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Last Updated on January 25, 2021

How to Succeed in Life on Your Own Terms: 7 Essential Steps

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How to Succeed in Life on Your Own Terms: 7 Essential Steps

There is a great deal of advice in the world telling us how to succeed in life, but often we are given advice that isn’t tailored to our needs, desires and priorities. Success means different things to each of us, and living a life that feels genuinely successful to me might be very different to your idea of a successful life.

Naturally, when we follow the advice of someone else, which is tailored to their life goals and personality, we can end up with something that doesn’t deliver on the promise. We don’t get rewarded with our vision of success: we get theirs.

This is why I’m a proponent of self-discovery, introspection and personal sovereignty. So how to succeed on your own terms?

These 7 essential steps are not going to tell you exactly what to do, but they will provide you with the tools and the questions to ask so that you can discover your own path and know how to succeed in life on your own terms.

1. Know Thyself

One of Socrates’ most well-known quotes is,

An unexamined life is not worth living.

I argue that an unexamined life is not a successful one. Self-knowledge is something we could dedicate our lives to, but I’m not suggesting you sit around and navel-gaze in order to find happiness and meaning.

Thankfully, there are people who have created techniques and systems that less us fast-forward through a lot of personal philosophizing, and quickly identify some key aspects of what makes us, us.

You might want to find out what your ideal daily schedule is,[1] and you can take tests that reveal just that. Or you might want to figure out what you need to get things done – and yes, there’s a quiz for that too.

None of these tests are infallible, and some are more scientific than others, but the process of asking yourself questions about your behaviors and traits is invaluable when it comes to determining your path to succeed in life.

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For example, if you know you are an introvert and are unhappy in your current workplace, it might be worth considering why that is (an open plan office space perhaps) and what you would prefer.

It’s these little questions that will provoke answers in you that can guide the decisions that truly improve your life now and in the future.

2. Figure out What Matters to You

What lights you up? This is a question that often gets forgotten as we age. A fortunate child will be given the stimulation they desire in the form of bright toys, affection and entertainment. Little by little, the things that bring a child joy get replaced by what society demands on their behalf.

When we return to that question, and ask ourselves what really matters and what brings us joy, we can move closer towards a successful life. It can help to think back to your childhood, and the times in your life when you were in what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls a flow state.[2]

In a state of flow, time slows and our focus is directed like a laser. We are fully present.

Whilst not everything in life that matters to you will conjure up a flow state, it’s a good indication of the kind of activities and experiences you can try to incorporate into your life on a regular basis.

A successful life is made up of moments like this, and when you know what matters to you and brings you a sense of joy and purpose, you can go about creating more of that.

3. Play to Your Strengths

Why spend your time only on mitigating your weaknesses, only to feel average? Instead, playing to your strengths and amplifying those skills and qualities you already have will help you go from average to extraordinary.

If you’re great at big picture thinking and love dreaming up new ideas, but often lack attention to detail, acknowledge that. Then instead of trying to improve your analytical skills, focus instead on developing your existing skills of imagination and insight. When you need someone with a keen eye for detail, you can collaborate with those people.

Jackson Pollock was an extreme introvert, with no real desire to get his artwork in front of people. Fortunately, he had Clement Greenberg, who was much further towards the extrovert end of the spectrum, to popularize his work and get Pollock the publicity he needed.[3]

Start by identifying your strengths and what comes naturally to you. Then work on developing those and becoming known for those strengths. You can always find someone who will help you in fill in the gaps.

4. Listen to Yourself

It isn’t always clear to us that we’re on a path that leads us to failure or to success. People can spends decades in a job that is unfulfilling and slowly breaking their spirit, without even realizing it – until it’s too late. This is usually because they haven’t learned how to truly listen to themselves.

The challenge we face is that we’re listening to so many other sources of information; whether it’s the news, television, social media, family, friends or colleagues. Many may want to help, but that doesn’t mean they know what’s best for us. Only you know what success means for you, and working this out begins with listening to yourself.

Listening to yourself requires practice. It’s a daily effort, which over time, does get easier. That inner voice of wisdom will get clearer, and the decisions you make will feel more convincing.

To start, you could try to set aside 10 to 15 minutes when you first wake up, in silence. Rather than look at your phone, checking emails or social media, simply sit in silence, listening.

Ask yourself a simple question like, what am I feeling right now, in this moment? Notice the answer that bubbles up, without getting lost in the story. Starting an inner dialogue, without judgment is one of the key tools you can use to start making better decisions in your life.

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Learn more about listening to your true self in this guide: How to Listen to Your Inner Voice for Greater Fulfillment

5. Listen to Others (But Not Everyone)

Listening to yourself is one thing, but listening to others is crucial in order to learn, empathize and be of benefit to your community.

Truly listening to others is not just waiting patiently until it’s your turn to speak. Active listening requires focused attention, and the intention to understand where the other person is coming from.

When you do this, you can ask better questions and discover more about the world and everyone in it, as well as learn how to interact with others in order to succeed in life on your own terms.

However, this doesn’t mean you have to listen to everyone you come across. Trolls on the internet may come into the category of people not to listen to. Some people’s opinions will do more harm than good, as not everyone has your best interest in mind.

It’s worth identifying a shortlist of people whose opinions you will listen to. Brené Brown, author of the New York Times best-seller Daring Greatly, recommends taking a 1-inch x 1-inch square of paper and make a list of people whose opinions matter to you. These are the people who love you and will genuinely support and help you. According to Brown,

“If you need more paper, you need to edit.”

6. Make Time for Reflection

It’s easy to go through life without taking inventory of what you’re actually accomplishing. Missing this crucial step means we end up jumping from one goal to the next, without feeling like we’re getting anywhere.

Make time, ideally each day to reflect. You might keep a paper journal, or an online document. Either way, jot down:

  • What went well today
  • Something you’re grateful for
  • What would make tomorrow even better

Doing this can have measurable benefits to our overall sense of well-being, as well as keeping us focused for more success in the future.[4]

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It also helps combat feelings of lack and doubt, that arise when we compare ourselves to others. When we look at someone who appears to be more successful than us in an area of life, we can forget how far we’ve come and how much we have to be grateful for.

Making time to reflect on what you have accomplished is critical to keep you on track, and just not looking at what others are doing.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Change Your Mind

Arguably the most important step of all:

Remember that there’s nothing wrong in changing your mind and correcting course.

The path to a successful life is not straight and narrow. It meanders and there’s no harm in going back and picking a different (and better) route.

“I think our life is a journey, and we make mistakes, and it’s how we learn from those mistakes and rebound from those mistakes that sets us on the path that we’re meant to be on.” — Jay Ellis

Be willing to make mistakes, learn from them and change your mind. Ultimately, there’s no better way to succeed in life on your own terms.

More on Achieving Success

Featured photo credit: Shirly Niv Marton via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Cat Neligan

Host of the Creative Introvert Podcast, helping introverts everywhere live a life they love on their terms

How to Be More Creative and Come up with Incredible Ideas How to Succeed in Life on Your Own Terms: 7 Essential Steps How to Get out of a Funk and Take Control of Life

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Published on October 26, 2021

10 Things To Do When You’re Angry At Yourself (For Your Mistakes)

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10 Things To Do When You’re Angry At Yourself (For Your Mistakes)

When you make a mistake, you quickly forget all the wins and praise lauded on you over the years. Make one measly mistake and it’s all you can think about. And, unfortunately, you may carry it with you for a lifetime. This is normal, but not healthy.

Mistakes happen, and the wise know that that’s how you learn. Stumble and fall, and get up again—it’s the cycle of human development from toddlerhood. Still, when you make mistakes, this experiential wisdom can fly out the door. Your first reaction may be, “I’m angry at myself.” This may also be the exact phrase you use in your Internet search for answers. First, know that you’re not alone. Second, there are numerous ways to cool this heated emotion and get yourself back on track.

So, sit back, take a deep breath, and consider these ten things you can do when you’re angry at yourself for your mistakes

1. Remember, You’re Human

Everyone makes mistakes, and you will, too. Once you’ve realized that you are a part of this imperfect group called humans, you’ll feel better about your journey. In fact, when you’re angry for making mistakes, consider it a rite of passage. You’ll inevitably fail at times, say things that you shouldn’t, or fall short of expectations. Not to be glib, but rather honest—this is life. It’s being human. So, whatever mistakes you’ve made before and whatever ones you will make in the future, they’ll help you grow as a professional and as a human.

2. Get Your Anger in Check

Anger is a troubling emotion because it clouds your judgment and logical decision-making process. It’s also incredibly unhealthy. Anger fuels a spike in your blood pressure, increases stress and risk of cardiovascular disease, and suppresses your immune system. Additionally, unmitigated anger can fuel dangerous outcomes including violence and addicted behaviors.

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You need to learn how to manage your anger. By admitting aloud, “I’m angry at myself,” you own your state of mind. Now, check it. Don’t let it fester and grow. Remember, mistakes are manageable, but untethered anger is not. If you don’t get your anger in check, it can have a negative impact on the rest of your life.

3. Vent and Get It Off Your Chest

One way to get your anger diffused is to vent. There’s nothing more liberating than sharing how you feel with the world. But take note—venting on social media isn’t a wise idea. It can derail your personal and professional life if you go off on someone or indulge in a self-deprecating rant.

Instead, find a trusted source to vent to. This could be anyone from a friend to your pet. Just tell them, “I’m angry at myself.” Get off your chest all the bottled-up emotions weighing you down. The company of a trusted group of friends or even a support group is a great place to vent. These collectives are designed to listen to whatever is weighing you down.

You might even find the best place for you to vent is a journal. Writing down how you feel and what you’ve learned from this experience is not only a great way to vent but also gives you a place to park your thoughts and emotions for later reflection.

4. Get Up and Get Moving

Exercise and activity are great ways to exhaust the “I’m angry at myself” emotion bubbling within. Take a brisk walk or attack the weight bag or consider cleaning out the closet or garage. Occupying your mind, body, and soul with productive physical activity is the next logical step in freeing yourself from this burden.

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There is nothing more liberating than working up a healthy sweat. You’ll find that physical activity will instantly diffuse your anger and that a spike of endorphins gives you clarity. Once you’ve found a healthy way to exercise your adrenaline, you’re ready to step into a logical space and examine what went wrong and how can you manage things better next time.

5. Seek Counsel From Others

When you’re angry or dealing with any heightened emotion, your judgment is clouded. It’s hard to find your way out of the forest. Seek counsel—whether it’s in the form of a friend, family member, or professional—and tell them, “I’m angry at myself,” and layout why. They’ll listen and will help you sort through your anger. They may also offer advice on what you could change moving forward or how you could get past self-berating. Their authentic positive affirmations and willingness to listen will be the best antidote for your anger.

Keep in mind, it’s not a sign of weakness to seek out professional help, especially if anger is an ongoing reaction you experience to setbacks. A counselor or clinician is trained to help you unearth the root of such emotions and help you explore why they are triggered. Moving forward, you’ll have the skills to better manage your emotions and explore alternate and more thoughtful paths when mistakes occur.

6. Tamper Down Your Inner Critic

Don’t let mistakes flair up that inner voice that says, “I’m not good enough.” While you’ll wonder if it’s true and for a moment (or two) believe your inner critic, stop yourself from heading down that victim slippery slope. Giving in to your inner critic can halt your progress. You’ll succumb to the doubt and always wonder, “if I tried again, would the same results occur?”

That kind of paralyzing fear will get you nowhere. Instead, recall the words of your counsel and your inner wisdom—mistakes will happen. So, announce aloud, “I made a mistake. I’m angry at myself.” Then park it there, shut off the engine, and walk away. The next day, get up and get back to life, and don’t let wasteful, inaccurate, and self-sabotaging inner dialogue slow you down.

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7. Learn From Your Mistakes

I’d like you to go back to the idea that mistakes happen and that they happen for a reason so that you can learn what not to do. “I’m angry at myself” should be the motivator to get it right. Stop and explore where the lesson is here. What is one thing you won’t do moving forward? What else did you take away? Perhaps there are people you need to speak with to smooth things over. There may be some course corrections that you need to make to move forward in a more positive direction.

Recently, I participated in a pivotal career conversation that didn’t go well at all. “I’m angry at myself,” I thought, for speaking too much in the moment to try and make things right, where silence would have been the best alternative. I learned from this mistake. Instead of overtalking, sometimes just pausing and listening is all that is needed. Moving forward, I’ve practiced more restraint when needed and have walked away from my professional conversations with better results and more confidence.

8. Take Time for Yourself

“I’m angry at myself” is one of the better motivators to get happy with yourself again. How? Exercise, reset, relaxation, and healthy distractions are just some of your gateways into a better headspace. Too often, people believe that the best way to get over something is to jump right back into it—whatever it is—or wherever your mistake is rooted. While this does work for many, some need a little time and space to sort it all out—and that’s okay. Separating yourself from the situation for a while and taking a mental health break can do wonders to cleanse your spirit. It may also give you some greater clarity.

Right now, you may be too close to the mistake(s) to gain a clear perspective. Remember, it’s okay to step back for a while and clear your head without feeling guilty about taking time for yourself. This mental reset will put some space between you and the mistakes so that you can come back refreshed and in a better state to step up and move forward.

9. Practice Relaxation Skills

Deep breathing, yoga, and meditation can do wonders to help you relax and reduce your heightened emotions. Just like exercise, you may discover that this form of release and restoration will not only help you work through your anger but also help you clear your head and restore your confidence. This may also be the time to build your own personal relaxation practice so the next time you make a mistake, you can step into your healing and restorative practice space and quiet your mind, body, and soul.

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10. Forgive Yourself

“To err is human, to forgive is divine.” We know this to be true, but don’t always practice it. Forgiveness is the true path to healing. You’ve probably have heard many stories about how this process has helped people come back from a very dark place including recovering from illness.

Forgiveness is powerful and is the only way to move forward. So, I’m going to leave you with this final challenge: how can you transition “I’m angry at myself” to “I forgive myself?”

Final Thoughts

When you find yourself stewing about all the “woulda, coulda, shouldas” that accompany the overarching thought “I’m angry at myself,” you have no more excuses to wallow in the derailing emotion of anger. Experimenting with one or all of the above strategies can help you shorten the period between making a mistake and having a moment of enlightenment. The reckoning that you’re human, you have people that believe in you, you have resources to support you, and you have a golden opportunity to learn and move forward should be all you need to make tomorrow better and your future better.

More Tips on How To Handle Your Mistakes

Featured photo credit: Marcos Paulo Prado via unsplash.com

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