I believe the purpose of life comes down to three words: constant forward progress. We exist to improve ourselves and improve the world around us. So the questions that should be asked at the end of every day include:
What did I accomplish today?
What experiences did I have that I can learn from?
Who did I meet today and what did I learn about them?
Am I any better today than I was yesterday?
If you can’t answer positively to some of those questions at the end of every day, maybe you need to start stretching yourself a little bit. The world and society we live in are designed to work like a machine where all of the moving parts do the same thing every day without complaining and without wearing out. Everybody goes to their job, does their work, comes home and then goes to bed. When all of the pieces follow the plan, everyone is happy…except for the pieces! Nobody finds satisfaction in doing the exact same thing every day for years and years. Even if you love your job, it is probably because you take opportunities to learn more about your job or acquire new skills.
Oddly enough, while society is happy with everyone playing their part, the people that are truly celebrated and revered are those who work to make themselves exceptional in their given field. (Except for Honey Boo Boo, the Kardashians, and Miley Cyrus. People follow them because they are train wrecks….please don’t go that route!)
The people that excel in life are not the people who all of a sudden win the lottery or inherit their father’s business. The people we admire and look up to are those that have put in the effort to get just a little bit better every single day. They don’t decide to go swim across the ocean one day, but they do get in the pool and swim laps every day. And eventually they do swim across that ocean and everyone thinks that they must be a genetically good swimmer or have some unfair advantage.
The truth is that they do have an unfair advantage. That advantage is that they learned a secret that not many people understand. They learned that a little work every day will one day turn into a monumental achievement. While everyone else is waiting for their “big break”, these people are creating theirs. They are putting in the effort ahead of time. They are getting better every single day.
So the question you have to ask yourself at the end of each day is: Am I any better today than I was yesterday?
If you find that the answer is “no” more often than you would like it to be, here are some suggestions to get going:
1. Have a big, inspiring goal. When you have something big to work for and it makes you feel inspired you will be more likely to do the small daily tasks that will get you closer to accomplishing it. Maybe it is a weight loss goal, or writing that book you’ve been thinking about, or trying a new job, whatever it is, write it down, post it somewhere and work towards it every day.
2. Make a “To Do” list. Once you know your big goal, write down the next couple of steps you could take to get you closer to it and write them down. Then, try to check off one of those things every day or every week until your goal is accomplished. These don’t have to be big steps. When I decided to write my first book I spent 3-4 days just researching how the whole publishing process works. Did anything get physically created? No but I was moving in the right direction.
3. Be more interested in people than they are in you. You will talk with a lot of people in the day and most of us are really excited to talk about ourselves and our weekend plans. When was the last time you had a conversation where you only asked questions about the other person and didn’t jump in with anything about yourself? Try it some time, it is amazing what you will learn and they will come away thinking about what a great conversationalist you are.
4. Work on your character. More than anything you own, your character is what counts. You can strengthen your character by looking at the traits you admire in others and working towards getting better at them. Honesty, integrity, charity, boldness, happiness, gratitude, the list is long and if you make an effort, you can get better at all of them with a little work every day.
5. Learn more about your job. Are you the best at your job? Some owners of companies will say that they are and they will soon be out of business. There is always someone smarter, better and more wise than you are. Even the people we consider the best and the brightest in any industry have consultants and coaches to help them keep improving. Learn something new about your job or the job of your manager. When it comes time for promotions and raises, the prize will go to the person who has taken the time to know the most about the company and apply it to their daily work.
6. Get some new hobbies. People tell me I have lot of talents but I quickly correct them and tell them that I am just mediocre at a lot of random things. Two years ago I decided that it would be cool to be a magician. The staff at my office got sick of me trying card and coin tricks on them but hey, now I can do them and I can dazzle audiences of small children. Why not learn something new just for the fun of it? The internet can teach you how to do just about anything.
7. Travel. The best way to learn a lot of things really fast is to get out of the comforts of your own town, state, or country. The world has so much to offer if you go out and find it. It is impossible to travel far from home and not learn all about a totally different people, culture, geography, history, etc. Many of the most well-rounded people I have ever known were travelers. You don’t have to circumnavigate the globe but you should think about taking a weekend drive a couple hundred miles from home.
When we get to the end of our life, none of us are going to say how proud we are that we stayed in the same job or same place in life for 80 years and never moved. Actually, we will all have regrets if that was what we had to look back on. The purpose of life is: Constant Forward Progress. Make a decision today that you will start on that path and I promise that you will look back a year from now and be amazed at yourself and what you have accomplished.
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