How to Jump on the Road To Success Today and Change Your Life

It was like being hit in the head with a sledge hammer as she turned the corner expecting a clear street dotted with tall trees and bird song, her face had a look of utter shock and horror, how could this have happened? How could she find herself here?When you are someone that works hard to get what you want in life, how can it be that you find yourself on the wrong road? How can you tell you are on the wrong road and what can you do about it?

The person above was a recent client, although to be fair it could be anyone of thousands who I’ve helped in one way or another who suddenly as they divulge their inner most thoughts, feelings and desires realises with acute horror that this is the wrong road.

That realization that they had been working incredibly hard and it is going to get them no nearer their goals and ambitions. The person above had come to me to look at how they could work their way up their career ladder while growing their own business.

And the reason for the smack in the head the opposite of a Eureka moment was because they’d realized they’d spent the last 2 years working tirelessly, long days, with determination and passion on a goal that they didn’t really want.

Often you find that people are working in a direction thinking it will lead them to what they want when in actual fact they are getting no closer to the things that really matter like happiness, health, fun and time.

Let’s look at how you can identify the wrong road, what you can do to get off of it and how you can get yourself working in the direction you really want so you can have a life that makes you feel genuinely happy, successful and full of life.

Signs you’re on the wrong track

So what’s the signs that you are on the wrong road?

  • Your bank balance looks healthy and yet it fills you with no joy.
  • Your schedule is booked with new business and yet you dread the thought of every meeting and every minute of work.
  • You get home at the end of the day dispirited and wishing you were on holiday.
  • You can’t get the idea out of your head that other people have better lives.
  • You lean heavily on the wrong things in life – box sets, alcohol, gym fixes, chocolate or spending sprees to feel good.
  • You procrastinate even when deadlines loom and don’t feel a lot of guilt if you miss deadlines or make mistakes.
  • Your face smiles and says “I’m fine” when people ask you how you feel and yet your heart and mind can’t register your smile or any satisfaction in the conversation.

These (and many more) are all signs that life is not working for you, that you don’t feel like you are on the road to success; rather the road to purgatory, endlessly destined to feel negative emotions and like you need a good holiday far away from here.

How to jump on the road to success today

I want to take you on a metaphorical journey, share with you some ideas I know work (because they’ve helped so many of my clients) and some routes to success from my clients about the kind of results you too could get if you are ready to jump on the road to success today.

1. Plan your journey

Sometimes we can be too close to the problem to create solutions.

Have you ever noticed you are a genius at fixing other people’s life dilemmas and yet you lay awake thinking “What the hell do I do now?” or “How do I get out of this? Or “How do I get where I want to go?”

A good idea can be to pull away from what you are looking to achieve and think in a more metaphorical way. When we stay too close to our problems and in our own heads, it can be hard to think clearly. That is often because our minds get bogged down with the negative emotions that our mind is happy to play out like any series of Friends that is on a loop somewhere in the world.

Our brains love to finish things for us; find yourself thinking 1 + 1? It’s hard not to conclude “2”. Therefore when you want to find a new road to success first of all stop travelling down this one for a moment to assess where you are and where you thought you were aiming to go.

You wouldn’t get in the car and drive from Alaska to Argentina without some preparation, would you? (My friend is about to do this very journey on a motorbike and the planning has taken nearly a year!)

Consider your own journey and can you say you put in the effort to appreciate:

  • Where are you going?
  • Are you prepared?
  • Have you planned your route?

Think about a long journey and the things you would load up into your car. Food, water, good music, a phone, GPS, or map? What else would you take with you?

A journey planned is far more likely to reach its destination. Don’t think of your own ambitions or goals in life (remember we can be too close to our problems to work out the best course of action) imagine a road trip and the items you would deem essential, now add what you would feel would make the journey more enjoyable?

Now bring yourself back to the issues that you feel are in your way, did you really plan for this trip properly? What do you need to add or do to help you get where you want to go?

2. Choose the right transport

Would you jump on the highway on a 3 year olds tricycle? No? Why not?

It will move you forward, it has wheels, what’s the issue? Obvious right, it clearly is the wrong tool for the job. It would be dangerous, you could physically get squashed and it could take you an awful long time!

A perfect example is the client who was looking to take on a big challenge and they’d made the mistake of treating their friends and family like their mentor or coach. A real mentor or coach is only on your agenda, that is tough for a family member or friend to do without a lot of training. The minute this client realized that these people had an vested interest and didn’t want this person to get hurt, they could see they needed a new coach.

One that would listen, challenge and enable them to go for what they really wanted. Tools for the journey come in many guises, metaphorical and physical, would you say you are using the right ones?

3. Don’t follow everyone else

If you get lost, you might find you can see everyone else taking the turning up ahead and think to yourself “that must be the best way to go.” And before you know it, you are on a country lane in the middle of nowhere!

If you have planned what you want, you then need to stick to it. Just because other people are going in different directions that doesn’t mean it is right for you. It is so important to know who you are.

I think one of the most powerful things I do with clients is enable them to appreciate the science of being who they are, knowing what matters to them, what makes them excited, passionate, angry, determined. If you don’t know your own values, desires and passions in life, it can be all too easy to find yourself heading down someone else’s definition of success.

Another sign that you are following other people’s roads to success is that you are easily convinced to try something new. Trying new things is good for you and your success, however they are detrimental to your success if you can’t honestly justify that they fit into your own agenda and life plans.

4. Stay in the same lane

Have you ever been stuck in a traffic jam and found yourself switching from one lane to the other, only to discover that the new lane seems to be the slow lane and the one you were in is now faster?

Infuriating isn’t it?

A study by The University of Toronto researchers Dr Donald Redelmeier and Dr Robert Tibshirani found that cars that constantly switch lanes actually spend more time being passed by other vehicles than they would overtaking them. And probably find themselves a lot more stressed by the journey too.

Sometimes you have to accept that the route to success is going to have a slow day and stick with it. On those days it is worth checking you are doing the best you can and are on the right track.

Are you working in the best possible way? Could it be more beneficial to slow down and take the time to research ideas or further your knowledge (something you can always do in the car on a long journey with a podcast) so that your patience is rewarded with a broader knowledge to achieve your success.

Don’t be tempted to divert from where you want to go, a slow day is still getting you nearer your success.

Remember sticking to your own path that is right for you will not always feel easy. Sometimes it is the people that dared to think differently and act differently that change the world. Your own path is far more likely to help you be one of the disrupters, innovators, and thought leaders.

A slower day can also be a great opportunity to ask yourself these questions:

  • What can I visualize coming up ahead?
  • What obstacles may I find in the future?
  • What plans do I have to deal with those obstacles?
  • What have I just been through that I know has helped me to get to this stage?
  • What have I journeyed though that I can replicate in the future?

Understanding the science of being you, what works, how you naturally deal with obstacles can be massively empowering and motivating.

5. Swap lanes

“Whoa Mandie, you just told us to stay in the same lane. Now you are telling us to swap, make up your mind!” I hear you complain.

Hear me out.

I’ve seen clients belligerently carrying on with a plan of action and slogging their guts out on stupidly long hours and they look completely emotionally destroyed and like they will never get what they want. I remember one client who was stacked with new clients, business was booming and they were great at their job, but they hated every minute of it.

It was really tough to admit that this was not what they wanted after all. They clung on for dear life to a perception of reality that didn’t exist and was causing a lot of stress and even the risk of burnout. By accepting how much they hated their job, they were able to change lanes.

The assumption had been that they’d “been lucky” and couldn’t replicate that level of success again, that their partner would be frustrated and annoyed with them; breaking down the barriers to honesty and enabling them to see what they really wanted and needed to have the guts to do literally changed their whole life.

They even discovered the constant stomach troubles that plagued them disappeared too. That was a bonus they’d not expected! It takes guts to change lane and realise you were going the wrong way, don’t be hard on yourself and go it alone, who will you lean on to ensure you know you are doing the right thing and can help you to achieve it?

6. Know that floods will be ahead

Whether you are facing a road block, a diversion, blizzards or storms. On the journey to success, no one gets a clear ride all the time.

I know someone that lost their premises and they were devastated. They had put so much time, effort, money and life into their big ambition only to lose the premises that would bring it all beautifully to life.

As we worked together, you could see that that was so huge to them they could easily have given up and be knocked into a path of action that would never make them happy. Here’s what we did to help them keep going (and for the record they are now in far more awesome premises and one of the leading distributors for their company in the country!)

  1. Is this really what you want?
  2. What have you learned from this situation?
  3. What could you do? (Make this a massive long list of options, don’t narrow down to time restrictions, financial consideration, health implications or even skill set. At this stage, write every possible idea down for your brain to process and play with.)
  4. What do I know I can do to move forward?
  5. Who do I need to rely on?
  6. Who is my positivity and results vampire? (You know the person that says things like “I told you it wouldn’t work” and “it’s probably for the best” and “Maybe it just was never to be.” Keep negativity out of your life, it won’t help you.
  7. What is my plan of action?
  8. How will I know it is working?
  9. What time scale am I working to

1. Activate your body’s natural relaxation response with deep breathing

Any article or book about anxiety relief will tell you that one of the top methods for relieving anxiety is to focus on your breathing. Deep abdominal breathing activates your body’s natural relaxation response which helps alleviate anxiety.[1]

Here are some tips for how to breathe to trigger that response:

  • Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
  • Breathe in deeply until the hand that is on your stomach is higher than the hand that is on your chest.
  • Breathe in through your nose, breathe out through your mouth to a count of 8 to 10 seconds.
  • Repeat as necessary to reach a rate of 6 to 8 breaths per minute

2. Find your “happy place” by using visualization techniques.

Adam Sandler in Happy Gilmore, he was the hockey player turned golfer who couldn’t keep his anger in check until he learned a visualization technique to calm himself down.

Your anxiety may not have you ripping the heads off of clowns at a mini-golf course, but you can probably relate to the feeling.

When your anxiety strikes, use the following techniques to help you with visualization:[2]

  • Take a few slow, deep breaths to calm and center yourself.
  • Imagine you are in a place of your own creation where everything is exactly the way you want it.
  • Focus on having different senses in your happy place. Don’t just visualize a scene in your head, create the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches that come along with it and visualize them.
  • Stay in your scene for 5 to 10 minutes (or until you are relaxed).

3. Use mindfulness to center yourself in the here and now.

It has been said that depression is a symptom of someone who focuses too much on the past, whereas anxiety is a symptom of someone who focuses too much on the future. I don’t know how true that is, but I do know that many of the anxieties we face come from worrying about things that haven’t happened yet.

Much of our anxiety comes from a focus on something that doesn’t exist in the present moment. Bring yourself back to the present moment by using the 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique to acknowledge the following things around you:[3]

  • 5 things you can see
  • 4 things you can touch
  • 3 things you can hear
  • 2 things you can smell
  • 1 thing you can taste

By the time you are done, you will find yourself back in the present moment focusing on the here and now. This will relieve any anxiety that you have about future events.

4. Question your thoughts and stop believing what your anxiety is telling you.

One of the main things about anxiety is that it has little to do with what is in front of you. Often anxiety can be a result of things from our past that we haven’t resolved. So try the following method for relieving your anxiety:[4]

  • Find the deeper thing that is triggering your anxiety.
  • Realize the silliness of that thing.
  • Acknowledge the thought that is causing your anxiety.
  • Realize you are doing the best you can with what you have.
  • Release the thought and give yourself permission to see new possibilities in your life.

5. Practice radical acceptance via the paradoxical intention.

Viktor Frankl created what might have been the weirdest psychological solution ever: the paradoxical intention.[5] It’s rooted in the idea that trying to suppress a thought or feeling is only serving to make that thought or feeling stronger. So instead of resisting it, you actively strive to create more of that thought or feeling in your life.

It’s a “face your fears” kind of therapy and it’s been proven to be effective. I like to call it “leaning in.” Instead of resisting the thing you fear, try leaning in to it. Put your entire focus on the thing that is causing you anxiety, puff out your chest, and tell your anxiety to bring it on.

The beauty of this method is that it reduces anxiety by relieving you of the fear that your anxiety brings you. When you purposely make it bigger than it really is and you welcome your anxiety with open arms, it will dissipate. Hence, the paradox.

6. Turn your focus to meaningful activities that give you a deep sense of purpose.

While we are on the subject of Viktor Frankl, he actually created another form of therapy that is widely effective for anxiety relief. Frankl believed it was possible to turn suffering into achievement and accomplishment.

His method of logo-therapy has three main parts: dereflection (focus on other people), paradoxical intention (focus on the thing causing your anxiety), and Socratic dialogue (self-discovery through meaning-centered words).[6]

The point is to play with your anxiety to the point where it no longer is intimidating to you. Once you’ve done that, you open up your ability to choose what gives you meaning in life. When you turn your focus to the very purpose of your being, your anxiety and worry gets stripped away because you are truly engaged with the present moment.

So, find activities that give your life meaning. Some of them have big overarching meaning (like your job) and others give you purpose for a short period of time (such as a good book or puzzle).

7. Embrace daily meditation as a part of your life.

There are many proven benefits of daily mediation. Perhaps the greatest benefit is that you will gain control over your emotions (and experience anxiety relief). There is no major challenge to meditation.

The aims of effective meditation are the following things:

  • A quiet place free from distraction.
  • Strong focus on your breathing.
  • Clearing your mind of distracting thoughts.

If you can achieve those three things, then you’ll reap the benefits of meditation.

If you struggle with clearing your mind, remember that you shouldn’t resist distracting thoughts. Acknowledge them as they arise and then bring your focus back to your breathing.

8. Create a regular exercise routine and stick to it.

Benefits of regular exercise include: lower stress hormones in your body, improved quality of sleep, and higher confidence.

Exercise has also been proven to increase endorphins in your brain which make you feel good.[7]

The key is to make it regular enough to be beneficial without overloading yourself. If you decide you’re going to exercise 7 days a week, you’re going to find that is an impossible goal. Something will eventually come along and knock you off your rhythm and you will feel guilty.

Set a goal to exercise three days a week for an hour each session. That’s frequent enough to make a significant impact without disrupting your life too much in the process.

9. Reduce intake of known anxiety triggers such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol.

Sadly, some of life’s greatest pleasures can also be huge triggers for anxiety.[8] Other common triggers include negative self talk, poor sleeping habits, stress and fear of failure.

As an anxious person, your goal is to try to remove or manage these triggers as much as possible. This doesn’t mean you have to live like a monk in some monastery somewhere. You’re here to live, so live your life to the fullest.

The key is to understand what triggers your anxiety so that you can find ways to manage it. If you know yourself and how you react to certain things, you can make a plan for how to best reduce your anxiety when you experience those things. But, at the end of the day, things like caffeine and nicotine are actually causing much of the anxiety you feel. So try to avoid them whenever possible.

10. Write or talk about your anxiety.

Keep a journal that you can reference when you need it. If you’re not a writer, then get a portable recording device and talk into it.

One humorous method that I use to manage anxiety is what I call the “man in the chair” method.

I’ll pretend like the FBI or some government official is tasked with listening to my life through my phone. So, I pretend to have a conversation with that person about my issues.

I know it’s silly (which helps relieve anxiety through humor) and totally crazy, but there’s an intangible benefit for imagining that somebody is listening to your thoughts. You speak more freely and you tend to put your thoughts down in a way that distances you from them. That distance will create anxiety relief.

11. Create strong connections with people.

One study found that women, in particular, benefit from from spending time with friends and children.[9] The benefits come from a release of Oxycontin which happens when spending time with people you care about.

Another study found that the men and women with the fewest social support often suffer the most with anxiety and depression.[10]

Often our mental illnesses drive us to do the opposite of what we need to do to manage them. Anxiety can make a person pull away from people.

But no person is an island, and you need to try to make connections with at least one other person. Don’t let your anxiety pull you away from people.

12. Find ways to bring more laughter and amusement into your life.

An interesting study done among people with cancer found that people who were in the laughter intervention group actually experienced a decrease in stress.[11] Even crazier was that laughter also increased disease resistance within cells.

So, the old proverb “laughter doth good like a medicine” is actually scientifically true.

When in the throws of anxiety, you can find relief by watching a stand up comedy special or a funny TV show.

Better yet, buy tickets and physically go see a stand up comic with a friend. Laughter is a great medicine, but laughter among friends is the cure to many of life’s ills.

13. Listen to soothing music.

A study on the effects of music on the human stress response found that listening to music can initiate faster recovery in the autonomic nervous system and the endocrine and psychological stress response.[12] That’s a fancy science way of saying that music is a great form of anxiety relief.

People’s tastes in music are vastly different. What one person might find soothing might not have the same effect on you. This is one of those cases where you have to know yourself and what you find relaxing.

Conclusion

If you’ve noticed, this article focused less on the “tips and tricks” side of anxiety relief and more on lifestyle changes. Because a person with chronic anxiety knows that in order to manage anxiety and stress, you have to find new ways of living and coping.

You build your lifestyle to help you reduce triggers, calm yourself when anxiety hits, and snap back quickly when it hits you.

So make it your goal to create a lifestyle that helps you do that. This is your life. Isn’t it time you found the freedom you’ve been looking for?

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