Success is a complex thing. A lot of people boil down success to money and status, but I believe that true success is much more holistic than that. It’s possible to have all the money and fame in the world and still be miserable. In fact, this is where a lot of people find themselves – wealthy and unfulfilled. In order to truly be successful, you need to successfully navigate a number of principles in multiple, crucialareas of living. I call these areas the Pillars of Life.
When I was homeless, I thought that if only I were making some money, I’d be happy. Then when I started making money, I thought I needed more. When I started making more, I figured I needed marriage to finally be satisfied. Once I got married, it was unhealthy, and I was worse off than before. Meanwhile, I was making more money but growing less and less free. After years of struggling through this cycle, I finally realized that I’d oversimplified success. As a result, I wasn’t able to truly enjoy my life.
My hope is that my sharing the Pillars of Life will help you avoid the trap I fell into. I’ll share each one and give you pointers on how to make each key area healthy.
The Pillars of Life
By my count, there are 8 Pillars of Life. In no particular order, they are:
- Personal Development
As we walk through each pillar of life in this post, I encourage you to grade each one in your life on a scale of 1-10. Your lowest scores should probably be the pillars you focus on first. I recommend working on no more than two at a time until the habits become routine.
The Physical Pillar
Your physical pillar is your bodily health. Some would argue this is the most important pillar of life, as it’s difficult to be healthy in almost any of the others without it.
I remember seeing my mentor, Steve Myrick, a few weeks before he passed away. Steve was a great man and entrepreneur who experienced a high level of financial success. The last time I saw him, he was in a hospital bed covered in tubes. My father, who was with me praised Steve out loud for all he had accomplished in his life. That’s when Steve beckoned us both to come close. When we did, he whispered, “What good are my accomplishments if I don’t have my health?”
If you’re reading this, I urge you not to take your physical health lightly. Even if you’re young and have no obvious health problems, start treating your body well now. Here are some tips for your Physical Pillar:
- Eat lots of vegetables, particularly superfoods like kale and broccoli
- Increase fiber in your diet. An easy way is to eat more nuts and seeds
- Buy organic foods when you can
- Consult your doctor about taking vitamin supplements
- Exercise every day if possible, even if just a little
- Quit tobacco
- Drink less alcohol, or quit altogether
- Reduce sugar intake
The Emotional Pillar
Despite being one of the most neglected, your emotional health is extremely important in the pillars of life. How you think determines your actions, and what you think is driven by your emotions. If you find yourself dismissing this pillar or rolling your eyes at it, be careful. It probably means it should be a particularly high priority for you.
Here are some ways to increase your emotional pillar:
- Practice meditation and deep breathing
- Start journaling your rawest thoughts
- Consider consulting a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or therapist
- Take our Emotional Intelligence test and increase in self-awareness
The Spiritual Pillar
If there’s a pillar of life more neglected than the emotional pillar, it’s the spiritual pillar. Our society is extremely materialistic, so we have a low value for the pursuit of deeper revelation, meaning, and purpose. And we wonder why so many of us feel purposeless and without direction!
I’m not here to evangelize a particular religion or spirituality, at least not in this post. However, I will say that you will not find purpose, fulfillment, or meaning if you don’t seek answers on the divine and the intangible. Until you commit yourself to something eternal, you won’t understand your highest purpose.
For those of you who want to start working on this pillar, here’s some tips I’d recommend:
- Read the thoughts of the great theologians and philosophers
- Research different religions, particularly the “great” and ancient ones like Christianity, Judaism, and Islam
- Study the great texts like the Odyssey, The Bible, the Quran, and the Bhagavad Gita. Take note of what resonates with you.
- Network with local churches and religious organizations
The Relational Pillar
Life sucks without healthy relationships. Here I don’t just mean romantic, though that is important. I’m talking about all of the relationships that one should have: family, close friends, a network, etc. Relationships are crucial in the Pillars of Life.
There’s so much to say about finding the right relationships and stewarding those with skill and care. Check out my eBook, The 7 Relationships You Must Have to Win at Life, for more of my thoughts on how to strengthen this pillar effectively.
The Personal Development Pillar
One could, I suppose, boil down all the pillars of life into the personal development pillar, since ultimately you increase the strength of each one by taking responsibility for yourself there. However, when I talk about the personal development pillar, I mean fostering a mindset that is dedicated to personal growth. This is often called the growth mindset, which sees life as a journey of learning more than a race to any particular outcome.
Does that sound cheesy? I thought so too, once. But I’ve found that this way of thinking has a profound effect on my mood, momentum, and overall effectiveness. When you aren’t afraid of not achieving a particular goal, you become curious and feel free to enjoy the journey. Getting to this place takes self-acceptance and self-appreciation. Ironically, punishing yourself mentally for bad behavior will take you further away from who you really want to be. For more on this pillar, check out my post on the rigid mindset, which elaborates on how to break into the growth mindset.
The Professional Pillar
Some people equate this with financial success, but I separate them on purpose. I believe that professional success isn’t actually about climbing a ladder or hitting a financial goal. It’s about doing what you were made to do for a living and loving what you do.
Developing this pillar really comes down to alignment with the right goal. You want to get started on a career path with as much overlap with both your passions and natural skillsets as possible.
If you’re not sure you’re on the right path, I recommend committing 5-10 hours per week to exploring what you would really like to do. Don’t focus on practicality or on how far away you think you might be from that. Be open-minded, curious, and committed to discovering whatever that is. Once you feel you have an idea, commit the same amount of time each week (or more) to moving towards it.
The Financial Pillar
Money isn’t everything, but it is important. You need to support yourself and pay your bills. Not only that, but money brings opportunity to invest, increase your other pillars, and make an impact.
If you’re not killing it financially, that’s ok. The most important thing is to not run out of cash, stay out of debt, and make investments consistent with strengthening your pillars of life. The stronger all your other pillars are up to this point, the better off this pillar is likely to be. It’s possible to skip the others and focus solely on this one, and if this is the weak link, that’s probably the right call. However, this is the first one most people jump for, and many of those people are not necessarily correct.
The Impact Pillar
The highest strength in the impact pillar is ultimately the result of successfully weaving all the other pillars of life together. That said, don’t put off serving others and giving back until you’ve made your millions. If you don’t sacrifice for others now, do you really think you will later? If you feel powerless to make an impact right now, you need to think again. Find causes that you care about and support them. Volunteer your time, your money, or both. The most meaningful and successful lives are lived for others, not for yourself.
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