“Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One man gets only a week’s value out of a year while another man gets a full year’s value out of a week.”
It has been said that there are three kinds of people in the world: those who wait for things to happen, those who make things happen, and those who wonder what happened. And only one of those is living a life worth living … the one who MAKES things happen.
To make things happen in your life and your work, you must take time to stop and think once in a while. You can’t live your life or do your job on auto pilot and expect amazingly good results. It doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to take time for a little periodic reflection … FIRST.
As a speaker to thousands and an author to hundreds of thousands, I tell people they’ve got to reflect on three questions:
*Am I enjoying what I’m doing?
*Am I happy with where I’m going?
*Am I satisfied with what I’m becoming?
Your answers will either assure you that you’re on the right path or will nudge you onto the right path.
1. Am I enjoying what I’m doing?
The infamous comedian George Burns always came across that way. He thoroughly enjoyed what he was doing. Perhaps that’s why he lived into his 100’s. When asked how he felt performing in Las Vegas at the age of 100, George answered, “Nice to be here? At my age it’s nice to be anywhere.”
He enjoyed what he was doing on and off the stage. As George put it, “I love to sing, and I love to drink scotch. Most people would rather hear me drink scotch.”
The trouble is … most people merely exist. Only a few seem to be really, really, really enjoying what they are doing. The rest are held back by a variety of reasons. As psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler Ross observed in her work with the dying, “There are dreams of love, life, and adventure in all of us. But we are also sadly filled with reasons why we shouldn’t try. These reasons seem to protect us, but in truth they imprison us. They hold life at a distance. Life will be over sooner than we think. If we have bikes to ride and people to love, now is the time.”
Did you catch her comment? That most people are “held back by a variety of reasons?” Reasons why they can’t be living a life they truly enjoy?
One of those reasons is “induced discontent”. You are exposed to thousands of commercials every day, and every one of them has the same underlying message … that you can’t be happy without their product or service. And some of that is bound to rub off on you, making you feel more miserable than you ever realized. Well, you’ve got to resist “induced discontent”. Follow author Jim Rohn’s advice: “Learn to be happy with what you have while you pursue all that you want.”
Another reason is “misunderstood selfishness.” Some people think if they live a life they really enjoy, it would be selfish. Indeed, the world is filled with people who approach life from a ME-ME-ME perspective, and in almost every case their lives are empty and sometimes tragic. I’m not talking about that kind of selfishness.
“Misunderstood selfishness” is thinking you have no right to be happy. After all, you may think you’re somewhat ordinary, with a regular job, and a somewhat dysfunctional family. You may think you’ve never done anything noteworthy and never will. So how could you possibly enjoy what you’re doing?
You can. You really can enjoy what you’re doing … no matter what your job is … if you do some good along the way. As former slave and eventual scientist George Washington Carver said, “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these.”
No one understood this better than Wilbert Williams. In fact, if you’re ever in Chicago, look up his street, Wilbert Williams Way.
As you may know, the city of Chicago can be confusing to navigate because so many streets have two names. On one block you may see a street sign bearing the original designation, but several blocks down you see the street has changed to a celebrity’s name — such as a famous religious leader, an artist, or a business tycoon. It’s a way of paying homage to the people who have positively influenced that area or the city in some way.
All this considered, it might puzzle some folks to see the honorary street sign for “Wilbert Williams Way” erected downtown on a corner of the “Magnificent Mile.” Wilbert Williams doesn’t ring a bell with the greater population of Chicago. But for Don Ekman, who negotiated with City Hall for the sign, and the hundreds of others Chicago residents who have been greeted each working day by doorman Wilbert Williams, the sign makes perfect sense.
After 40 years at the post for the Women’s Athletic Club building, Williams retired. And the fuss made over his decision caught him by surprise — because he didn’t think the way he did his job was anything out of the ordinary. He just enjoyed what he was doing.
But those familiar with Williams know better. They think of him as an “icon,” a treasure. They say that no matter whom you were, famous or otherwise, Williams treated everyone he met with the same respect, kindness, and helpfulness — traits that prompted one woman to give her Cadillac to Williams!
As police offer Paul O’Donnel put it, “I’ve worked this area for 15 years, and he’s the best down here. In all these years, I’ve never heard him speak a harsh word about anyone. He’s a gentleman; what more can you say?”
What, indeed. It was just “Williams’ Way.” He enjoyed what he was doing.
2. Am I happy with where I’m going?
MIchael E. Gerber, author of “The E-Myth Revisited” has observed, “The difference between great people and everyone else is that great people create their lives actively, while everyone else is created by their lives, passively waiting to see where life takes them next. The difference between the two is the difference between living fully and just existing.”
In other words, if you don’t like where you’re going, CHANGE IT. It’s your responsibility. It’s not your company’s, your boss’s, your spouse’s, your parents’, or the government’s responsibility to make your life better.
Even Eleanor Roosevelt, first lady, U.N. ambassador, and liberal politician said that. She said, “One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And, the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”
You see, there are two ways to face the future. One way is with apprehension; the other is with anticipation.
And to face the future with anticipation, to make sure you will be happy with where you’re going, you must CREATE your future.
As Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, the author of “The Power of Positive Thinking,” wrote, “There is, operative in this life, a profound spiritual and psychological law that causes things to turn out as you deeply expect. Your expectations play a powerful role in what you will actually receive. So it is important to plant the seeds of expectation in your mind and to cultivate thoughts that anticipate achievement.”
Peale advised, “Create in your mind a mental picture of what you expect from life. The picture you create, even when you are only half-serious, will be conveyed to your subconscious mind. When it gets into the subconscious, you have it, because it has you.”
So go ahead. Relax completely. Think of a motion picture screen with nothing on it. And using your mind as a projector, project onto the screen pictures of what you want to be, where you want to go, and what you want to accomplish. Create pictures of the future you would like. And keep focusing your pictures until they’re perfectly clear and sharp.
Every time you go through this exercise, tell yourself over and over, “This is what I expect to get … this is what I expect to have … and this is where I expect to go in the upcoming year. This is what I expect to accomplish.”
And the good news is, most of the time you get what you expect. So the way to be happy with where you’re going is to expect good things to happen.
3. Am I satisfied with what I’m becoming?
When I share these three life-changing questions (Am I enjoying what I’m doing? Am I happy with where I’m going? Am I satisfied with what I’m becoming?) with an audience, I know it changes lives. One such person wrote me about his experience.
He said his life revolved around the stock market. He said he finally realized that he was sick and tired of grabbing the “Wall Street Journal” first thing every morning and organizing his whole life around the financial reports he read. He didn’t like what he was becoming. He was too involved with his investments. Indeed, it had become his entire life.
He wrote, “You’re going to think I’m off my rocker. I just liquidated my investments. I’m starting a new life. And I’m free.”
Now I’m not saying what he did was right or wrong. I’m not saying you should liquidate your investments. But I am saying you had better take a good hard look at yourself and see if you’re satisfied with what you’re becoming.
So ask yourself: Are you satisfied with the DIRECTION of your growth? Are you continuing to read books, attend seminars, and listen to educational and motivational CDs that will help you become a better and more satisfied individual? As business author Jim Rohn reminds us, “Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is poverty. Ignorance is devastation. Ignorance is tragedy. Ignorance is illness. It all stems from ignorance.”
Then ask yourself: Are you satisfied with the RATE of your growth? The drive to go faster and get bigger can give you ulcers, keep you awake at night, and stop you from enjoying the blessings you already have.
For those of you who believe in a Higher Power, if you’re asking your Higher Power to make you bigger instead of better, you may be disappointed. All the prayers in the world won’t pressure your Higher Power into giving you what you’re not ready to handle. Getting “better” may be harder to measure than getting “bigger,” and it may not be as glamorous, but your feelings of satisfaction will be entirely different. The inner stability that comes from gradual success is more valuable and lasting than the feelings that come with instant success.
And finally, ask yourself: Are you satisfied with the TARGET of your growth? If all your ambition and hard work is focused on getting more attention, more power, and more stuff for yourself, chances are you won’t be highly satisfied. In study after study, people always report the highest levels of satisfaction when they spend time helping others.
As novelist Elizabeth Berg sees it, “There is incredible value in being of service to others. I think if many of the people in therapy offices were dragged out to put their finger in a dike, or take up their place in a working line, they would be relieved of terrible burdens.” In other words, they would feel so much better about themselves.
That’s why Dan Zandra, the CEO of the Creative Director Compendium, tells his people, “Live your life so that your children can tell their children that you not only stood for something wonderful — you acted on it.”
To live a life worth living, you must be able to say “yes” to these three questions: Am I enjoying what I’m doing? Am I happy with where I’m going? Am I satisfied with what I’m becoming? Do what you need to do so you can say “yes” to all three questions.