“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” -Steve Jobs
It starts with a question. I asked myself, “What are the lessons I’ve learned that have had the most monumental effects on my life?” The answer? The ones I put together on my own.
Let me break this down. First of all, this doesn’t mean that reading and absorbing self-improvement material isn’t crucial, but rather that it is secondary to self-truth. You see, the books, the videos, the seminars, they all show us a picture of a more completed puzzle — the puzzle of truth and happiness that we constantly tackle — but it is always up to us to put the pieces together.
If we are not willing to put the pieces together, to do the work, to really fight for a better way of life, chances are… we aren’t gonna find what we’re looking for. Not really. Because true seeking involves throwing our entire selves into the venture and not looking back. It involves action, and lots of it. And that involves doing it ourselves, for ourselves.
“…Faith without works is dead.” James 2:26
If you’re looking for a teacher, that’s fine, but understand that the teacher cannot open your eyes, he can only describe all the beautiful things you’ve yet to see. The rest is always up to you.
How many self-help books have you read? Personally, I’ve read a shitload. Seriously, for the past 5 years I’ve consumed book after book after book, with a never-ending thirst and insatiable hunger for knowledge, wisdom, and truth. And that’s great, no doubt about it. I mean do you know how many truly successful people were avid readers? Pretty much all of them. So this is obviously a necessary piece of the puzzle.
But then there’s the next part. The part where you close the book and the feel-good buzz wears off. Eek. That sucks. Then what? This is where the people who really want it and the people who kinda want it are separated. The ones that want it with everything inside them will fight to realize the truth they’ve just learned — knowing that true, lucid realization only comes through action and experience — and they will not let go until something inside them clicks.
That’s when the world around you follows suit, and life turns into a completely new and vivid experience full of beautiful heartbreaks and terrifying highs that shatter your preconceptions… and my god it feels good.
So when you learn something new, when something feels right, when you read that book that you know can change your life, or that article that you know could be the one (*wink wink), here lies the seven steps to finding your own truth in it, and thus extending it’s magic into the rest of your life, allowing the river of truth inside the words to cascade across your mind and flow into the depths of your heart, leaving a deep and lasting impression on your soul, which can never be wiped away.
1. Stop telling yourself you’ve tried this before.
This one got me for years. It still does sometimes. But at least now I’m aware of it, and awareness is like a razor blade against any malady of the mind, and isn’t that what all internal suffering is? The more I’m aware of this insidious lie that I keep telling myself, the less power it has over me, and soon it will dwindle and fall far away into the pile of all the other old lies I’ve let go of.
Stop telling yourself you’ve tried this before. Look, you’re a seeker or you wouldn’t be reading this. So, being that you are in what I call the top 1% of the human race, and that you are determined to find answers to the questions kept hidden away inside for so long, and that you actually give a shit, chances are you’ve done a lot of reading. And chances are you’ve read something similar to this. Yeah, shocker.
And maybe you’re tempted to tell yourself, “Yeah, I want this to be true, but I’ve tried this before, and nothing really changed.” And then if you listen very closely, very deeply, you may notice the rest of that sentence, which usually goes something like, “Oh well. It has to be true, so I’ll read it anyway. Maybe something will be different this time.” Or maybe it’s more like “Ah, screw this, it’s not gonna work. Onto the next pile.”
Ok, let’s clarify this lie right here and right now. If it feels true, and it feels right, and it resonates with you, and it kindles something inside you, then there is almost certainly something there for you and you need to let it in. But you tried it before and nothing changed, right? Wrong.
You didn’t try shit. You read about it. You enjoyed the buzz of reading about it. You thought about it here and there for a bit, possibly the rest of the night, and maybe the next day, or the next week, or even the next month. Oh yes, it feels good to think about it. But thinking about it doesn’t solve your problems. Have you come to that conclusion yet? It’s a hell of a pill, but you’ve gotta swallow it eventually. The sooner, the better.
Stop trying to apply principles of a higher order to your life. DO IT. Clench your teeth, close your eyes, and jump all the way in. Decide that you are going to fight to the death for the life you want, damnit! There is no Plan B! Throw it out! No backup plan! Throw it away! This is it! You KNOW you can be happy. You KNOW that life is supposed to have meaning, purpose, fulfillment. You KNOW that there is more to life than this bullshit routine of day-in, day-out, check-in, check-out, sleep, work, eat, rinse, repeat… FUCK THAT!
Give yourself entirely to this new idea. Foster a willingness to act, to do, to walk the walk, to give it all you got, to sail hard through the winds of opposition and to forever move forward toward your dream of a higher calling, a life of real magic and electrifying adventure. And screw the rest. You want something? Grab it and don’t let go.
“Don’t ever let somebody tell you, you can’t do something. Not even me. You got a dream, you gotta protect it. People can’t do something themselves, they wanna tell you that you can’t do it. You want something, go get it. Period.” -Will Smith, The Pursuit Of Happyness
And remember that most people don’t really want a better life, they just think they do. If they wanted it — really wanted it — they would make it happen.
I read a story in Amanda Palmer’s incredible book The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help and I feel compelled to paraphrase it here.
The old man’s reply, “He’s lyin’ on a nail.”
“Lying on a nail?” the man said, “Lying on a nail?”
“Then why doesn’t he just get up and move? Why doesn’t he do something?”
The old man’s reply – “Well, I guess it just doesn’t hurt bad enough yet.”
Listen, if you really want to change your life, you have to know that you really can. But you also have to want it with everything inside you. And if you continue on the same path, and continue to just toy with ideas and never fully apply them, then I can only deduce this much… it just doesn’t hurt bad enough yet.
2. Start asking yourself better questions
Once you’ve decided that you are going to fight to realize the truth, it’s time to look inside yourself and start digging deeper. How? With questions, of course.
“Questions are the answer” -Anthony Robbins
Am I willing to let this in? Am I willing to fight for this? What does this mean to me? How does this make me feel? How would my life change if I truly applied this? What kind of difference could this make in the lives of those around me? When I die, will I be glad I learned this? Is this applicable right now? If so, how can I apply it immediately? How bad do I really want this? Am I really ready to change, or am I still in love with my old idea of myself?
Follow your heart. It will provide the most meaningful, laser-targeted questions, and they have the power to probe far into the depths of your being, drawing the truth from the deep waters within.
3. Notice the new truth in your life experience.
I can’t say enough about how effective this technique is. To put it simply, you take what you’ve just learned, you withdraw from the material into a quiet place, sitting or laying down, and you meditate on it. Now, there are several different ways and uses for meditation, and I could (and will) write an entire article on the topic in and of itself, but until then, I’m going to express this particular method of meditation that has worked wonders for me in absorbing truth and imprinting it onto my subconscious mind.
In a nutshell, you want the truth, once approved of and accepted, to become real for you. To make it real for you, you must fully convince yourself that it is true and it will work. The best way I’ve found to do this is to prove to yourself how it already has worked in your life — without you ever even noticing it.
Sit or lay down in a quiet place, in a comfortable position, and begin by taking a few deep, slow breaths. You hear this a lot, I’m sure. That’s because it works. The oxygen from the deep inhalations not only calms you, but enhances your brain’s focus and clarity. So take the damn deep breaths.
Next, begin noticing your thoughts. At this point, don’t necessarily attempt to rid your mind of the thoughts yet, just become aware of them and watch them, almost playfully, with a childlike sense of curiosity. Let the mind play it’s little movies and stories and memories, and watch them flicker by.
Then, think about the new truth you have learned. Let’s use the example of this article. I told you in the first point that it’s most probable you haven’t actually tried — with every bit of your strength and resolve — to apply the truths you’ve learned thus far. Ok, now begin to let your mind wander into your past, into your memories, and try to find instances where maybe you learned something new that could improve your life in so many ways and you got excited about it. You just knew this was it.
Now, honestly and sincerely ask yourself, ‘Did I really work hard to apply this truth to my life? What did I DO to apply it to every day?” So on and so forth. Let the questions take you deeper. And pay attention to your life experience, your memories, the way you felt across the years when you got excited about something and then it felt like nothing came of it.
Let me interject here and say this: Something did come of it. You haven’t wasted a minute of your life attempting to improve yourself. No minute is ever wasted in a meaningful endeavor. Whether you fail or succeed, you progressed, and it brought you to this place, this moment, where all other moments connect together and seek to express the truth they’ve so longed to share with you. Let it in. All the way in.
Anyway, once you’ve sincerely examined the lesson against the backdrop of your life experience, it’s on to the next crucial step…
4. Become rigorously honest with yourself.
This sounds obvious, and it’s very likely that you believe you have already achieved this. But in my experience, it’s much more rare than you may imagine.
Honesty with oneself is the foundation for self-growth. It cannot be substituted or pushed away. It is absolutely vital to this most wonderful journey and it cannot be left out of the equation, as it is the glue that holds the pieces together.
If you take the previously mentioned steps in sincere self-honesty and brutal sincerity, you will take leaps and bounds ahead of the majority. Do not be afraid of honesty. Honesty is your greatest ally. Maybe you are afraid of the pain it may cause. I tell you truthfully, the pain that honesty brings is always more bearable than you first imagine and always brings with it the treasure of a thousand new discoveries, propelling you at new speeds and taking you to new heights not yet explored.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Become honest with yourself. Ask yourself, at all times, ‘Am I really being totally honest with myself about this?’ Just do it. This subtle shift in awareness will ripple into the rest of your days and the results will astound you. Guaranteed.
5. Trust Yourself
This is a big one. It’s also really tough. It sure as hell is for me. I’m still insecure and indecisive. But I know it now. And I’m doing something about it. No, really, I’m actually doing something about it.
“Successful people do all the things that unsuccessful people don’t want to do.” -John Paul DeJoria
For me, the biggest hurdle was always in trusting that the decision I wanted to make was the right decision. I didn’t believe in myself, so I didn’t believe that I could possibly be making the right decision. It sucks being indecisive. It slows everything down, it makes your days fickle and unsure. Screw that. I don’t think Abe Lincoln ever said ‘Golly, I dunno, am I making the right decision?”
Being scared of one’s own decisions is an ailment that must be cured immediately. In my opinion, the cure lies in a simple formula. Become bold and become decisive by being boldly decisive.
I know, I know, sounds simple and maybe even dumb. But you know what? A lot of the most pertinent truths sound insanely obvious at first, until we actually get honest with ourselves and admit that although, yes, we’ve heard it a thousand times before, maybe, just maybe, we haven’t actually done shit about it.
So let’s jump into this formula for a second, which bears repeating: Become Bold… and Become Decisive… by being Boldly Decisive. In other words, start making decisions boldly, with surety of purpose and clarity of mind, and avoid the temptation to avoid making the decision in an attempt to avoid failure and discomfort. You’ve got to start making decisions. Today. Now.
“Not to decide is to decide.” -Harvey Cox
You’re gonna screw up a lot. Sorry, that’s life. The sooner you accept that, the easier it gets. But you can only learn your true capabilities by bumping up against things, by missing the mark, by jumping too far, by screaming too loud, by missing the punchline, by making a fool of yourself, by risking all of your self-image in the name of self-love. Trust me, it’s always worth it. Ask yourself if you feel that this decision expresses who you really are, a higher ideal of who you know you can be, and if the answer is yes, go for it.
Learn to love yourself for who you are. Embrace your disastrous makeup and live fully from your heart, regardless of what they will think or what they will say. Your life is not about them. It’s about you. When are you gonna start caring more about your happiness than you care about their opinion of you? Maybe you could start by deciding to stop caring so much about being right, and care a lot more about being ALIVE.
“Out of respect for things that I was never destined to do, I have learned that my strengths are a result of my weaknesses, my success is due to my failures and my style is directly related to my limitations.”
Trust yourself, trust your intuition, your gut, your heart, your soul. Let it live a little. Give it some air. Let it out!
6. Trust The Universe
Before you go running in the other direction, hear me out. Look, regardless of the topic, when it comes to true self-improvement, spiritual expansion is not only important, it’s absolutely necessary. There is no real growth without the whole self following suit. That’s just how it is. And the only way to get in touch with the whole self, is through the whole of existence. Whoa, gettin a little deep, eh…
I’m not telling you to believe in God. I don’t give a shit whether you believe in God or Spirit or The Universe as an entity or perhaps Universal Energy or Spirit Guides or Angels or simply The Creator or maybe Allah or Krishna or Christ or whatever. You can choose to believe in the God of your understanding. That is none of my business. I’m only interested in getting you in touch with your God, whomever that may be. For now, it is easiest and less offensive to simply refer to this concept as The Universe.
Now, maybe you are sitting there saying “Yeah, well, I don’t believe in any god. End of story.” And who am I to tell you what or who to believe in? That’s totally alright. But I’m assuming you can logically agree that you were created by some sort of natural process which was orchestrated by some sort of higher intelligence, whether you want to call that biology, chemistry, evolution, nature, or gnomes, it makes no difference to me. Let’s just agree that there is most probably something of a higher order that decided you should exist.
For me, this is a very real presence, a very real energy, and I choose to call it God or sometimes The Universe. And let me tell you, I trust — I have faith in — The Universe. I believe that if I set my feet on the right path and set my heart in the right direction and set my actions in the right order, with integrity and character, that The Universe will bless my socks off.
I do not believe this because it feels good to believe it (though it admittedly does). I believe this because it has been proven to me personally, time and time again. I believe it because something inside me tells me it is so. I believe it because I believe my soul and it’s truth, which so clearly expresses the validity of this concept.
I am provided for. I am richly blessed. I am fulfilled. I am happy. I am free. And I am taken care of. As I like to tell my family and friends sometimes, “No worries, God takes care of me.”
Jump head-first in a spiritual quest and don’t stop until you find something that feels right, that feels real, that feels bigger than you. And once you find it, for God’s sake, don’t let it go.
7. Open your heart and don’t ever stop trying.
I know that occasionally the road is hard, the path is narrow, and that sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel seems more like a dim flashlight in the hands of a little snot kid who’s waiting for the moment when he can say “Gotcha! Nothing here, dummy!” But let me assure you, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and even better, there is light all around you.
There are people who love you and need your love. There are life events that will excite you beyond compare, simply awaiting your first few steps. There are moments that will bring all the other moments together into a big, glorious song, and that moment, that song, will change your freakin’ life forever.
So open your heart to new experiences, to new people, to the possibility of pain, to the inevitability of discomfort, to the excitement of passion, to the flame of desire, to the flicker of joy, and to the serenity of living as One with the Universe, with your purpose, with your calling…and brother, sister, keep going…soon you will Find Your Own Truth.
Don’t ever quit. Don’t even think about it. You have no idea of the beauty that lies ahead on the other side of the door. It’s worth the journey. It’s worth the hurt. It’s worth it all. Let yourself be excited, be happy, be joyous and free, for a new day awaits, and in it are wonderful tales of the story of you and how you defeated your fears, how you achieved your goals, how you found peace in a frightening world, and found joy in this crazy life.
Open your eyes and look ahead. Adventure awaits.