The Secret Ingredient To A Happy Life? Love!

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
~Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
If there really is a secret ingredient which has the power to instantly improve our lives, then it can only be love. Love is incredible. It gives us strength, comfort and confidence. It gives purpose and meaning to our lives, lifts us when times get tough and inspires us to push harder when things are going well.
Love comes in many forms and all are unique. In our lifetimes, we will experience the love of a mother, father, brother, sister, partner, spouse, friend and so many more. Every single one is slightly different, though. That said, each of these lift us and positively impact our lives. Feeling loved, however, doesn’t have to be dependent on other people. The most important love is not that which we give to, or receive from, others. The most important love is that which we show to ourselves. Self-love is the greatest love.
When you love yourself, you hold yourself to a higher standard. You have too much self respect to allow yourself to waste your talents and lead a life of mediocrity. When we love someone or something, we care for it, nurture it and help it to grow. However, as we do this, we sometimes neglect ourselves without realising. That’s why it’s important that we love ourselves first. After all, how can we serve others when we are neglecting ourselves?
When we love ourselves, respect ourselves and hold ourselves accountable for our own lives, something magical happens. Life gets better, and not by accident. Self-love fosters a positive, growth mindset so that we find ourselves striving every day to improve the quality of our own lives. So, we learn more, do more, achieve more and become more. For me, this is the essence of life – to strive to become the very best version of yourself. When you strive for this, you enrich the lives of your family and friends by inspiring them. If you have a family of your own , you become better able to support them. Outside of your personal life, this positive attitude, fuelled by love, drives you to bring value to the lives of the countless people with whom you will interact. Your example could inspire others to also love themselves and strive to improve their lives every day, and if more people did that, it could hardly be considered a bad thing could it?!
Learning to love yourself is not a simple process that follows a set of rules. Much like riding a bike, it’s about just taking action and perfecting your technique along the way. You will fall, but when you do, just get back up, dust yourself off and get back to work. Self-love is about realising what’s important in your life. From experience, I found that a break from social media worked for me. Because I wasn’t being bombarded by marketers and influencers with messages about what things (usually very pretty but also very expensive) I needed in my life, I was able to take the time to reflect and remind myself who I am, what’s important to me, what I want from life and why. I refocused on what I need, not what Instagram tells me that I’m lacking. I listed my non-negotiables, such as my health and personal and professional development, and revisit these every day to measure my progress.
Self-love is also about having the confidence and courage to say no to people. We constantly get requests from others for help. While this benefits them, we do need to stop and ask ourselves if it’s a good enough use of our time. As selfish as it sounds, it is necessary. Keep saying yes to the requests of others, and you will soon find your own life put on hold as you live someone else’s life. Think about it for a moment. When the majority of your free time is spent doing things for others, you stop doing what’s important to you and what makes you happy. As a result, you get frustrated, angry and disillusioned. In this state, how can you possible impact another’s life positively? We need to serve ourselves before we serve anyone else. That is not selfishness, it’s self-love.
Whenever things are going well, or even when they are not and we need a little cheering up, we like to treat ourselves to a little something, even if it’s just a posh, frothy coffee. The greatest gift we can give to ourselves, however, doesn’t cost a penny and we can have it at any time, because it’s not a thing. It’s a feeling, and so much more. So, today, whether you are in a mood to celebrate or commiserate, put your cash away and instead give yourself the gift of love.

Discipline Is Just Another Way Of Loving Yourself

Hearing the word “discipline” is often enough to send a shiver down the spine of the best of us. When we hear that dreaded word, we think of suffering and foregoing pleasure. It conjures up thoughts of strict diets and living like a monk. Too often, we think of it as giving up the good stuff in order to achieve a particular goal, whether that be to save a certain amount of money, lose weight, attract a girl/ boyfriend or any other goal we may have in mind. The problem with this is that we achieve the goal, for example lose 10 kilos in weight, and then discipline goes out of the window so we gradually gain the weight back. We need to start thinking differently about discipline, seeing it as a powerful force for good, and a practice which we should adopt permanently, not just when we have something to gain.

Social Media “gurus” love to talk about discipline in term of struggle. Please don’t take them seriously. They will tell you, in their own jargon-filled way, how you can only become a billionaire through being strictly disciplined. Their version of discipline, however, often involves depriving yourself of sleep and giving up any time which you would usually spend socialising, instead sitting in front of a computer screen to work on becoming an entrepreneur. Their version of discipline is just plain wrong, not to mention dangerous to your mental and physical health. Even if following their plans and programmes makes you reasonably wealthy, you will need that money to undo the damage which this “discipline” has caused to your mind and body.

Discipline is not about achieving a specific goal, it is about making difficult decisions now which your future self will thank you for. Discipline is simply a matter of making choices in your own best interest. Choices that will give you the best possible quality of life. It’s about choosing your long-term health and happiness instead of immediate pleasure. It’s looking into the future, and making the choices which will give you the best quality of life long-term. In practical terms, it’s picking the chicken breast over the cheeseburger, going to the gym even though you don’t feel like it, saving 25% of your pay check every month…decisions which your heart and bank balance will thank you for.

Discipline is about crafting a future in which you consistently make the most appropriate choices, and experience sustained health and happiness.

My Kingdom (Louisa May Alcott)

A little kingdom I possess
where thoughts and feelings dwell,
And very hard I find the task
of governing it well;
For passion tempts and troubles me,
A wayward will misleads,
And selfishness its shadow casts
On all my words and deeds.

How can I learn to rule myself,
to be the child I should,
Honest and brave, nor ever tire
Of trying to be good?
How can I keep a sunny soul
To shine along life’s way?
How can I tune my little heart
To sweetly sing all day?

Dear Father, help me with the love
that casteth out my fear;
Teach me to lean on thee, and feel
That thou art very near,
That no temptation is unseen
No childish grief too small,
Since thou, with patience infinite,
Doth soothe and comfort all.

I do not ask for any crown
But that which all may win
Nor seek to conquer any world
Except the one within.
Be thou my guide until I find,
Led by a tender hand,
Thy happy kingdom in myself
And dare to take command

 Authenticity and Integrity

“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different”

Coco Chanel

We all want to stand out and to be seen as unique or original. The irony is, that in order to achieve this, too many people simply adopt a new persona based on how they’d like to be seen by others. Or they copy those celebrities whose lifestyles they wish they had. However, in going down this path we end up, unintentionally at first, becoming part of a group and blending in, achieving the complete opposite of what we intended. Once this persona has been adopted, we find comfort in the company of like-minded people and further mould our identity to conform with this new group. All the while, we suppress and hide who we really are, our true selves, for fear of getting expelled from our group. So we persist with the act and lead, what amounts to, a double life. In private, we lead our lives on our terms. Until we are next with our social groups and the herd mentality kicks in. We find ourselves spending money we don’t have on things we don’t need in order to maintain the respect of our peers, when we would much rather have invested that money in ourselves to take us closer to our goals. We say and do things that may go against what we truly believe, for fear of expulsion from the group. We stop doing what makes us happy and our focus shifts to gaining the acceptance of others. All in the hope of being regarded as unique or original. This is tiring, to say the least.

This begs the question…Can you be unique or different without compromising who you really are?!

Of course you can. By staying true to yourself, you are already standing out from the crowd. Have strength, courage and confidence enough to resist conforming to the expectations of others or following their lead. Stay true to your values and your beliefs. Do what makes you happy and takes you closer to your goals, instead of trying to please others. Have the self-awareness to know who you really are and the self-respect to live accordingly. These are just a few of the ways in which you can be different, but in a good way. 

 People are very good at spotting a fake, so drop the act. Instead, make it your goal that there be congruence between your true self and your outward words and actions. In other words, just be yourself. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, gifts and flaws, so embrace them. They are what make you who you are. Reflect on these long enough and you will become more self-aware. Once you have a good idea who you are, what drives you and what you are passionate about, adjust your life accordingly.

If you want to be different, unique or stand out from the crowd…just be true to yourself and live your own life, not anybody else’s. People will recognise and respect you all the more for it. Give it a go and see how happy you become as a result, you won’t regret it.

“Today you are you,

that is truer than true.

There is no-one alive

that is youer than you”

Dr Seuss

Know your worth..

..and the value you bring to the world. People only respect us to the extent that we value and respect ourselves, and this applies to all areas of our lives from our personal relationships to our businesses. 

When we lack confidence and self-awareness, this is reflected in our body language and interactions with others. We then get treated accordingly. The negative behaviour of others towards us affects our confidence further, and it becomes a vicious cycle. Furthermore, there will be unscrupulous and manipulative individuals who will be looking to take advantage of a weakness which they perceive in us. This is why knowing our worth and having a healthy amount of self respect is so important, as it provides an effective defense mechanism against these situations and circumstances. 

If, however, we think and behave as though we are confident and know our worth, people will behave more positively towards us. “Faking it” has its limits though. If we really want to live the lives of our dreams, we need to work on becoming more confident, more self-aware and having more self-respect. In order to achieve our goals and taste success, we need to know our worth, our strengths and the value which we bring. Then we need to let the world know about who we are and what we can offer. 

How can this be done?

  • Reflect, then take action. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Determine where your passions lie, and define what success looks like to you. Set goals, make a plan of action, and get to work. As you make progress towards your goals, you will become more confident and more aware of your worth which will show in your behaviour and speech.
  • Learn a new skill. As you master a new skill, your confidence will grow. Furthermore, as you master new skills, you become better equipped to provide value to the world around you.
  • Invest in yourself. Read books, attend training courses or go to conferences. However you do it, invest some of your time and money in your personal development.

As you reflect on yourself and identify your strengths, as you learn new skills and take steps towards your goals, your confidence will grow. In turn, there will be a positive shift in your behaviour and how you carry yourself. In turn, people will respond to you in a far more positive manner and you will find more opportunities presenting themselves to live a more fulfilling life.