As the Shrink for Entrepreneurs I work with people who are notorious seekers of freedom and happiness. They march to the beat of their own drum and have figured out ingenious strategies for being the masters of their own destinies.
The poem Invictus, by William Ernest Henley, best sums up the tenacious spirit and unquenchable thirst for freedom and happiness that inspires humans to reach for self mastery:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Even if you don’t run your own business (yet), you can adopt an entrepreneurial mindset to help you become more intentional, more focused, and ultimately happier and free of unwanted constraints. Yes, you can be “the captain of your soul.”
The first step, though, is to fix the little mistakes that have been holding you back and stealing your energy and happiness for far too long. Let’s take a look at seven such mistakes and some ways to get back on track…
1. Ignoring what you CAN control.
Enormous freedom and power will be yours the minute you start seeing yourself on the cause side of the “cause and effect” equation. Your thoughts and behaviors are creating your reality. Every move you make matters. You are in charge of your thinking, which also means you are in charge of your actions and results.
What you focus on and put energy into every day will determine the results you produce in life. Embracing this philosophy is the secret to being in control of your destiny. Yes, occasionally something will happen that’s outside your control, but rolling with it, rather than against it, will produce the best possible results. In other words, it is not always what happens to you, but how you respond to what happens to you that matters most.
So no matter what happens, be intentional and do your best. You won’t enjoy your life if you don’t enjoy your challenges. When things go wrong, instead of blaming the world, ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?” and “What’s the next best step I can take from here?”
Think this way and your personal growth is guaranteed.
2. Worrying about what you CAN’T control.
You can control a lot in your life, but sometimes finding true freedom means knowing what you absolutely can’t change, or understanding what constraints you have to work within to build the life you want.
Entrepreneurs are widely known for being innovative, which is all about finding creative ways to bust through constraints. When this happens, it appears as though the impossible becomes possible.
“Constraints inspire creativity” is the credo of Twitter Founder Jack Dorsey. Finding freedom through constraints is all about accepting the things you can’t change, and then finding creative ways around these obstacles.
You might have an absolute need to make money to pay your bills – let’s call that a “constraint” – but you can be creative about the way you make that money. If you’re going to be totally free and happy with your chosen life path, you have to worry less about the things you have no control over (the need for money), so you can focus your creative efforts on what you CAN control (the source of income you choose to create).
3. Believing someone else’s definition of success.
Define success for yourself. You don’t need to measure up to other people’s benchmarks. The psychological root of most unhappiness lies in external validation, which happens when you try to measure your self-worth based on the opinions of others.
It’s not what others think, it’s what you think about yourself that counts. You, and only you, get to decide what kind of life you want to live. Other people’s goals and expectations don’t matter that much in the long-run. Never forget that.
When you become “the master of your own fate,” you get to choose what that fate is. You might want a jet-set glamorous lifestyle, or you may just crave peace, quiet and security. In any case, it’s a good thing that the seven billion humans on this planet all don’t want precisely the same thing in life. So decide what your heart really yearns for and commit to living for that, and little else. Let your intuition guide you. (Read The Millionaire Fastlane.)
4. Assuming you have to accept everything just the way it is.
People and situations often look to YOU to set the example of what is and isn’t acceptable to you. Be crystal clear. And be ruthless about what you won’t accept in your life.
I meet a lot of super successful entrepreneurs. The happiest and most enlightened all have one thing in common: They know what they DON’T want, and they don’t tolerate any of it if they don’t have to.
It’s time for you to start being decisive about what you want in your life. Who do you want to spend time with? What type of information do you want to fill your mind with? What type of environment do you want to be in?
You need to decide what standards you are going to set for yourself. Then, you need to enforce them. If you settle for just anything, you will never know what you’re truly worthy of. Love and respect yourself enough to never lower your standards for the wrong reasons.
5. Giving up as soon as the going gets tough.
When you listen to intuition and commit to a life path that is unique to your desires, you’re likely choosing the path less traveled. This means there are going to be substantial obstacles in your way at times, and sometimes it’ll seem almost impossible to continue.
You must persevere! Always take another step.
Life is constantly testing us for our level of commitment, and life’s greatest rewards are reserved for those who demonstrate a never-ending commitment to push forward even when times are tough.
What you do when the going gets tough matters far more than what you do when everything is going smoothly. It’s how you respond to the hard times that wins you true, untethered freedom and happiness. So keep your head up and remember, your soul is “unconquerable.”
6. Taking yourself, other people, and life too seriously every second.
Ever meet someone who seemed so uptight they were about to burst – as if every little thing happening to them was a huge concern? Don’t be that person. Don’t take yourself and everything you encounter so seriously. A few things in life – like your personal freedom, safety, and your loved ones – truly matter. But most life circumstances (especially problems) are fleeting and insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
Not sweating the small stuff is an important step on the path to freedom and happiness. Life is just an experiment – an experience. Get too attached to the seriousness of it all, and even after you’ve conquered your goals, you won’t even enjoy them.
As Marc said in one of his recent posts, “Live simply. Love generously. Speak truthfully. Work diligently. Then let go and let what’s meant to be, BE.”
7. Defaulting to friendships that aren’t lifting you higher.
Find other people who “get it” – people who truly get YOU. You may be the captain of your own ship, but the ocean doesn’t have to be a lonely place.
It’s almost impossible to succeed, or find freedom and happiness, when you’re totally isolated. The smartest entrepreneurs and lifestyle renegades always surround themselves with the right people. You should do the same.
Instead of connecting with people by default simply because they live next door, or work in the same office, or whatever, start looking for friends that connect with YOU at a deeper level of ideology. Do they have the same values as you? Do they embrace the same philosophies you do? Do they value freedom, love and fulfillment? And, above all, make sure they read Marc and Angel Hack Life… right?
Bottom line: Saying “no” to the wrong (or default) people gives you the time and resources required to say “yes” to right people and the right opportunities in life. (Read Never Eat Alone.)
The solutions to these seven common mistakes provide a rough overview of what it takes to be a freethinker – a happier, enlightened soul. Many entrepreneurs embody these values, but my real point is that no matter who you are and what you currently do for a living, you can think this way too.
When you’re “the master of your fate” and “the captain of your soul,” you can live the life you have always imagined for yourself.
What’s been holding you back? What little mistakes often steal your happiness? How have you coped? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
Author Bio: Peter Shallard is The Shrink for Entrepreneurs and founder of the procrastination busting startup Commit Action. Check out his business psychology blog and follow him on Twitter.
Photo by: Reuben Stanton