Your attitude affects every aspect of your life. This sounds like a trite and cliche statement, but it’s profound in a way.
When you think of your circumstances, the decisions you make, and the way you feel about all the above, they all point to your attitude. I like to observe people — how they think, act, and rationalize the things they do.
All too often I see people with similar circumstances whose lives move in completely different trajectories. Like a pair of sons whose father went to prison — one became a criminal because he had no choice but to follow in his father’s footsteps, the other became a cop because he had no choice but to eradicate his father’s negative legacy.
It’s all about attitude. Fortunately, you can develop positive attitudes to be more creative, ambitious, successful, whatever you want to call it. In each moment of my life where I find myself struggling, I move back toward these attitudes.
1. All days are created equal
The philosopher Seneca said, “Life is long if you know how to use it.”
You don’t have to hustle, hustle, hustle, seven days per week, but treating all days equally in terms of how you show up as a person is important. This could mean working on your side business or being fully present with your family. All too often we look for certain days to ‘check out.’ Rest is important, but remember there’s more time available to you than you think.
Of all the excuses people make, lack of time is the most false. You have mornings, weekends, lunch breaks — little pockets of time to build a better life. Use them.
2. Time is more valuable than money
Have you ever noticed how time can just…slip away?
Days, weeks, and years go by without doing ‘x’ — that thing we’ve always wanted or been meaning to do.
In life, you can move through time and have a “what the hell am I doing here?” moment. Why does this happen? First, we’re too generous with our time.
Borrowing from Seneca again, “Many people are frugal with their finances, but when it comes to their time they are much more than generous.”
The number one productivity hack — learn to say no more often.
Oftentimes we feel obligated to accept every invitation or request for help from our family and friends. Little by little, drinks with buddies and unimportant conferences, coffees, and meetings turn into a gigantic time suck that robs us of precious time.
Focused people do make time for others, but only if it’s important. They have the ability to say no to people when they have more pertinent issues to take care of.
3. Being busy means being inefficient
If you’re busy, it means you aren’t using your time well.
Let’s use a CEO as an example — not necessarily a model for how to live but in terms of productivity. Great executives may have a to-do list ten miles long, but when you’re with them they’re present. Even if their day is scheduled down to the most meticulous and minute blocks, they make full use of each block, meaning they accomplish a lot, but aren’t busy.
We all have access to the same twenty-four hours in a day. People who pride themselves on being busy are most likely busy doing things that are insignificant. Many of us are slaves to our to-do lists and incessant errand running. Highly effective people simply ignore items that aren’t both urgent and high priority.
4. Everything is connected
People who aren’t creative look at situations, circumstances, and other people in a vacuum. Creative people, however, realize everything in our world is connected — our interactions with other people, inanimate objects, nature, and technology just to name a few.
Why does this matter? Because it’s easy to overlook your surroundings. It’s easy to overlook other people who don’t meet your standards of importance.
Creative people understand that every waking moment is a chance to make connections. When you live this way, you’re able to stay present. And staying present means you’re always on the verge of a creative breakthrough.
The writer can draw inspiration from a conversation. The business owner can notice a complaint from a friend that could turn into a product idea. The person sitting in the cubicle wishing life was different can find inspiration from a brief moment in time.
Everything is material.
5. Knowledge is your most important asset
You could strip many successful people of their worldly possessions, but leave their knowledge intact and they’ll find their way back to their original state.
All the power you need resides between your ears. Also, real knowledge has nothing to do with your innate level of intelligence. When you learn something new you get smarter than you were before because intelligence isn’t fixed and set in stone.
You’ve heard the incessant preaching of reading more. It’s one form of incessant preaching that’s necessary because it’s true.
For $10–30, you can find information in a book that literally changes your life.
On top of reading widely, surrounding yourself with intelligent people stretches what you’re capable of.
Creating an environment of constant learning helps you realize there is no ceiling to what you’re capable of. There’s a lot to know. And you don’t know what you don’t know. Best to get started.
6. You must question it all
If I could choose one main reason for lack of contentment, success, creativity, innovation, (insert any positive and life changing trait), it’d be conforming to societal norms and falling victim to group-think.
As Nietzsche once said, “Madness is rare in individuals, but in groups, parties, ages, and nations, it is the rule.”
Let’s detach notions of right and wrong from the equation. Society has reasons to want you to think a certain way — real and tangible economic reasons. The same can be said for companies, the media, and even educational institutions.
Also, without bias and emotion, you can assume if you believe what everyone else believes and do what everyone else does you’ll end up like everyone else.
And that’s okay if that’s what you want.
If you want to live a different way you’ll have to think differently. This doesn’t mean being contrarian for the sake of it. It means thinking for yourself.
Even when you read my work you should question the merits of it. Why should you listen to me? Do I know better than you how to live your life (the answer is no, which is the whole point of self-help! You’re the one making the changes.)?
I’m glad circumstances pushed me off the tracked life I was going to live. Had I not flunked out of school, got in trouble with the law, and ruined my life with drugs and alcohol, I could’ve ended up a management consultant, which is maybe worse than all the above.
Instead, I had to navigate life in a unique way because of a unique set of circumstances. My bias? I believe the middle-class lifestyle is a trap. You’re put into massive amounts of debt for school just to work to pay off the debt by way of a job you probably could’ve gotten without your degree.
You create your philosophy, though. Don’t just blindly accept others’.
7. You create your reality
Each of these points overlap and lead to this inevitable conclusion. You are the only one who gets to decide your reality — and you already do albeit unconsciously.
If there are 7 billion people alive today there are 7 billion different meanings of life, interpretation of circumstances, and beliefs of how the world works.
And all 7 billion of us think the other 6,999,999 people either agree to the correct version of reality or they’re wrong. That’s how arrogant we are. We create a false consensus in our head.
If the man is out to get us…he’s out to get us and everybody knows it.
If we believe natural intelligence is the only reason people succeed, everyone else knows it.
In my reality, everyone is capable of forming his or her unique definition of success and achieving it. No, we will not all be rock stars, wealthy, or live a hedonistic adventure. But we can become what we really want to become — through finding and following through with our purpose.
There are no simple and easy answers to…anything. But there is one objective truth — most everything is subjective.
If you don’t like the game being played around you, change the board.
If you don’t like the way people treat you, change yourself. People’s treatment of you is usually a reflection of how you treat yourself.
If you don’t like your current reality, create a new one — it may have to come through sweat, through pain, through effort, but it can lead to joy.
You’re going to go out into this week with your biases, your beliefs, and the picture you paint with brushes of generalizations.
Remember, as much as it seems like life is happening to you, it’s happening because of you.
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Originally published at medium.com