Positive attitude. Hard Work. Will Power. Focus.
All these are pretty important in living a good life, right? Well, maybe. Maybe not.
What if I told you that there is a missing piece to the puzzle? Something in the absence of which, these concepts may actually work against you rather than for you.
Here's an interesting incident from the movie "Jobs" based on Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple.
Steve's co-worker was constructing the circuit board for personal computer. Steve noticed that the components on the board had a disorganized look. When he pointed this out to his friend, he replied, "The appearance is not important. What is important is that the board should work and make the computer run. The look does not matter." To this Steve replied, "It matters to me."
If there's anything that Apple has proved, it is that "design matters".
So the question remains, what makes you unique?
Here is a short list of influential peoples of the world and what made them unique.
Mother Teresa – service to others.
Thomas Alva Edison "“ Persistence (10000 failed light bulb experiments).
MK Gandhi – Alignment with truth and non-violence.
Albert Einstein "“ Imagination (thought experiments).
Do you see what makes these people unique? In each of the case above, you can find at least a single idea that was really important to them.
In order to find your own uniqueness, you need to dig deeper into yourself.
What is important to you?
You are unique because of all the things you care about. The principles and ideas that make sense to you and feel right. And you want live in harmony with them.
Steve cared about design. And that is what makes Apple devices unique.
When you live in harmony with the ideas that are important to you, you build a life on purpose. It feels naturally joyous because what you do is directly related to what you care about. There is no mismatch.
Taking the wrong path
If you are a regular reader of blogs like this one, you may often come across stories of people in the comment sections that run somewhat like this.
Completing their education from school and college, they settle down into a job. They go on to earn a good living but only to realize a decade later that they don't really care about the work. What they had been doing all along was based on external reasons (social patterns, family preferences etc) rather than their inner desires. They may be well positioned in terms of finance and stability but there appears to be a growing discontent.
Few brave souls set out to make things right and go on to realize that it is only when they do what truly matters to them, they find fulfilment and true joy. The ride may be rough initially but the new "meaning" to life is very rewarding and they go on to be happier than they ever were before. And this is what makes them unique.
The real underlying issue
In the book 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE, Stephen Covey explains how to solve problems at their root level. Suppose you're trying to find a place in a new city using a map. Now if you have a wrong map, your positive attitude no longer counts. In fact, the more positivity you put in, the faster you will arrive at the wrong destination. It is not about having positive attitude. It is about addressing the real underlying cause.
Getting the right map
Each time you feel something is missing, you may be tempted to work harder, think more positively etc. But that will get you nowhere. You will be like the person trying hard to find the place in the wrong map. The harder you try, the faster you fail.
The solution is to admit that you care about the board design and work to make it beautiful.
Focussing on what matters to you
Here are a few examples of how to act in harmony with what matters to you.
You prefer to be honest even when you can reap benefits by acting otherwise, because honesty matters to you.
You are happy to help a stranger even though there is nothing to be gained in return, because kindness is important to you.
You are willing to find means of self employment rather than look for a job because freedom matters to you.
You don't lose your temper because keeping cool is important to you.
A friend of mine recently described his vision for the life he wants.
"I don't want to take up a regular job. I want to live in the mountains with a river nearby. I wish to cultivate deep peace within myself, away from the hustle of the city. I'd love to work with small kids (be a teacher or something) and also learn from their natural tendency to live with joy."
Can you make out what is important to my friend?
Peace. Nature. Teaching small kids. Joy.
He is not the regular guy who works 10 to 6 at a job. He is the guy who lives in the mountain near the river and teaches the kids.
He is unique.
Cultivating your own uniqueness
Here's an exercise for you to get started.
Take a piece of paper and start jotting down all the ideas that matter to you. You can keep expanding your list in the future but you should be able to come up with at least ten things right now. It should go something like this.
Abundance, financial stability, happiness, travelling, truthfulness, courage (fighting fear), personal growth, eating delicious food, career based on true passion, dancing etc.
Pick out one idea that inspires you the most. Write down three actions that you can start taking right now to live in harmony with this idea.
For example, if you select to work on "courage", you could decide to introduce yourself to a stranger to fight your shy nature.
Take these actions each day for a week.
With each action you take, you'll get closer to the things that are important to you and make you unique.
If you live your life out of harmony with what you truly want, you end up getting lost in the crowd. Also, any success that you accomplish will feel shallow and unfulfilling.
Center your life around what truly matters to you and you will stand apart from the ordinary.