Most people will never get everything they want out of life. Do you want that to be you? I didn’t think so, no one wants that. So then why does it happen so often? Most people get caught up in the motions of life and lose focus, lose hope and ultimately they settle for less.
A major problem is that people just don’t know how to get what they want out of life. Getting what you want out of life doesn’t just happen to those who deserve it, it happens to those who make it happen. How do you make it happen? Well, that’s complicated – I’m still trying to figure it all out myself. However, I can share 3 rules that I know to be true that have changed my life and I know will change yours.
Rule #1: Choose Yourself
There’s a book that was written by a nurse who spent her career working with people in their final stage of life. The book is called The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying. I haven’t read it myself, but there’s an Amazon link if you’re curious. Can you guess what the top 5 regrets were?
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
- I wish that I had let myself be happier
Can you relate to any of those? Chances are you can relate to at least 1 or 2.
All 5 of the most common regrets of the dying are related to choosing yourself. (Even #4, because these people wanted to spend more time with friends but allowed other circumstances to dictate how they spent their time)
What do I mean choose yourself?
I mean taking your life into your own hands. There’s actually a very well-known book called Choose Yourself by James Altucher. I’m a fan of Altucher and this book has been on my to-read list for a while (along with 100 others)
but I haven’t got to it yet. [Edit: I have now read this book and I highly recommend it!] However, I’ve heard the book discussed and the theory isn’t new. The book is really Altucher’s interpretation of a set of ideas that many successful people already know.
I thought maybe I should read the book before writing about the subject, but then I figured that isn’t a good example of choosing myself now is it? So now that I’ve got that out of the way, the following is my interpretation.
Help Yourself Before Helping Others
I’m not talking about putting your oxygen mask on first in a plane crash, I’m looking at the big picture.
The most common regret for the dying was not living a life true to themselves, but rather living a life others expected of them.
Choosing yourself means living life the way you want. When you live the life others want you to, you are choosing them over you. You are choosing to make them happy at the expense of your happiness.
Your parents might tell you that you have to be a doctor or lawyer, but maybe you want to be an architect. What do you do? Well you can do what they want and make them happy or you can choose yourself. If you choose their path you might feel some satisfaction from making them proud, but for how long? For a few years? Maybe. Until they die? Eh, it’s possible. Forever? Not likely.
Assuming your parents and you all live long lives, you will be around for a long time after they pass. That means you have to live the life they wanted years after they are gone. That doesn’t make much sense. That’s why many people make career changes so late in life, because it takes most people years and years of unhappiness to finally choose themselves. Why not just live the life you want from the beginning? You can find other ways to make them happy.
If they just can’t be pleased, then there’s a good chance they are negative people and you’ll be better off without them involved in your life anyways.
Help yourself first.
Choosing yourself sounds like a selfish endeavor, and that’s because it is. Even the most altruistic goals require selfishness to be completed.
When you ask someone what they want to do with their life, many people will say “I want to help people.” Ok, but be specific. How many people? Your immediate family? Hundreds, thousands or even millions of people? How do you want to help them? Do you want to give advice, give time through charity, or give anything that requires money like food and shelter?
To do any of these things you must first have something to give. Depending on how many people you want to help and how you want help, you will need knowledge, experience and lots of resources. By resources I mean you’ll need to have enough time to contribute, enough money or access to enough money, and enough people to help.
How does a person gain enough knowledge, experience and resources to impact thousands of people? By helping themselves first.
Follow Your Own Path
I’m a big advocate of entrepreneurship, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting to work for someone else. However, there’s always a conflict of interest when you work for someone else. You aren’t choosing yourself.
But my dream is to climb the corporate ladder and be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company… but my dream is to be the best reporter at the biggest news station… but my dream is to work for a company that cares about its employees, like Google…
Ok, that’s fine. Just keep in mind that those dreams serve someone else’s dreams and when (not if) the time comes that your dream doesn’t serve your employer’s dream – someone will compromise. Who do you think will be doing the compromising? Exactly.
Choosing yourself is about trusting yourself more than your employer. Who do you think has your best interest at heart?
Employers only care about you to the extent that you benefit them. The same companies who throw lavish parties and give away vacations and big bonuses during the good times are the same companies that lay people off by the thousands when the chips are down. The great thing about high unemployment is that you can be replaced for much less money at any given time.
Following your own path is not a luxury. It’s not something that you are lucky to be able to do. No, it’s a responsibility to yourself. To ensure you get what you want out of life. Is it more difficult? Of course. However, climbing the corporate ladder is difficult also. If you’re going to work hard, at least work hard on your own dreams – not someone else’s.
Rule #2: Live By Your Own Code
Are you living by a code you set, or by a code set by religion, politics or your family? Too many people don’t live by any code, they just follow the trend that they think will help them. Those people are weak and will never get what they want out of life because they will forever be controlled by something else.
I’m not going to discuss politics on this website. Well, I will discuss issues that happen to be political issues, but I have no interest in sparking any political debates. However, I feel it’s very important to share the idea that you should never label yourself as a part of any political party. The problem is that you allow something else to define you. Following a political party blindly is a horrible idea. That’s what you do when you live by the code of a Democrat or Republican.
The same goes for religion. If your ideals align with a particular religion, by all means follow it if you want. However, you shouldn’t blindly follow a religion because you think it’s the right thing to do.
Live by your own code. You know the hero in the movie who everyone respects because he/she stays true to them self no matter what? Pretend your life is a movie and be the hero you would root for.
Does that mean you can’t take ideas from religion and politics to form your personal code? Absolutely not. Those are some of the best places to start.
A personal code is more of a mindset than a list of rules.
Be Skeptical, Not Paranoid
Being skeptical is a good thing, despite what you might’ve been told. You should question everything. Even me.
Just because someone on TV says something, that doesn’t make it true. Just because you hear something from a legitimate news station doesn’t mean it isn’t a lie. When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. You should be questioning these things.
However, you don’t want to be paranoid. Paranoia is based on fear. Skepticism is based on a trust of yourself to have the final say on what you believe.
I always say, nothing in life is free. So you should always be skeptical of a free handout. Have you ever received an offer for a free cruise? If you take that offer you’ll find out pretty quickly that it wasn’t completely free. Most of the time they require you to hear these pitches about investing in a timeshare and they make sure that those meetings take up the majority of your time on the trip so they can get you to commit.
Is that a scam? Yeah in a way it is, but you should’ve been more skeptical and read the fine print.
I think it’s hilarious when people say “that’s how they get ya” when talking about a business. For example, when you buy a new PC at Best Buy they always try to sell the warranty. Some people don’t know this, but they make way more money on the warranty than the PC. The paranoid would say “that’s how they get ya!” Well, no not really. That’s how they make money, yes. But they are providing something in return for that money.
Am I saying you should buy warranties? No, they are usually a waste of money. I’m trying to illustrate the difference in mindset between being skeptical and paranoid.
The skeptic will say everyone is out to make money, which is true. The paranoid person will say that everyone is out to rip you off, which is certainly not true. All businesses want to make money, but many of them would actually like to have happy customers too.
Arm yourself with skepticism, but don’t cripple yourself with paranoia. A personal code comes from belief in yourself. That means having the final say on what you choose to believe or ignore.
Never Break Your Code
I’m going to share a personal story about a time when I was faced with the decision of breaking my code. This story involves a girl who shall remain nameless, and I’m sure you will understand why.
Towards the end of college I started dating a girl who was muslim. We dated for 3 years exactly.
I personally don’t claim a religion anymore. I have no problem with those who do (I have several friends who are devoted christians and muslims) but I just don’t personally identify with any single religion.
From the beginning of that relationship I made it very clear that I would never convert to Islam, because that would be a lie. I don’t believe in that religion. She told me she didn’t care, which I was skeptical about but I ignored my gut feeling on that. (Don’t do that!)
We had to date in secret because muslims aren’t allowed to date. They traditionally do arranged marriages, but most muslims in America date secretly until they are ready to get married. So after 3 years of dating I never got to meet her family, which bothered me.
The problem was that they didn’t approve of anyone who wasn’t muslim. And when I say “don’t approve” I don’t mean they really don’t like the idea – I mean that her safety and my safety were a concern. (Of course this wasn’t revealed to me upfront)
As time went on, she realized I was serious about not converting. That’s when she proposed that I just lie about being a muslim to her family. She said I had all the qualities they would want, except that one thing. If I just told that one little lie I could have their blessing and they would love me as their own son.
I couldn’t do it. I refuse to live a lie. That’s a big part of my personal code. As much as I cared about her and was invested in that relationship, I couldn’t lie. So we went our separate ways.
You know what happened? Just like in the movies – I stuck to my code and I was rewarded. Sure enough, I found an even better girl not long after we broke up. (These results are not guaranteed, but hey it worked for me and I’m no one special)
Rule #3: Never Give Up
When you’re young it’s normal to not know what you want to do with your life. I switched majors several times throughout college and so did many of my friends.
As a kid I always thought that adults had everything figured out. Now that I’m an adult I can see that most people have no clue what they are doing. So if you feel lost, just know that you’re not alone.
Settling is a nicer way of saying that someone has given up. When a girl settles for an average guy, because she wants to get married soon, she is giving up on finding the man of her dreams.
When you settle for an average job because it’s safe, you are giving up on your dream job. When you settle on your hometown because it’s convenient, you are missing out on living where you truly want to live. (Unless you just really want to live there. For me that would be Tulsa, Oklahoma so I have to pass.)
But I’ve tried over and over and I keep failing…
Failure is such a popular topic nowadays. Nearly all successful people have failed. You always see the star quarterback who wasn’t drafted. The famous singer who got turned down by every other label. The thing is, you can fail a million times – you only have to get it right once!
I know people who failed in business for years, but eventually got their millions after relentless pursuit.
Don’t get caught up in the hype of all the people you see who become multimillionaires in their early twenties, it’s a distraction. Could that be you? Of course, but don’t lose motivation if it doesn’t happen.
The harsh reality is that most successful people don’t hit their stride until later in life.
Success Favors Those Who Stick Around
Henry Ford, Albert Einstein, Oprah Winfrey, Sylvester Stallone, J.K. Rowling, Ray Kroc, Colonel Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Martha Stewart, Morgan Freeman, James Dyson, and Walt Disney – all of these people didn’t find their success until their 30’s or 40’s.
None of those people would’ve got what they wanted out of life if they had settled in their late 20’s or 30’s. Let that be an inspiration for you. If you are alive and healthy, keep going.
“Winners never quit and quitters never win.” – Vince Lombardi
That quote has and will continue to stand the test of time, because it is an eternal truth.
Success is not guaranteed to anyone, but failure is guaranteed to quitters.
This is by no means a magic formula for success. There is no magic formula. However, these are 3 great rules that you must follow to get what you want out of life. If you can master these principles and make them a permanent part of your life you will be equipped to figure the rest out on your own. It all starts with choosing yourself and living by a personal code. Those are difficult enough, but the true challenge is never giving up.
The question is, how bad do you want it? With all this in mind, I leave you with the mantra of this website:
Make Progress or Make Excuses
Until Next Time,
What do you think? Do you agree, disagree or have any thoughts to add? Let me know in the comments below.
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