1. "Happiness is not something outside of me, but flows outward from me."

Most people are chasing happiness. They believe it's on the other side of success. That you must first do or have something before you can be happy.

Shawn Achor, a prominent scholar on the science of happiness, explains that most parents, teachers, leaders, and people in general believe the following about happiness:

"If I work harder, I'll be more successful. If I'm more successful, then I'll be happy."

The problem with this approach, Achor says, is that it's "scientifically broken and backwards."

Every time your brain has a success, you change the goalpost of success. For example, you get good grades, now you need better grades -- you made a good income, now you need a bigger income. Every time you hit a target, the target moves. Thus, "if happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there. We've pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon as a society," says Achor.

But our brain works in the opposite order. If you can be positive and happy in the present, you'll actually show up better in life. Thus, happiness is what actually leads to success. No the other way around.

Stop trying to pursue happiness. You'll never get there.

Instead, deploy strategies that will increase your brain positivity now. When your brain is positively positioned, you have an increased flow of dopamine which makes you happier and increases all the learning centers of your brain (e.g., creativity, problem solving, etc.).

Scientifically, the following behaviors have been found to create lasting positive change to your brain functioning:

  • Write down three new things you're grateful for each day. This will change your selective attention toward the positive in the world rather than the negative.
  • Journaling about one positive experience you've had that day allows you to relive it.
  • Exercising everyday teaches you that your behaviors matter -- and that they dramatically impact you and those around you.
  • Meditating each day helps you overcome the cultural ADHD of constant distraction. It helps you focus on what's really important.
  • Random or conscious acts of kindness every single day. This could be as simple as sending a kind email to someone, smiling, or giving a compliment.

By spending just two minutes per day on each these activities for 21 days, you can rewire your brain toward the positive. As a result, you will live from a more optimistic and creative approach.

2. "I fully realize that my future is bright and powerful."

Free-will is a tricky subject. Both spiritually and psychologically, the whole notion is complex and conflicting.

Do we really have free-will?

To what extent do we determine the outcomes of our lives?

The majority of psychological theories would suggest that human beings do not have free-will; but rather, that we are nothing more than the clashing of genes and environment -- no room for consciously deciding either of those things.

In similar fashion, many religious philosophies promote a God hardly worthy of worship, who despite having the power to save all predetermines a select few -- leaving the rest to spend eternity tortured without explanation or reason why.

Clearly, internal wisdom discerns both of these ideas as wrong, if not radically incomplete.

But is our ability to act absolutely independent? Surely not. If I were to jump off my back porch in attempts of flying, I would most certainly be acted on by gravitational forces. Indeed, there are constraints on our freedom to act.

However, the flexibility of those constraints is proving to be quite malleable. We can consciously change our environments. And science is even coming to grips with the fact that we can manipulate our genetic expression. Our free-will is contextual, yet we have the power to manipulate the context (including our beliefs about that context); and thus, we have limitless options regarding the course our lives take.

In the movie, The Adjustment Bureau, the main character David Norris (played by Matt Damon) learns about a hidden society of "angels" (known as "the Adjustment Bureau") who ensure every person's life goes according to "the plan."

According to David's plan, he isn't supposed to be with Elise, a woman he feels an innate and deep connection toward. The members of the Adjustment Bureau do all they can to ensure David and Elise's paths don't cross. But with a touch of luck, and dogged determination, David decides he's going to have Elise regardless of what "the plan" dictates.

After risking everything to have the person he loves, David inspires a member of the Adjustment Bureau, who then takes David's case to the Chairman -- the creator of each person's plan. David's determination and love inspire even the Chairman, who then makes David and Elise's "plan" blank.

The film closes with the following narration by one of the members of the Adjustment Bureau:

"Most people live life on the path we set for them, too afraid to explore any other. But once in a while, people like you come along who knock down all the obstacles we put in your way. People who realize free-will is a gift you'll never know how to use until you fight for it. I think that's the Chairman's real plan: that one day, we won't write the plan, you will."

Brilliant things begin to happen when you take extreme ownership over your life. When you're in complete alignment with yourself, you find that God has given you the power to choose for yourself. And if you so choose, that God will help you along your way.

Matured at this stage, you don't need to wonder or worry about how your future will turn out. Instead, you are completely confident about certain realizations. These realizations which you decide, although not yet manifested, have already happened. Thus, they are as real as anything else. Your life then becomes the natural unfolding of something you've consciously created in your mind.

3. "I purposefully take on enormous risk and challenge, knowing this to be the only path to optimal growth."

Animals are the direct product of their environment. They reactively evolve over-time based on external circumstances. The process of their evolution is slow and random.

Human-beings are the indirect product of their environment. Although the environment is the medium through which humans adapt and evolve, our choices determine our environments.

This is the fundamental difference. We get to decide the course and intensity of our personal evolution by intelligently designing our environments.

Hence, you are the sum total of the five people you spend the most time with.You are what you eat, think, and read. You are what you do. Your life can be measured in direct proportion to the size of problems you seek to solve. So choose wisely.

I recently met a woman with 17 kids -- eight of her own and nine her and her husband fostered then adopted. This may seem ridiculous to you. But if you wanted to, you could do this as well. By the way, they are thriving as a family, not just surviving.

No matter the difficulty, we can adapt to anything. We can handle much more stress and strain than we think we can.So when it comes to goal-setting, we mid-as-well intentionally adapt to something grueling.

Although most people seek the path of least resistance and thus adapt to ease and idleness, you should seek challenge and difficulty. For example, trees that grow in windy and strenuous circumstances are forced to shoot forth deeper roots, making them impenetrable to their difficult environment.

As the poem by Douglas Malloch eloquently states:

The tree that never had to fight

For sun and sky and air and light,

But stood out in the open plain

And always got its share of rain,

Never became a forest king

But lived and died a scrubby thing.

Good timber does not grow with ease:

The stronger wind, the stronger trees;

The further sky, the greater length;

The more the storm, the more the strength.

By sun and cold, by rain and snow,

In trees and men good timbers grow.

Don't avoid problems, embrace and seek them. The bigger the problems you're required to deal with, the more you'll personally grow to resolve those problems.

4. "The economy is likely going to fall apart. And that doesn't really effect me."

When people ask renowned actor and comedian, Steve Martin, "How can I be successful?" he gives them an answer they don't want to hear. In asking that question, what they really want to know is:

  • Here's how you get an agent
  • Here's how you how write a script
  • Here's how you do this and that...

But that's not what Steve Martin tells them. Instead, he responds, "Be so good, they can't ignore you."

No matter how bad the economy is, if you're doing work that can't be ignored, you will always be in business. If you are undeniably good at something -- and provide enormous value to people -- you will thrive.

Actually, people with this mindset generally take advantage of "bad" economies. In many cases, these are their greatest times of growth. Because it's during these times that most everyone else seeks shelter and refuge.

5. "I have enough. External things can never bring me sustainable or lasting happiness."

Having nice things is great. But we should never make stuff into our gods. The possessions we have should serve us, not own us.

The simpler your possessions, the more free your mental, physical, relational, and spiritual energy.

Gandhi died with little more than a pocket watch. Mother Theresa died with nothing more than a bed and a desk. Yet, look how they've impacted the world.

Stuff, it turns out, gets in the way and pulls your energy from what matters. Wanting more stuff is the wrong approach if your goal is making an impact and giving your life in selfless service.

6. "I don't care how I'm remembered. I care about what I do here and now to make the biggest impact in people's lives."

Robin Sharma was recently interviewed by Joe Polish. The final question of the interview, which is common of many interviews was, "How do you want to be remembered?"

However, Sharma didn't answer in the way most people respond. He didn't speak of the legacy he would leave. Instead, he responded, "I don't care. Worrying about your legacy is an ego-trap."

Who cares how you'll be remembered? Chances are, you will only be remembered by your posterity, even if you do brilliant things with your life.

"We are all dust," Sharma continued. "The CEO is buried next to the janitor."

Instead of focusing on how people will think about you when you die, put all your energy into making the world a better place now. The entire notion of "legacy," in this light, is actually strange and quite absurd.

7. "I can never go back."

At the end of The Return of the King, Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin accompany Biblo and Gandalf to see them off at the Grey Havens.

But to the remaining hobbits surprise, before boarding the ship to leave, Gandalf says, "It is time, Frodo."

"What does he mean?" Sam asks Frodo with confusion and concern.

"We set out to save the Shire, Sam. And it has been saved. But not for me," Frodo responds.

Having been through the internal torture and trauma of the ring, Frodo could not go back to life as it once was. He could no longer find joy in the normalcy of life at the Shire.

He had gone too far inside himself, and he could not go back. As Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. beautiful conveyed, "A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions."

When you have passed your point of no return, life can never be the same again. You must from thenceforth live for a higher purpose, even if no one else around you understands.

Published on: Aug 17, 2016
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