How come some people are wealthy and successful? How come some are happy? What’s the secret?
Is there a reason why some people are wealthy and others not? Obviously in one sense there is, because a fair number of wealthy people have be born into wealth; they haven’t earned it or worked for it, it has just been presented to them. Others indeed have been very lucky and have won the lottery. But both of these groups are minorities.
Since none of us choose our own family, and luck is well, luck, I am not going to think about these as an option. But rather I’m going to focus on the fact that a significant number of people who are successful and happy, have achieved these ends without being given a useful financial start in life.
Indeed I think it is fair to say that many people who are given such family support don’t actually make the most of it – which suggests it is not quite as helpful as it might seem.
As it happens I have met a fair number of people who have gained wealth, success and happiness through their own volition, and I’ve tried to work out, with the help of a fairly large number of books on psychology, and on “how to win friends and influence people” as the famous original volume is titled, what the key is to self-made success in life.
And then I have tried to boil it down into a few hundred words.
But let me say at this point there is no selling or anything like that in this little article. It is straightforward and comes with no suggestions that you send me money, or buy this or that, or anything else. It is just a simple summary of my findings resulting from a number of years of talking with people who have made a success of their lives, often from modest beginnings, and without being given the gift of some special talent such as the ability to play football brilliantly or have a remarkable singing voice.
The very first point that links all the people I have met who are successful (no matter what their area of success is, nor how they define success) is that they know what they want. Although often not in the sense of being specific, but in general terms.
So rather that say, “I want x to fall in love with me,” or “I want to be a millionaire” they consider what lies beneath these desires. Generally they explain this to me as having wishes which will give them happiness. So it is not specifically that they want x to fall in love with them, but rather that they want to be happy, and they see happiness as arising because x falls in love with them. For those who seek money, often they don’t actually quite know what they will do with millions of pounds, but they think it would make them feel good.
The first step that the people who become happy or successful take therefore, is a step backwards – a step to the origins of their desire. They generalise, and in doing this realise that what they want is to be happy. So they say to themselves “I want to be happy.” Indeed I have met some people who simply have the mantra “Something amazing will happen today” which they say over and over again each day. It tends not to work for a few weeks but then slowly starts working until… they find their luck hard to believe.
And how does that work? Largely because a person who believes something good will happen tends to have a positive outward going approach to life. That has come about by saying the mantra.
But… and this is one of the most important things I have realised – the people who have such an expression that they say to themselves over and over also take action to make what they want happen. They are not like teenagers who say “nothing exciting ever happens here” and leave it at that. They think of how they can put themselves into situations in which something good will happen.
And above all they do this logically. I’ll explain this with two examples: but there are many more which I am sure you can find.
Let’s consider a person who is lonely, or who more than anything else wants to have a girlfriend or boyfriend. They do not sit at home waiting for the said person to knock at the door, just saying to themselves “Something amazing will happen”. They find activities in their lives that will make it more likely that something will happen.
So they go out and find situations in which meeting a partner is more likely. This might be through the fairly obvious internet dating, or it might be through joining a club in which there are people who get together.
I’ll give an example here from my own experience. After my wife left me I did indeed feel lonely and bereft, and realised I did not have a lifestyle that was likely to bring me into contact with new friends. So I went looking and found two local folk clubs and a dance club. Now when I have said this to people they have sometimes replied to me “that’s no good for me, I hate folk music, and I can’t dance”. In fact the latter argument is not valid since all dance clubs teach newcomers to dance. If you are going to say, “I can’t do this” and “I don’t like that” then you are shutting yourself in your box and no one is going to be able to help you. The people who do get what they want in terms of fun, enjoyment, and indeed wealth, are those who are willing to go out and try things and really work at it.
So in effect we have two basic ideas: one is that you know what you want to happen, you generalise it, and you repeat the mantra. The other is you start to put into your life, situations that might make this happen over time.
Now for the final part of how all this works. The people who I have met who have begun to get what they want out of life follow these ideas, once they have set up the basic vision of the mantra and the activities.
1: It’s not the world around you that determines your happiness it is how you see the world around you
Two people sit next to each other on a bench in a shopping centre. Neither has much money to their name. Neither has any appointment to keep, nor anything else to do. One is extremely happy, the other extremely miserable.
Of course there can be many reasons why each feels this way, but imagine this: one is miserable because he/she has just been made redundant, is bored and has nothing to do. The other has just been made redundant but has always wanted to write a book, and now has all the time necessary, and is observing the people walking by and considering them as characters for the novel.
The moral is, it is not the world that makes you what you are, it is how you see the world. And how you see the world is up to you.
2: Sometimes do nothing
In a society like ours it can be difficult to do nothing. We rush from place to place, get the meal in a hurry, check the clock, and generally keep going. It is not a recipe for happiness. When we do stop we suddenly find we need to fill up the time so we turn on TV or start working our way through Facebook.
But there is a huge amount to be said for spending some time just sitting, looking, listening, considering. Even if it is very difficult for you to do it, find just five minutes a day to sit, or lie down, and stop.
Then when you have got that sorted, try ten minutes. Then 15. No one ever became successful without actually putting some thought into it. Not worry, just free flowing thought.
3: Get to know yourself better.
Most of us have only a hazy idea of who we are simply because we never bother to think about it. We have automatic answers to questions of our identity, expressed in terms of our job, or our family etc. But we are all so much more than that.
Consider yourself, your personality, how others see you, your good bits, you bad bits. And then, very gently, think what it is in your power to change.
And if you find a bit within you that isn’t so good, think about how to make it better. Tackle something very small, and then feel good about that change. Then move up to something bigger.
4: Do something good and engage
Much of the time we do what we have to do – what life pushes us into. We work, we feed the family, we sort out problems, we plan.
But just finding something good to do can give you a very positive feeling. It could be just ten minutes work on clearing out a room that is in a mess. You know that will not finish the job, but it’s a start. You can do another ten minutes another day. It could be visiting a friend who is not well. It could be getting in touch with someone who you have lost touch with…
But also, engage with people. Mental health research has shown that people who feel lonely and who also just read what others are saying on Facebook tend to make themselves worse. If you are using Facebook, engage and be positive.
However some tell me that they can’t because they feel miserable and nothing happens in their lives. They try and write something else. Make up something funny. Find the best thing that has happened to you today and write two lines about that.
If you want me as a friend on Facebook fine – you’ll find me there. There are a few people on the site with my name, but I’m the one with the picture of me dancing and who is a director of Websites and Blogs Ltd. You’ll find that I don’t often write about me. Mostly I write really short invented situations.
I don’t know what they do for everyone else but they make me smile.
5: Take control
It is your life after all. So why not make it YOUR life, rather than a life controlled by others?
OK, the children need feeding, the bills need paying, there’s always something to do, but as with all change, start small. Today, take control of your life for five minutes. Five minutes in which you simply do something just for you.
Tomorrow, up that to seven minutes. And don’t worry if on the third day you just don’t get around to it. Don’t give up. Try again the next day.
Here’s a simple point. This works. It is up to you if you use these ideas or not.