Folks, this is a very personal topic for me and one that I feel quite passionate about. I wanted to share it with you, especially around this time of the year, because it contains my #1 secret to happiness and fulfillment over the last decade. I sincerely hope that you will read on and think of this as an early holiday present from my home to yours.
Let’s dig right in. What do I mean by an internal flame versus an external carrot? And how does adherence to one or the other create happiness?
I think we all know the meaning of the external carrot and the majority of us, if not all, serve this external driver to some extent. We desire nice cars, comfortable houses, great vacations, or like me, the flexibility to play golf often. I want to be clear in saying, these ‘external carrots’ are not bad. In fact, they are great motivators for action.
However, these carrots should not become what necessarily guides us and has the most influence over what we do at the end of the day. Why? While these things provide instant gratification, NONE of them will sustain and satisfy us for the long term. The only thing that will, is our ‘internal flame.’
A Purposeful Life
So what is your ‘internal flame?’ It’s your purpose, your mission, the reason you believe you were put onto this earth. Some of you might be saying, man, that’s deep. Others might be saying, I spend my days trying to ‘keep my head above water’ much less have time to reflect on my purpose. Still others might say, I’m an accountant, work on the manufacturing line, a service tech, an engineer. So how the heck do these professions tap into my ‘internal flame?’
Let’s start with how I tapped into my purpose. When I was four, my entire family was displaced and separated because of the Vietnam War. In a blink of an eye, we fled our home country and started over completely with nothing but the clothes on our back and a few bags in our hand. I never knew my father and my mother died suddenly when I was 12, leaving my 21 year old sister to take care of our 7 brothers and sisters in the States.
We were dirt poor, living on food stamps for as long as I can remember, and were left to our own devices to survive. For a long time, life was rough and life was tough. It really seemed like we had no hope. I really believed I had no sense of purpose let alone an internal flame.
So until my early 30’s, I became numb to my ‘internal flame’ and succumbed to nothing but the ‘external carrot.’ I didn’t care about anything else but keeping up with the ‘Joneses.’ What happened? I experienced ‘external success’ for sure, but I was empty on the inside. I had lost sight of what truly mattered. I lost perspective.
With hard work focused on self-reflection, accountability for my own actions, and a deep desire to change, I rediscovered my purpose. I’m here on this earth to help people and organizations realize their full potential, or as I like to call it, their higher self. I know, without a doubt, that I am now at a place in life where I am truly more happy, joyful and as complete as I have ever been. Mind you, I still stumble like the best of them. But my ‘recovery time’ is much shorter (days vs months) than before.
Following Your Internal Flame
Here’s the thing folks, I’m not asking you to ‘drop’ everything you are doing, go on a mission trip for a year, or take a sabbatical and walk ‘El Camino’ (500-mile spiritual hike in Spain). I’m simply saying connect with yourself, decide what’s important and don’t lose sight of it no matter what trials and tribulations come your way.
If you’re not sure what your internal flame is, think about what makes you happy. Or even seek some outside assistance to discuss. You don’t have to discover it overnight but even taking baby steps will help you feel more empowered and satisfied.
So what can help you determine and follow your internal flame, especially in the realm of what you do, and more specifically, where you work? I have a few simple challenges for you. Mind you, simple doesn’t mean easy. But if you adhere to these challenges, they will ultimately pay-off for you in that you will be happier, more joyful and peaceful in almost everything you do.
Your Happiness Challenges
- At all times, realize work is just work. You’ve heard the old adage, ‘if work was fun, it wouldn’t be called work.’ Said differently, do all that you can to keep a healthy perspective around work. I’m not saying don’t take it seriously and don’t be responsible. I’m saying don’t make it more than it needs to be. Work is complicated enough without you having to add your emotional baggage and stress into it.
- External Carrots are great, but realize they will NOT sustain you in the long run. That even goes towards the people you love, including your kids. Again, I’m not saying don’t love them and use them as motivation for what you do. I am saying that they won’t sustain you in the long run to stay Eventually, they will move on and then what happens to you if they have been your only source of motivation?
- Start asking yourself, ‘does this make me happy’ more often. About the easiest way I know to start moving towards your purpose is to simply start challenging your very actions and thoughts. Always ask: Does this make me happy? Believe it or not, I know MOST of us NEVER stop to really ask ourselves that question. Call it deep, buried, unconscious guilt. Call it whatever you want. But at the end of the day, MOST of us really believe we deserve to suffer! I don’t mean to get preachy here so I’ll be short in saying: YOU DON’T DESERVE TO SUFFER! BE HAPPY! THAT’S WHAT YOU DESERVE!
- And finally, ‘pay it forward.’ Hands down, who are the happiest people on earth? It’s those who serve others, period. Do you want to know how to really be led by your internal flame? Take what you know how to do, whether it be a car mechanic, a nurse, an IT expert, a lawyer, a CEO, or a line cook, and simply serve.
- There is no such thing as ‘it’s too late for me’ to live out my purpose. In Confronting My Elephants, my autobiography, I ask the reader to imagine just one perfect day, where if they could feel an absolute sense of accomplishment, peace and joy, would it be worth it for them to strive for it? And if that day were absolutely possible, would it make up for all of the other bad days in their life? Deep down, I believe we all know that answer would be an affirmative ‘yes,’ it would be worth it. We’ve all had our life struggles. They’ve helped shape us and mold us into who we are. So, why not use every ounce of energy we have left to tap into our ‘internal flame?’ You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Go for it!
I’d Love to Help You, really
Privately send me your challenges, questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can’t guarantee I’ll have all the answers, but I will be candid, truthful and genuine at all times with you. All of us deserve to be inspired and joyful in our lives. We simply need to work towards it.
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