There are three measures of success. If you follow them, you should have everything you want.
The first of the three is direction. If you don’t know what your end goal is, no amount of grit or dedication will get you there. There is some guesswork involved in all of our lives, but if we don’t know where we’re heading, it’s kind of inevitable that we’ll end up letting ourselves drift on the ocean of whatever comes our way.
The opposite of direction is coasting. When you’re coasting, you’re just letting life happen to you instead of finding out what you want to do. It’s the lazy thing to do, and if you follow this path, it’s likely you’ll end up somewhat satisfied from life but still thinking that you’ve squandered some potential… and you’ll be right.
The second is the ability to delay gratification. Many studies have shown that children who are able to do this will end up more successful than their peers, but alone, this factor will cause you to jump through other people’s hoops, which is why many people end up getting an MBA instead of just starting their own businesses and reading Crossing the Chasm.
The opposite of delaying gratification is listening to your present self. If you focus on this, you’ll avoid pain and never get past your personal barriers. You’ll trust your lizard brain. You’ll only work on short-term projects because your ability to focus on the long-term is dependent only on the fire in your belly. You’ll be a hungry ghost.
The third is maybe most important of all, and that is understanding happiness itself. If we skip understanding what makes us happy (reading about it, etc.), we’ll just take other people’s words for it and follow their way even though it may not work for us (for example, trusting people when they say “kids changed my life” despite the studies). Understanding what is likely to make us happy (for example, experiences instead of possessions) is like a roadmap, without which we’ll end up following the same path, and living the same life as everyone else.
If you look at this list, it should be immediately obvious what you have and what you’re lacking. On a scale of 1-10, I would categorize myself as a 468. This will improve over time I think, but that’s my snapshot for today.
I call this my Happiness Area Code. What’s yours? This test should make it obvious what you need to improve. Do 5 minutes to improve that today, and tell me how you did it in the comments below.