When I look at people that are happy, healthy, successful and enjoying the best of life, I wonder what it is that prevents others from having the same. I’m a thinker and analyzer and I spent a lot of time contemplating this question. I’ve come to the conclusion that to have a great existence, we have to change thought, cultural and behavioral patterns that don’t serve us. Having a great life has little to do with where we were born, who are parents are, where we live, whether or not we have an education or money or what our race, religion or age is. Success in life, it turns out, has everything to do with a mindset. One thing is certain, those who are at the top of the happiness and success ladder have retrained and reprogramed how they view and experience the world. They are masters of their lives and have the following practices in common. If you want a great life, do these things.
Drown out fear
Easier said than done. I know. I’ve had a lot of practice. When we can get over fear, or at least minimize it, we can achieve just about anything. Fear plays a huge role in keeping us from living to our highest potential. It’s a horrible paralyzer. When I’ve been afraid of trying something new or different, I’ve missed out on great opportunities.
About four years ago, for the first time in my life, I took up Ashtanga yoga. I’d heard it was a different style from mainstream yoga and since I’d never practiced any kind before, I had no expectations. Before visiting a local shala (studio) I read a little bit about it and its spiritual leanings appealed to me.
There are not many certified Asthanga schools in the area because the practice is quite rigorous requiring teachers to spend much time in India learning from a lineage of masters. Lucky for me, there’s a shala in my town. The day I visited, there was a master from India leading a class. He was touring the U.S. teaching two-week workshops in various parts of the country. Not having preregistered, I sat outside the room to observe and see what this was all about.
Other than calling out the postures (asanas) in Sanskrit, the master said nothing else. There was no conversation between students, no cell phones, no water bottles, no props, no distraction of any kind other than the sound of the students’ breaths keeping rythm with the postures. I was mesmerized by their fluidness, flexibility and how they did handstands in twisted positions; their legs behind their necks, perfect back bends and movements I only thought possible by circus performers. I could barely bend over into a 90 degree position!
The first thought I had was how I would hurt myself trying some of these asanas. Why was I thinking like this? I realized it was because I was listening to voices in my head, not my own, but the words of well-meaning people like parents, teachers, friends saying: “you’re going to hurt yourself.” When I realized that these words were ghosts of the past I decided to drown them out.
We are not born with fear. Look at toddlers and young children in a playground. Are they paralized by the thought of getting hurt? Rarely. Today I’m nearly finished with the primary series practice, which for many people can take many more years than it has taken me. I can stand on my head, lift myself in lotus position and do postures that I would have never imagined possible just a short time ago. I feel better than I have ever before and I have more energy than many of my peers. I sleep well. I don’t have any body aches and overall, I feel terrific.
Stop the negative self-talk
The more I watched the yoga practice, the more I started telling myself I can’t do this. The negative self dialog was saying this sort of practice is meant for people with “experience.” I was also telling myself that I was reaching for something meant for people who are “better equipped.” I was adding the idea that all the people in the room must be professional yoga teachers or, at the very least, very advanced practitioners. But in reality, I knew that was not the case. I was doing negative self-talk.
Haven’t we all done that at some point or another? Why? It goes back to things that we were told, things we read or things we experienced. Think about it. Just because you burned your mouth with pizza once, you haven’t stopped eating it. It should be the same with any negative experience you may have had. Don’t let it stop you from trying it again.
When we get past these destructive ways of thinking, we can accomplish just about anything. Putting an end to this negagive inner conversation, I decided to move forward and try the practice.
Stay away from naysayers
In 2014 I wrote, Agapanthus Rising, a book about self-empowerment to live life with passion, peace and purpose. Several people told me how impossible the process would be, that it would take a long time, that it would be too costly, etc. I heard every reason why I should not try getting my book published and very few why I should.
Once I stopped listening to the naysayers, I succeeded. Today besides the United States, my book is being sold overseas. If you want something badly enough, have unwavering determination and get away from pessimists. If you want a great life, stop listening to external voices.
Listen to your inner voice
The most important advice that we can listen to is our own – that quiet inner voice we all have. We can hear it best by spending time alone and in meditation. When we close our eyes, quiet our minds and drown out outside noise, we hear the voice of intuition.
Deep down, we know better than anyone else what is best for us. When we feel angst, nervousness, a knot in our stomachs, our built-in GPS telling us that we need to go in a different direction. When we’re calm, excited, energized and act from a place of inspiration, we’re tuned in to our inner voice and sure to succeed.
Break from tradition
Just because something has been done one way in the past, it doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do it today. Times change. Cultures change. People change. Technology changes.
Your parents may have done things a certain way but imagine putting your spin on it, it then becomes your signature. Better yet, come up with your own ideas despite the opinions of others. Become an innovator.
One of my mentors, Abraham Hicks, gave a great example. “My mother had her hand in the fire. Her mother had her hand in the fire. Her mother before that also had her hand in the fire. Does that mean I have to have my hand in the fire, too?” Logic tells us that will not be in our best interest. Just because something is cultural, doesn’t mean we have to continue it. If we’re to live lives of fulfillment, success and joy, we may just to break from tradition.
Remember you’re a powerful creator
We give up our creative power when we rely on others for validation. Lucky for the world that Steve Jobs didn’t listen to all those who turned him down!
When we give up an idea because someone else can’t see the value in it, we’re creating versions of what they want us to be, not what we want to be. If you want a great life follow through on innovative ideas. Never mind what others say about it. Spend time outdoors and hear what YOU have to say about it. Scientists have proven that spending time in nature is beneficial to our health. It calms our nervous system, makes us more intuitive and inspires our creativity. Whose life is it anyway?
What vision fills your heart with joy? What kind of work would impassion you to get out of bed every day? Follow that thought. You’re its creator. That’s how the masters achieve what they want.
Connect to a power greater than you
There is no such thing as failure, only lessons learned. Failure is a judgmental and, frankly, outdated label that someone created long ago so they could have power over someone else. In the Judeo-Christian world, we’re taught that we’re made in God’s image. In the quantum physics world, scientists tell us that we’re energy that is part of a Unified Field. Whether your leaning is scientific or spiritual, both philosophies remind us that we’re connected to something greater than ourselves, a Source.
I would suggest that before we take on any new venture, such as changing old patterns of thinking or behavior, it would be wise to tap into that greater power, however you define it. Whether it’s a friend, a religious God-head, an Energy field, or something else we can accomplish far greater things together than on our own.
If you want a great life, then do these things.
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