I sometimes look at life like a tube of toothpaste. When we first buy the tube, it’s perfect – not a dent or flaw to be found. But, overtime, we make our mark on that tube. Some of us judiciously squeeze from the bottom up, but the vast majority of us make our marks all over that tube, leaving it far more imperfect than the day we bought it.
Throughout our lifetimes, many impressions are made on us – from ourselves, from others, the media, etc. Some marks are helpful, while others are not. Some impressions cause us to bring negativity into each passing moment of our days. The good news is, we’re not entirely like a tube of toothpaste. While indentations are challenging to remove from a used tube of toothpaste, we, as humans, have the ability to “undo” some of the negative marks and thinking that have been introduced in our lives over the years. Here are 5 things many of us have learned over time that, if we unlearn them, will help us find more joy and a new outlook on life.
5 things you should unlearn to experience more success
- Problems are a problem – Long ago – perhaps as far back as our schooldays, we learned that problems are bad. They stand in our way of fun. But problems aren’t bad. In fact, problems are healthy challenges that we all need in life, or else we’d likely go crazy with boredom. Problems are just a way of life telling you that you need to find a solution to get what you want. It could be as simple as getting a mechanic to fix your car, hiring an accountant to do your taxes, or asking for help with a tough project at work. Problems aren’t problematic. They are what give life its luster. Without them, we’d all live in a boring land of monotony and placidity. Trust me – it’s not as nice as you think.
- Success is the opposite of failure – When did things get so black and white? You can’t really succeed until you fail, which is why these two occurrences aren’t opposite sides of a coin. They’re a part of the same equation. One of your biggest successes as a baby was when you learned to walk. But do you think you could’ve gotten that far without falling, stumbling, and crying? Nope. Your failures are what led up to your success. No, success is not the opposite of failure. In fact, success is built on failure. In other words, embrace your failures. You wouldn’t enjoy any of the successes you have today, without them.
- The past will haunt you – We do a great job of blaming our past for our present-day problems. And while our past events and trauma do leave scars, we don’t have to be victims of these days of yore. Your thinking is like a car that travels along certain roadways of your brain. If we put the car in autopilot, we’ll inevitably gravitate to the same roads we’ve always traveled, because they’re familiar and deeply grooved by our past travels. But we have the power to turn the wheel and forge new paths in our brains. In other words, we can think differently, and move past our past. We only remain traumatized and effected by our pasts because we don’t know enough to travel a new road.
- People’s opinion of me matters – This is an interesting one because I don’t really mean to say you should be selfish and self-interested. Caring about others is – to embrace a cliche – what makes the world go round. But limiting your life because you’re afraid of what others might think is no way to live. Other people’s opinion of you is just their hypothesis of you, based on a small fragment of your life. Your neighbor might know you from that argument you had last week. Your kid’s teacher might know you from your kid. These are all just pieces of a bigger you. You are more than just individual fragments, aren’t you? Imagine what you could – and would – do if you realized that others’ opinion of you didn’t matter. Seriously, imagine the possibilities. Now go get them.
- The lottery (or a genie in a lamp) would solve my problems. Ah, if only. Let’s take a look at the people who we think have it all. Only recently did successful (and rich and beloved) Robin Williams commit suicide. Other celebrities are in and out of rehab all the time. Drug abuse isn’t a result of access and money. You have to really be facing some self-esteem issues and personal demons to turn to self-medication. So what is it? Well, what it is is that no external factors (money, fame, worldly possessions) can make us feel truly good. They may bide our time, but they don’t make us feel worthwhile and fulfilled. Whether you have $10 million or $1.87, your happiness is based on the joy you have in non-materialistic things in life.
Live a happier life
I’ve travelled throughout New Zealand, Australia, and North America, helping individuals and organizations look at life and work from a different perspective. What I’ve realized is that the most successful people are the ones who are genuinely happy. Happiness isn’t about the biggest bank accounts. It’s not about living a life without problems. No matter who you are, you’ll face challenges in your life; you’ll have a past you need to overcome; you’ll have things you want but can’t have. The secret to success is through simplicity and joy. Learn to unlearn the five life lessons outlined above, and you’ll be one step closer to genuine happiness.
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