The Straight Road

“Keep adding. Keep walking. Keep advancing. Do not stop. Do not turn back. Do not turn from the straight road.”
St. Augustine

From 25 years of research, from 30 years of teaching, and from interviewing thousands of folks … from the top of the corporate ladder to those behind prison bars … I have an announcement to make. Life is NOT fair.

So there you have it. It’s official. Life is NOT fair.

Despite that somewhat depressing declaration, I also have some good news. There are several things you might be doing to screw up your life. I wrote about five of those things in last week’s “Tuesday Tip.” You’ve got to STOP doing those things.

But the good news is … there are some things you can do to experience more joy in life and work. Here they are.

=> 1. Decide to be happy.

After all, happiness is not a thing, an address, title, or bank balance. Happiness isn’t even a stage of life … whether that be single or married, young or old, working or retired, or even parenting versus empty nesting. As author Tim Connor puts it, “It is not something you can grasp, earn, keep, buy, learn, give away or know. It will come after you relentlessly if you have that inner state of consciousness that says, ‘I am happy no matter what is in my life.'”

He’s right. Happiness is NOT the consequence of something HAPPENING in your life. It’s a decision you make … no matter what is going on in your life. You decide to be happy.

I’ll never forget the time when that lesson was first drummed into my mind. As a kid, I used to love Bob Barker do his show called “Truth Or Consequences.” And on occasion he would have unusual guests on his show.

On one show, his team found this old man who lived way back in the boonies of the Great Smokey Mountains. He had never been exposed to electricity, running water, the radio, television, or any other modern convenience. He not only lived without those things, he never even heard of those things. He was indeed living in another time period.

As Barker interviewed him, the audience laughed at his simple, naive answers, but they weren’t laughing at him but with him. He was so charming the audience couldn’t help but love him.

Finally, Barker said, “You seem so happy. You must have some wonderful secret of happiness. Please tell us what it is.”

The old man replied, “No, ain’t got no secret of happiness. I jest gets up every morning and figures I got a decision to make … to be happy or unhappy. And what do you think I do? I decides to be happy.”

The audience smiled and giggled. They may even have thought, “That’s easy for him to say. He doesn’t have all the pressures we have in our lives.

But then I’m reminded of another person that no one would ever accuse of being naive or simple-minded. No one would ever say his life was stress-free, and yet this man said the same thing as the old man on Bob Barker’s show. I’m talking about Abraham Lincoln, of course. He said, “People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

So I challenge you with this first point. DECIDE to be happy. And then…

=> 2. Fuel your passion.

Keep your passion alive … whatever you do. It’s the great equalizer in life. It often makes up for a lack of experience and knowledge.

Of course, I am NOT saying that you can forget about increasing your knowledge or expanding your experience. That’s always necessary. But I am saying that your passion will be interpreted by others as a strong belief in yourself, your mission, and your purpose … while your knowledge and experience is catching up with you.

Of course, you may be saying, “I don’t feel an awful lot of passion in my life right now. Life is tough, and I’m just barely hanging on.” Hey, we’ve all been there, but you don’t have to stay there. You can pump up your passion.

Try these ideas:

*Count your blessings. We often overlook or dismiss them when times are tough … but they’re still there.

*Affirm yourself. Talk to yourself. Tell yourself such things as, “I am here to stay. I am here to make a difference. I am not giving up.” Or as St. Augustine implied, “I am moving forward. I’m going to keep on walking. I am not turning back.” *Let the past pass. Don’t waste your time on what you did or should have done. Learn from it and then let it go.

*Practice an attitude of gratitude. The more thanks you give, the more passion you’ll get.

*Accept yourself … warts and all. You know the old adage … that “God don’t make no junk.” It’s true. You have great value. It’s time you accept that fact. With passion in your life, then you have to…

=> 3. Learn resiliency.

Sooner or later everyone experiences failure, disappointments, and setbacks in life. So the ability to bounce back from those challenging times has got to be one of the keys to greater happiness and more joy … on and off the job.

In simple terms, resilience is the ability to keep on coming back, time after time. No matter how many times life brings you to your knees, you try again and again. You try something new, or you try something different. In fact, it’s one of the most critical survival skills in today’s tumultuous world. Learn it. Get resilient.

And finally, for greater success and happiness, you’ve got to…

=> 4. Learn when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.

As you move through life, you are faced with a variety of challenges that test your patience, resolve, and commitment. Just remember … in every one of those challenges, you always have 3 choices … to live, lobby, or leave.

You could decide to LIVE with it. Sometimes that’s the best option. Your work may be uninspiring or your boss may be disrespectful. But with the economy in shambles, you may decide to live with it … for the time being. After all, there may not be very many other attractive alternatives in the workplace.

Your second choice is to LOBBY for change. You may be having a difficult time with your spouse’s behavior, your customer’s attitude, or your company’s policies. So you could attempt to change your situation or your relationship. You could use all your very best communication skills to bring about positive, productive change in your situation. In fact, that’s what the second day of my “Journey to the Extraordinary” program teaches you to do.

If neither of those choices appeal to you, you can choose to LEAVE. It can be a valid option. Sometimes you’re in a situation where someone else is destroying your self-esteem, damaging your attitudes, or blocking your success in life and work. Leaving might be a wise and healthy option.

But let me offer one caution. Many people leave too quickly. Faced with a difficult person or challenging situation, they split. Their patience runs thin or their tolerance level runs dry. They leave marriages too quickly, quit jobs too rapidly, and change locations too often … thinking they’ll leave those problems behind … as they search for greener pastures somewhere else.

It may be possible to find greener pastures. If they’re out there, go for ’em. Just make sure you’ve worked through all of your own problems before you move on to a new relationship or a new job. If you don’t, they’re sure to show up in your new situation.

In summary, the happiest people are the happiest for a reason … well, actually four reasons. They have decided to be happy. They have learned how to keep their passion alive and well. They have learned how to be resilient. And they know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.

Action:  Do three things this week that will fuel your passion.