Disaster is visible for all and deeply impactful. It can render even the mightiest to ashes.
Success is gained inch by inch and done far away from the public eye.
There is no grand moment.
And there are a lot of stumbles, zig zags, and backward steps.
To be sure there are fleeting moments of recognition – Gold medals, Nobel Prizes, and local awards of all types.
These are all worthy pursuits – Great athletic accomplishments, extraordinary contributions to the world, and incredible dedication to a community.
But those moments where you’ve “won” are not where they were earned.
Extrinsic awards are not where success is defined. And, if you chase those bits of recognition without enjoying the challenge of the journey you’ll never find happiness.
It is the inner battle, on the edges of our own current skillset and comfort levels, where true happiness is found.
As I prepare to deliver a deeply personal Keynote this evening – the reflection has been a bit overwhelming. Four years ago, I was outwardly successful and inwardly falling apart.
It took an internal reset – and no one else could do it for me – to make my way to the other side. To be sure, my support network was critical and they increasingly nurtured the environment of my personal transformation. But they could not do the heavy lifting.
The Stoics and the long lineage of thought leaders built on top of those models offer what Mihaly Csikszenthihalyi sums up as:
“This simple truth – control of the consciousness determines the quality of life.”
Viktor Frankl, in “Man’s Search for Meaning”, said “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
George Vaillant sums up the findings from the only longitudinal psychological study (The Grant Harvard Study) on humans over a lifetime, said that the ability to mature the way you see and interpret the world – your mental mechanisms of defense – or more clearly your ability to mature your consciousness is the single most important contributor to building warm relationships which is the most important contributor to your long term health and life satisfaction.
Famed physicist, Richard Feynman said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”
After basic needs are provided for (and even when they are not met), control and maturation of the mind determine both your likelihood of success and the quality of your life.
Those who stay young at heart and vibrant in relationships lead purposely strenuous lives, experience widely, challenge themselves frequently, commit deeply to the people and places they love, and recognize above all else that mastering the mind is the purest and surest way to contentment and happiness.
Every inch in that direction will lead to a richer, happier, and more meaningful life.
Sept 12, 2021