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The A to Z Guide to a Rich Life

The A to Z Guide to a Rich Life

A is for Adventure, and B is for Bravery. But a rich life is mostly brought to you by the letter C, for the Choice is yours to make it happen.

This A to Z guide is a slippery slide down the letters of the alphabet. It is not a ride for the faint-hearted or for the superficial money-hungry beasts who preach gobbledygook. Instead, it’s for people who want to make a difference with their lives. If that describes you, then you’re in the right place.

So, buckle up and jump in. We’ve got a long way to go.

A is for Adventure

Life is an adventure. Or to be more precise: your adventure.

But where will I go? I hear you ask. What you’re really asking for is a map. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all. Each one of us carries our own map of where we want to go and what we want to do. You need to look within yourself and ask:

  • Where do I want to go? 
  • Why do I want to go there?
  • What is it about this mission that makes me feel excited and alive?

If you’re getting butterflies, then go. If not, explore more options.

It doesn’t matter if you travel alone or with someone else as long as you move forward on your quest. New adventures lead to more experiences. There is no such thing as a bad adventure. Remember, the adventure begins when you leave the village.

If you’re stuck, don’t despair. Remember this dialogue from Alice in Wonderland:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
― Lewis Carrol, Alice in Wonderland

What stops you from embarking on your adventure? Maybe letter B will be of some help.

B is for Bravery

Here’s a promise: you’ll face obstacles, challenges and people who will try to bring you down. Be ready for this. They don’t want you to live your adventure because they’re not happy with theirs.

You can safely ignore these people. Learn to stand up for yourself and your mission without a moment’s hesitation. This is your adventure, remember? Don’t let anyone take that away from you.

Have the courage to live a life that’s true to yourself.  Dare to be brave: you have nothing to fear. If you’re looking for inspiration, find comfort in these words:

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ― Oscar Wilde

C is for Choice

Yes, this is the most important letter of the alphabet. It decides whether you’re going to live a fun and meaningful life or a boring and mediocre one.

It boils down to choice. For every living moment, you have a choice about how you will respond. No one expresses the value of choice better than writer and Holocaust survivor Viktor E Frankl:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Yes, you always have a choice. If you can’t change a situation, you can always change yourself. I told you it wasn’t easy, but it can still be done with some help from letter D.

D is for Discipline

It can be difficult to follow through on some of your decisions. Procrastination and self-doubt too easily distract you from your path. But that’s why you need discipline.

No, I don’t mean military discipline. That’s too violent and scary for me. I’m talking about the kind of self-discipline that artists, athletes and scientists use to practice their craft and to stay committed to the task at hand. It’s willpower. It’s grit. It’s the discipline to make and keep a promise to yourself.

Indeed, discipline is hard because you’re competing against yourself. You are your own worst enemy. Don’t let this internal struggle bog you down. With a bit of discipline, you can pave the way for your adventure. It’s not sexy, but it works. Think of it this way:

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” ― Jim Rohn

Of course, sometimes there’s a gap between what you know and what you need to know. That’s when letter E comes to the rescue.

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E is for Education

A rich life is shaped by education. When you stop learning, you cease to truly live.

There’s always more to learn about the world and the people and animals that live in it. If you feel ambitious, there’s always the universe to keep you busy. But let’s not go there today. It makes my head spin.

By all means, read more books, listen to more songs, and watch more movies. Talk to people and learn from them. Keep exploring.

“Education is not just preparation for life, but part of life itself – a continuous art.” ― Henry Ford

If your experience of education is anything like mine, it has involved several moments of fear and self-doubt, which brings us to the dreaded letter F.

F is for Fear

Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of looking dumb. You can’t escape your fears, but at least you’re not alone in having them.

So, what to do? Try to befriend your fear. Invite him over for dinner, share a glass of wine, but skip the small talk (your guest is very good at that). Instead do the unexpected and act in spite of your fear. See how quickly he leaves the room!

“Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out.” ― Karl Augustus Menninger

Remember: when you face your fear, you change your path. And when you change your path, you change yourself.

G is for Generosity

Do you want to know the secret to a rich life? Lean in; I need to whisper this: Generosity. I know it sounds counterintuitive at first, but consider this saying:

“There was a man, they called him mad; the more he gave, the more he had.”
― John Bunyan

Allow that to sink in for a moment. Then answer this question: do you fear giving away too much? 

Many people do. They live their life according to a scarcity model: the belief that there isn’t enough resources for everyone. They fear sharing (not to mention giving!) because that means there will be less over for them. In short, they have a fixed mindset. They think: If I win, you lose. In his book Enchantment, Guy Kawasaki calls these people eaters. They do whatever they can to finish the pie first.

The fixed mindset is heavy, frustrating, and annoying to carry around. It makes you anxious and grumpy. Keep it at your own cost.

Luckily, there is an alternative. Kawasaki calls these people bakers. They want to make a bigger pie. This growth mindset drastically changes their approach to life. They operate from an abundance model–in other words, the belief that there is enough for everyone to get by.

What stops you from adopting a growth mindset?  

Tip: Read Mindset by Standford psychologist Carol S Dweck for a more extensive explanation on the differences between a growth and a fixed mindset. You won’t be disappointed.

Bottom line: Choose your mindset carefully or it will affect your health.

H is for Health

Your body is your holy temple, and you’ll want to treat it with respect.

Prevention is the best medicine. So, eat well. Sleep tight. Exercise often. Meet more friends. There’s no excuse to ignore your health.

“To keep the body in good health is a duty… Otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” ― Buddha

Remember: your health is the biggest sign of your wealth. It grants you another day, another chance. The rest you can leave to the imagination.

I is for Imagination

Your imagination helps you plan and see your life in vivid detail. If I didn’t know better, I’d almost call it magic. Use your imagination to reach your goals more effectively. Remember to engage all your senses in this important enterprise.

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There’s only one downside to your imagination–without your actual input, it becomes worthless. So, act on your imagination; play with it, have fun with it, and get ready to be surprised. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what the genius himself, Albert Einstein, has to say about the subject:

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” ― Albert Einstein

Well, who am I to disagree with a genius? Open up to your imagination and let it bring you joy.

J is for Joy

Don’t take yourself too seriously. What makes you laugh and smile? Do more of that.

Joy lasts longer if you let it seep into the depths of your being. Let it fill you up. Be grateful about the simple joys in life.

“Find joy in everything you choose to do. Every job, relationship, home… it’s your responsibility to love it, or change it.” ― Chuck Palahniuk

K is for Kindness

A rich life starts with cultivating a sense of kindness and friendship towards yourself and others. Remember to be brave: extend kindness to strangers, enemies, and people you find difficult. It makes a big difference.

Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s part of the journey. Save yourself the grief. Learn to forgive rather than to condemn. When you’re struggling, remember this quote:

“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” ― Alexander Pope

L is for Love

Love is the social glue that binds us all together. To a well-trained eye, love pops up in the most unlikely places. You just need to know where to look.

Everyone deserves love. The opposite of love is not hatred. The opposite of love is indifference. Love means that you care. When you stop loving, you stop caring. Your senses become numb and violence and injustice can take over. Now we can’t have that.

The more you love, the richer you become. It really is that simple.

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ― Lao Tzu

M is for Mindfulness

It’s difficult to spend time with your thoughts, worries and feelings. Either you escape them or you get lost inside of them.

Mindfulness invites you to tune into your mind. This is a difficult but rewarding practice because it teaches you the art of listening to yourself. So, please take your time. Hurry slowly.

Sit down. Close your eyes. Breathe.

“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”
― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

Remember: Listen more to yourself. After all, you have two ears and one mouth.

N is for Narrative

Everyone loves a good story. What we often forget is that we tell stories all the time: about who we are, what we do, and who we want to be.

You can’t always change what happens to you, but you can always change the story you tell yourself. In short, own the story line and tell a better story.

Ask yourself: Can I tell myself a different story? Then remember this quote from Stephen R Covey:

“The way you see the problem is the problem.” ― Stephen R. Covey

Change the story line and you change the way you see the problem. And that’s how you turn a problem into an opportunity.

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O is for Opportunity

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Opportunity!

Don’t be silly–opportunity doesn’t knock twice!

Do you make the most of the opportunities that come your way? 

P is for Principles

A rich life is guided by principles. Think of them as your internal compass. When you feel lost and astray, they’ll be there to pick you up.

Proactivity, honesty, integrity–these principles stand the test of time because they work. They also allow you to enjoy your success and not to feel guilty for cheating your way to the top.

“Failure comes only when we forget our ideals and objectives and principles.” ― Jawaharlal Nehru

Q is for Questioning

Feed your curiosity and never stop asking questions. One of Rudyard Kipling’s famous poems demonstrates this quality well:

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew)

Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who

Questions often lead to more questions, which lead to some useful answers. So, start questioning.

R is for Relationships

Relationships enrich every tenet of our lives. Family, friends and partners support and unite us in our daily struggles. They make life more fun, meaningful and worthwhile.

New relationships mean new responsibilities. Do you remember the first time when you became a parent, a grandparent, an aunt or an uncle? These roles gave your life a new meaning, a sense of purpose that wasn’t there before.

Without relationships, life becomes futile. Create lasting relationships with others. It’s the most important investment you can make.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou

S is for Spirit

Spirit has many different meanings. The word itself derives from the Latin word spiritus and means “breath”. It suggests that there is a part of us that outlives our death.

Whether you’re religious or not, people leave a legacy after they’re gone. We remember them through their actions, words and deeds. A part of them stays with us. What is important is the legacy they leave behind.

What legacy do you want to leave behind?

“Every man casts a shadow; not his body only, but his imperfectly mingled spirit. This is his grief. Let him turn which way he will, it falls opposite to the sun; short at noon, long at eve. Did you never see it?”  ― Henry David Thoreau

Letter T helps you build the lasting legacy that you deserve.

T is for Teaching

Teaching enriches both your life and your student’s. When you share your knowledge and experiences, you pass on a part of yourself and you allow that knowledge to spread. Others can share your story and learn from it.

Teaching helps others avoid costly, dumb and painful mistakes. It’s your duty to pay it forward. As Oscar Wilde points out:

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“I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.”

U is for Uncertainty

Your adventure is always going to be uncertain. That’s OK because uncertainty is part of the deal. Embrace it. Never let the fear of the unknown scare you into a corner.

You fear uncertainty because you believe you don’t have what it takes to recover from it. Imagine your worst case scenario in vivid detail. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you? But don’t just stop there. Now write an equally clear plan on how you’re going to recover from it. Once you do, you’ll realize that you can recover from just about anything.

“Waves are inspiring not because they rise and fall. But because each time they fall… They never fail to rise again.”

V is for Values

What do you stand for? What do you find unacceptable? Speak up for your values. Let them walk by your side and guide you to do the right thing.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

W is for Win-Win

It’s clear that a rich life does not come from a win-lose mindset. Always think about what others can gain from your actions. This is what Stephen R. Covey aptly calls creating “win-win” situations. No one is a loser. There are only winners.

How does that change your outlook on life? And more important, how does it change your actions?

“The Law of Win/Win says, ”Let’s not do it your way or my way; let’s do it the best way.” ― Greg Anderson

X is for Xylatomy

Say what? Well, you try to find a good word that starts with X. There aren’t that many out there. So, why did I choose this particular word?

Because it’s fun to say and I want to reward you for your efforts! You’ve come this far down the alphabet with me, the least I can do is to teach you a new word. Xylatomy can be defined as:

“Preparation of sections of wood for microscopic study.”

Bet you didn’t know that one! So, what does xylatomy got to do with a rich life? Well, I believe it teaches us to find the joy in the small things. What’s your interpretation?

Y is for Yes

Yes is my favorite word. It says: “Let’s do this!” and it also requires you to take responsibility for your actions.

A word of caution though: don’t say yes to everything. Believe me, I’ve been there. Only say yes if the answer is: “I cannot not do it“. Don’t be afraid to say no to the rest.

“Learn to say ‘no’ to the good so you can say ‘yes’ to the best.”  ― John C. Maxwell

Z is for Zest

Have a zest for life! Stop talking, start doing. Go out there and make the most of it! Don’t be discouraged by the ups and downs. This is part of the journey itself, and there’s nothing you can do about it but to choose your response.

“True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Start your adventure today

Wow, that was quite the ride! What a mouthful of inspiration and advice you’ve taken in! I hope you didn’t get motion sick.

It’s time to unbuckle your seatbelt, jump out the car, and get started on your new adventure. But relax. Remember the wisdom of letter C: Choice. Choose to act on one of these letters and you’re well on your way to a richer life.

What does a rich life look like to you? What words have I missed that’s on your list? Please share your words and ideas to a rich life in the comments!

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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