Currently, I’m reading a very interesting book, The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. Meant to help you distinguish how and why those who are successful beat those who aren’t, Jeff takes what seems an apparently simple idea and lays it out for you to digest.
I believe the book is probably insightful for me, because it is precisely the kind of thing I am looking for, at this point in my life. Being open to something means that you are sometimes searching for the answers in that direction and therefore, more sensitive to what you see presented before you. It also means that sometimes you could see more than what is really in front of you – perhaps, you will see what you want to see.
However, the biggest insight I have had since starting the book (I am about half way now) is that it is really up to you, that you have to decide what you want to do and that you have to trust in yourself.
Please let me clarify. It is a wonderful time in which we live in now, where we have more opportunities and more within our reach than ever before. With the information age upon us fully, the question is now no longer about access to information or knowledge. The trick is in knowing where to look for the information we need, knowing which sources we can trust and rely on and having the ability to make sense of the information that we come upon.
We have before us, now more than ever before, the opportunity to realise ourselves more fully. If we choose that this is what we want to do. That is the reason that the self-improvement industry, inclusive of books, seminars, audio and video products and personal coaching is reputedly a billion dollar a year industry in the US alone.
And so we go out there and take in the word of the experts. We spend countless dollars and hours, devouring the teachings of these experts. But what are they really telling us? Is there anything new to be discovered? Are they telling you anything you don’t already know? In my experience, they are not.
The realisation that has dawned on me is that experts tell us what we know instinctively to be true, yet need the authority and rubber stamping of expertise and powerful branding, to buy into. We have the answers within.
You have lived your life for years now and truly, the best person to make decisions about how you should live your life, how you should move forward and what you need to do to make changes is… yourself.
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against the experts. In fact, over the years, they have opened my eyes to new perspectives and new ways of thinking. But what has become crystal clear over time, is that there is nothing new that they are telling me. I needed the time and distance of experience, of having lived life to come to this realisation. And I had to do this in my own time. If someone had come to tell me this insight some years back, it would not have hit home at the time. Insight, I have come to discover, is as much about a person’s reception to the message as it is about the contents of the message itself.
So, what can you take away from this?
1. You know what you need to do.
It is imperative that you learn how to trust in yourself, in your instinct, in your own experience. Sometimes, it seems easier and better to rely on others as experts, because they proclaim themselves to be such, because they really are or because you feel more confident relying on them. But you have the ability and the gift of self-direction and it is a waste of this gift to throw it away on the basis of someone else’s opinion or because you are too scared to commit either way.
2. Trust in yourself.
The voice within can be a timid one, at the start. It speaks ever so softly and can be drowned out by others of higher authority or even those with simply, a louder voice. But when you begin to listen to the voice within, you will find that it grows with each successive use, gaining strength and confidence as you move ahead into uncertain territory. And you will find that you will trust in your voice.
3. Engage in new experiences and live.
The only way to find your voice, to make the right choices, is to broaden your experiences which necessarily means that you will undoubtedly make wrong choices too. But accept that as a given. Success is not about avoiding failure – it is about embracing failure as part and parcel of what it takes to move towards success. Failure contains the grains of wisdom, helping you refine your journey, telling you what works and what doesn’t.
4. Allow yourself time to discover, to let insights come and dwell within.
Understand that things take time and you need to let that be. Everything seems to be moving faster and faster in today’s world. We are connected to each other in an infinite variety of ways, and yet, we remain as disconnected to each other as can be seen. We can instantly message someone from thousands of miles away (which is great) yet increasingly, we meet at the family dinner table or meet with our friends for a social outing only to text or play with our phones instead of engaging and spending time with each other. Technology is great but it is not everything.
With everything moving fast, with technological breakthroughs making such huge improvements to our lives, it’s easy to think that it means we need to move as fast in everything that we do. But that is not the case. As in slow cooking, there is a distinctly different flavour to a life that is savoured, that is deliberated upon and that is not subject to reactionary, knee jerk responses.
There is beauty in the passage of time, in the development of insights and in sitting and simply dwelling on things.
5. There is no right, no wrong. There is no one to chase you when you fail or when you win. You simply carry on. Therein lies the rub.
Here is the most revealing insight for me – there is no right or wrong in this regard. If you choose to get up early because you want to get certain goals achieved, then you win. You get what you put into it. If you choose that this is simply too hard for you, for whatever reason, then that is fine too. There is no one really to judge you. So, with little in the way of intervention, in the way of incentive, the decision is really always yours to make. You call the shots, you determine how things fall, you decide what works and what doesn’t. In that way, it doesn’t matter to anyone really, which way you turn. Which makes it hard to sometimes distinguish between what you want to do and what you know you need to do.
6. It is as easy to do it as it is not to do it. Your choice. Your life.
This ties in with the previous point – with nothing and no one to champion things other than yourself, it is as easy to do something as it is not to do something. Of course, there’s always the possibility of external pressures – family, peer pressure, strong relationships you maintain – these too can impact on your decision.
But if you believe that you have choice – and you always do have choice – then the decision is always one for you to make. The only thing really is that sometimes you might not like the array of choices before you but the possibility of choice is still there for you to consider.
And so now, knowing what you know, does that change anything at all, for you?