Humans are a tribal species. We form alliances, align ourselves along ethnic, familial, religious, and cultural lines. Still, for the vast majority of people, “tribal” carries a negative connotation. Bitter partisan politics, ethnic genocides, religious wars, and the long history of bigotry make that connotation almost unavoidable. But I don’t think tribal in its true essence is all bad. The basic instinct to form and belong to groups is a simple fact of human physiology. It’s how we work, so we’d better make it work for us.
We’re almost halfway through the year. History is accelerating. New advances, technology, scientific findings, and social changes are occurring faster than ever before. There’s never any time like the present, but these days it feels like the present is slipping away at an exponential rate. This is no time to be resting on your laurels, biding your time, or waiting to see what happens. It’s time to act. It’s time to make the changes you’ve been mulling over, the ones you know in your heart are the right moves to make.
To help you on your way, I’ve put together a 30-day action plan for the month of June. No one has to follow this to the letter, or even at all, but use it as a template or inspiration. Wake up on June 12 swelling with energy and unsure how to direct it? Check out the action plan. Feeling a bit lazy on June 19? See what the action plan recommends; it may resonate.
Let’s get right to it:
“Gratitude, with a capital G. The word should resonate as holy (which has the same root as healthy, and means whole), for without it, boredom prevails. With it, you acknowledge and appreciate life’s gifts. This embodiment extends beyond your attitude to become an actual personality trait, a stress management took, an an overall way of life. You live in gratitude because you are here today—appreciative of the lessons and journey of your past, however imperfect—for no other particular reason or caveat. And you remain in gratitude through the daily struggles that give meaning and richness to your life.
Living life on your own terms isn’t just a quaint turn of phrase. It has huge effects on your health. A large body of research shows that the less control you think you have over your life, the higher your mortality risk. That persists even when you control for other health variables and biomarkers. It’s even true for animals. Self-agency—or even the illusion of it—appears to be a requirement for healthy, happy aging.
And unlike some of the characteristics shared by centenarians, like good genes, control is malleable. You can’t change the structure of your DNA. You can, however, wrest control over your own life. Despite whatever challenges present themselves, you get to decide what purpose you contribute to each day.
They say it’s the little things, and maybe it is. Success isn’t honestly built by daily yearning for a dramatic goal after all. It’s constructed by the small wins we plot along the way. Teresa Amabile, author and Professor at the Harvard Business School, calls this the “progress principle.” Amabile and her associates studied employees’ daily diaries that her team designed. They found the efforts of tracking small achievements each day (as well as reflecting on challenges) enhanced workers’ motivation as well as creativity. The chance to consider and record one’s progress, she explains, helps us appreciate our “small wins” and boosts our sense of competence. We can then “leverage” that confidence (as well as lessons learned from the reflection) toward subsequent, larger successes. Amabile stresses there’s always some progress to recognize in a day, even on the most challenging or discouraging days.
The fact is, life teaches us. I’m not talking just about the collection of data—more information gathered, more studies skimmed. I mean the self-knowledge acquired, sometimes through hard-won means as well as the priorities that have come into focus over time. It’s often about the lessons learned through a variety of epic mistakes and frustrating dead-ends. Beyond the neat world of “good life” theory exists the full dimensional backdrop of living feedback.
Still, I wonder what it would mean if we could take certain viewpoints on faith earlier in our lives. Maybe we do once in a while. While you think on how that’s worked in your own life, let me throw out a few pieces of retrospective truths I’ve found or friends and clients have shared over the years.