7 Ways to Think Differently About Success & Fulfillment

Successful people are always thinking outside the box.  They are always questioning the status quo and pushing comfort zones instead of the comfort of familiarity.  Familiarity turns the box into a prison without your realization and cripple your potential success.

To reflect, assess, and challenge your personal way of thinking is not only healthy, but necessary for growth.

Here are 7 ways successful & fulfilled people think differently:

1. Pursue Curiosity, Not Passion

A popular piece of life advice is:  follow your passion.  The only problem is that it’s easier said than done.

Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert provides an “Aha moment:”  forget about passion, follow your curiosity;

“passion is rare; passion is a one-night-stand.  Passion is hot, it burns.  Every day, you can’t access that…but every single day in my life there’s something that I’m curious about—follow it, it’s a clue, and it might lead you to your passion.”

Einstein also remarked, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”  And the late Steve Jobs, in his commencement speech reflected, “much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.”

Curiosity is the vehicle that will help you find your passion.

2. Make Friends With Stress

There’s a lot of negative research on the effects of stresss.  But what if stress was the enemy only because we perceived it to be?

For 10 years, psychologist Kelly McGonical taught on the damaging effects of stress.  But now she’s changed her tune and teaches the opposite after coming across new research.

30,000 people were asked how much stress they experienced in the last year, and whether they believed stress was harmful for their health.  People with high degrees of stress, not surprisingly, had a 43% increased risk of dying.  But, that was only the case for the people who also believed stress was harmful for their health.  Those who experienced a high level of stress, but didn’t view stress as harmful, had the lowest risk of dying, even beyond those who indicated little stress.

When you change your mind about stress, you change your body’s response to stress.

In another study, participants were to deliver a speech.  They were divided into two groups, one group was primed to perceive their stress as helpful—their pounding heart was gearing them up for action; increased breathing was bringing more oxygen to the brain.  Those who viewed stress as helpful were less anxious and more confident.  Physiologically, their blood vessels stayed relaxed and cardiovascular response mirrored that of joy and courage.

Changing your perspective on stress isn’t just motivational fluff, it’s a biological shift.  You’ll literally live longer, and feel better.

3. See Chain Reactions

It only takes one domino to knock over the rest.  Successful people rarely make isolated decisions, they see and join the dots between actions and outcomes.

In order to increase profits, Paul O’Neill, former CEO of manufacturing giant Alcoa, didn’t focus on advertising & marketing or research & development, he focused on safety.  It’s not the first area most people would think to focus on, but O’Neil could see the eventual connection.

O’neill says, “I knew I had to transform Alcoa.  But you can’t order people to change.  So I decided I was going to start by focusing on one thing.  If I could start disrupting the habits around one thing, it would spread throughout the entire company.”

Our thinking is often compartmentalized.  But successful people always look for connections and relationships beyond compartmental thinking.  Not linear, but holistic thinking.  They don’t just study parts, but see the whole.

4.  Ask More Questions Than Give Answers

Rather than asking and gaining new knowledge, we’re often caught in protecting our ego’s and fear of judgement from not knowing.

Jim Collins says in Great by Choice, top leaders are continually asking “What if?” as a means to improve.

Tony Robbins also says, “successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.”  Better answers will give you better actions, and better actions will give you better results.

The famous 5-Whys was developed by the Totoya company as a simple strategy for getting to the root cause of any problem—keep asking why until you get to the solution.

Here’s an example from Oakland University:

1st Why: Why were you unable to produce the product on time?

– Because the equipment failed.

2nd Why: Why did the equipment fail?

– Because the circuit board burned out.

3rd Why:  Why did the circuit board burn out?

– Because it overheated.

4th Why:  Why did it overheat?

Because the air filter wasn’t changed.

5th Why: Why wasn’t the filter changed?

Root Cause: Because there was no afternoon preventative maintenance shift scheduled to change it.

5.  Contribute Before Gain

Adam Grant, in his bestseller, Give and Take says that you don’t need to be ruthless to get ahead, his research shows that doing “five-minute favors” for others, and reconnecting with acquaintances often reaps long-term career rewards.

Grant explains that pro-social behaviors increases the depth and the breadth of relationships, “you end up with a wider set of relationships and a richer, more meaningful set of connections.”

Zig Ziglar also said, ”You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”

It’s good motivation to sow in someone else’s field rather than just your own.

6.  Schedule Nothing

The hectic schedule’s of successful people often includes allotted times for absolutely nothing.  Although physically unproductive, these times allow information they’ve been exposed to mix and percolate, and then produce new ideas and insights.

Creativity experts and psychologists call it the Incubation period.  Creativity is often defined as the synthesis of disparate information.  And this take place in the unconscious mind; when your mind is not at “work.”

Professor Timothy Willson, in his book, Strangers to Ourselves,  says that our conscious mind processes about 40 bits of information per second, whereas the unconscious processes eleven million bits per second. Incubation allows for the unconscious mind to work.

Einstein was known to take time for doing nothing: “if my work isn’t going well, I lie down in the middle of a workday and gaze at the ceiling while I listen and visualize what goes on in my imagination.”

7.  Value Experiences Over Things

It’s not what you get, but who you become.

Physical objects last longer than an experience like a vacation, or jumping out of a plane, so we often assume that the happiness we find in an object, like a new car, will last longer than an experience.  But research from Dr. Thomas Gilovich from Cornell University finds the opposite effect.

“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” says Gilovich. “You can really like your material stuff.  You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you.  In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”

Choose experiences over materialism.

2 Replies to “7 Ways to Think Differently About Success & Fulfillment”

  1. I do all of that and have this philosophy and yet, I am not successful. I have no career, I love science and I care about many things such as health, environment, social justice and I do make connections all of the time but I cannot find anywhere to use any of it. I am 51 years old and my patience is starting to wear thin, Why is that? I don’t want to do a job I hate, I had enough of those in the past.

  2. Thanks for your comment Isabelle.

    The issue may be that you care about too many things—I mean that in terms of narrowing down a viable career path. It’s important to narrow down our many interests into a single focus that we can then build a lifestyle and career around. As the quote goes, “The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

    After that, it’s making a consistent devotion to the craft. Malcolm Gladwell highlights an important concept: mastery in many fields requires at least 10,000 hours—which is roughly 20 hours per week for ten years. The good news is that success and making a living takes much less time.

    So if you’re in a job you hate, let it be financial crutch while you narrow down a single passion. Then start doing that on the side until you’re able to bring in some in income to slowly free you from the dreaded job. It won’t be easy, it’ll be like taking on another part time job. But it’ll be worth it.

    Let me know how else I can help.


Comments are closed.