Ever wonder how to excel in life when so much feels like it’s out of your control? It’s difficult not to feel stuck in indecision (and even give up on your big dreams and goals) when your life is disrupted in ways you never thought possible. And unfortunately there’s plenty of disruption in the world (global pandemic, anyone?).
But just because your original plans have been interrupted (maybe even upended) doesn’t mean that you have to give up or start over. What you need is to course correct, which is primarily an internal thing.
Because you can excel in life no matter what’s going on. Today I’m covering 10 important life tips to help you excel in life so that you don’t get stuck when the unexpected happens (no matter how bad or difficult) but instead stay focused, productive and happy.
To help you even further, be sure to download my guide of 8 strategies for feeling calm, confident and in control (no matter what’s going on) here. It’s your guide to a happier, less-stressed life.
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10 Life Tips for How to Excel In Life
If you want to excel in life, then you need to start from within. Because true success means happiness and fulfillment. And that’s all about having clarity of purpose, the confidence to act, and the courage to keep going when things get hard.
That’s why many of the life tips below revolve around how you think and behave (and control your thoughts and emotions).
Here are 10 life tips for how to excel in life so that you can be happily successful:
#1: Redefine Success
Succeeding in life isn’t really about where you end up. Unfortunately, most success definitions are destination-based.
Success is about how you choose to live life (and hence, living a life with purpose). Your outlook matters.
When life gets especially hard, do you savor the little things or focus on everything that’s gone wrong in your life?
Upon NOT achieving a big goal, do you celebrate how far you’ve come and identify what you’ve learned (so you can use it moving forward). . . or believe you’ve failed and never look back?
When circumstances work against you, do you let go of your dreams or consider the ways in which you can pivot (and still achieve what you want)?
Success requires that you feel good about who you are, the decisions you’re making and how you’re living your life. A success definition that’s redefined in this way allows you to work toward a better future yet still be happy with where you are in the moment.
For more about how to rethink what success means (and live a happier, more successful life) read Want to Be Successful? Stop Working So Hard and Rethink How You Define Success.
#2: Understand Your Internal Biases (and How to Change Them)
When I first started my coach training, one of the first lessons was around the concept that everyone has their own unique perception of reality.
I remember thinking at the time. . . of course that’s true! That’s why you can have 10 people see the same crime yet get 10 wildly different accounts of what happened.
But then I started coaching and quickly learned that I’d been judging people based on MY past experiences and reality. That’s when I realized that I needed to proactively seek to understand people better.
Your Stories Are Biased
Your past experiences affect how you view EVERYTHING. Because of these experiences, you’ve written internal stories that you hold as truths about yourself, your capabilities, the world and even the people within it.
But these stories only represent what you’ve personally experienced, not the world. And so they’re biased. Yet you judge the world based on these internal stories (often without realizing it).
The problem is that these stories get exacerbated by the way we live (through the rise of technology, social media and how we get our news).
We live in a carefully curated bubble of like-minded people and have few relationships with (or understanding about) people who are different politically, socioeconomically, racially and religiously. And we therefore have no ability to understand their reality.
What You Perceive Directly Affects Your Success (Here’s How)
Your outlook on the world matters because it affects your behavior. You’re less likely to act boldly and live your life fully when you perceive parts of the world (and many of the people in it) as threats. And you’re also less likely to see opportunities that are out there.
And although you shouldn’t worry about how others define success (or even perceive your success), how others perceive you as a human being does matter when it comes to getting help from others. And that’s important because you need other people to succeed in life.
Success requires collaboration and deep relationships with others. And it’s important to include people who think and believe differently than you (they’ll help to challenge and expand your thinking).
How To Change Your Perception
Want to start changing your perception? Here’s how:
- Remind yourself (often) that we ALL come to the table with our own unique perception of reality.
- Start listening to those who are different from you for the purpose of understanding. Not to try to change minds. Or to fix their problems. Just let them be heard (someone must take the first step, and note that this often leads them to reciprocate).
Please note that this doesn’t require you to change your mind. It’s about gaining understanding so that you can create trust, be more open to opportunities and feel more compassionate towards others.
But also ask yourself. . . what’s so bad about changing your mind (if you change it thoughtfully, based on new understanding)?
#3: Re-Frame (To Change Your Reality)
There are a lot of so-called self-help experts who tell you to think positive thoughts so that you can attract what you want and manifest your dream life. There’s just one problem. . . research doesn’t back any of that up.
You have to work hard to succeed. And even then, nothing is guaranteed.
Achieving your big dreams isn’t as easy as most would have you believe. But that doesn’t mean that going after your dreams isn’t worthwhile.
Why Hard Work Brings Fulfillment (And Can Even Be Fun)
Research shows that those who focus on growing, learning and improving (what’s called a growth-oriented mindset) are more hopeful and resilient.
And they’re more likely to succeed at their endeavors.
That’s why so much of what I focus on (here on the Blog, within my newsletter and with my clients) revolves around mindset.
[Recommended Reading: Why Mindset Is Everything: The Key to Success & Happiness].
But What If Things Feel Hopeless?
If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that nothing is guaranteed. There are big, complicated issues to deal with (within the world and here in the United States). And it’s not just because of the pandemic – although that has made this fact more obvious.
The problem is that many people have become too fearful… to the point where they’re paralyzed by it all. As a cancer survivor, I know how that feels. But if cancer taught me anything it’s that life keeps on (no matter what). And you owe it to yourself and others to LIVE.
So, what do you do? Re-frame.
Re-Frame Problems or Threats Into Challenges To Be Solved
Make it a game if you like, where you’re the hero battling against your challenge. I know that sounds silly, but it works because your brain LOVES to win at games (and to prove others wrong).
You’re not where you want to be (nor is the world). But that doesn’t mean you – or society – can’t end up in a better place. Making that happen starts with your mindset. And re-framing is the best way to get started with the right mindset.
To re-frame, focus on what you’re learning or how the experience is helping you to grow.
NOTE: this technique isn’t going to change your circumstances (and it’s not about solely thinking positive). What this does is to rewire your mind not to get stuck in negativity and catastrophizing. It allows you to let go and move forward despite difficult circumstances.
For step-by-step guidance on how to re-frame (plus other strategies to for cultivating a strong, resilient mentality), be sure to download 5-Minute Stress Solutions here:
#4: Learn To Be Vulnerable
Do you sometimes feel there’s got to be more to life. . . yet do nothing? Do you have a big dream or vision for your life that you’re not acting on?
The problem is that the path to success doesn’t always feel good (despite all those Instagram quotes to the contrary).
Working to excel in life is about being yourself and living with purpose. It requires that you go out on a limb, risk ridicule and potentially do or say the “wrong” thing. That’s vulnerable and takes courage.
But it’s worth it because it’s how to make an impact in the world and feel free (while being content with yourself).
How Your Mind Works Against You
Ever notice that your mind has a list of ready-made reasons why you shouldn’t make a big change or go after a big dream? You might initially feel excited about the possibilities, but then your mind starts jabbering on about how:
- it’s not the right time
- you don’t have the financial resources
- nothing will change regardless of what you do
- things could get worse
- it’s too risky
- you’ll probably fail
I could keep going.
Here’s the thing about that voice inside your head: its sole purpose is to focus on the potential negatives so that you’ll put on the breaks. And it’s not telling you the whole truth. Just potential half (or less-than-half) truths without any context.
This voice is keeping you stuck doing nothing (while numbing yourself with food, television, social media, alcohol, busyness, or something else). But you don’t have to stay stuck.
Why Getting Comfortable With Vulnerable Thoughts And Feelings Is A Key To Excelling In Life
If you want to excel in life, then you must get comfortable with the discomfort of vulnerable emotions and thoughts. Because what’s keeping you stuck is not wanting to deal with those feelings.
The good news is that you can train yourself to get comfortable with feeling this way. Whenever you feel vulnerable thoughts and emotions, here’s what to do:
- Identify exactly how you feel. Be specific.
- Ask what’s behind your feelings. Go deep (and keep asking) until you’ve identified the thoughts behind what you feel.
- And then let yourself sit with them (without doing anything about how you feel or what you’ve discovered).
This simple exercise will build inner strength and resilience. You’ll discover that you’re okay despite feeling these things. Plus, you’ll gain deeper self-awareness around what’s going on inside of you so that you can do something about it.
But don’t stop there. Once you start getting comfortable with feeling vulnerable emotions (and the thoughts behind them), it’s time to challenge them. And that leads me to your next life tip for how to excel in life. . .
#5: Challenge The Voice Inside
People often talk about being stuck. But you’re not really stuck. It’s just a feeling created by the voice inside of your head (that’s convinced you to do nothing, feel paralyzed).
I’m not saying that you should completely ignore the voice that’s warning you. But it’s important that you challenge it and consider all the potential positives (something the voice cleverly ignores).
How To Take Control Of Your Voice and Get Unstuck
- Give the voice a name. Notice how I treat your inner voice as another person? That’s because it’s not WHO you are, and therefore important to separate yourself from it. To help you do that, give your voice a name (mine is Nellie). Think of her (or him!) as a well-meaning friend who’s there to help, always overextends her stay and loves to repeat herself.
- Listen to your voice, but don’t let her be repetitive. Don’t ignore what the voice tells you. Once you’ve heard everything once, tell your voice that she’s done her job and thank her. It’s time for her to leave.
- Create a list of pros and cons. Put pen to paper and write down all the bad stuff that your inner voice has listed. And then write down all the potential good that could happen. But don’t stop there. Add to the mix the good/bad if you do NOTHING (something few people do but is necessary to make a truly informed decision).
- Write down what you’d do if the bad things on your list actually happened. This will help you see that it’s not predetermined, you can do something about it and that you have more control than you realized.
This exercise will help you make an informed decision without getting stuck in all the reasons why you can’t.
For more about how to challenge your fears and move beyond doubts (so that you don’t stay stuck), read 5 Effective Tools to Stop Living in Fear and Worry.
#6: Live With Purpose (For Meaning and Fulfillment)
What if, when trying to determine what you even want, those three dreaded words keep popping into your head. . . I don’t know?
That’s exactly where I was post-cancer. I wanted more purpose and meaning (and knew everything I didn’t want – which included being a lawyer). Yet I didn’t know specifically what I did want.
And it’s where many of my clients are when they first come to me.
Purpose Isn’t What You Think It Is
Most people think that they have to find their purpose (and feel like it’s this heavy, difficult-to-find thing). But you don’t find your purpose. And you don’t have to give up your life, start over or save the world to create deeper meaning within your life.
Purpose is created from within. It’s about being content in who you are and where you’re going, given your current circumstances.
That’s important because it’s impossible for your brain to contemplate your path forward (or even your next step) without getting to that place.
But once you get there, you’ll be able to create your new path forward.
Create Purpose By Getting Back to The Basics Of Being YOU
It’s easy to get so caught up in the busyness of work and life that you become disconnected from what brings you meaning and is most important to you. Here’s how to course correct:
- Be useful. Be intentional about how you use your strengths and skills in service to others (at home, at work, and within your community) so that you can start to see the impact you already make + what more you can do.
- Strengthen your relationships and prioritize community. Human beings have a primal need to belong. And that only gets satisfied through strong relationships and connections (both individually and through a larger community you care about).
- Reconnect to your values. Aligning your life around your values brings purpose. And your values are the best guides for creating your path forward (they’re your inner compass).
Any one of these things will bring more meaning to your life. All three together are life-changing because they’re your road map for how to excel in life and feel content with yourself (and decisions).
For more about how your values create meaning and happiness (and help you to excel in life), read How to Redefine Yourself Into Happiness.
#7: Let Go of Busy
Most people I talk to tell me about their big dreams and goals. Yet when I ask them what they’re actually doing about them I hear that they’re too busy right now (they’ll get to it later).
Busy Is Just An Excuse
Look, we all have obligations and responsibilities (I’m right there with you, by the way). But if something is truly a priority, then it means that you’re actually prioritizing it.
You have two choices:
- Prioritize the things you say are important, or
- Let them go (for good) because they’re not as important to you as you’ve led yourself to believe.
The other so-called option is to spend your life wishing things could be different (only to regret it later). And that’s not worth your time or effort.
That doesn’t mean that you should drop everything and focus ONLY on your big dreams (so don’t make the mistake of doing that or using that as an excuse NOT to do anything).
Start Small and Keep Things Simple
Learn from my amazing client Sabrina, who needed to fit business development into her already crazy-busy schedule. Instead of making the excuse of being busy, she set aside 15 minutes per day for business development (and scheduled it into her calendar).
I know that 15 minutes doesn’t sound like much, but it got her started in the right direction. She developed a taste for it (really, a habit) and built momentum.
She even got plenty done (it’s amazing what being laser-focused on something will do for you, even in a small amount of time). And after doing that for about a month, she added to it and has kept it going.
The Secret For How to Excel In Life
This is a confidence-building activity that’s going to help you get started more quickly and keep going (one step at a time). Success isn’t rocket science. It’s about taking small, imperfect action that builds momentum and helps you stay the course.
So, set aside 15 minutes per day to start working on YOUR big priority.
To help you maintain focus no matter what’s going on in your life, be sure to download your free Guide of 8 stress management + mindset strategies here:
#8: Focus On Your Relationships
Part of succeeding includes having healthy relationships with those you care about. And although part of the point for wanting to excel in life is to be your best and serve others to the best of your ability (which should have a positive ripple effect on your relationships), there’s a drawback to be aware of.
The Self-Development Trap
Although bettering yourself has a positive ripple effect on others, there’s a catch. It’s easy to become selfish (without realizing it).
After my cancer journey, I felt like something needed to change (but had no idea what to do about it). After struggling for a couple of years, I finally hired a coach.
For the next 6 months, I happily worked with her believing that I was becoming a better version of myself. Until the day my husband asked if I wanted to be married to him any longer.
That’s when I realized that I had become so inward focused that I was neglecting the people I loved the most (and had been for months).
Since then, I’ve been informed (by several coaches) that this is common. But that doesn’t mean that you’re destined to fall into this trap.
How To Guard Against the Selfish Trap
As you make big decisions for yourself (including when choosing not to do something), ask how it will affect those around you. Be specific about your close relationships (the people you love the most). And be honest with your answers.
Most people think they consider other people yet don’t (it’s normal to assume that what you’re doing to benefit yourself will also benefit others). They key is to balance your selfish individual needs with the needs of those you love (and your own need for strong relationships with those people).
This will interject some relationship-saving honesty into your personal development journey without slowing you down. [After all, part of personal development includes strengthening your relationships.]
#9: Be Open to Whatever Comes
Life isn’t fair. Some people have it easier than others. Many don’t play by the same rules. And sometimes people will try to hold you back.
And sometimes, other people deserve it just as much as you (or more!).
You know this, already. But have you truly accepted it or do you use it as an excuse to quit (or never try in the first place)?
Acceptance isn’t the same as giving up, but about not making excuses so that you’re more capable of taking on life’s challenges. This means that you can’t be chained to your desired outcome.
Do you want it? Of course. But you also go forward knowing that it may not happen and that you’ll be okay regardless (sometimes even better for it).
It’s also important to remember that success isn’t linear. You’re going to take a couple steps back after moving forward, veer to the right, dip down, climb steep hills (even mountains) and go around in circles. It’s part of the growth process.
#10: Have a Strong Support System
You don’t succeed in life by doing everything yourself. You need people who:
- Give you spiritual, emotional and mental support and guidance.
- Push you to be your best, mentor you through tough situations and keep you accountable.
And you need coverage in ALL areas of your life (personally, professionally and spiritually).
Identify who’s within your support system and any gaps. And then fill the gaps. Then use your support system like your life depends on it (because it does).
And before you go, be sure to grab your copy of 5-Minute Stress Solutions. This guide isn’t just about managing stress, but will help you cultivate a healthy mindset that’s calm under pressure and able to reframe even the worst of situations. Get your free Guide here: