If you want to put your success on the fast track, study what has worked for people who've come before you. Find someone you admire or someone who's doing what you'd like to be doing, and start your research.
What steps did that person take? What are some of the roadblocks or setbacks that person encountered, and how can you avoid those? It's not about becoming a copycat; it's about saving time by learning from others and gathering up the clues that success leaves behind. You don't have to learn everything the hard way.
I wish I learned some big life lessons faster, because once I did, life became extraordinarily better. Save yourself some time and agony by discovering these five things:
1. There's power in living alone.
After college, I moved from upstate New York to Ohio. After Ohio I moved to Texas. It might sound brave to move to different states, but I did it the wimpy way — via boyfriends.
When I finally moved out from the place I'd been living with my boyfriend in Dallas and into my own apartment, I was overcome with a sense of freedom. As soon as I had the keys (before my furniture was moved in), I slept on the floor in my empty apartment because it felt so good. I stopped appeasing my fear of abandonment with a relationship that didn't work, and faced my fear of going it alone.
The fear quickly vaporized and turned into this incredible sense of empowerment. My advice to every person exiting college is this: Live alone before you do anything else. You'll learn so much about yourself.
2. If you want something external to change, work on the internal.
Your external life is often a reflection of how much work you need to do internally. Your relationships, health, finances, career can all improve when you work on yourself. As I went through the process of talk therapy from a damaging childhood, I watched every aspect of my life get better. Progress didn't come overnight, but as I worked through some issues and gained new insights, everything improved.
3. There is freedom in taking 100 percent accountability and responsibility for your life.
I deeply believe we are the total of all of our choices. I know a lot of people who are convinced that their life has to be a certain way because it's always been a certain way, and I want to shout and jump up and down and tell those people that they can change their lives if they just take ownership of their lives. Every decision you make has power in it to rewrite the script of your life. Own your own life and your power to improve your story.
4. You don't need to be in a relationship to be happy.
Finding "the one" was always on top of my life goals list, but what I didn't get is that it can't happen when I'm not happy. There's a ton of dating advice out there to find "the one," but the best advice boils down to this little tidbit: Be happy on your own first. If you have more emotional work to do on yourself, you'll choose the wrong person to date — or marry. When you work, your relationships will work. Today I'm married to the one, but I didn't find him until I was truly happy on my own first.
5. You can completely change your life.
One time, when I felt like many things in my life were going in the wrong direction, I made two lists. One was titled: What My Life Looks Like Now and the second was: What I Want My Life to Look Like. After I made my two lists, I realized how much I wanted to change in almost every category of my life. I wrote down the action steps I'd need to take to move in the direction of my ideal life. Once I started making changes and decisions (in serious action mode) I couldn't believe how fast my life improved.
Today I am happily married with twin daughters, and my new life barely resembles my old life — and that's a good thing. If you don't like what your life looks like now, realize you have the power to change it all. Your new life starts with the decisions you're willing to make today.