For the past two years, you could say I’ve been going down a different path to most people around me. Mainly due to the fact I was brought up in a middle class environment where the majority graduate high school, go to university for three or four years then hop on the corporate ladder. I never wanted to go down the normal route, because I thought how could I ever live a successful life by doing what normal people do?
In a careers class at age 14 I was the only one who exclaimed I didn’t want to go to university but I wanted to work for myself. At age 16 I was taken to the vice principles office after talking back to her. She asked what I wanted to do with my life and I said I hated the idea of going to university working for someone else and she replied ‘why are you here then?’ I was angry at her for saying that because it came across as very narrow minded, but looking back on it I realize I probably should have just left school at sixteen and started out on my own.
Anyway, I continued to follow the route that I was told to go down, scraped okay grades and applied for university even though I knew deep down I would hate it. The trouble I could have saved if I believed in myself back then…
I’m in a pretty good place right now, mentally and physically. I’m still nowhere near where I want to be, but I’m on the way there and I will get there. I want to share with you what happens when you decide to change yourself. By that I mean making the decision to do exactly what you believe you should do, not what anyone else thinks you should or what you think you should do out of ‘realism’ or ‘security’.
I’ve broken it down into four stages which are pretty much universal from my experience, and what I’ve read and heard from other people. Here goes.
This is the first time you feel you have purposeful direction. I experienced at 16 this when I read Rich Dad Poor Dad, a book on building wealth written by Robert Kiyosaki. My mum tried many times to get me to read books like this, including Eat That Frog and The Secret, but I was always stubborn to read them, assuming there was nothing I could read that would improve my life.
You know, I thought everything was the way it was and I couldn’t do anything to change that (that’s what you would call a fixed mindset). So I read this book and decided there and then that I was going to have my own empire one day. I wanted to achieve massive financial success and own property, businesses, trade stocks, etc. etc. Pretty materialistic stuff.
That was the point I decided I was actively going to do something different with my life. It was a pretty exciting feeling and I almost felt a sense of superiority to everyone else who was still going down the average path. That wore off – nowadays I focus on my own stuff and I don’t compare myself to anyone, I’m just happy in the knowledge that I have purpose and direction.
At this point, my mum was happy that I had some form of motivation, and my dad just cared about me doing enough work to get good grades at school. At school, I’d tell all my friends about the benefits of working for yourself and why none of them should go to university and that I was going to be successful etc.
Pretty much all of them assumed I was too materialistic and I lost touch with most of them because of our differences. I didn’t realize why I wasn’t spending so much time with these people but I understand now it’s that our fundamental values differed.
In friendship groups everyone seems to merge together and become very similar in their values, and I guess I broke away from that. I still get on with most of them but not on a deeper level by any means.
The key thing I learnt from this is you must spend time with people who are going to push you forward, doing things that will push you forward, because anything that goes against that will only create self doubt and confusion.
This is an on and off occurrence which still comes about now and again. Thinking about it now, self-doubt mostly comes about when I’m not being productive. To me, happiness is making solid progress towards a worthy goal so this makes a whole lot of sense.
Back to the point. Self doubt pretty much occurs through the criticism of others and through your own fears (fears just come from how you perceive a situation so I guess this could be brought on by the viewpoints of others), failings and lack of results.
People who aren’t in touch with their purpose and lack belief because of it will criticise you. They will be extremely sceptical of what you are doing, they will tell you to do some something more ‘realistic’ (I hate that word), they will make fun of the things you do (apparently getting up at 5am is hilarious to some people) and they will criticise the actions you take.
This is naturally going to instil a sense of self-doubt, because if you’re outnumbered by people who doubt you, you’re going to start to think they’re right. Again, thats why it’s important to spend time with people who share your values and your drive.
When you start taking action, like starting a business, if you are putting in the effort you’re 100% going to fail at some point. Not fatally, just multiple times. Every time you seem to be making progress something will knock you back down to earth. But to get to the next stage (conviction) your drive to change must be powerful enough.
If you are driven enough by a meaningful purpose you will be willing to face criticism and failure again and again because you know the outcome outweighs the adversity tenfold.
Stephen Covey says in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that ‘happiness is – in part at least – the fruit of the desire and ability to sacrifice what we want now for what we want eventually.’ That quote pretty much sums up the bridge between self-doubt and conviction.
This is the point when you realise what you are doing is right for you. You are going through the process of working hard for what you want but you already feel successful in yourself because you are happy with where you are going and what you are doing.
You don’t care about the negative opinions of others and you only spend time on the things that are meaningful. You take the right actions, you spend time with the right people, you are thinking the right thoughts and you are starting to achieve the right things.
I’m not saying I’m fully there yet. I may not be the most successful guy right now but I have conviction in where I’m going and I’m happy with what I’m doing. I regard my life as successful simply because I’ve decided to follow a path I’m extremely passionate about. I wake up every single day excited to make progress on my goals.
What I can say so far is when you decide to change yourself, you better have a strong enough purpose because what you are going to go through is not going to be easy in the slightest. You could just let life pass you by and stay comfortable but not truly happy, or you could do as Stephen Covey says:
Sacrifice what you want now for what you want eventually.
Enjoy the process because it’s going to make you who you are in the future.