8 Steps To Stop Surviving And Start Thriving
Have you ever found yourself on a Sunday evening, wondering how it’s already Monday the next day? Perhaps on occasions you've looked back on the week and fail to remember any significant experiences you may have had? Maybe you have an interesting life, but you just get the sense that there’s more to it, or that there’s an extra 10 – 20% you can squeeze out of your most precious, non-renewable resource...time? Well read on my friend, and learn some steps you can take to help you get out of autopilot and start living the fulfilling, life of no regrets you deserve...
1. Know yourself.
You may have heard the expression “Knowledge Is Power”, well surely there is no greater power to possess than knowledge of yourself. Knowing oneself, or “self awareness”, “self-actualization”, “consciousness” - doesn’t just refer to what foods you like to eat, your political stance or whether you are cat or dog person... It refers to the deeper awareness and understanding of your own personality traits, your beliefs about your place and purpose in the world, and how you formed them.
There are many ways to acquire this knowledge such as seeing a therapist, transformational workshops like Tony Robbins, reading books like The Four Agreements, and listening to podcasts like The Art Of Charm. A great read about understanding personality traits and interacting with others is Captivate by Vanessa Van Edwards. Understanding and forming a better relationship with your ego are well explained in books like The Power Of Now by Eckart Tolle or Ego is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday.
The benefits of seeking the truth about yourself will inevitably result in understanding the way that others think and act around you (emotional intelligence) giving you a powerful platform from which to grow and ensure you live your best life with no regrets.
2. Get comfortable with mortality.
Just the word “death” can cause anxiety in people and fear based thoughts which ultimately lead to denial of this inevitable fate!
Accepting this fact of life, and actually imagining our own mortality such as when and how we desire it to happen, is not only a powerful reminder that life is precious, but also a good reference point to start with regards to living a meaningful life without regret.
By starting with visualizing ourselves on our death bed, with no regrets about how we lived, we can then work backwards to present day and start implementing the action steps necessary to arrive at this conclusion. It is also important to accept that this scenario is not guaranteed, therefore your present day “way of being” should reflect that also.
Further to this, the monks of Bhutan believe that contemplating death five times daily leads to happiness. Consistent contemplation will disintegrate the denial and fear of death that often leads to stressful thoughts and feelings. You can download the app “Wecroak” that provides this simple service!
“If we’re not reflecting on the impermanent nature of life, then there are a lot of unimportant things that seem important” Allison Choying Zangmo.
3. Explore the way you currently live.
Now is a good time to stop and examine how you are spending your minutes, hours, days, weeks... How has this year looked so far for you? What would you score it out of 10? Compare it to how you would rate last year?
Get specific with all areas of your life and determine whether you are achieving balance in all areas. Has this week been all work and no play? Have you scheduled time to connect with the people close to you? Never assume that they will always be there for us no matter what. What do you have in your weekly schedule that involves fulfilling activities like volunteering, creative projects or community gatherings. Are you staying on top of your physical and mental wellness needs? Are you even setting any intentions or goals around these at all?
Check in with your life now to provide you the base for any changes or improvements that align with what you want out of life.
4. Understand Pleasure vs Happiness.
Aren’t we all in pursuit of happiness? Surely 99% of us at least. However one of the most common misunderstandings is confusing happiness with pleasure. There is absolutely nothing wrong with integrating a good dose of pleasure into our lives, but it is important to understand the destructive, short term, unsustainable nature of pleasure, whereas happiness is longer lasting, and also sustainable. To better illustrate this concept, consider the neuroscience behind it.
The brain produces chemicals or neurotransmitters that affect our mood and emotions.
Dopamine is typically associated with pleasure, and Serotonin is associated with happiness. Dopamine is usually released during bouts of short term gratification, such as receiving likes on Instagram, or cashing in chips at the casino. Serotonin is often released during selfless acts of service and deep connection with others, such as volunteering at a soup kitchen or using teamwork to raise funds for charity.
Therefore Dopamine inspires “taking” and Serotonin inspires “giving”. Effects of Dopamine release are normally experienced alone, while Serotonin is generally experienced in groups or community. The real kicker is that the brain down regulates the release of dopamine when levels become excessive. This leads to addiction from constantly chasing levels of dopamine previously experienced. The brain will not down regulate Serotonin at any level, making it longer lasting and the natural high experienced longer lasting, however, the brain will down regulate Serotonin as it down regulates Dopamine, which can lead to depression. This is why Happiness wins over Pleasure in the long term fulfillment game every time.
5. Connect to your vision.
So you’ve contemplated your death to free you in the present, you’ve assessed how you live and the way you spend your time, and have a clearer understanding of what happiness means. Now you get to create or recreate your vision, if you haven’t already done so. The word "vision" is synonymous with purpose. Having a vision for ourselves, our family and even the world can provide us with the clarity, motivation and emotional compass to navigate through the scary, unchartered waters of life. It is what brings our passion alive.
When we feel as though we start drifting off course, connecting to our vision is an effective way to bring us back into the present moment and ensure that we are living with intention.
What does your vision look like? What do you want for yourself? What kind of impact do you want to make in the world? What kind of legacy do you want to leave before your time is up? A popular exercise is vision boarding whereby you create a board or poster with actual images and words representing what you are committed to manifesting.
Be sure not to limit yourself with your vision. Which leads us nicely into step 6...
6. Play BIG.
From a very young age, our parents and environment condition us to form certain limiting beliefs about ourselves and what is possible. This is reflected in the goals we set for ourselves and creation of the safe container within which we live. We form fear around failure, rejection and the pain that it may bring. This leads us to playing small, usually in many areas of our lives, such as career, self growth and especially relationships.
Once you have better self awareness, connection to your vision and clearer distinction of happiness, you can start viewing and pursuing your dreams from the mindset of what is possible, and not from what is probable. This is a solid foundation from which to practice getting out of your comfort zone, which is inevitable when you start playing big.
The key is to also learn how to let go of the attachment to getting results and thereby avoiding the self-beat up that often occurs if we fall short. Celebrate the “going for it”. In the attempt of achieving our dreams we experience true satisfaction and joy. Living in your vision and commitment to expanding your horizons day to day is the gateway to enjoying the journey, and not the destination.
7. Tap into the power of urgency.
So you’re up to creating big things for yourself and the planet, with a strong sense of making the most of your day? Sounds like you need to make friends with the word “urgency”. Besides, the world needs your new invention, your new album, or your business idea to become a reality right now! Who are you to prevent everybody from experiencing your gifts ASAP?!!
When we practice urgency in everything we do, there just seems to be more time in the day. Sound time management techniques will obviously support in filling up our days, and then practicing urgency to complete tasks in excellence. I use Wunderlist project management app in conjunction with a daily calendar to organize tasks and give myself deadlines to complete them.
The world’s greatest visionaries and pioneers all have the same amount of hours in the day as we do. The relentless urgency with which Apple founder Steve Jobs lived his life allowed him to change the face of how we interact and access information, in THIS lifetime and not after.
Next time you catch yourself wanting to create or finish something, follow that thought with answering a simple question – “by when?”.
8. Evaluate, Redesign, Repeat.
During my professional rugby career, it was common practice to watch video footage of my recent match, give a thorough self evaluation by rating all areas of my performance, and then use the lessons learned to improve performance in the next game.
Why can’t this be done for how we live our lives? In my 4 week online community based coaching program called HOW I LIVE*, this is exactly what we do. Participants will reflect on the week they just lived, evaluate and rate their performance in all areas of their life such as health & fitness, career, family, finance, recreation, relationships, community service, mind & spirit etc. and then use the results to redesign the way they intend on living the following week before their next self-evaluation.
So think about it long and hard. Are you living your life by design, or by default? Are you truly living, or just existing? By accessing these eight steps above, it should become virtually impossible to find yourself lost or floating through life without meaning or purpose from this precious day and beyond.