I remember walking on the beach in Florida with one of my good friends after recently quitting my job and deciding to travel the world. We were talking about the experiences we’d had, the moments we’d shared, and what we wanted for our futures. I remember reflecting on my life and telling her that if I died tomorrow, I would be content. I had achieved everything I could ask for and more. I had no regrets, no empty spaces waiting to be filled.
She didn’t feel the same way.
When I thought about our lives, our similar upbringing and background, I was confused. How was it that I had lived such a full life while she was still waiting for “her real life to begin?” We were the same age with a similar education, both unique and talented in our own ways. What did I have that she didn’t?
This is in no way an attempt to pat myself on the back and congratulate myself on being more awesome than my friend. It’s simply not true. Yet, there are a few secrets to success I’ve discovered that have allowed me to pursue my dreams in spite of outward circumstances. I’ve learned these truths from others and from my own personal experience, and I want to share them with you.
There have been many times in my life when I’ve been afraid. If I told you I had no misgivings about quitting my job to travel, I’d be lying. Yet, the times in my life when I’ve had the most personal triumph have been when I exercised faith. Faith banishes fear. It overcomes anxiety; it squashes desperation.
My last year of University I participated in a mission trip to Zambia. It was the first time I stepped foot in Africa. Six months before our departure, the other students and I embarked on a fundraising campaign to raise $3,000 each in order to pay for our expenses. At the time, I was completely broke. I worked three part-time jobs to pay for my daily needs, and sold my plasma on the side for any extra spending money.
After paying the required $300 deposit to secure my place among the group, my bank account was wiped out. I had no idea how I was going to afford to go. Donations from friends and family started trickling in slowly, $25 here, $50 there, but nowhere near the amount I needed. As the deadline grew closer, I grew desperate.
One night, before I went to bed I prayed a tearful prayer, asking God to somehow make up the difference. The next day in the mail, a check for $1,000 arrived from a family friend with note explaining they had felt compelled to give me the money I needed.
“How the Universe will bring it to you is not your concern or job. You think you have to do it and the Universe will not do it for you–the how is not your part in the Creative Process. The Hows are the domain of the Universe. It always knows the shortest, quickest, fastest, most harmonious way between you and your dream.” -Mike Dooley
This is where the magic and miracles happen.-Dr. Joe Vitalae
Faith is an exercise, a practice that garners miracles. Every time I experiment with faith in my life, I’m rewarded beyond expectation. Faith is more powerful than fear.
Competition is a lie
Competition is a lack mentality. It assumes there’s not enough to go around. Not enough love, money, or happiness to draw from. So we horde our time, gifts, and success because we’re afraid of losing them. We convince ourselves we’re part of the human race, instead of humankind.
Competition breeds jealousy and disappointment because there will always be someone we think of as better, braver, brighter than us. Constantly comparing ourselves to others requires so much energy that could be directed towards appreciation for who we are and what we already have.
Focusing on community instead of competing has opened my eyes to a completely different reality. Communities take care of each other. They collaborate and share ideas, resources, and time. Those with more give to those with less. There’s no fear of losing because there’s nothing to lose.
Gratitude is one of the most powerful tools I’ve learned (and am still learning). When I take the time and effort to write in a gratitude journal every day, I’m drawn back into the present moment. My attention shifts on what I have to be thankful for, instead of focusing on what I’m missing. Practicing gratitude changes the lens through which we view our lives and opens the door for more blessings to come. It has the ability to replace depression with joy.
“Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.” -Ps. 5:3
Be responsible for your own happiness, let others be responsible for theirs.
I am a people pleaser. I crave stability and harmony. I want to make sure everyone is always okay. Sometimes this self-appointed responsibility can become a significant burden that actually harms my own happiness.
When you believe it’s your duty to please your parents, your partner, and all of your friends, their unhappiness suddenly feels very personal. The weight of their pain or displeasure can be crippling. I know because I’ve felt it.
“Tell everyone you know: “My happiness depends on me, so you’re off the hook.” And then demonstrate it. Be happy, no matter what they’re doing. -Esther Hicks
If you release others from the responsibility of making you happy, and release yourself from the obligation of making everyone else happy, all parties involved win! We can add to the happiness of others, but depending on something external to bring inner joy is a disabling behavior. Teaching ourselves and others that we alone are responsible for our own feelings, emotions, and behaviors is empowering and liberating.
Believe the Universe is conspiring for you, on your behalf
One day, when I was aimlessly perusing the internet, I stumbled on this powerful essay from Kevin Kelly. A world traveler himself, he relays story after story of how he believes the Universe was conspiring to help him at every turn.
“No matter how bad the weather, soiled the past, broken the heart, hellish the war, I believe all that is behind the universe is conspiring to help us — if we will humble ourselves enough to let it.” -Kevin Kelly
How we view the world is how we will experience it. If we believe the world is full of war, hatred, disease, and poverty, that’s what will be reflected back to us. If we view the world as benevolent, filled with kindness and beauty, that’s what we’ll see.
Kevin writes about the importance of remaining open to the gift of kindness, to arriving at the point every day where you actually expect it. I think this is so important in drawing positive energy to ourselves. In his essay, he states the only question we have to ask ourselves is, “how will the miracle happen today?”
Tulum, Mexico 2013
Be the exception, be exceptional
So much of my time has been spent trying to blend in. I’ve dressed in a certain way to blend in with my peer group, listened to certain music, attended certain events, all in an attempt to show I was part of the team. I wanted to be what I thought everyone else wanted to be.
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive. The world needs more people who have come alive.” -Jonathan Harris
I’ve been living in Ghana for three months now and blending in is simply not an option. I could wear the brightly colored African cloth, plait my hair, and even adopt the local lingo, but my skin color yells “foreigner” from miles away. This has been an unexpected gift. I now have the freedom to be the exception. I don’t have to be concerned with conforming to what’s around me because that possibility has already been taken away from me. Now I can focus my energy on not only being the exception, but becoming exceptional.
Surrounding yourself with people and things that inspire you is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Visualization is a powerful mechanism to manifest your dreams. Before I embarked on my travel adventures, I scoured travel blogs, read motivational quotes, and fell asleep with memoirs like “Tales of a Female Nomad” and “A Walk Across America” on my chest.
“If a little dreaming is dangerous, the cure for it is not to dream less, but to dream more, to dream all the time.”- Proust
Before I felt truly brave, I synthesized the courage of my travel heroes and mentors, internalizing it and making it my own. Whatever your endeavors-whether you dream of living in a cabin in the woods, writing a novel, or recovering from an illness, surround yourself with visual reminders of your goal. Look for the pathfinders who’ve blazed the way ahead of you. Learn from them, and then chart your own path.
Tell yourself every day you are creative and capable
My entire family is artistic. Both of my sisters can sketch, sing, dance, and create with a beauty and grace I often envy. My mother is a talented writer and my father paints beautiful landscapes.
My own artistic endeavors have often left me flat on my face. There was the bear I tried to draw in 6th grade that had six legs, the clay vase I made that had a hole in it so it became a pencil holder instead. For many years I told myself I simply wasn’t creative. This self-devaluation reinforced my belief and left me with insecurity whenever I was around more creative folk.
“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, either way you are right.” -Henry Ford
Then I realized something obvious: my creativity was being smothered by the very belief that I wasn’t capable of creating! Just because I didn’t share the same talents as the rest of my family, didn’t mean I lacked creativity. I just hadn’t found the avenue for expression yet. I hadn’t cultivated the strengths and talents I possessed, I’d only compared what I didn’t have to others.
Guanajuato, Mexico 2013
Decide what to be, and go be it.
It’s really that easy. I think a lot of us (myself included) live in this quandry of indecision because we tell ourselves we don’t know what we want. We’re just not sure who we want to be. That may be partially true, but I think the reality is a lot of us are afraid to admit what we want to be. We’re afraid of failing at our first choice. We’re afraid our dreams are too big.
“Most of us have never allowed ourselves to want what we truly want, because we can’t see how it’s going to manifest” -Jack Canfield
So, rather than attempting it and not succeeding, we don’t even try. We settle for second, or third, or fourth. Instead of learning from our mistakes, we try to avoid failure which actually leads to more failure. The Universe rewards dreamers. Especially the determined and persistent ones.
“If you do a little research, it is going to become evident to you that anyone who ever accomplished anything did not know how they were going to do it. They only knew they were going to do it.” -Bob Proctor
Meeker, Colorado 2012
Stop looking for the struggle
I have an annoying habit of always second-guessing my own happiness. When things are going really well and I’m feeling especially content, I’ll catch myself waiting for something bad to happen to spoil it all. I almost feel guilty when I’m happy. I don’t let myself enjoy it, always worried there’s a limited supply and that it’s going to run out.
I started doing this on a bus ride through the African bush the other day. I was talking to my friend Lena, doubting my decision to keep traveling instead of returning home. I came up with all of these nonsensical reasons why I thought I didn’t deserve to keep up with my current lifestyle, practically insisting that my dreams had an expiration date.
She looked at me and asked, “Why are you looking for the struggle? Aren’t you the happiest you’ve ever been? Why are you trying to make things so hard?”
“Try collaborating with the mystery instead. Put down the fists.” -Elizabeth Gilbert
When things are going well, there’s usually a reason. It’s because we’ve tuned in to a Universal frequency that’s telling us we’re on the right path. We’re pursuing the right things. We’re in the right place at the right time. Stop looking for the struggle.Google+