What is most important to you in life? After years have passed, will you have lived for what really mattered? Sadly, many people will ask these questions too late because they weren’t internally driven and they didn’t take the time to create a life they really wanted. Our society has become one gigantic scare tactic against what really matters. And it can squeeze your true self and your true purpose right out the window. I am going to tell you how to make a very important personal change so you can live a life with no regrets. Making this change changed my life.
Everyone tells you what you have to do to be successful. You have to go to college when you graduate. You have to get a good paying job at a respectable company. You have to make friends with important people to catapult your career. You have to be popular and get tons of likes on Facebook. The list is endless.
The problem comes when we focus on what we “have to” do according to what other sources have said, and we lose track of the things that genuinely matter to us. We are no longer living our dreams, but someone else’s.
Are you Living the Life You Want?
All of these, “have to’s,” start to spin ridiculously out of control and most people find themselves doing things they don’t like with a life they really don’t want to be living. That’s why so many people are unhappy. In fact, 52.3% of Americans are unhappy at work, according to a new report by the Conference Board, the New York-based nonprofit research group.
Yet, the path to happiness and fulfillment lies in our hands. According University of California PhD researcher, Sonja Lyubomirsky states: “40 percent of our capacity for happiness is within our power to change.”
But many won’t do what it takes to change. They choose ‘things’ over people – stuff over what’s really important. According to another research team who recently published their findings online in the journal, Personality and Individual Differences, materialistic people find it more difficult to be grateful for what they have, which causes them to become miserable. In other words, the more we get, the less fulfillment there is in our lives.
This is why living your values are so critical to your personal happiness and fulfillment. I spoke about this in some detail in this article and want to drill deeper into how it looks. I asked my readers what would help them from these posts and they said, “more examples,” so here it goes.
Creating a Successful Life on Your Terms
I went through a really amazing values discovery session with Jo Bell, one of my mentors. She helped me uncover the five values that were at the heart of every decision I made – they define who I am. They are: (1) Faith/spirituality, (2) Family, (3) Hope, (4) Freedom, and (5) Vulnerability.
These are so deeply engrained in me that I could sit down with you and talk about each of them for hours. I can define them for you and explain them in detail. We all have at least 5 values. If we start making decisions and living a life against those values, all kinds of turmoil will break out. Let me explain.
I experienced an incredibly painful time in my life a few years ago when my life became misaligned with my values. I was the CEO of an international non-profit that helped widows and orphans. It was amazing work that I really loved. But all of the travel began to adversely affect me and caused my family to suffer – and it caused me to suffer. I wasn’t myself. I became angry and irritable and when I was home, I just couldn’t relax and enjoy life.
Finding Your True Self
My departure from that place was inevitable in my current state. I felt like such a failure and completely lost. I had given 15 years of my life to that organization. Believe it or not, that shipwreck ended up being one of the greatest things that ever happened to me – and my family.
Why? Because I found my true self again. I drilled down deep in my life and went back to the things that were the most important to me. I discovered my values with Jo Bell’s help and began to rebuild my life based on what was most important to me and was directly connected to my purpose. I quickly realized that when my decisions were out of line with my values, everything went down the poop shoot in my life.
As I restructured my life according to my values, (not what society, or anyone else told me was important), my wife and I realized that our big house and all the things we had accumulated over 20 years of marriage, had become a noose around our neck. This violated another value, ‘freedom.’
We really began to pray and talk seriously about what life would look like for our family on different terms. What would it look like to not live in fear about money and be hamstrung by obligations that weren’t helping us live, ‘fully alive?’
We sold or gave away almost everything we owned. It was a great feeling! We also stepped out in a direction of faith and decided to make an international move to Spain! This decision would give us incredible time to invest in things we really cared about. Like quality time with our kids and each other. It would be an experience we would never forget.
Once we made the decision, doors of opportunity began to fly open for ministry, a house, and school for the kids. Leaders Elevate (website coming soon), my positivity company, began to take off. I have incredible new clients, a group of 25 people arriving in Barcelona this April, and a conference I’m hosting in June. More info here if you’re interested. It is amazing how things come together when you start making decisions to align your life with your most important values. Your life just works better.
What I was learning to do was to become more, “autotelic.” A term coined by psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He wrote a profound book called, Flow – the psychology of optimal experience. Autotelic comes from two Greek words – auto (self) and telos (goal) and ‘refers to a self-contained activity, that is done not with the expectation of some future benefit, but simply because the doing itself is the reward.’ (p.67) The current Wikipedia definition explains the term a little better:
Autotelic is used to describe people who are internally driven, and as such may exhibit a sense of purpose and curiosity. This determination is an exclusive difference from being externally driven, where things such as comfort, money, power, or fame are the motivating force.
Simply put, I am learning that living from an internal set of values is far more important than living for external things. When you live externally, life becomes reactionary and fear driven – you are living more for the opinions of others and things. When you live by a clear internal sense of purpose and values, you are choosing to live for the things that are most important to you and GIVE YOU LIFE!
Choose to be internally driven, live by your values and everything changes. You’ll live longer, you will be more fulfilled, you will have more love and peace in your life, and you will be giving your time to what really matters.
With much encouragement and respect! ~ Tom