Many people find that pursuing the societal image of success does not yield a sustained level of happiness. Wealth, relationships, and prestige, though temporarily satisfying, do not significantly elevate the experience of joy.
In his book, “The Second Mountain: The Quest For a Moral Life,” David Brooks explains that most people spend the first part of their adult lives climbing a metaphorical mountain of external achievement. Yet, as they reach career, relational, financial, and pleasure targets, it becomes clear that the culturally endorsed image of success does not proffer the promised satisfaction. Brooks suggests that disillusionment actually unveils a second, more rewarding mountain to be scaled, that of an inspired life.
The following practices serve as a guide to help you navigate the unfamiliar terrain of your second mountain. These practices invite you to move beyond external markers of accomplishment to the core of personal meaning, empirical engagement, and intentional action.
Prioritize Daily Inspiration
Inspired people share a trio of qualities: positivity, power, and purpose. Yet, inspiration is not an experience that spontaneously occurs. Rather, it needs to be cultivated on a daily basis.
One of the easiest ways to hone an inspired outlook is by reading content that encourages, influences, or motivates you. It makes no difference whether you peruse the words of spiritual teachers, historical leaders, or contemporary comedians as long as the material connects your awareness to a field of greater possibilities.
Set aside at least 20 minutes each day to elevate your level of inspiration by reading a book or article that captures your interest and awakens your higher self.
Align With Your Core Strengths
An inspired life begins with uncovering your true self, the one that lies beneath societal, cultural, and familial imprints which have influenced your life choices. Since character strengths are often considered to be a reflection of the true self, understanding your intrinsic strengths and intentionally integrating them into your day can greatly boost your sense of wellbeing.
A free strengths assessment can be found at authentic happiness.org. Once you have identified your top five strengths, create a specific, measurable plan to utilize at least one of each day. For example, if you discover that love of learning ranks high on your strengths profile, you may decide to begin a language program, take up a new instrument, or keep a log of interesting things that you learn each day.
If spirituality is one of your gifts, including mediation, prayer, and mindfulness in your day will yield optimal satisfaction. Once you identify your strengths, make a list of ways that you can incorporate them each day.
Listen To Your Higher Self
Your higher self goes by many names: soul, spirit, guide, guru, and consciousness. Whatever you call the nonmaterial aspect of your being, it is always communicating with you. Yet, its voice is often difficult to distinguish among the many competing voices in your head. In order to live a life of wonder, you must learn how to tune into the guiding energy of your own conscience.
A helpful practice is to sit quietly, calm the breath, and focus your mind in the present moment. Having settled into a space of equanimity, ask yourself, “What do I love?” The higher self always comes from an energy of love. By asking yourself what you love, you can bypass the mind and tap directly into the heart, which is the seat of the soul. Take the time to listen and journal on ideas that arise. Other helpful questions to ask include:
- When do I display the most loving version of myself?
- How do I share love with others?
- What activities connect me to a state of love?
Once you begin to recognize the voice of your higher self, you will be able to access its wisdom in daily activities and decisions.
Develop Your Passions
Inspiration stems from passion and joy. Conversely, desperation stems from fear and insecurity. Like energies are attracted to one another. By allowing enthusiasm to drive your choices, you will find that your life automatically becomes more joyful.
To connect with your passion, pay attention to what motivates you. What do you love to do without feeling compelled? Do you enjoy writing, socializing, teaching, singing, or playing with your dog? Make a list of activities that delight you. What topics spark your interest? Do you relish learning about health, astronomy, gardening, etc? Add these to your list. Plan each day in a way that intentionally includes activities which ignite your passion.
Cultivate Your Purpose
As your passions develop, they can be funneled into a higher purpose. Purpose utilizes passions in a way that serves the greater good. Where passion lights your fire, purpose keeps it going. Ruminating on the following questions can help you define your purpose:
- Why is it so easy for me to do [fill in the blank] when others struggle with it?
- Why do certain issues capture my interest while others do not?
- How can I use my talents and interests in service to humanity?
Exploring your passions and allowing them to organically navigate purpose opens the door to an intentional, enthusiastic, powerful, and inspired life.
Allowing inspiration to guide your life inevitably empowers the best version of yourself to come forward and act as a dynamic force for good in the world. Interestingly, the paragons of success sought by our culture manifest with relative ease as you distinguish the voice of conscience, tap into your strengths, and live from your authentic self. This year, resolve to discover the joy of an inspired life.