If you’ve read my about page, you know that my whole ‘self improvement’ journey began when I stole a book from a public library many years ago. (Well, I just never returned it)
I still have the book. Here is a pic with the library card. I have blacked out the library stamp for obvious reasons. I imagine the late fees on this would be eye-watering at this point! (Note: I would never steal anything. I wouldn’t even dream of it today)
Here’s What Happened…
I was 19 years old living in the US (I’m Irish by the way, and live in Ireland now) alone in a 1-bedroom apartment. No TV. No car. No money. So sometimes in my spare time I’d go to the local library to use the computers there to send some emails home and browse the interweb (remember this was before everyone had an internet connection at home, and way before smartphones).
So I go there one day and all the computers are taken. So I figured I’d walk around and take a look at those dusty old books (I had NO interest in reading when I was 19).
About 10 minutes into my aimless wandering, I spot a book called, ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’. Now apart from being a weird title for a book, I thought, “That’s almost exactly the same title as a rock album I used to listen to as a younger teenager”. That album was called ‘How to Make Friends and Influence People’ by Terrorvision. It looked like this…
So I was curious. “What the heck is that?!”, I thought. So I put my hand on the book to pull it out from among the others, and as I did, the book beside it fell onto the floor. I picked it up; it was called, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. As a 19 year-old, I had no idea books like this existed. “What sort of person reads stuff like this?”, I remember thinking.
Well, I had enough curiosity to check this book out and see what made effective people so darn effective.
I started reading it that day and got hooked. “This is kinda powerful, actually.”
I read that thing cover to cover (350 pages) in 2 days. Then I re-read it. I was due to go back to Ireland the following week and well…basically…I just never returned it to the library.
The Bottom Line
So here’s the deal: The message I took away from reading (and re-reading multiple times) was this…
We become what we think about. And I am a product of my choices, not my past, nor my environment.
Wow. What a difference from how I had been living my life up to that point. I had always thought that life was something that happened to me. Now I was being told that my life was truly up to me. Life didn’t happen to me, it responded to me.
My life was up to me and I always…always…in every case…had the ability to choose my response to a given situation. If I didn’t, and simply reacted automatically, I was behaving no better than an animal, who are ‘stimulus-response’ creatures with no conscious ability to choose differently. Covey calls this the Reactive Model.
In contrast, there is the Proactive Model. There is a gap between stimulus and response where we take conscious responsibility for our lives. “Response-ability” – the ability to choose our response.
I talk about all of this in step 1 (of 3 steps) of my free ‘Simple Happiness’ ebook. It is aimed at improving your levels of well-being in 7 days. I think you’ll like it. You can download it now by clicking here .
Going from the reactive mindset to the proactive mindset is Habit 1 of 7 in Covey’s book. Covering all 7 is beyond the scope of this article. But this first step was the trigger to changing my mentality.
As I say on my quotes page, “The way you change your life is by taking control of your mind. Everything follows from that”.The way you take control of your life is by taking control of your mind ~ Mark McManus Click To Tweet
So did I change overnight? Certainly not. I was 19. I came home to Ireland and soon forgot anything I had learned. I drank, partied, and did dumb stuff for a few years until my daughter came along when I was just 22.
My little girl is the love of my life. No-one else comes close. So I stopped drinking (except special occasions) and by 25 I started reading Personal Development material again and set some pretty outrageous goals.
So what were these outrageous goals that I set?
- I wanted to “retire” before I was 30
- I wanted a body like you’d see on the cover of Men’s Health
- I wanted to have good relationships with the people in my life
- I wanted to be happy. Real, inner happiness
I’m very pleased and thankful to say that I achieved all my goals (I actually “retired” from my desk job at 28 years old and have been a pro-blogger at my MuscleHack.com fitness site since then).
How goals are achieved and how real happiness is cultivated will be the subject of many future HappyHack posts, videos, podcasts, and so on. This is only the second article (first is here). You can subscribe to my list for future updates by clicking here , and please follow me on social media for much much more (buttons to my profiles are below).
But in short, I want to tell you that you will astound yourself the minute you make a definite decision about what you want and absolutely commit to making it happen.There is tremendous power in a 'made-up' mind ~ Mark McManus Click To Tweet
Where Are You?
So that’s where it all started for me. A random book falling on the floor because the book next to it had an odd name.
So where are you in your life? Do you feel in control? Are you happy? Have you started this journey of personal growth? Would you like to start?
I’d love to know if anyone else out there has a similar story to share.
Talk to me 🙂