Let’s get started! Hi everyone, I’m Stephen and for the next 6 weeks I’ll be taking you through a programme designed to help you reset and kick-start 2021. If you haven’t seen the other videos in this playlist introducing the model and the course, I’d recommend doing that now to get a good idea of how best to approach the course.

Week 1

So, let’s get to work with week 1 and begin by taking stock and setting the foundation for the rest of the course.

Now, if you’re following this course, it’s probably safe to say that you’re looking to become more successful at some aspect of your life. And that’s a great start, but, before we dive in, let’s take a step back and define what ‘success’ means to you. 

The thing is, that if you do a quick Google search for ‘success’ you’ll be bombarded with images of people standing at the top of a mountain with their arms punching the air in triumph or business people with briefcases running up a staircase… 

The ‘successful person’ narrative can be really unhelpful when we’re looking to work on ourselves, and there are three main themes I’d like us to challenge when considering what a successful life is as part of this course. 

Firstly, the ‘successful person’ narrative is heavily career-focused; how to be the best and get to the top in your chosen field. The issue is that no one is on their death-bed, looking back over their life and regretting that they didn’t spend more time in the office (as you’ll see from these videos from centenarians). We’re going to look wider than work and look at becoming a successful human and not just a successful accountant, teacher or manager. 

Secondly, ‘success’ is often viewed as something that can be achieved. For most of us, outside of getting a certificate, or winning a trophy, life rarely provides us with an objective measure of how we’re doing. Often, instead we’re running on the hamster wheel chasing something that doesn’t exist as there is always more that can be done. The next promotion, a way to make more money, or gain more followers. Instead we’ll look at a successful life being one that is constantly a work in progress, we’ll learn, reassess and continue to aim for that balance. 

And finally, other people are defining success for us. While there are definitely lessons, insights and inspiration we can glean from others, defining success for ourselves leads to a more satisfying life.

So, if we’re not defining success by the stereotypical standards, how do we define it? How do you know if you’re successful? What does a successful life mean to you? It’s an important question to think about and something I struggled with for a while. When you don’t know what your view of a successful life is, how do you focus your time? You can end up making decisions reactively and get the balance completely wrong. So, we need to guide ourselves. 

Finding your pillars

About a year ago I discovered a clip of a commencement speech given by Matthew McConaughey that completely changed the way I think about success (if you have a spare 46 minutes, I’d recommend watching the full video).

About 11 minutes in, Matthew starts talking about how he measures his success in life by using five pillars (fatherhood, being a good husband, career, health and friendships). Every day, he’ll check-in to make sure that he’s not prioritising one pillar over the others too much; and if he is, he’ll take steps to correct it. As long as he’s putting time into all these pillars, in a balanced way, he knows he’s on the right track.

I’ve adopted the concept of pillars in my life and I love it for three reasons:

  1. You pick the list – It’s not an arbitrary list that someone else has come up with to tell you what success is. You pick the list and you can change it depending on your current priorities in life. And these can change – perhaps you get into a new relationship, start a new career, or have a child… then you update your pillars to reflect your new priorities at that time.
  2. It promotes balance in life – At times, it’s easy to get tunnel vision and focus all your energy on one thing, to the detriment of other aspects of your life (focussing too much on work or a relationship are common examples). But it’s important to have balance and to check in with yourself every now and then. So, if you’ve been focusing on your career too much recently, checking in with your pillars will highlight that you might need to take a step back and put time into being a good friend or partner.
  3. It gives you focus – Knowing your 5 pillars means that you make better decisions with your time. You use your pillars as a lens to help you organise your day and ensure you’re heading in the right direction.

Finding out what my pillars are at this point in my life (health (physical and mental), relationships, work, leisure/hobbies, and self-development) has been a huge help in prioritising my time and setting goals. I personally don’t check in every day like Matthew, but I’ve added it to my monthly check-in, which helps me when I’m setting my goals for the upcoming month.

So, our goal for this week is to identify what our pillars are. You don’t have to have exactly 5 but aim for 4-6. In the worksheet linked to this video, you’ll find some activities to help you define your initial pillars. And don’t worry about them being perfect the first time around – the whole idea is that we reassess every now and then. 

One of the key things I’m going to ask you to do is to schedule out time to focus on these exercises each week. I’d recommend at least 30-60 minutes for this initial exercise. If you have time straight after the video, great! Make yourself a cuppa, sit down in a comfy spot with a pen and paper and get ready to reflect. If you don’t have time now, then pull up your calendar and schedule time at some point this week to dedicate to this activity. 

By the time we get to week 2, you should have an idea of your pillars and, therefore, how you define success in your life. Share your progress and questions in the Discord Server or in the comments section. 

See you next week for week 2, where we’ll be looking at the next step of the ‘Direction’ module and looking towards identifying your current compass point.