Featured image by Preslie Hirsch.
The true measure of success is not in wealth or material possessions. True wealth comes from living in a happy state. We are only truly successful when we spend our time in a place of joy and happiness. And while money helps, it’s true, money can’t buy you love. To have true wealth and feel really successful, you need to spend your time in a positive state.
In looking at success, we find that a great majority of the literature and thoughts about what is successful, is guided towards financial wealth. And I must admit that I’ve been guilty of this bias as well. Since I started on my mission for success, I was guided by the idea of becoming healthy, wealthy and wise; working towards improving myself in all facets. However, as time wore on, increasingly my attention went to financial success. With that as my major focus, I was able to feel good that I’d been saving well and building my investments. However, after one year and having no signs of great wealth, I was starting to feel frustrated. So, it was time to rethink the whole idea of success and what is wealth after all.
Sign of true wealth
Here, as so often, I was enlightened by the words of Tony Robbins. Listen too his ideas here.
He says, no matter how much you get, you just end up wanting more. Therefore, chasing money and material possessions will never lead to feeling fulfilled.
He argues, that true success is about fulfilment. And to be fulfilled, as humans, is to feel our needs satisfied. Without going into all the human needs, quite basically, we need to feel safe, secure, loved, valued, inspired and excited. Therefore, it’s important for us to live in a state that achieves these feelings. It’s all about emotion.
If we want to be truly successful, then we live in the emotions that give us a feeling of success or that make us happy: we live in passion, inspiration, love, gratitude, and so on. If you live in these feelings, then you’re in a peak state and anything is possible.
Importance of controlling state:
When you’re in a happy state, you’re feeling good, you’re confident, you’re inspired and passionate. In this state anything and everything is possible. You take on challenges, you help others, you aim high and you act positively.
However, if we’re in a negative state: feeling used or abused, forgotten about, exhausted, neglected or angry, you’re not in a good state. Things that would normally be easy suddenly become difficult. We look for what’s wrong and avoid others. Our confidence is low and we don’t want to take risks or look to help others.
So, by achieving a positive, or happy state, you have the confidence, efficacy and belief to supercharge your life and attain great success.
The catch that catches many
The thing that catches many, is that it is possible to be highly successful but to live in a negative state. People may actually be achieving great results. They take this as a sign that they’re on the right track. Also, people around them obviously celebrate the success they’re having. But many of these people, while achieving greatly, are not living in positive emotions. Many choose to be highly successful, but they live in stress, or regret, or overwhelm and burnout. There’s plenty of stories of very wealthy people who end up depressed, even suicidal, because despite of all their victories they are not fulfilled.
The only way to be really victorious in life is to live in a happy state. Seriously, there’s no point becoming a billionaire, if you are doing something you hate and is making you feel bad. That’s not success. That’s ultimate failure.
The great trick:
Even if you are not feeling particularly successful, you can still manufacture a happy state.
The good news for us all, is that you can force yourself to live in a place of good emotion. Even while you’re not achieving great financial wealth or naturally living in amazingly positive feelings, you can force yourself to become positive. You can literally choose how you want to feel at any given time.
As Mel Robbins says, and here I’m paraphrasing, she says we spend too much time trying to manipulate our emotions. We need to change our thoughts and our actions and our emotions will follow. (Check out Mel Robbins’ here.)
So the key is to control our thoughts and our actions. Do the things that bring about happy feelings and focus our thoughts on positive things. Then the happy emotions will follow.
What to do:
Start with Fundamentals
1: Know Yourself
The most important thing you need to do, is to know what you want your life to be like. The first step is to know you want to be happy and choose to live in a positive state. No one consciously goes around wanting to be miserable. However, without a real idea of what we want our life to be like, we are aimless and it’s too easy for negative thoughts and circumstances to overpower our good intentions.
What do I Want?
Know who you are and what you want to do with your life. Now I know that I want financial freedom, I feel happy to know I’m becoming a better investor and I’m making positive steps to get better. I see my future and I have faith I can achieve it.
What Job do I Want?
I have taken the time to consider what job I’d do if I wasn’t getting paid for it and I realised it is to be a writer. Now I spend everyday writing my novel and writing blog posts. I may never be a best seller, but I’m doing what I love and I’m getting better every day and that makes me feel proud, empowered and ultimately happy.
What Lifestyle do I Want?
What do I want my life to look like? I want to wake up everyday, eat healthy, feel amazing, laugh with my wife and kids, write something inspiring, go to the gym, go for a swim, or do some yoga and get a massage, then maybe cook and eat something that tastes amazing. Then I want to spend the evening with my family, playing guitar and learning and laughing and enjoying life. That’s me living happiness the way I want it.
I can’t necessarily do all these things now. Right now I have to work and I have other pressing responsibilities. But I know where I want to go. Everyday I do a little more of what I love. I do what I have to, but in my mind I’m living the life I want and feeling happy knowing I’m going in that direction. And I’ve decided, life’s too short, I’m not going to let circumstances steal my bliss.
2. Be mindful
Once you know who you are and what you want, you must be mindful. You can’t go about your daily life just taking what life throws at you and hoping you get happy.
You need to set living in a happy state as a serious goal and actively go for it.
To be happy, you need to find fulfilment in attaining your needs. So set goals that will achieve your needs.
Like me: I need certainty to know I can always pay the bills. So I invest every dollar I can. Also, I desire variety, so I learn guitar and I read everyday. I want significance, so I write my novel and I blog, and so on.
For all these things, I have daily goals, weekly, monthly, yearly and whole life targets. Every day I’m mindful of my goals and I live happy by mindfully chasing them down.
3. Find gratitude
I know it’s easy to say, ‘just choose to be happy’. I know a lot of people will disagree with me. However, it is possible to start living positively. And the best way to start is to find gratitude.
Again, thanks Tony for showing me this. If you are actively thinking about the things that you are grateful for, it’s so much easier to stay positive. It’s actually hard to be negative. When you wake up every day and say thank you for all the things that you can be grateful for, then you start the day in happy. Most people start the day with I’m tired, I wish I didn’t need to work, why do I have to do this, and all the combinations of the way their day could turn out bad, and then they’re surprised that something comes along that ‘makes’ them angry, flat, grumpy and negative.
Alternatively, if you start the day with being grateful for everything: for family, friends, for surviving this far, for the luck you’ve had, for being better off than millions of others, for the ability to learn, for the genius of technology, and so on, you feel lucky and blest. That feeling of being blessed makes you feel good and makes you want to go out and use your time well to do things to show your gratitude.
I very recently had this tested. I put my back out. It’s healed since; well there’s still some issues, but effectively my back’s ok now. But at the time I couldn’t stand up and for a few days I could barely move. Now I won’t lie, the first few moments weren’t an immediate jump to gratitude and feeling great even though I couldn’t walk. No, it was quite the opposite; it was fear and stress and a minor angry outburst. However, over the next few days I simply ran through my trained morning routine for gratitude (see below), and by forcing myself to be grateful I was able to draw on so much more strength. It made me positive and aided my recovery. (Read more in: Unshakeable Part 4 – Real Wealth)
4. Do the things that force a peak state
[Several of the following insights I learned studying Benjamin P. Hardy’s How to 1) Get Into Peak States, … Read it here.]
What forces a peak state? As Tony Robbins always says, “emotion comes from motion.” So the key to forcing a happy state is to get physical. Physical movement is great for you in all aspects. It’s great for the body, for relieving stress, as a meditation and for changing your state.
I have been a proponent of exercise for a long time. My favourite form of exercise was jogging. I’d start slow and build up to as fast as I could. The act of moving and pushing myself got the blood flowing. I started breathing deeper. I mentally engaged my will power and then allowed my mind to meditate on the reasons why I was pushing myself. As I sweat away on the treadmill, I found the stress fall away as I felt good in my ability to move. And overtime, I lost weight, became healthier and felt better about my body and appearance. I did this regularly and it was go to conditioning tool to keep myself in a happy state from day to day.
Until my back injury. Now I can’t run – so I walk and do stretching. I can’t even quite handle yoga, but I can still do something.
Alternative to exercise
What I learned is that you can get the benefit from exercise simply by changing your expressions and your body language. As crazy as it sounds, it does seem to work. I’ve had to use it these days. When I catch myself feeling a bit grumpy or heading towards frustration, or any negative feeling, I try to catch myself. I force my eyes to open, breath in really deep a few times, pull my shoulders back and tighten my stomach. Then I try to do a rapid movement (a signature move I came up with) and raise my arms or shadow box. I take some confident steps and force myself to remember that everything works out better when I’m in a positive state.
I’m not a master yet, but it definitely feels like I’m becoming way more balanced towards positive than negative these days.
5. Music can help
I believe it was Jim Morrison that famously said, “music inflames temperament.”
Music, like all art and creative pursuits, is essentially about creating emotions. This seems very obvious. So if you want to get happy, turn on your favourite music and sing and dance along. Get moving and let yourself experience the joy.
I came across this advice in my study of happiness, and it was a very enlightening moment for me. I have always loved music. I’ve listened to it and played guitar and loved nothing more than a good old sing along with family and friends.
However, I noticed that since I moved to Vietnam I hardly listen to the music I know and love. Partly because the peple I got to know here had vastly different tastes in music. And partly because I wasn’t around those people and places that I associated with my music. Add to that my drive for financial success and music, especially playing guitar, was put on the sideline.
Music is Back
Well, that’s all changed now. Now I listen to music everyday and I’ve started to pick up my guitar and learn how to play more of my old favourite tunes. It’s definitely helping to improve my emotions. I feel inspired again by one of my great passions and I use it as a great release at the end of the day.
Along with music, I’d add any creative pursuit that you enjoy. Personally I love creative writing, and I find that release of creativity inspires me and has me living in that feeling of passion that really makes me happy.
6. Break up monotony
Another piece of advice that I came across in my study, was that it was important to break up the monotony. This is very true. When I was solely focused on being a teacher, the monotony of the same old same old everyday was really draining. No matter how much variety I tried to get on Netflix every night, it was still the same schedule over and over. There was no progress. I felt like I was going nowhere and was being bored to death.
Now, that’s not a problem. Everyday, I’m studying something new, I’m making plans for something new in the future, I’m writing stories and learning songs and preparing to become a father and eating healthier and so on and so on.
Now I’m on a mission to success, I’m continually progressing. Living in progress is key to feeling happy.
7. Environment optimal for growth Invest in yourself
This is a vital component. If you want to feel happy on a regular basis you need to surround yourself with the environment that will keep you inspired. This one was important for me, and even had me move my whole environment from one country to another.
For me, living in Perth Australia was not inspiring. I’m sure that for others it is, but for me it wasn’t. In my eyes Perth was the end of the universe where nothing really ever happened and everything is too expensive. It was not a place where you dreamt big and tried brave new things. So I moved. And for me Vietnam is so much more inspiring. Here I feel like I can do anything, try anything, be anyone I want and achieve success.
Beyond this, it’s also important to literally surround yourself in an inspiring environment. Right now I’m in an apartment in the sky, looking down on a pool full of beautiful people and hearing the happy voices of children playing. My apartment is clean and theirs things to brighten it up and pictures of my happy moments over the last few years.
I don’t think you need much more detail than that. If you wake up and look around and find something to inspire you, you’re much more likely to be in a state of happy.
8. Morning Rituals Attack the morning – create a ritual that changes your life everyday
[The insights here came from my study of Tony Robbins’ Hour of Power. You can check it out here.]
And lastly, the most powerful thing, recently, is to set a morning ritual to start the day in the right state of mind.
To live in a happy state every day, I have chosen to develop a routine that encourages me to spend more time in a positive state. It starts from the second I wake up and I try to follow it religiously, though real life does get in the way. At this stage it’s a work in progress and I’m looking to add more to it as I go.
So far: I start every morning early (I’ve always been morning person, so it’s no big deal for me, but if you’re not I highly recommend it). I set the alarm for five, and when it goes off I’m up and I have to go across the room to turn it off. That gets me up and going before I have any chance to snooze and let lazy. I try to catch that first thought, which is usually ‘oh not yet’ and I tell myself, ‘I’m not tired’ and ‘today is going to be a good day’. This is starting to be automatic. And even when I’m totally exhausted, I can push myself on and find a way to feel good.
Fifteen Minutes to Thrive (Abbreviated Hour of Power)
Then, I do my 15 minutes to thrive. I don’t have time to do it properly, but I set my mind to gratitude and positivity while I set about making a healthy breakfast. While I do that, I start by telling myself what I’m grateful for. As Tony suggests, I look for three definite things, but usually keep going. Something like: ‘I’m so grateful for my wife, because she works so hard for the family and she always cares for me and so on. I’m so grateful for my son, he will bring so much happiness into my life and will grow up to be a good man (only two months until he’s here) …. And I’m so grateful for my job …, for all my opportunities…, to live in peace …, not to suffer …
After that, I do a few minutes to send out a prayer of love for the people I care for. I ask god, please protect my wife during the day and watch over her and let her give birth without too much pain and without complication. Please ancestors, protect my son, let him be born fully healthy, smart and strong and good. Please powers of the universe, take care of our families; we don’t see them as much as we’d like, but please let them feel our love and keep them happy. Protect the poor people of the world and give them some happiness to light up their lives. Take care of those suffering from pain and injury, make them strong so they can endure the ordeal.
Then I try to envision the things I want to see happen in the future. And I try to have faith that they’ve happened already and I’m grateful for being granted such blessings.
‘I’m so grateful for finishing my novel and making it a success. I can see checks coming in the mail, from all our investments and endeavours. Our shares are up,up,up and we’re going to own land and buildings. We have our beautiful family and we get to travel around the world and do what we want and go where we want. Then I can see the bright smiling faces of the poor people we get to help with our fortune. We will live in the gratitude of doing great things and we’ll live in a world of smiles and warm feelings. And at the end, I can see us living in our dream house enjoying great food, playing music, singing and smiling and writing more stories and being absolutely happy.’
Finally, I finish it off with a few quick incantations, such as: ‘everyday I’m getting stronger and smarter and better. I have a beautiful vision for my life and I won’t stop until I get it all. All the wealth of the world is flowing to me … and so on’.
By the time I get to the end of all that, I’m feeling positive and pumped up and ready to respond to whatever comes my way.
One more thing I’ve also added, is to recite the Berton Braley poem at some stage during the day – it gives me a blast of affirmation and gets stuck in my head. (Check it out here.)
Additionally, I try to tune into the motivational channels on youtube every afternoon, while I do my stretching before going for a walk or a swim.
Finally, I eat a healthy dinner with my wife, then pay a little guitar to let out my creative side. Then I try to do a little more writing for the day. Then I finish the day by stretching, reading a few pages of something good to my son (even though he’s not born yet) and finish by repeating the quick version of my fifteen minutes to thrive. I say it out loud to my wife when we’re in bed together, and we both go to sleep thinking about how grateful we are and envisioning our future. (I leave out the power moves and the incantations, so we can wind down to sleep.)
Since starting this whole routine, we’ve both been feeling a lot more positive and inspired. We’ve become more focused on gratitude and prepared to find happy in our lives. I’ve also noticed that I have so much more energy and passion for all my side jobs as well as for my full time job.
I’m not suggesting you all need to do the same as me. I am saying that this seems to totally work for me and if you want to live happy, in a state of real wealth, you should start to focus on happiness and go after it with purpose. Be prepared to try things and mae changes. We only get one life. I think it’s worth trying to make everyday as wonderful and experience as much happiness as possible.
I still feel like there’s a way to go till I can say I’m totally happy and living 10/10, absolutely peak state everyday. And as a good next step, my next study is to look at what diet and exercise can I implement to boost my overall energy. At the moment we eat pretty healthy, and I’m doing some exercise (as much as my back will allow), but I want to get those energy levels up so I can get closer to a 10/10 feeling all day; feeling happy al day and having the energy I need to be larger than life and experience everything I can.
Success is to live a happy life – you can have it right now – follow these steps, work out what’s right for you and go after a life that’s happy and full of energy.
Choose to live every day at 10/10.
Feel inspired, passionate, and grateful.
Find happiness and never stop striving to achieve true success.