Are you the hero or the villain in your own story? Most people want to be the hero but it doesn’t always turn out that way.
Sometimes you’re the villain. You become you own worse enemy when you tell yourself you can’t do something and you won’t succeed. But how do you defy that inner voice and outperform your own expectations?
Before we answer that, let’s start with the basics. What is a hero? Wikipedia says a hero is “is a real person or a main fictional character who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through feats of ingenuity, courage, or strength.”
It’s easy to face a challenge we’ve conquered before. But what if our adversary is bigger than anything we’ve faced in the past? How do we outperform ourselves?
The answer to that comes from a formula I learned in writing class. It applies to real life too. It’s not just the stuff of fiction. But you might be thinking, it’s not possible to make your life turn out EXACTLY the way you want it to be!
If the secret were that powerful, that potent, then we’d all be married to a perfect spouse, or we’d be millionaires, or all the nearly extinct species of animals of the world would be saved… and so on, depending on what your vision of an ideal life is. No, that’s not what I mean by secret to success.
The secret to a successful life has three parts, which I’ll explain so that you can begin living that life.
Part 1: The Hero’s Journey – Embrace Change
Which would you rather be: a famous hero or an anonymous one? Everyone has their own preference. Maybe you don’t even want to be famous and that’s okay. But are you happy with your life the way that it is? And if you’re given a chance to change it for the better, what would you do?
Change is sometimes thrown at us. It even happens to those who want to avoid it. Unless you’ve been living in an alternate universe for the last several months, you’ve been held hostage by a pandemic. You used to have a life with a job, a home, friends, family, and a routine.
Then your life flipped upside down. Maybe you lost your job. Maybe someone close to you ended up in the hospital. You’re on a different journey, a roller coaster ride, as you try your best to keep up to date on what you can and cannot do. Face mask or no face mask? Go out and stand apart? Or Zoom meeting and hug the screen?
What will you do now? This is your chance to turn over a new leaf. You might have taken up a new hobby or exercise routine. Perhaps you’re realizing how challenging it is to be with your kids all day, seven days a week. Or maybe you’re thinking it is time for a career change. When the pandemic is over, no one said your life will pick up where you left off a few months ago.
How do you start on this next phase in your life’s journey? How do you become the hero and not the villain? Don’t be the voice of self doubt. Your doubts are you enemy. Try the following tips instead:
1. Focus on one goal.
Use the K.I.S.S. method (Keep It Simple, Survivor!). Each day decide on one thing you want to accomplish and get that done. Go for a 15-minute walk. Clean one room of your home. Learn one new thing from one YouTube video.
You may have heard of Bilbo Baggins from the novel The Hobbit. He wanted an ordinary life but getting pushed out of his comfort zone and going on many adventures turned him into a hero. He also experienced a lot of personal growth. How will your goal change you for the better?
2. Challenge yourself.
Don’t accept things as they are. If you lost your job, find another one. (That suggestion is obvious, but the hard part is staying motivated to do this.) It may even be time to look for another career that’s recession proof.
You can change your world the way it is right now. Be ready to climb a steep mountain though. Change isn’t easy.
In the The Truman Show, Truman realizes at one point that he has a pivotal choice to make: continue living the life he knows and be unhappy or venture out to the unknown to pursue his dream. What would you risk to reach your dream?
Part 2: Your Career Defines Your Journey
Your ability to attain success and achieve your dreams depends a lot on your choice of career. It becomes your identity. Think about how you describe yourself to strangers: “My name is ______. I’m a (insert job or profession here).” You might even say, “I’m married with (1? 2? 3?) kids.”
Your job is your status. Most likely it will decide your income level, what type of home you live in, and where you dine, shop, and vacation. It also influences who you meet, your friends, and your significant other.
But what if you want to change where your life is headed right now? Maybe you just graduated and you’re starting your career. How can you land your first job when thousands are losing their jobs these days?
Or maybe you’re mid-career and this pandemic has made you realize your job is vulnerable. How can you change careers without starting from the bottom of the career ladder again?
You’re the hero, the main character of this story. It means the spotlight is on you. Think of the last time you read a book and you were cheering for the hero of the tale.
Someone out there is watching you. How can you inspire them with your actions right now? Maybe your audience is your family. Your children. A friend. Your co-worker, who sees you as a mentor.
Sometimes, you can inspire a complete stranger. I remember reading a story about a young woman sharing her life story in a newspaper article. It made me wonder how I could help other people. So what can you do to reach your career goals?
1. Upgrade your skills.
You can do this the traditional way, by investing money in more courses. But now that people are spending a lot more time at home, there is also a lot that you can learn for free. For example:
- Work on your soft skills.
- Watch videos on YouTube.
- Learn from educational websites.
- Take classes on LinkedIn (some are free, some are paid).
2. Change careers.
Change is good. With a recession looming and current distancing regulations, people will be rethinking how they interact socially and how they do business. An article in the Financial Times says to “plan for five careers in a lifetime.” How can you re-invent yourself professionally?
Even young entrepreneurs have found a way to start a business by finding what consumers need. Some of these entrepreneurs are also millionaires, activists, authors, TEDx speakers, and product inventors before the age of 20. What need can you fulfill for others? What problem can you solve?
Part 3: You Define Your World – You Create Your Boundaries
Creating your own world may sound like the stuff of fiction. In this case, it isn’t. Like they say, how you see the world in your mind is the world you project on your reality.
If your inside voice – that voice of doubt – says you can’t do it, then the reality is you won’t. Your skills define what you’ll do and where you’ll go. So how will you see your world when you wake up tomorrow? How how can you apply these following tips to define your life?
1. Adapt to a new reality.
Your new reality can be harsh but there’s no going back. The coronavirus pandemic will forever change our landscape. Some businesses will permanently disappear. We have a new awareness of cleanliness and health that we didn’t have before.
In The Matrix, when Neo was asked to pick the blue pill or the red one, he didn’t know what would happen. He didn’t even know that his computer skills were transferrable, and that he would use them to shatter his own concept of reality. What will you change?
2. Grow stronger and build on what you have.
How can you build on your current skill set? What skills can you improve on so that you can do your current job more effectively? Do you have skills that are transferable to a new career?
Wonder Woman realized a whole new world existed outside her own when a plane disrupted her reality. She was skilled among the Amazons but almost god-like among humans. What skills do you have that make you stand out?
You may not be a super hero, but you are still the hero on your journey. Your skills and your mindset define the boundaries of your world and the path you’re headed on for your future. We are like the heroes we read about in books and watch in the movies.
Challenge yourself to complete a goal, upgrade your skills, or redefine who you are. Heroes don’t achieve great things by staying comfortable. So what is your next big step in your journey? Comment below.
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