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“All men should strive to learn before they die
what they are running from, and to, and why.”
—James Thurber, “The Shore and the Sea”
In my new web-enhanced book – with 21 coaching video clips – IMAGINE THAT! Igniting Your Brain for Creativity & Peak Performance, you learn how to fire up your imagination, manage your thinking, and create and live what I refer to as an “exceptional life.”
What is an exceptional life? Is it always being happy and having a good time? Does it guarantee having perfect relationships, making a lot of money or devoting your time to helping others?
Living an exceptional life is purely subjective and based entirely on each person’s unique set of values, beliefs, dreams, expectations. It is exactly what each of us thinks it is.
There are certain traits that are shared by those who live exceptional lives, traits that are rock-solid universal, many of which have been around since the beginning of humankind.
Important as they are, these traits are only the broad strokes of self-creation, and it is your job to add fine lines, color, and texture.
These traits include:
- Having Purpose. Purpose fires the imagination, inspires us, and ignites a passion for life. It gives us a reason to move forward, to embrace life and all its wonders. A purpose can be almost anything that draws, propels, or inspires an individual to action in the pursuit of a goal. It might be raising a family, volunteering, writing, learning a language, or coming up with a solution to a problem, either alone or with others. Purpose engages you in life.
- Being Curious. Walt Disney once said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” Curiosity is an important aspect of living an exceptional life because it enables us to see new possibilities by making our minds more active and observant. It manifests itself in daily life by reading, asking questions, and challenging assumptions, among other activities.
- Saying “Yes” to Opportunities. This may sound so obvious that it’s not even worth mentioning. But the reality is that recognizing, even creating opportunities is one thing, but embracing them is something entirely different. Those who live exceptional lives say “yes” to their dreams. They get off the comfortable couch of the status quo and go for it. They commit. They become serious. And once they say “yes,” they create their own luck, and doors that were shut suddenly open.
- Committing to Lifelong Learning. Regardless of what form this commitment takes – whether it’s attending classes, surfing the web, reading magazines and books, following the news, or having meaningful conversations – commitment to lifelong learning is an essential trait. Gathering information and using that information to examine and challenge our own beliefs and perceptions, to gain insight, and then to apply what we have learned enables us to live in a positive, proactive way.
- Focusing on What You Can Control and Letting Go of What You Cannot Control. Many individuals spend a great deal of time focusing, obsessing, and worrying about things over which they have no control, which not only drains their energy but creates enormous negative stress. Those who live exceptional lives are able to identify what they can control and focus their mental energies on exercising that control. The result is a sense of progress, a feeling of being in control, and the satisfaction of accomplishment that, in turn, motivates them in their future endeavors.
- Being a Partner in Your Own Wellness. Those who possess this trait seek out and do what needs to be done mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and socially to help them make choices that contribute to the quality of their own lives and the lives of others. This includes surrounding themselves with nurturing life-enhancers, eliminating life-diminishers, expressing gratitude, making a difference in others’ lives, and doing what they have to in order to keep their bodies healthy and able to perform efficiently.
- Making Short-Term Sacrifices for Long-Term Payoffs. When faced with making decisions, those who look at the big picture are able to develop a vision of the future that becomes not only a motivating force but also a compass for pointing them in the right direction. We are always choosing, sacrificing one possibility for another. We cannot get something without giving up something first. But it is essential that we look ahead in making decisions if we hope to attain what we have determined we want in life.
- Committing to Self-Knowledge. “Know thyself,” the ubiquitous phrase attributed to the Greek philosopher Socrates, can be easily applied as a present day mantra for self-growth. Socrates believed that self-knowledge was vitally important to finding peace and happiness and discovering your potential, and it is as true today as it was in 350 BC. Self-exploration means asking yourself the right questions and providing answers that enable you to better understand who you are and who you can be. In turn, it leads to new insights and, therefore, new beliefs, actions, and behaviors that can enhance the quality of your life and the lives of others.
- Taking Personal Responsibility and Being Accountable for Creating Your Life. This may sound like common sense, but there are an astonishing number of people who depend on external forces and then blame someone or something else for their circumstances. When we take responsibility for ourselves we can move to action, choose to craft a vision, map out a path, and make a plan to acquire the skills, knowledge, experiences, support, and resources we need to do what we love. It enables us to focus on our strengths, face our challenges, overcome obstacles, and attain the exceptional lives we want.
- Acknowledging Grievances, Letting Them Go, and Forgiving. Whether the grievances we hold against others—and we all do so—are major or minor ones, the difference this ability can make in our lives is literally incalculable. Gandhi once said: “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” The beauty and elegance of forgiveness become visible in the one who forgives; when a person faces pain head-on, forgives, and lets go, he or she becomes emotionally stronger. Forgiveness is not, however, only about letting go of our anger at—or disappointment with—others; it is also about forgiving ourselves. Forgiveness is truly the highest form of love.
- Applying Your Imagination and Influencing Your Subconscious Mind. This trait, whether it is natural or learned—and it can be learned— underscores all the other traits. Having it is essential to leading an exceptional life because it enables us to manage our thinking and to identify and mute the kind of fear that is essentially a figment of our imagination. In the process, we can create the choices that lead to positive results and the kind of life each of us wants to live.
- • • If all of this sounds as though you are going to have to put in some work to achieve an exceptional life, you’re right. I’m not going to sugarcoat this. Learning to manage your mind requires effort as well as a whole lot of commitment. It is also, however, both exciting and exhilarating. When you make that effort, you will challenge your assumptions about what you believe to be true. You will experience the tremendous excitement of discovery. You will uncover the mindsets, beliefs, and fears that stand in the way to living an exceptional life.
James Mapes is a keynote speaker, best-selling author, coach and hypnotist. His most recent book IMAGINE THAT! Igniting Your Brain for Creativity and Peak Performance is the first web-supported book with access to 21 video-coaching clips. Please go to the home page www.jamesmapes.com , read the description and you will find the direct link to Amazon.
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“I just wanted to take a moment and tell you that I have finished reading the most brilliant book. From the time I received it in the mail until a few moments ago in reading the last words – “IMAGINE THAT!” is genius!” – Shard Drury, THE 360 Career Coach