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Success from the Inside Out
by Suzanne Zoglio, Ph.D.

Have you ever noticed how some people seem so passionate about life…whether they are talking about their jobs, hobbies, families, or favorite causes. It's almost as though they know the secret to a fulfilling life. And perhaps they do. But observe them closely and you’ll discover their secret. People with an uncommon zest for life have mastered the art of living from the inside out. Instead of setting their goals and judging their success by what others think, they live according to their own values, their own passions, and their own inner voice. In other words, they live an authentic life.

Create a Life that Tickles Your Soul by Suzanne Zoglio

Following The Herd Is A Habit

Knowing, respecting, and expressing your true self is probably the single most important factor in attaining satisfaction with life. In today’s fast-paced society, it is so easy to get trapped in the busyness habit of doing what others expect instead of taking charge and doing what’s meaningful. Day after day millions of us get up, head out, and just keep running until we drop…often without any sense of satisfaction. Why? Because we don’t know what we want or we don’t make the choices that will move us forward. Instead, we follow a path out of habit. Stuck in a rut of passive responding, we often feel exhausted, frustrated, or even empty. We sense that there’s more to life than gathering nuts, but we just keep storing up for the future… and missing the precious present.

Step 1: Find Your Focus

So, how do you take back your life when it seems to be careening out of control? The first step is to take time to reflect on what’s best for you next. I believe that we all have a purpose or destiny—something that is uniquely suited to the talent we have been given. If you love what you do and are making a difference with your unique gifts, you probably already are serving your purpose. If you just don't feel right about what you do…you are probably not living authentically…or as fully as you can. Purpose and passion go hand in hand. Here are a few examples of getting one’s inner and outer worlds in sync.

A whiz kid in the defense industry decided to listen to his inner voice. As a pacifist, he had never felt comfortable in the "business of war." Although his job was secure and he was greatly respected by his peers, he had these nagging notions that he was on the wrong path. He’d go to work each day, speak positively about the company, and then go home each night feeling a bit like a fake. Finally, in his mid-forties - the kids grown - he left the industry …and relieved the inner turmoil of living a life that doesn’t feel right.

A former nun turned CEO resigns her position as bank president to return to a life of service…this time as head of a nonprofit agency. She earns a fraction of her corporate salary but adds immensely to her sense of inner peace.

A small business owner heals a painful separation with his son by giving the young man what he really wants from his father (respect and mentoring), instead of what the exec is in the habit of giving (money and advice). He has sensed the truth for some time, but kept following "common sense."

To increase your awareness of your inner wisdom, regularly reflect in silence. Communing with nature often helps, as does breathing deeply to quiet your distracted mind. If it’s your calling that you are exploring, try reflecting on these three questions:

  1. Do you love what you’re doing so much that time flies and you feel alive?
  2. Are you expressing what you intuitively know are your positive personal traits?
  3. Are you serving a human need…somehow making the world a better place?

Or consider a written exercise. Down the left side of a sheet of paper, list your unique positive traits…what special talents you possess. For instance, you might be particularly insightful, imaginative, logical, artistic, engaging, or good with your hands. If you are not sure of your traits, ask several people who know you what they see as your dominant positive traits.

Now, pick the two or three traits that most clearly represent you and consider how you would enjoy using those traits. How could you contribute by applying what you’re good at? For instance, if your traits are "witty" and "observant" and you enjoy expressing those traits by telling stories about life's little dramas, you could inspire people to live more harmoniously through your work as a novelist, playwright, or even stand-up comedian. If you are "witty" and "observant" but enjoy expressing those traits through drawing, you might add humor to the world by developing cartoons, funny greeting cards, or humorous ad campaigns.

Another method you might try is "asking the question." Sitting quietly, relax with a few deep breaths and when you are still and focused—all channels open, so to speak—simply pose this question: "What is your will for me?" You can direct your question to God, your higher self, the universe, or to whatever you recognize as the source of love and wisdom. If you don't immediately "hear" the direction of your purpose, develop a habit of sitting in silence every day for 15 to 30 minutes. Do nothing…just pose your question and listen.

A different way to clarify your direction is to write a letter to a dear friend. Pretend it is one year from now, and you are writing, describing your new soul-tickling life. What does it look like? You might begin by explaining how you are doing what you love to do and making a difference by doing so. Then add any life details that come to mind (i.e., where you are living, whose love you share, what you have learned, and how you enjoy life each day). Describe the life you want as if you were already living it. A dream life is founded on purpose, structured on core preferences, and embellished with personal desires.

Step 2: Stop Blocking Your Own Success

In my personal growth workshops, I often open with a poll of the participants by asking three questions to relax and focus the group. First, I ask: "How many of you talk to yourself?" This usually prompts laughter and a sea of nodding heads. Then I ask, "What is it that you most often say?" This question generates painful grimaces of recognition. Finally I ask, "Would you talk that way to a good friend?" Expressions of insight light up the room. Unless asked to focus on our mind conversations, we typically play the same mental "tapes" day in and day out, without considering either the quality of the messages or the impact they have on our attitudes.

You can use several simple techniques to maintain a positive mindset and thereby stop blocking your own potential. Affirmations, reframing, and solution sleuthing are three of the most powerful. See if any of them appeal to you as tools you might use to tap your reservoir of positive energy

Practice the Art of Affirmations

Although we all experience ongoing "mind chatter" (at about 200 words per minute), you can consciously choose the kind of chatter that occupies your mind. One way to do this is to develop and use a list of personal affirmations. An affirmation is positive self-talk. You might think of an affirmation as a wish that you state as if it had already come true. For instance, if you wish you were a better father, a more thoughtful lover, and a successful investor, an appropriate affirmation could be "I am a terrific father, a sensitive lover, and a wise investor." To be effective, affirmations should be phrased in the present tense ("I am," not "I will be") and in the positive ("I am calm" vs. "I’m not nervous").

Consider posting your affirmations on your mirror, in your daily planner, on a telephone or computer screen, or anywhere else you will see them several times a day. Some people tell me they recite their daily affirmations as often as 20 to 30 times in a day. Some write the affirmations on a small card to carry in their wallet. Use whatever method will remind you several times each day of the kind of person you are becoming and the kind of life you are in the process of creating. Let these affirmations keep your mental focus forward on your progress and potential. To see it, repeat it…in your thoughts, images, words, and daily deeds. Think great, do great, and remind yourself regularly that you are great!

Old habits die hard, so if a disabling message shows up, get in the habit of booting it out. That's right. As soon as you hear a negative thought, hit the pause button, and say out loud, "Evict that thought. That was before. This is my belief now: I am _______." Erase the thought from your mind's computer and replace it with an empowering thought. Make a commitment to evict any "rowdy regulars" the next time they show up.

Learn to Reframe Situations

The difference between optimism and pessimism is often described as seeing the glass half-full or seeing the glass half-empty. Reframing is a technique that enables you to see the glass "half-full" more often. Whenever you are faced with a setback or disappointment, look beyond the obvious negative to see if there is any positive consequence, no matter how small. For instance, if you get stuck in traffic—clearly an annoyance to most of us—consider if any good could come of that. You might find that it is the only time all day that you will have to reflect in silence, or you might find that you hear a radio interview that you would not have heard otherwise. Perhaps the 20 minutes is exactly what you need to mentally prepare for the meeting that you are racing to. Instead of framing the traffic jam in cheap red plastic, "reframe" it in rich mahogany with a gold leaf trim. Deliberately choose to see whatever good is woven into life's large and small frustrations. Pay attention to the surprise blessings that appear in your life sometimes disguised as mistakes, disappointments, and irritations and sometimes accompanying them.

Become a Solution Sleuth

To follow your dreams and create a satisfying life, you must become a master sleuth, someone who can track down creative solutions to almost any dilemma. When you develop a pattern of successfully resolving problems, you trust yourself to handle any new issues that come your way. Such success breeds the self-confidence it takes to make a break from the pack and lead a meaningful life. To every problem there are many possible and often equally appropriate solutions. Unfortunately, when we are presented with life's problems, we often become fearful that we will fail or get hurt somehow, so we contract, rather than broaden our thinking. We mentally circle the wagons when we are afraid, instead of scouting out a new trail.

Solution sleuthing is a technique to free up your imaginative responses. Instead of stating a problem as a complaint (I just don't have any time for myself), turn your next problem into a question (How can I find one hour each week just for myself?). To consider the different impact that a complaint or a question has on your creativity, try imagining your initial response to each. If you were presented with the complaint above (I just don't have any time for myself) what would be your reaction? Probably, your response would be something like, "I know; life's a rat race. Nobody has any personal time." Likely, you would commiserate with the misery.

Now consider your response to the problem if it were stated as a question (How can I find one hour each week just for myself?). Would you feel rather stimulated…as if you were presented with a riddle to solve? Probably, your response would be something like this: "Hmmm. You could try…." It is likely that you would intuitively start scanning your mind for possible solutions.

When you turn complaints into questions, you stimulate your imagination to search for solutions and energize yourself to prepare for action, change, and improvement. Your outlook is on your intent to move to a better place, not on pitying yourself for being stuck in your present murky spot. Complaints demoralize; questions energize.

Step 3: Surround Yourself with Inspiration

We sometimes berate ourselves for not accomplishing what we set out to accomplish or for not becoming the kind of person we had hoped to become. When we do so, it is typically because we are viewing our lives from a very narrow perspective. At that moment we are focusing only on what we have not accomplished.

To improve your perspective, climb—in your mind’s eye—to a balcony that overlooks a greater span of your life. From that vantage point, you can get a much clearer view. Notice along the trail that brought you to your present space the many markers of success, integrity, and kindness. Observe every fork in the road where you chose the right path: giving, rather than withholding; loving, instead of judging; learning, instead of stagnating. Within this broadened landscape, you will notice your wise choices as well as your mistakes. Contemplate how every step, on and off the right path, falls into place. What was the purpose of each in your progress journey?

While you are way up in the balcony, you might take the opportunity to toss a few regrets to the wind. Instead of beating yourself up about what you should have accomplished in the past, simply move any important unattained goals into your field of potential straight ahead. Whenever you find yourself feeling impatient at what you haven't done, try bringing yourself back to center by repeating this mental phrase: "No regrets, just firm intentions."

You might also try keeping a "Success Journal." In a small notebook or steno pad, date and list achievements that make you proud of yourself. Your list might include accomplishments as large as completing a college degree program, closing a deal at work, or losing ten pounds. It might include interpersonal successes such as not yelling at your teenager, remembering to write a thank-you note, or negotiating a win/win solution with a coworker. Add congratulatory notes from friends and kudos from your boss. Note any goals set and accomplished on time. Read through it at least once a week, and more often when you seem to be in a slump. It will help you to remember your potential.

Walt Disney, arguably one of the most creative minds of our time, believed that self-esteem was the most important factor in realizing dreams. He wrote, "When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably." It takes regular doses of fertilizer to grow a garden of sturdy positive thoughts. Have you ever noticed how you can be "up" one week and so down on yourself the next? Here are a few ideas to keep you "up" more steadily.

  • Write down four to five of your most outstanding personal strengths and post the list where you can be reminded (every time you pass by) of the special gifts that you have been given.
  • Try keeping an S.T.A. R. (simple thanks and recognition) folder with notes and reminders of where you have excelled and where you have made a difference.
  • On the last day of every month (yes, twelve times a year!) list all of your accomplishments. They can be as small as "Ate bran muffins every week" and "Cleaned my closet" or as large as "Closed the deal in Australia" and "Tobacco-free for thirty days."
  • Reflect in silence every day through prayer, meditation, or communing with nature. Close your door and sit comfortably for five minutes, particularly halfway through your day. Open a window if you can, or take a five-minute walk outside; breathe in the fresh air. Sit by running water, listen to the rain, or just concentrate on the beating of your heart. Move your chair to a window and bask for a moment or two in the warmth of the sun. Take a five-minute respite in the middle of your day to reflect, pose a question, recite a prayer, or just sit and find some inner peace.

Doing Different Is A Choice

What we get out of life is usually in direct proportion to the choices we make and the actions we take. We have to assume responsibility for knowing who we are, imagining a path that feels right, and then making the choices that move us toward it.

People with passion have developed self-mastery; they do not blame others for their decisions or their problems. Mastery is about taking charge of your own emotions and controlling knee-jerk reactions that you might later regret. It is about taking responsibility for all of your actions and deliberately deciding to behave as the kind of person you aspire to be.

So, if you want more zest for life, pursue success from the inside out. Find a clear focus by tuning in to what’s best for you next, stop blocking your own success with negative thinking and limited solutions, and surround yourself with the inspiration to do different. A great life is born in the soul, grown in the mind, and lived from the heart.

Reprinted with permission of Suzanne Zoglio, Ph.D., author of Create A Life That Tickles Your Soul (Named "Outstanding Book of the Year" and "Most Life-Changing" in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2000). For a free motivational newsletter , visit the author’s website: www.tickleyoursoul.com. For interviews, contact Laura Clark at The Ford Group Tel. 858-454-3314 or email LauraC1880@aol.com.

Suzanne Zoglio, Ph.D., is an executive coach and motivational speaker who has helped thousands to release their potential. Through her writing, coaching, and seminars, she helps individuals and work teams reinvent themselves. With a personal mission to nurture growth…in individuals, groups, and society…she supports practices that lead to enhanced peace, passion, and purpose. 

Suzanne has worked in the field of human development all of her adult life…as a teacher, counselor, corporate trainer, team consultant, and self-development writer. She hold a master's degree in counseling and a doctorate in organizational psychology. Helping people manage change for over 20 years, she's coached executives, facilitated work team development, and presented motivational seminars to hundreds of groups across the USA and Europe 

Suzanne's third book, Create A Life That Tickles Your Soul (Tower Hill Press, 1999) is now available in paperback as well as hardcover. Two earlier books are also available online from Amazon.com: Teams At Work: 7 Keys To Success (Tower Hill Press, 1997) and The Participative Leader. (Irwin Professional Publishing, 1994).

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