I meet people every day who seem to hate their life. They hate their job, they complain about their spouse, they complain about the weather, they complain about their car, they hate the house that they live in. They are irritated by their family, they complain about other people, and every miserable thing in their life is of course somebody else’s fault. I have a theory about these people, I feel sorry for them. I think they had hopes and dreams and wishes in their life, and somehow their life just did not end up in any way like they had planned it, and they are disappointed in themselves, and they are disappointed in their lives. Sad as it may be, I also have good news. I believe that every person can be the architect of their own life (or at least they should be). What does this truly mean? It means that you are in the driver’s seat, you have the steering wheel in your hands, you have your foot control of the gas pedal and the brake. In this life you are the architect of your own life. When I talk to people about this concept they say, “Well that all sounds well and good, but how do I do this? How do I become the architect of my own life?” They really don’t seem to believe that it’s possible. But, believe me, based on my own personal and professional experience, it is.
Belief. The first part of becoming the architect of your own life is deciding that you can create your own life circumstances. You have control over every choice that you make. If you’re in a miserable job, you can create a strategy to leave your miserable job and find one that you love. If you’re in a miserable marriage you can change that by either going to marriage counseling are getting a divorce. If you have a verbally abusive friend, you can stop being friends. So, I teach people that if they believe and take action, they do have the ability to create the life of their dreams, if they’re willing to believe and they are willing to do the hard work.
Choose how you respond to things beyond your control. I know there are many things in life that are beyond your control. My best friend once relocated from one state to another for a new job and within six months the company went out of business. Clearly not his fault. He rallied and acted and now has another great job.
Almost 10 years ago my wife of 32 years tragically died from a brain aneurysm. That was a life circumstance that no one could’ve ever predicted, and obviously it was beyond my control. But when grieving the loss of my wife, I could have given up on life and been bitter, but instead I chose to reinvent my life. I could control how I responded. I decided I wanted love again. I am now a husband to a great wife Rachael, and she is a wonderful woman. So, I want you to think long and hard about the idea that you can choose how you respond to the things that are beyond your control. I travel almost every week as a professional speaker, and I am amazed at how many business travelers get so upset and angry when flights are delayed and canceled. What is the point of getting upset and angry about something you have absolutely no control over?
Design your life. If you bought a piece of land and were going to build a nice house, you wouldn’t just hire a contractor and start building willy-nilly. You would of course hire an architect who would create plans for your approval and for building the perfect house that you want. That house would be designed just for you, and then built by a skilled general contractor. To me, a life is exactly the same way. You can pull out a journal or piece of paper and with some creativity, some dreaming and some strategizing, can come up with a plan to design the life that you want. Custom made to your specifications. Okay, I know it sounds far-fetched and doesn’t seem like it’s possible, but I believe that the only thing that is holding you back is your limited thinking and minimizing thought processes. Put it in writing, create a plan and start building your ultimate life. I’m sure you’ve read time and time again about famous and successful people who had nothing and just decided to create the life that they wanted through sheer imagination, will and just plain hard work. As the author of 18 books and a professional speaker, people often tell me that I am “lucky”. I do not believe that I am lucky I believe that I am fortunate to love what I do. But I can tell you that my success had nothing to do with luck and everything to do with the right mindset, with thinking about and strategically designing my life.
Study and learn. If there is something you have a burning desire to do, that is part of your design for your life, then figure out how it can be done. Study and learn it. Let’s say you want to be a stand-up comedian. Go ahead and do it! People often say to me “Shawn you’re not being realistic, do you want me to just walk in tomorrow and quit my job?” I mean after all I do have a mortgage and a family.” No, I’m not suggesting that at all, what I’m suggesting is that they could tap into hundreds of resources that are available in the form of books, mentors, websites, and people who can help them put a plan into place to start standup on the side and eventually do it full time. Study how other people have done it.
Look for opportunity. If you have a wish or a dream, then find out what opportunities there may be to make that dream come true. You notice I use the word look for opportunities, the opportunities don’t just come up and smack you in the face, you must seek them out. For several years, I had a column in a local business Journal in my region of the country. The column was on leadership, and it was very well received. What I often found funny was people would often ask me how I was able to become a columnist for that business Journal. The answer sounded as if I was being sarcastic, but it was a true; I just asked them if they were interested in having another columnist! They asked me to send some samples of my writing and the rest was history. Those formative years of writing my leadership column locally opened opportunities for me to write for sites like the Huffington Post that get now gets my writing read by people around the world.
Start something, do something. I once was speaking at a meeting for a large bank. On one of the breaks a woman who was in the class approached me and said, “Do you have a moment?” I asked her how I could help her. Her response was “I would like to write a book.” My answer to her very quickly was “okay go ahead and write it.” She said “no you don’t understand, what I want to talk to you about, I can’t seem to find the time. At lunch time we sat at the lunch table and talked about her time constraints, and how she was going to find the time to start writing her book. The main point that I impressed upon her in our conversation was she just needed to carve out an hour a day and just start! She’d been talking about writing a book for four years. It was time to just start writing one. So, one of the key elements of living your life and reaching your maximum potential as the architect of your own life, is to start something or do something. Take a first step. Starting makes you feel good, you’re moving in the right direction, and you are taking action to build the life that you want to have. Look at each category of your life and what it is you need to start doing to move forward.
The rest is up to you. As far as I know we only get one life, your life can either be one where you settle for less, for a life of mediocrity and for being average, or your life can be magnificent, when you are truly in charge of what happens in your life. The choice after all is yours, and it always has been.