Recently, I did a reboot on my approach to life and work, wondering if how I’ve been doing things is the right way. The truth is I’m still not sure. But the experience has taught me some important lessons I nearly forgot.
Before sharing these lessons, here’s a quick side note: many “successful” people don’t consider themselves a success. This is a word other people give to your achievements. So while I don’t consider what I’ve done successful, I appreciate that this is what some people perceive.
The truth is, I have achieved far more than I ever thought possible after starting this blog five years ago. So this is a cautionary tale. Be careful what you wish for, as the saying goes, because you just might get it. So you’d better be sure you’re wishing on the right star.
If you want to live a good life, if you want to do good work and make a difference in the world, then you have to go deep. You have to explore uncomfortable questions like, “Why am I doing this?” and, “Just because I can do this, should I?”
Awhile back, my friend Jonathan Fields (who, by the way, has tackled the question of what it takes to live a good life better than anyone else I know) and we talked about these very questions on his podcast. In that interview, he said,
You’ve built something. And you’re comfortable. And you’ve got a certain structure around it. You don’t want to complain to anyone else. But there’s something inside you saying, ‘something’s not right.’
Yes, that’s exactly right. So what does it take to live the good life? What did I remember after getting everything I wanted and realizing something wasn’t right? Well, there were five things, which we’ll call “secrets”, though they’re kind of obvious when you think about them.
Secret #1: It’s not (just) about you
You were lied to, when you were told that if you worked enough hours, got enough stuff, and followed enough rules, that you’d be okay. That you’d be happy. But now, hopefully, you know the truth: We only find fulfillment when we let go of comfort, when we risk losing everything. That’s what a really good story, and incidentally what a really good life, is all about.
Secret 2: Passion is not optional
It’s not enough to simply commit to a task and do it really well for the rest of your life. You were put on this earth to do something, something specific. Until you do, you will be anxious and on-edge. Passion is what we need to have a fulfilled, whole life. Of course, passion alone won’t necessarily get you everything you want, but without it, you will die a slow, bitter death.
Secret 3: Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it
Anything worth doing is difficult. It will require courage and strength from you; otherwise, it’s probably not worth doing.
Nobody goes to the gym to feel good. They go there to sweat and scream and stretch themselves. And they leave better versions of the people that entered an hour before. If you’re going to grow, life will at times be hard. Get used to it.
Secret 4: Fear is your friend
FDR was wrong. We shouldn’t fear fear. We should embrace fear as a part of life. Fear is the flinch, telling us that we could die. It reminds us of what’s dangerous and why we’re prone to avoid pain.
Fear is good. It keeps us alive, but it also keeps us compliant (if we’re not careful). My rule of thumb is this: if I don’t feel afraid of doing something, then I’m probably playing it too safe.
Secret 5: Values are better than goals
If you don’t know where you stand on work and friends family when an opportunity to succeed at something comes along, you’ll screw it up.
The best way to get your life in order? Screw the goals and skip the plans. Jump straight to values, your non-negotiables for how you do business, treat your loved ones, and do life. Everything else falls under this.
Sure, plans are good and goals are fine. But even Hitler had goals. The Nazis had a very well-designed plan. That’s not enough to live a good life. You have to have values, good ones, in order for your life to make a positive dent in this universe.
Here’s hoping you do (and God willing, me too).
Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.
Bonus: If you want to learn more about living the good life, tune in with me later this week for a live chat on Blab with my friend Michael Hyatt about how to stop drifting through life and finally get to do the stuff you dream of doing.
How do you define “success”? What is one of your secrets to living a good life? Share in the comments.