Take ten seconds to answer each of the 6 questions by choosing either statement A or statement B. Choose the one that most describes your true inner feelings—not how you think you should feel, but how you actually do feel.
A: Most days, I look forward to getting to work.
B: Most days, the thought of getting to work makes me feel stressed or irritated.
A: The person in my most important relationship (spouse, partner, best friend, etc.) usually makes me feel appreciated and valued.
B: The person in my most important relationship too often criticizes or judges me in ways that hurt my feelings.
A: Most days, I eat, sleep, and exercise so that I have high energy throughout the day.
B: Most days, I feel tired or even exhausted before the sun goes down.
A: I nearly always have enough money to pay my bills on time, and I don’t worry about money very often.
B: I frequently worry about paying my bills and my financial situation.
A: I have many enjoyable activities (hobbies, interests) that I regularly engage in, that help lift my mood.
B: I am frequently bored and have few enthusiastic interests.
A: I have clear spiritual beliefs that give purpose to my life.
B: I have vague spiritual feelings about my purpose in life.
If you chose the first statement (A) in each question, congratulations! You are in the top 10% of Americans. But if you are among the majority, who have some serious dissatisfaction with life, do not despair. It’s all fixable.
The truth is you can have the life you want…in 24 months. Research shows that’s the amount of time you need to get clear on what needs to change, develop a strategy to change, learn what you need to learn, start, fail, correct, and persevere to achieve the big changes you genuinely desire. So one way to think about it is like this: in 24 months, the life you have is the life you are choosing today.
Your answers to the 60-second Life Quiz seem like they are dependent on your present circumstances. It seems logical that the energy you have for your work depends on the work you are doing, or your boss or co-workers. The zing and satisfaction of your marriage or friendships seems dependent on the quality of your spouse or friend. Your financial stress all seems related to how much money you earn. Well, of course, happy answers to the Life Quiz are based on the real circumstances of your life right now. At the same time, you can also begin to change your circumstances now, so that any unhappy answer can be shifted 180 degrees within 24 months, often much more quickly.
I am quite sure of this because of the recent research I have been doing for a client on human motivation to change. To summarize, all the relevant studies on positive well-being and deep life satisfaction (what the top 10% feel) reveal that personal motivation begins and ends with self-determination. People who “feel” they have the power to change their lives do. People who most often feel frustrated by circumstances beyond their control hang on to a limp trapeze, unable to generate any momentum to swing to the next trapeze that will take them where they wish to go.
Psychologists tell us the source of momentum is self-efficacy, which means “the belief that I can plan and accomplish self-chosen goals.” The key words here are “self-chosen.” Many of us spend our lives trying to accomplish other people’s goals. It could be our boss’, our parent’s, our children’s, or those of our social norms. Virtually every person in our lives, along with every advertiser in the media, has an agenda for us. And if we don’t have a clear agenda for ourselves, we will most likely struggle with relentless and unnecessary frustration, disappointment, and overwhelm. At least that’s what the research says.
So how do you drive self-determination? It starts with your inner life. It starts with your assumptions about what causes you to be less than what you can imagine becoming. If you assume something outside you has to change before you can, you will wait and wait and wait. Your power comes from action. Your power comes from doing something today to start changing what you can control, so you will feel powerful enough to change more and more. Let’s take a quick look at the six questions.
- Work. It’s a free country. You can become skilled at some things you love doing that are valuable to others. Ask yourself, what do I do well that I enjoy? Pay attention to what work gives you energy. Learn it, master it, pursue it.
- Ask your significant others what they most appreciate about you, and request some genuine encouragement or affirmation when you describe it. Get couples counseling if you need to. Don’t tolerate relentless criticism. Respect yourself, and select friends who you respect.
- Eat healthy, get 8 hours of sleep, and walk at least 30 minutes a day. Stretch while you’re on the phone or watching TV. Taking control of your personal health is ground zero for self-determination. Being fit will make you more confident and elevate your mood.
- Spend less. Spending money on things that bring you little lasting joy is a bad habit that most often is a stress-coping response. Earn more. You need to make $75K in our economy. You don’t need a college education to do it. You just need to know how you create value and become excellent at it.
- Discover and feel your passions. If it’s surfing, gardening, cooking, going to the movies…whatever it is, make a more extreme commitment to it. Become an expert at the things you intrinsically love. It will bring you joy and make you interesting.
- Take a position on the meaning of life. Seek God or Good in the way that inspires you to become the best person you can imagine. Read inspiring books, literature, or wisdom scripture. Meditate or visit churches with services and messages that inspire your thinking and your soul. Don’t let the questions you can’t answer overwhelm the answers you have. Believe in something.
These action ideas are offered just to start you in shifting your inner voice. They are not a change plan. But your inner voice is the air traffic controller of your life logic and you take control of what your voice is telling you. Give yourself permission to turn up the volume on your dreams. It’s the first step to having a much more fulfilling life within 24 months.
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