There is a popular story which has been made famous by a lot of authors. Michelangelo was asked how he came up with David and he said I chipped away everything that was not David before arriving at the final masterpiece. Similarly if we want to make our life a masterpiece there are a few things we need to take care of.
I have identified 10 keys if followed consistently can surely help us achieve lasting success and fulfillment on our own terms. It is a process and you never reach there but you can enjoy the journey. Here are the 10 Keys to make your life a masterpiece.
Define your mission — Without a mission it is very difficult to be excited about life. A few years back I defined my mission as “My mission is to maximise my potential and help others maximise theirs.” This has driven me to read, learn, write and share whatever I have learned. It has also helped me feel excited nearly every single day which is the biggest gift from having a mission. Stephen Covey mentioned this way back in 1989 with his habit “Begin with the End in Mind” and I think that is still valid today as it was then. Figure what you really want your life to stand for and you will automatically be excited about life. This requires some soul searching and serious introspection. Taking the time to define your mission will be a very valuable use of your time. The other way to do it is to imagine yourself at the end of your life and define how you would want to have lived by that time. This is a powerful exercise and can help us get clarity on what we really want our lives to stand for.
Define your values — Just as an organization has values as individuals if you define values for your life you feel better aligned to your purpose. Some values could be integrity, excellence, honesty, candor, continuous learning, kindness, generosity and passion. The key is to define your values and not rely on someone else to define it. Once you determine your values even if you face setbacks which are inevitable in the journey of life, you can go back to the basics and stay centered on your mission. The first 2 steps if done well can make our lives something memorable and it doesn’t mean we will get outward appreciation but it will give us an internal satisfaction for which there is no price.
Set your goals — I think it was sales guru Tom Hopkins who said “Goals are the fuel in the furnace of achievement.” Goals are the engine which drives your success. You can’t get far without goals. Again all of us have goals at work and if we align our work goals to our personal mission then we will be happy. For example one of your goals at work might be to ensure a high client delight score. If you want to get excited about it think of the benefits of getting that score as it will lead to a good performance appraisal which will then lead inevitably into a promotion in some years. Then you can also attain your individual financial goal. So set goals in all your areas of life like personal, career, financial, contribution and family. This will make your life worth striving for. You can wake up without an alarm clock which is the biggest benefit of having big hairy audacious goals. Finally the goal has to be yours for it to really excite you.
Determine your priorities — Time starvation or the perceived lack of time is the cause of stress in our modern times. We all feel we could use more time. One way you can overcome this is to first wake up early and get some alone time to do something you like. The next thing you can do is to work only on the main priorities. This is really not rocket science but we just need to be disciplined to stick to what we have decided. So write down a list of all the activities, then choose the top 5 activities and then focus on them only. It has also been well established to do the worst first thing in the morning. If you don’t like exercise do that first thing in the morning as it gives a win early in the day. Of course not everyone is an early bird in which case any alone time at any time of the day is equally good.
Focus on the wildly important — I came across this first in Stephen Covey’s book the Eighth habit where he says you should have a wildly important goal for your business. I feel it can be done for our personal lives as well. So the first is to have a wildly important goal. So if you follow Key 3 you would have set some goals. From that list select the wildly important goal and then focus only on accomplishing that. I think Warren Buffet said “For every 100 opportunities I say no to 99.” Saying no is the key to your long term success. Even the mercurial Steve Jobs said “I am more proud of the things we have said no to than the ones I said yes to.”
Do one thing at a time — This is obvious but worth repeating. You can’t try to too many things at the same time. Because of our over connected environment the only way to overcome the distractions is to log out of every application once you check it. For example I don’t have the Facebook or LinkedIn app downloaded on my iPhone. So every time I have to go to my browser and login. Considering the effort I might just do it twice in a day or some week days I don’t check. It is the same with twitter. Another key is to turn off notifications for every app on your mobile and even emails on the phone I can check it once I log in. I do the same thing with WhatsApp. Of course sometimes you might be delayed in your response but if someone needs something urgent they can call you. Bottom line is this will help you focus on one thing at a time which is the key to supercharging your productivity and your life.
Rest and Recreation — In the research on peak performers across various fields it has been found that each of them slept for 8.5 hours per night. Bottom line is the better you want to perform the more rested and relaxed you need to be. Don’t ignore relaxation and rest. You need to take time off once in 4 months for at least 2 days and really disconnect and enjoy being by yourself. It is really simple and it is the same advice we give our children, Sleep for 7–8 hours, drink a lot of water, exercise, work hard and be happy. This will keep you charged all the time. Here is an example of Roger Federer who overcame a period of injury to win the 2017 Australian Open. If you are wondering how Federer came back from injury here are some clues. He took hikes with his kids in the Alps. He went to fashion shows in Paris. He made lunch dates with family he says this in an article on Time. He said “That gave me a lot of power for this year. I said I have to come out of this six months rejuvenated. Fresh. Hungry. Ready to go.” This is what champions do turn every adversity to an advantage. Way to go Federer.
Develop a hobby — I think having hobbies is excellent way to be excited about life. Remember the good old days when stamp collecting was our hobby. Now we have become more sophisticated and want to do adventure sports like white water rafting or sky diving. I think you can have simple hobbies as well. For me reading and writing are the favorite. Again everyone’s motivation is different but the key is to have some hobbies which make you excited about life and it really doesn’t have to be anything fancy. When you have something you like to look forward to it increases your happiness levels.
Stay on the path of continuous improvement — This is obvious but the only thing that will not be obsolete is the ability to learn new skills as said by Peter Drucker. The best part is we now have access to information from masters in our fields that will make past generations scream in envy. The keys are simple find your experts in your field, read their blogs, listen to their podcasts, read their books, document what you have learned, share what you have learned and keep doing this consistently over a long period of time. In fact never stop doing this and your life will be a great journey.
Define what success means to you — What does success really mean to you. When will you really feel like you have achieved success? Of course if we are never happy with what we have this could be a non-stop search for more. This is why it is so important to really define what success means to you and then organize your life to make sure that definition comes true. Maybe you really don’t want to be at the top of your profession because of the sacrifice needed on your family. That’s fine as it is your life and your decision on what success means to you. The single most important thing I have learned is never compare your life with anyone else. It just doesn’t work. There is always someone who has more money, more prestige and more credentials. The best key is to maximise your own potential and get the most out of yourself to reach the summit you have defined.
I believe if we follow these 10 keys our lives will be spectacular and we will experience internal happiness eventually leading to a great life that is defined by you and no one else. Wish you the very best of luck on your journey toward inner fulfillment and lasting peace of mind.
The views expressed here are my own and do not represent my organization.