all the stars were aligned in her favor.
The next time I saw her was months after my graduation from graduate school. I was going through the stress of trying to land a job during one tough economy. But Jenna, she was glowing. She looked so happy standing next to her ever so handsome husband who daintily held their beautiful daughter. And then the other good news came, she was expecting her second child. I would lie to you if I said, I didn’t feel a little twang of jealousy. Her life was just perfect.
That night of the visit as I slept in the cozy matching bed-set of her guest room, I wondered why did it seem so difficult for me and yet so easy for her. I began to believe that life wasn’t fair and some people were destined to have all the luck in life. In Sunday school, I remember they would always say your destiny has been scripted long before your entrance into the world. So it made sense. Our lives were already spoken for and some people just were destined to have all the right cards.
As the years progressed, I met several others that fit into this group that I had categorized as superhuman species. One thing that I began to realize they all had in common was that same sense of assurance and positive outlook for the future. They knew what they wanted and it always came to them.
They spoke of things and it came to reality. There are so many people who say that they will do this or that, or want this and that or plan for things that never come to fruition. However this group of people are different in that their visions always seem to morph into reality. They didn’t just talk about it, they lived it.
What I have come to learn is that what might appear to many of us as luck, is actually a cause and effect of clear vision, focused planning and calculated execution. In other words, these people knew what they wanted, made a plan on how to make it happen and followed through. When I came to this realization, I remember feeling a bit silly and wondering how I’d come to over complicate things. It seems so easy yet many of us struggle with this and I believe the single common reason is- we don’t know what we want
1) Know what you want out of life.
For most of our lives we have been told who we are and what to want. Many of us are living lives based on the expectations of others. From childhood through teen years and even adulthood, we have been taught to do things a certain way by our parents or guardians. We are told to behave a certain way, told what to believe, maybe even what to study in school and so forth. It makes it challenging to blossom into our own individuality. Even society tries to dictate our identity based on things like our ethnicity, cultural background or education.
You have to learn to claw through all those webs to find yourself. Forget about what people say or what they will think and focus on developing a strong sense of who you are. When it is all said and done, it is extremely difficult to please everybody, no matter how hard you try, nor should you try to. Developing a strong sense of self-identity is crucial otherwise you’ll spend the rest of your life living in other people’s shadows.
If you struggle to make decisions or constantly seek other people’s input before making up your mind about anything. That is a sign you need to develop your self identity.
“If you don’t know what you want, you end up with a lot you don’t”- Chuck Palahniuk
The journey to finding oneself can be tough especially if you feel knee-deep in a life that is artificially yours. However, as my mom will always say, it is never too late and the key is to start now. Start exploring, trying new things, breaking out of your shell and doing something new each day.
As you delve into new experiences, you will slowly begin to discover your true passions and interests. It is important to do this is for all aspects of your life, personal, career, family and leisure. Keep a journal and make notes of your experience, what you enjoyed or what needs to be change.
Once you have garnered determined what it is you want to do with your life. The next step is to make it official and put it on paper.
2) Write it down
Perhaps it’s due to my affinity for writing, but I believe nothing is official until it is written. Writing your goals down gives you something to reference at a later time and a concrete sense of direction. You can also think of it as signing a contract with yourself.
It doesn’t have to be long and drawn out. A short simple sentence will suffice as long as it contains the elements of what you are seeking to accomplish. If you’ve never read the Bruce Lee, My Definite Chief Aim story, I suggest you get to Googling (didn’t you know, it’s verb) it now.
After you have written your goals down, it needs to go from paper to reality. That’s where planning and preparation becomes key. You might have a really big goal, but it takes a bunch of small goals to achieve that really big one.
3) Break it down into smaller, achievable goals
My diary is cluttered with really ambitious goals. What can I say, I dream and dream big. However it can get overwhelming when I focus on the big goal rather than the steps I need to take. For each goal that you are seeking to accomplish, make a list of the actions you need to take to get from point A to point B and prioritize the list. Set deadlines and milestones to keep you on track and also have a reason to celebrate along the way. By breaking down your goals into smaller steps, it makes it seem less out of reach.
4) Have a mentor
This is perhaps one of the most important actions you can take for yourself. Mentors are important because they can help point us in the right direction. They inform, educate and get us back on track when we go off course.
For years I thought it was better to do things on my own. That it would make my success story so much more special. What a faulty way of thinking. If you explore the tales of extremely successful people, you will find that rarely anyone does it alone. It is a rough world out there and extremely easy to get distracted or lose faith. That’s where having a mentor will be extremely beneficial.
Just as important as being a mentor is mentoring others. Regardless of what stage you are in life, there is always someone who can benefit from your experience. So reach out and share your knowledge.
5) Be grateful, smile and believe in yourself
During the times that I spent with Jenna, one of the things that really struck me about her was consistently optimistic she remained about the future. Regardless of the situation at hand, her faith and vision and plan never altered. It was almost as though she had unlocked the secret code to success and knew something that the rest of us didn’t. Nothing could deter her.
That’s the kind of faith you need to have. You have to believe it, claim it and live like it’s already happened. Continue to do your part with the planning and preparation and the universe will take care of the rest. This is what most of us confuse with luck.
Over the years, I have learned never to get caught up in the destination. To take time and appreciate the process of self discovery, growth and learning. Living in the present is just as important as planning and preparing for the future. Through the journey, don’t forget to breathe and be happy. You only live once and boy does time fly!