The belief that waiting until tomorrow makes sense – We know deep down that life is short, and that death will come to all of us eventually, and yet we are infinitely surprised when it comes to someone we know. It’s like walking up a flight of stairs with a distracted mind, and misjudging the final step. You expected there to be one more stair than there is, so you find yourself off balance, before your mind shifts back to the present moment and how the world really is. Truth be told, someday there REALLY won’t be a tomorrow! And this harsh reality needs to be respected.
The belief that you must find your motivation somewhere outside yourself – The most common problem with motivation, often not understood until later in life, is that when we say we’re looking for motivation, it implies that our motivation is somehow hiding behind a tree or under a rock somewhere. But that’s far from the truth. The truth is, our motivation comes from doing the right things. When our efforts have meaning behind them it motivates us to take the next step. For me – and we’re all different – I am motivated primarily by two core ambitions: first, knowing more today than I knew yesterday, especially as doing so relates to meaningful projects and desires, and second, easing the pain of others. Living by these two core ambitions on a daily basis, and regularly reflecting on the progress I’m making, invigorates me, personally and professionally. So think about it: Underneath all the things you say you have to do, at the end of each day, what is the significance and value you hope to create?
The belief that everyone else knows what’s best for you – Give yourself the space to listen to your own voice—your own soul. Too many people listen to the noise of the world and get lost in the crowd. But YOU can choose differently! Don’t watch too much TV, don’t read every fashion blog, and don’t consume too much mass media news. Find the strength to fill your time with meaningful experiences. The space and time you are occupying at this very moment is LIFE, and if you’re worrying about the Kardashians or Lebron James or some other famous face, then you are disempowered. You’re giving your life away to marketing and media hocus-pocus, which is created by big companies to ultimately motivate you to want to look a certain way and be a certain way. This is absolutely tragic, this kind of thinking! It’s all just a distraction from what is real and good. What is real and good is YOU and your friends and your family, your loves, your highs, your hopes, and your dreams. You know this already! Listen to what your heart is telling you! Eventually, one way or another, you WILL. Because there will inevitably come a day when you’ll finally be wise enough and strong enough to do so.
The belief that all the instant notifications and distractions are worth it – Distractions are in the palms of our hands these days, but we need to remember to look up more often. We need to learn to be more human again. Don’t avoid eye contact. Don’t hide behind gadgets. Smile often. Ask about people’s stories. Listen. You can’t connect with anyone, including yourself, unless you are undistracted and present. And you can’t be either of the two when you’re Facebooking, Instagramming or Snapchatting your life away on your smartphone. You just can’t! If you are constantly attached to your smartphone and only listening with your ears as your eyes check for the next social update, you are ripping yourself off of actually experiencing real relationships and real life. The same is true for texting too. Yes, someday you will be slapped with the reality of a missed MEMORY being far more unsettling than a missed TEXT!
The belief that being busy is beneficial – “Am I making meaningful use of this scarce and precious day?” It’s a simple question Angel and I challenge our course students to ask themselves anytime they feel busyness overwhelming them. And it’s a question that seems to gain relevance as we gain life experience. Time gradually shows us how fleeting our lives really are. Filling every day with busyness makes no sense, and yet it’s tempting to do just that. Resist the temptation! Leave space! Your ultimate goal is living a life uncluttered by most of the distractions people fill their lives with, leaving you with space for what truly matters. A life that isn’t constant busyness, rushing, and resistance, but instead mindful contemplation, creation and connection with people and projects you truly love.
The belief that knowledge alone is enough – Learning by itself is great in the near-term, but it doesn’t cut it in the long run if you plan on making positive changes in your life. It’s one thing to know all twelve steps necessary to recover from alcoholism, for example, but it’s another thing entirely to dedicate yourself to actually carrying out each one of those steps. The acquisition of knowledge doesn’t mean you’re growing – growing happens when what you know changes how you live. At some point we all learn this lesson, often the hard way, by realizing that we haven’t made any real progress. But then we take action, because that’s how real progress happens… and everything changes, for the better.
The belief that faster is better – In our youth it seems like faster is better, but in time we gradually witness the power of ‘slow and steady’ at work. We come to learn that no act of love, kindness or diligence, no matter how small, is ever wasted. The fact that you can plant a seed and it becomes a tree, share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another’s, smile at someone and receive a smile in return, is proof that YOU can make a big difference in life and business, even if it can’t be done all at once. So don’t break your back today. Remind yourself that you can’t lift 1,000 pounds all at once. Yet you can easily lift one pound 1,000 times, especially when you spread the lifting over a series of days. Tiny, repeated, daily efforts will get you there.
The belief that comfort is the end goal – A very popular and harmful addiction in this world is the draw of comfort. Don’t be someone who never asks, “how?” or never pulls back further to ask, “why?” Too many young people don’t ask these questions because they know the answers would require substantial disruption to their comfort zone, and they don’t want to endure it. But that’s how the human mind grows, and eventually we all learn this, one way or another. When our minds are stretched with new questions and resulting experiences, they never shrink back to their previous dimensions – we are forever more competent and capable. Truth be told, emotional discomfort in life, when accepted, rises, crests and crashes in a series of waves. Each wave washes an old layer of us away and deposits treasures we never expected to find. Out goes inexperience, in comes awareness; out goes frustration, in comes resilience; out goes hatred, in comes kindness. And so on and so forth…
The belief that you are at the center of the universe – When we’re young, we all have the tendency to place ourselves at the center of everything, and see every outcome from the viewpoint of how it affects us personally. But as we grow up and broaden our horizons, we begin to see that our self-centered thinking has lots of baggage that comes along with it – from feeling sorry for ourselves when things aren’t going exactly as expected, to doubting ourselves when we fail to be perfect. And we realize that shifting our focus onto others for a while can help. It’s one of life’s great paradoxes: when we serve others we end up benefiting as much if not more than those we serve. So whenever you feel stuck, try to shift your focus from your circumstances to the circumstances of those around you. Instead of asking, “What’s wrong with me?” ask, “How can I help you?” Find someone who could use an extra hand and make a small, reasonable offer they can’t refuse. The perspective you gain will guide you forward.
The belief that everyone is capable of being kind and loving – Not everyone will appreciate what you do for them, and not everyone will do for you as you do for them, because not everyone has the same heart as you. That’s reality. And you’ll eventually realize that you’ll be endlessly disappointed if you expect things to be different. So be kind and loving to people because you want to be, and don’t let your expectations get the best of you. With that said, however, you do ultimately have to figure out who’s worth your long-term attention and who’s just taking advantage of you. If your time and energy is misspent on the wrong people for the wrong reasons, you can end up in a tedious cycle of fleeting friendships, superficial romances that are as thrilling as they are meaningless, and a general sense of wondering why you always seem to be running in place chasing validation and affection.