A particularly inspiring interview on a late night talk show grabbed my attention quickly in November 1995. I rushed out the next day and bought his book, Awaken the Giant Within. His name was Anthony Robbins and buying his book was the first of many steps in my 20-year journey of personal development.
My ensuing personal development habit has helped me achieve the highest of highs and has guided me through the lowest of lows. It has helped me weather business failure, potential bankruptcy, relationship turmoil, failed partnerships and even health problems.
Recently I heard a question that caused me to pause and reflect on my personal development journey. What advice would you give your 20-year old self? After significant thought, my answer was simple. Lead a happy life. But knowing my 20-year old self, the immediate response would be...but how?
The “how” doesn’t take as much as you might think. Here are seven things you can do every day to live a happier life:
1. 15-30 minutes a day of personal development is like putting on a kevlar vest that makes you virtually impenetrable to negative outside forces. Your daily personal development can take many shapes and sizes including improving self awareness, learning new skills, building self esteem and even improving health just to name a few.
2. Stop constantly checking email, Facebook and Twitter. Twice a day for 15-30 minutes should be more than enough. Try to remember what you did before smartphones, Facebook, email and all the digital distractions that consume us today. For over 20 years I have been a high-tech gadget guy, but in recent years I have seen the value of unplugging. Always remember, your children are watching you and they will do what you do, not what you say.
3. Be grateful because nothing in life is guaranteed. Businesses rise and fall, relationships come and go and your health can change in an instant. I recently started a daily gratitude journal and have really enjoyed it. There is something about writing the words on paper that makes them more real and solidifies them in my thoughts throughout the day. Focusing on small and large successes in a gratitude journal (or in prayer/meditation) can help prevent daily stresses from overwhelming you and keeping you from your mission,
4. Don’t collect things, collect relationships. In my 20s I wanted a flashy car. In my 30s I wanted a fancy house, and now in my mid 40s, close friends and family are what make me the happiest. When you’re on your deathbed, are you going to wish you had collected more things? Don’t wait to wake up and realize what’s most important.
5. Giving back is something I wish I had started earlier in my life. The good news is that you can start anytime -- I now give regularly. By “giving” I don’t just mean money. I’m talking about time, influence and resources. The feeling you get from giving to a worthy cause is 10x the feeling of getting even the most amazing gift.
6. Surrounding yourself with positive people is something I refuse to compromise on, because life is too short to be infected by negative people. Yes that means I have had to let go of some of my old relationships to make room for new positive ones. I agree with Jim Rohn,“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” Choose your friends wisely.
7. Reducing negative self talk can be a challenge for many of us, but it’s an essential part of living a happy life. This is a tough one because we all have that voice in our heads that likes to creep in and create self doubt. The key is to identify when it happens and flip the switch to focus on something positive. The conversation inside our head, positive or negative, has a huge impact on how we act, feel and perform. Change that conversation for a powerful shift in your mindset.
Living a happier life is a matter of choice not chance. Of course it requires a little bit of extra time and thought but it’s important to realize that happiness is not a destination. Happiness is a culmination of our daily thoughts, actions and associations that begin and end with everyday.