When reading the work of Thomas Jefferson, I came across a line that slapped me square in the face: “Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.”
Having lost 15 years of my life to addiction, mostly through inaction, it felt like I’d nothing to lose by going in the opposite direction.
So instead of sitting at home and pitying myself about lost years, I followed the advice of Mr Jefferson and went out and got busy. That was in 2013, and since then I’ve become a keynote speaker, business owner, and lecturer at the top two universities in Ireland, all while pursuing a PhD in a subject that I love.
I’ve also recently acquired a book deal with a mainstream publishing house (to be released next spring), and I’ve just shot a pilot for a TV show concerning the tactics I used to change my life.
Six years ago my life was in the gutter. But today, as a result of the 5 habits below, I’m living the life of my dreams.
1. I embraced boldness
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Societies rules don’t always apply: ‘You can’t reach out to him/her.’ ‘You’re not supposed to do that.’ Says who? Society? Do we even know who that is?
If you’re being true to yourself, and you’re not breaking the law, don’t be afraid to challenge societal norms. Follow your passion when people think you should play it safe. When the crowd go one way, you go the other.
Sure, it won’t always work out, and you may have to face the consequences from time to time, but the long-term the rewards will be worth it.
When all is said and done, the only limits in your life are the ones you put on yourself, so dream big, and be bold.
2. I stopped making excuses
“It’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.” Randy Pausch
It’s easy to make excuses — it saves you having to act — but where is that going to get you? Absolutely nowhere.
You might not have got the lucky breaks in life, but so what. This doesn’t mean you cannot make things happen.
If you want to grow — both personally and professionally — you need to stop making excuses. Successful people know this, no matter what their starting point in life.
Play your own hand, or the world will play it for you.
3. I developed a growth mindset
“Every next level of your life will demand a different you.” — Leonardo DiCaprio
People with a fixed mindset think that their intelligence and abilities are innate and that raw talent alone leads to success. This simply isn’t true.
People with a growth mindset know this, and invest their time and energy in developing new skills, solving new problems, acquiring new knowledge, and figuring out ways to enhance their lives.
This kind of learning compounds over time, and once embraced, the world will be your playground.
4. I stopped using reactive language
“The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.” — Jordan Belfort
We all have a story, and this is written by the words we use. If you tell yourself you suck, it’s likely that you will. If you tell yourself you’re nervous, you’re going to act accordingly. It is, therefore, crucial that you choose your words carefully, especially when you’re talking to yourself.
Words that stop you taking action include ‘I can’t’, ‘if only’, and ‘I must’. These should be replaced with action words such as ‘I will’, “choose to’ and ‘let’s look at this another way’.
In challenging situations, you should also track the questions you ask yourself. For instance, replacing ‘why me?’ with ‘what can I do about this?’ will instil a sense of strength, directing you towards corrective action, rather than fretting about your problems.
5. I embraced failure
“Don’t fear failure. Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail.” — Bruce Lee
Are you afraid of failure? If so, you’re not the only one. Fear of failure prevents many people from taking action, and as a result, reduces their potential success in life.
The question is, can you succeed without failing? No, not unless mediocrity fulfils you. The best way to learn is through failure. When you fail, you learn. And when you fail big, you learn big.
You might be worried about the consequences, but the fact is, the risks will be worth it, and you can always ask for forgiveness. As a mentor of mine once told me, “Asking for forgiveness is far easier than getting permission.”
Your life tomorrow is defined by the choices you make today. So if you want to pull yourself out of the gutter, it’s time to go out and act.