Life is a never ending stream of opportunity for growth. Just because a person chooses to stop taking advantage of opportunities doesnít mean the opportunities stop coming. Step one in using lifeís opportunities is to be constantly aware of this, so that you can be prepared for them as they come.
Learning about what counts most in life is the way, in general, to develop this sense of awareness and advance preparation. The more you know about what is important in life, the more youíll be on the lookout for ways to achieve these ends.
BE CONSTANTLY AWARE OF THE VALUE OF OPPORTUNITY
In particular, to be constantly aware of lifeís opportunities and to constantly feel the thrill of life, you have to reflect upon how involving life can be, and the consequences for losing chances to grow. It is a sense of potential loss that acts as a prime motivater, and which also makes life exciting.
To the extent that you understand this idea you will be inspired to stay "aware". You will see that there is nothing better in life than to be an opportunist, and nothing worse than wasting opportunity. You will seek out opportunity rather than let it seek you out.
PLEASURE COMES FROM LOOKING AT LIFE THIS WAY
There will always be people who believe that pleasure comes from lessening oneís ďburdenĒ. They will flee from challenges and effort and be scared by them. But they will also have limited self-worth as a result, and self-worth is the essence of what makes life feel wondrous.
How do such people feel when their friends advance in ways in which they too could have advanced - had they only made the effort? Do they not feel cheated, jealous, and a sense of longing to follow the same path in life?
Successful people make others aware of their own inner potential to rise above mediocrity. The trick in life is not have to wait for successful people to enter our lives before we realize just how great we can be.
BE CONSTANTLY AWARE OF WHAT DISTRACTS YOUR ATTENTION
As important as it is to be constantly aware of oneís opportunity for growth, it is also important to recognize what is out "there" that detracts you from such a heightened awareness.
There are basically three major "distractions" in life: work, misguided frivolity, and negative influences.
WORK IS A DISTRACTION
Work is a necessary part of life, and can even be enjoyable and challenging. But, because of its nature to be so all-involving, it is easy to take oneís focus off life itself.
The more involving oneís job may be, the less one may notice during daily life. Minutes very quickly turn into hours, and hours into days, days into weeks, and weeks into months - and so on, until 50 years pass and a whole lot of unused potential with it.
Define the time work requires, and the goals it is supposed to achieve. Respect those boundaries, and even try to focus during the work on your longer term goals.
LEISURE IS A DISTRACTION
Leisure is an important part of life, since it allows us to relax and "rechargeĒ. On the other hand, leisure has an inherent danger of giving you the impression that, for the time being, ďnothing really matters that much."
Opportunities for growth donít go on vacation, nor do they stop to laugh when youíre laughing. Turn your leisure into a growing experience, albeit a unique one.
NEGATIVE INFLUENCES INTERFERE WITH YOUR GROWTH
Friends or acquaintances, who are unaware of the role and value of growth in life, are unable to motivate themselves like you. They donít seek out opportunity with the same enthusiasm. Such people, as a result, tend to draw you back. In fact, theyíll make you feel like a "misfit" for taking life so seriously.
Donít be intimidated. If you canít show them why they should change, certainly donít let them influence you away from the thrill of living.
POSITIVE INFLUENCES STIMULATE GROWTH
On the other hand, there are people out there who simply love life and all it has to offer. They too, like you, want to know that at the age of 80 years they have made the best of their lifeís opportunities. They will help you grow, and provide an atmosphere conducive to staying constantly aware of what you do, and how meaningful life is.
BE A ZEALOT FOR GROWTH
To relate to zeal, imagine the following example. A man goes to the doctor for some tests and finds out that he has only 6 months to live. "But Iím only 38 years old!" the man complains to the doctor. What does the man do now? Does his life change?
"Now Iím going to truly live!" the man declares with new resolves. "No longer will I take even one moment for granted," he concludes.
Constant awareness of opportunity keeps you awake so that you are rarely taken by surprise. However, enthusiasm in life, which can only exist when you believe that each moment is packed with invaluable opportunity, adds a whole other dimension to making life a thrill. It turns you into a zealot for growth.
The very term zealot, these days, implies fanatic, which, in most cases has a negative connotation. However, when it comes to getting the most out of life, zealousness is not only acceptable - it is imperative!
In some areas in life, fanaticism achieves very positive results, such as in helping oneís community, or working hard at the office. It also doesnít hurt to be extreme in oneís love for their family.
Someone who takes life seriously enough to be an extremist is going to be a better family member, a better friend, a better employee or employer, a better member of the community... a better person all around.
ZEALOUSNESS HELPS US TO CONTROL OUR LIVES
Zealousness is the counteracting force to the side of us that just wants to drift through life. It is our inner resolve to be successful in spite of our instinctual tendencies to accept mediocrity, or worse. Where there is zealousness, there is courage, and growth follows as a result.
Life is a thrill for the zealot who demands that life be as meaningful as possible.
GRAB OPPORTUNITY WHEN IT COMES
Do not put off opportunity - do not let it go "stale". If you do, it will pass you by and you will never see it again. New opportunities present themselves, but old, unused ones never return.
If you begin an act, do not let up until you have completed what you set out to do. It doesnít take much for you to lose steam shortly after you get going. A little voice inside you says, "Itís okay. Donít work so hard. Youíll get the job done... eventually."
The rule of thumb is: any job worth doing is worth doing well, and as fast as it can be done without sacrificing quality. Be like a fire that moves effortlessly and yet with tremendous resolve. Thrilling.
REALIZE YOUíRE LIVING AGAINST A CLOCK
We live as if weíre never going to die. It is the reality of death that makes life so real, so thrilling! Witness the risks people take to make life feel real for them: cliff jumping, car racing, etc.
Self-protection is prudent, but not to the point of robbing your life of its inherent thrill.
REMOVE THE OBSTACLES FROM YOUR PATH OF GROWTH
Obstacles along your path of growth are important to overcome. To ignore them is like ignoring a large pot hole in the middle of the highway. Nevertheless, you shouldnít dwell on them and waste valuable time.
BAD TRAITS ARE AN OBSTACLE
Bad traits, interfere with growth because they affect our judgment. When we walk into a situation that we have difficulty with, bad habits force us to respond in a negative way.
You can have the best of intentions; it doesnít matter. You will still respond negatively, because you are conditioned to do so. And you wonít notice what youíve done until its too late to change the situation, because negative traits lurk below the surface, hiding, waiting for the right moment to spring out - SURPRISE!
This is why being constantly aware of opportunity and being enthusiastic isnít enough. There is always a time when we get caught with our guard down.
The areas in which people tend to fall apart the fastest are dealings with the opposite sex, with money and the acquisition of property, with food, and in relationships with people in general.
CERTAIN RELATIONSHIPS CAN OBSTRUCT GROWTH
Is there such thing as a "platonic relationship"? Perhaps there is, but few people know how to have one. The undeniable difference between men and women tends to make us act differently than we would if we were interacting with someone of the same gender. We lose at least partial control over the way we behave, which makes us feel less competent in our own eyes.
The only defense system one has in "uncompromising" circumstances of this nature is knowing how good it feels when we can maintain ourselves in times of crisis. There is no greater pleasure than knowing yourself, and liking the self you know.
CLEAR THE HURDLE OF MONEY
Money - what money can make a person do!
One has to see money as a vehicle to make life better, but know that it is not the only vehicle that does so. One has to keep in mind that money is the means to an end. If you make money an ďendĒ, then it will make you mean.
EAT TO LIVE - DONíT LIVE TO EAT
Eating can be the most innocent of the potential negative traits of humans, being such an acceptable part of our daily lives. However, self esteem is tied to every aspect of our behavior, and when we act in a way that is not normal, we note it and bury it inside ourselves. Though we may not be conscious of such self-criticism, in the end, it definitely and insidiously affects our self image.
BE NICE TO OTHERS AND GROW
The way we relate to others does more than lift or hurt them - it lifts or hurts us too. Yes, you may get the last laugh on that guy, but you know youíll hate yourself later for doing so once you stop laughing.
Relationships with friends and family are the "ring" of life in which we constantly spire. Everyoneís a sparring partner at some point or another. Even the most innocently made remarks we hear about ourselves can force us to react in ways weíll regret later.
Slander, tale-bearing, making jokes at the expense of others, all of these things drag us down in the eyes of others, and in our own eyes. The best way to build self-esteem and grow? Love others; treat others with respect. Care for them at least as much as you care for yourself.
GIVING IS GROWING
The illusion of life says the more we give, the less weíll have. The reality of life says the more we give, the more we get. The irony of it all is that the more sincere you are, the more you stand to gain.
DONíT BE OVERLY DEPENDENT ON THE PHYSICAL
The secret for living a confident and uplifting life is being a "master in your own house". Too many people are overly-dependent on physical gratification. When confronted by a piece of "cake" they donít need to eat, they are controlled by an "inner voice" that commands them to eat it rather than being in command and deciding to abstain.
The body is like a machine of sorts, quite mechanical and pre-programmed to respond to stimulus in one of various ways. For example, if a person perceives danger, the body responds with adrenaline in order to make flight and preservation of the body possible. If pain is perceived, then endorphins are dispensed from oneís inner "pharmacy" to reduce the sensation of pain.
If you say "Iím not hungry," and then your favorite cake is brought before you, your body responds by saying, "Iím hungry now." Saliva is emitted, and before you know it you have an appetite to eat. After eating the cake, of course, you say "I didnít need that piece of cake."
Our sensors and emotions donít think for themselves - they simply react. Theyíre great at sending messages to the brain. But they do so based only upon how they perceive a situation, and as a result often do a lousy job at evaluating the noble way to act in any given situation. That is the job of the mind.
One solution to the problem is to detach yourself from any circumstance or thing that brings about an "unreasonable" reaction. For example, if you go to pieces every time you see an ice cream cone, then donít walk by the ice cream parlor. Donít assume that youíll have the necessary self-control that in the past you proved you didnít.
However, life is not that simple, nor do we want it to be. There are times when eating an ice cream cone is a pleasure, and even the "right" thing to do. There is usually a right time and right way for most physical desires.