If you’re a successful and driven person, you may be seeking to continually grow and transform so you can live your best, most authentic life. Chances are you’d like to see the people you care about achieve that same ideal outcome. It’s a tall order, to be sure. Most of us are so busy building businesses, cementing high-level careers or taking care of our loved ones—and, let’s face it, we’re probably doing some combination of the three—that we can easily lose sight of the big-picture vision of what it means to be valuable, successful and happy.
Kute Blackson wants us to gain that vision. Blackson is a world-class “transformational expert” who helps companies, professionals and celebrities break through their barriers and reach previously untapped levels of personal and professional success. He’s also the author of the book You.Are.The.One.
He recommends three key action steps aimed at helping us become the people we most want to be.
1. Stop giving others power over you
It’s all too easy to fall into a false mindset that life is something that happens to us as passive victims. We say things like “I’m upset because my spouse said X” or “I’m stressed because my boss didn’t do Y,” and we end up trying to control the people around us.
This approach actually strips us of our power, as we allow our satisfaction to be dependent on other people acting in certain ways we can’t guarantee. So we spend our energy trying to change the problem we see—trying to make the other person or situation change so we can feel better.
The better approach: Focus on your own expectations and reactions and how you can change and adapt to get to your goal. “We always have control over and choice over how we respond to life and people and moments and situations,” says Blackson.
The key is to recognize that the person who disappointed or angered us is not the true source of our feeling or reaction—it’s ourselves and what’s already inside us. We must shift our focus from what someone did to the inner dimension of ourselves—the internal emotion that is being triggered.
When that feeling arises, it’s an opportunity for you to experience it, examine it and look at how you can deal with it better going forward.
The result: Over time, you can begin to react less to comments or developments that come at you from outside—thereby reducing your anxiety and increasing your sense of self-control in meetings, when dealing with your spouse or children, or even in tense situations with strangers.
Another major area to take notice of and responsibility for is our thoughts. Often our attention starts wandering into all sorts of stories and patterns and places—the past, the future—and we start thinking “What should I have done? What could I have done? Why did I make that decision?” That can quickly put us in a negative future fantasy or leave us stuck in a projection of the past.
Advice: Asking yourself where your attention is focused right now can help bring you back to the current moment at hand and keep you focused.
2. Give yourself space to feel what you’re really feeling
One reason too many of us stay unhappy or dissatisfied despite all the “good things” around is that we rarely slow down enough to pay attention to our actual, deep feelings. Certainly this can happen because life keep us extremely busy—a problem exacerbated by a culture that seems to value the idea of being “slammed” all the time. But in many cases, we purposely avoid opportunities to let our truest feelings rise to the surface because we’re nervous about what those feelings might tell us about our lives and our choices.
Over time, avoiding or hiding from our fundamental feelings about ourselves and the people around us can cause us to stay in jobs or marriages that block us from transforming into our truest, fully realized selves. Not exactly a recipe for living a great life!
With that in mind, clear space in your mind and life as often as possible. Slow down. Be in nature—the forest, the ocean. Meditate. All of these environments and actions can give you the openness to let in those feelings you may be pushing away through work, social media, shopping and so on. “When you are disconnected from yourself, you feel like you’re not living your own life, which can only lead to unhappiness,” says Blackson.
Ask yourself two key questions when you are in still, quiet moments and ready to reflect deeply.
- What are the lies I am telling myself? What do you know is not true about how you describe (to yourself or others) your life, your spouse, your job, your children and so on?Take whatever discomfort these realizations bring you as a sign of the areas you need to work on.• What are the lies I am telling myself? What do you know is not true about how you describe (to yourself or others) your life, your spouse, your job, your children and so on?Take whatever discomfort these realizations bring you as a sign of the areas you need to work on.
- What am I pretending to not know about myself? Sometimes we play a game of confusion with ourselves—“I don’t know how I feel about that,” for example. But if we dive deeper, the clarity we think isn’t there suddenly comes bubbling to the surface.
Take the space to identify and feel your lies and untruths about yourself and what they are costing you. Be willing to feel the pain of the misaligned life you’re living, if that is the case. That can start to shift you toward a better situation, says Blackson.
3. Redefine success
Many highly successful and financially affluent people often don’t feel successful and happy, even though they’ve accomplished some or all of their biggest goals.
Often this is because they’re not actually living in ways that reflect who they really are or want to be. Blackson believes real success is really about who you’ve become in the process of building. The questions he wants people to consider include “Who are you becoming on a daily basis?” and “Are you growing, evolving, and constantly stretching yourself to become the most authentic version of yourself and learning lessons along the way?” If you are evolving, he says, you are succeeding.
Take the time to define who you really are—not who you may have been told you should be. If we don’t define ourselves, then there will be no shortage of others—society, media, culture, parents—that will it for us.
Blackson also offers this useful, albeit slightly uncomfortable, advice: Imagine your death. No accolades or dollars—nothing you created—will be coming with you. Then ask yourself, “Am I trading my time and energy for the things that actually matter to me?”
Important: That doesn’t mean renouncing your worldly possessions or giving up your drive for financial success. Instead, it’s understanding the limits that money and what it buys have on your sense of well-being. Eventually, one more bonus, car, home or trip to Asia will have a diminishing return on your happiness. For example, a Purdue University study* found that $210,000 is the ideal income for life satisfaction for the average family of four in the U.S. Earnings past that point tended to coincide with lower levels of happiness and well-being, researchers found.
Make no mistake: This is not easy work. Transformation of this kind can require examining your own internal biases and deep-seated conflicts, which can take time, energy and courage. But it may be some of the best work you ever do—and the people you care about most in the world may very well end up being deeply grateful for the effort you make.
* Jebb, A.T., Tay, L., Diener, E. et al. “Happiness, Income Satiation and Turning Points Around the World,” Nature Human Behaviour, January 2018.
Disclosure: Kute Blackson is not associated with Gordian Investments, LLC.
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