Living Your Best Life

by C.J. Sommerville

Living your best life

WHAT DOES “LIVING YOUR BEST LIFE” MEAN

Since the dawn of recorded history, man has pushed himself to achieve greatness. From the wheel to the moon, humans have sustained an insatiable thirst to conquer. In many instances, conquering leads to destruction and ruin. In others, revolution and innovation. Regardless the outcome, the formula for greatnest has been consistent, albeit difficult to replicate. Essentially, greatness started from an idea followed by a relentless pursuit to turn that idea into reality. This method is applicable when seeking to split an atom, seeking to meditate daily, and everything in between.

“Living your best life”, as a phrase, is frequently used to express the notion of living personal greatness rather than achieving it. Before this phrase became a contemporary mantra, phrases such as “Carpe Diem” and “Maximize Your Potential” were a few of the adages used. Rather than get caught up in the vernacular, effort is better spent understanding the message behind these terms, a message that has endured for millennia.

So, what does it mean? It means living up to your fullest potential… in real time. As we know, the future is not promised. All we have is now. The temptation to put off tomorrow the greatness that can be lived today is a demonstration in misplaced comfort. After all, none of us know if tomorrow will become today. And even if we did, many of us will be tempted to wait until circumstances, conditions, and timing is “just right” before we take the steps to live our greatness. Spoiler alert… it’ll never happen. Greatness doesn’t work that way. They say all things worth having are worth working for. And greatness is no exception. Waiting for the ideal scenario to manifest before acting can take a lifetime, if ever.

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The Formula

The approach to living your best life is not rocket science. But does require a considerable amount of strength, courage, growth, passion, commitment, discipline, fortitude, understanding of self-worth, and self-awareness. It also requires a certain degree of pragmatism. This is not an overnight endeavor. It will require hard work and focus. But is achievable for any- and everyone. With that lens in place, let’s get to it.

Anchor In Your Purpose
This is the “why”. Why do you want to live your best life? Why does it matter to you? Is this a spiritual or religious personal calling? Is this to provide guidance to those who follow behind you? It is important that you understand the “why”, as it will be the foundation for everything else in the process, especially when you face challenges with staying on course. 

Do not be surprised if you find this to be the most challenging part of the process.  Many people have lives that would be considered textbook - college educated, great career, wonderful family, financially stable, etc. - yet still feel an overwhelming void with no clue as to why.  Facing this part of your life can be both difficult and eye-opening, and is not for the faint of heart.  Be prepared to acknowledge years of neglected, suppressed, and compounded emotion.

Establish Clear Goals
Before you can be successful in any initiative, you first need to establish what success looks like. To do this, you must be clear in defining what your best life looks like. Avoid “wishing” and “wanting” as much as possible. These terms, in effect, are really you saying that the item you desire is not accessible to you, which is why you want and wish for it in the first place. Instead, have a mindset of “in time”. In other words, rather than saying “I want a house”, instead say “I will get a house in 2 years”. This conviction establishes the definiteness needed to be successful.

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Define Greatness For You
When most of us think “greatness”, we think “demonstration of skill or achievement far above average”. The reality is that greatness is the catalyst to the exemplary skill or achievement. The person possessing the skill or realizing the achievement had to first get the concept of greatness defined for themselves. They established a goal to be great - as they saw great - in the skill or achievement, then set course to take action. For you, greatness could be something completely different. Defining greatness for yourself establishes the scope and scale of the “best” life you plan to live.

Be Flexible
Opportunity often hides herself in places we would least expect.  Having a plan that's too rigid and does not allow for the novelty and improvisation of life will cause you to miss out on opportunities that could potentially enhance or accelerate your journey.  Definitely be attached to the vision and goal, but try not to be too attached to the plan itself.  Allowing for flexibility in your journey can enable a level of enrichment beyond your expectations.

Take Action
Now that you know the "why", and success and greatness have been defined, the next step is to execute. Begin by establishing small, achievable milestones and work towards their completion. Avoid procrastination. The longer you put off this journey, the harder it will be to get the focus to start again.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’ll be surprised how many people will align to support you. And the reason is simple. People love supporting a cause. If someone comes to you and asks you for $50, you may feel a bit apprehensive about giving the money because the intention is unclear. But if that same person says the money is to purchase a book for a class they are taking, you will be much more likely to provide the necessary funding.

Live Consciously
Simply put, this means be mindful that you are on a journey that will require persistence. Its easy to drift at times and lose momentum. Establishing habits that keep the journey forefront in your mind, like creating a vision board and reviewing it daily, will help ensure you don’t lose focus on what you're doing.

Manage Your Emotions
Throughout this process, you will find a multitude of emotional incongruency. It is important to acknowledge and manage these feelings. You will likely feel frustration, anxiety, discouragement, and fear along the way. Staying grounded through daily habits that remind you of the big picture will help you get through the tough moments.

A good way to help keep the negative emotions from spiraling is to avoid complaining. Negativity cascades easily. A simple complaint can lead to significant and unwelcomed disruption. Resisting the urge to complain, and redirecting the energy to more positive activity, will help reduce deviation.

Another consideration is to maintain an optimistic perspective. In the heat of the moment, its easy to look at a problem as a monumental hurdle. Taking a step back and looking at the problem against the grand scheme often helps you realize that the issue is not as significant as first thought.

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Strengthen Your Circle of Influence
This is a critical success factor. Ensuring you have the right people in your personal network is essential to helping you achieve your goals. The individuals in your circle can provide support along the way, or simply be a reference to benchmark. Further, it’s important that you establish deep connections with some of these people. Having deep connections in place will be enriching and add to a sense of personal fulfillment. The corollary to this is that you should release relationships that do not serve you. This is often difficult, especially if a deep connection is established in that relationship. At the end of the day, pursuing “best” does not leave room for mediocrity. If the relationship is non-value-added, cut it loose.

Finally, your circle should contain at least one mentor/coach. Be discerning in selecting the individual for this role. There is significant responsibility on both sides. Yet having this role filled will help establish guardrails should you begin to lose your way. This person can also be a guide to help sure your footing. As such, don’t hesitate to ask for constructive feedback from the individual, or anyone in your circle for that matter. Remember, they are there to support you.

Evaluate the Things You Value
Transformation cannot be completed without some assessment of the way things are and identification of what needs to change. This applies to things you do and do not value. You will likely find that some of the things you valued before starting the journey will no longer be of importance to you after you've achieved your goals. And vice-versa. Take time to assess what is important to you… and if it should be important.

Pursue Growth
The key enabler to living a best life is growth. Therefore, it stands to reason that the more you are open to grow and learn, the better your chances of success.

Learning can be done in many ways, reading being one of the best. Many people have taken this pilgrimage before you and have chronicled their experiences and what you may expect. They also may have perspective and insight that could give you clarity in direction.

In addition, don’t be afraid to take risks (see Managing Your Emotions above). The reality is that failure is integral to success. It’s how we learn what not to do. When asked about his 10,000 failures in creating the lightbulb, Thomas Edison stated, “I did not fail 10,000 times, I successfully found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. Risk may lead to temporary failure, but it also can lead to breakthrough. Don’t be afraid to stretch yourself.

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Adapt To Change
As the saying goes, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray”. The only constant in life is change. So be open to change and work to adapt. The energy expended trying to resist the change may be less than the energy to adapt. This, especially, should be considered if the adaptation will result in the same outcome as before the change occurred.

Live With Integrity
Doing the right thing, especially when no one is looking, is the definition of integrity. Look at this as the glue that holds everything together. If you compromise your integrity, it will cause a ripple effect within yourself and your circle of influence. This departure can undermine the entire effort and throw you off course. Living with integrity establishes strong core values as well as boundaries for what is acceptable or unacceptable. This will serve you well in establishing who you want to be in the “best” life you plan to live.

Learn From the Past, Don’t Hold On To It
To make a successful transition into living your greatness, it is important to learn from the past. But that is where it stops. If you find yourself lingering in thoughts of past failures, successes, relationships, etc., you will find yourself unable to advance. Letting go of the past frees you up to focus on now and preparing for the future. Al Bundy spent his entire life reliving the “four touchdowns in one game”, yet it got him no closer to becoming a professional athlete.

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Practice Gratitude, Humility, Charity and Compassion
These characteristics are coupled together for a reason, they all exemplify humanity and are key to a sense of internal fulfillment. This is not to say greatness cannot be achieved without these attributes. Genghis Khan had none of these and conquered three-fourths of the planet. But his approach is more the exception, not the rule. Practicing these attributes not only helps you establish a deeper connection to purpose and those you influence, it also helps you remain mindful that the world is not centered around you. You share space with billions of others who have their own journey and need resources to help them on their way as well. Practicing generosity and thanks exposes you to the same from others, which can be very valuable at pivotal times along the way. Consider this the spiritual fabric that connects you with the world.

Understand the Difference Between Joy and Happiness
Joy and Happiness, at first thought, may seem synonymous. To be clear, they are not. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

Joy is the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.

Happiness is a state of well-being and contentment; a pleasurable or satisfying experience.

That said, these are dictionary definitions. You have complete autonomy to define what joy and happiness means to you personally. Nevertheless, the sentiment of the two should be constant.

At its root, joy is an emotion. It’s a sensation that transcends through the body resulting in a feeling of good. Happiness, also an emotion of good, is generally associated with the realization of an idea, achievement or experience. It is, therefore, weighted more heavily in our subconscious. While joy is in the moment, happiness is more a state of being.

Understanding the difference will help you identify if the transition was successful. Achieving a milestone may cause you to be joyful, yet happiness will likely not surface until your “best” life is realized. 

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Empowered with these principles, you should have the tools you need to live your greatness, and thus a life abundant with happiness and fulfillment. Remain steadfast and vigilant. And be relentless in your pursuit. 

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