Strengthen Yourself for Real Success and Happiness

Strengthen yourself.

Strengthen yourself.

“How do people fool themselves when they’re trying to be successful?” my friend Nadia asked.

“That’s a loaded question. Still, I’ll respond. It’s foolish to let yourself fall into ‘tunnel-vision.’ Instead, you take care of the real business of living a strong life. You face the realities of living on an extraordinary path,” I replied.

Oprah Winfrey said, “With every experience, you alone are painting your own canvas, thought by thought, choice by choice.”

I invite you to consider your choice related to your WHOLE life. Many of us are making good choices for business, but we’re allowing ourselves (body, mind and soul) to teeter on the edge of burnout and disaster.

We’ll now pay close attention by focusing on The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by author Bronnie Ware:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Special Note: This blog article addresses two vital things: free-floating anxiety and “free-floating emptiness.”

Free-floating anxiety is defined as “a vague, uneasy feeling of discomfort or dread, accompanied by an autonomic response (the source often nonspecific or unknown to the individual); a feeling of apprehension caused by anticipation of danger.” (

“Free-floating emptiness” is a term I’ve coined to refer to a vague, uneasy feeling of discomfort, restlessness and sadness. The person may have the outside signs of success and happiness (large income, big house, family, friends) but the person feels on the edge of burnout.

For both the anxiety and emptiness that I describe above, the focus point is “vague.” If you feel some version of anxiety and emptiness, avoid just “letting it be.” It’s better to face the reality of your discomfort. And the below ideas and methods can be helpful. (Also, you might consider working with a mental health professional.) Now, I’ll share a few ideas related to the “Five Regrets”:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

Many of us find ourselves living in some kind of “box.” Sure, your current box may have gold-trimmings—or not.

I work with several clients who are extremely goal-oriented. Goals can be helpful. Still, you can get all the big goals done and feel empty.

Whose goals are you fulfilling, anyway?

My clients have found it helpful to divide goals into these categories:

Golden Pull Goals – These are goals that are “shiny” – they pull you forward to a better future.

Dark Boot Goals – These are goals concerned with avoiding pain (the dark boot hitting one in the rear).

Green Tranquility Goals – These are focus points/activities that one does to strengthen one’s being. Some examples include: daily quiet time/meditation, exercise, good nutrition and enough renewing sleep.

I’ve learned that only having a “future-focus” with Golden Pull Goals can get one to experience life way out of balance. If you have no time for Green Tranquility Goals and daily peace and happiness, you’re living in an unsustainable way. Instead, focus on doing that which strengthens you.

Now it’s your turn. What will you add or subtract from your daily life so you’re sure that you living a life true to yourself?

  1. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

Does “working hard” mean “too many hours at work and too few hours with family”?

Does it mean working at a job that does not connect with your true talents and interests? If you hate your daily work-life, you are working too hard.

Here’s another point: Is working to hard referring to one giving all of one’s energy at the office and just having a few dregs for family members?

Author Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) wrote about leaving the office at 5:30 pm and having dinner with her children and husband (who later passed away at 47 years old).

Now it’s your turn. What is our self-assessment about your own work? Do you say (even just to yourself) that you’re working too hard? Do you want to adjust your schedule so you make more time and space for what means the most to you?


  1. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Some of us do not express certain feelings because we do not want to rock the boat—perhaps, at home.

Some of us run from our home life and find refuge at work where we’re in our element. Years ago, author and speaker Roger Mellot talked about how, if you take a test pilot and stick him in a day care center, he might just fall apart.

What’s the solution? First, realize that you might need help. We may be good at something but training is required to be good at something else.

A test pilot gets trained. Why? Because when people are under stress they fall back on their training.

It may seem strange, but a test pilot might need some form of training to “survive” a day at home with the kids.

It’s good to practice – yes, even rehearse – how you effectively share your feelings.

The classic way is to use “I” statements. For example, one could say, “This is not working for me. When I’m talking about my day, I just want to vent for a while. So please hold off on the suggestions. Until I ask for a comment. When you just listen, then I feel loved.”

Often, we regret missing opportunities to express our love to our loved ones.

It helps to practice (and then later tell the loved one):

  • “You did a great job doing ______. I really appreciate it.”
  • “You’re important to me. I love you.”
  • “I care about you. Okay, I’m upset at the moment. I expect I’ll be forgiving you … when I can.”

[Special Note: This last example may feel strange to a number of people. But imagine if one could assure one’s partner that you still care about them even when you’re upset.]

Now it’s your turn. What feelings have you been holding back? Do you need to practice saying things related to your feelings in non-threatening ways? How will you get help? Will you work with a coach or therapist?


  1. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

How often do you see friends who are important to you? When it comes to friendships, I’m in favor of being selective. After years of experience, I’ve learned:

Some friendships are novels.
Some friendships are short stories.
Some friendships are a sentence. Put a period on that and get away!

My point here is consider devoting more time with those certain friends who lift you up and do NOT drain your energy.

Now it’s your turn. Which friends actually support you and lift your mood? Will you get your calendar out and call some friends and set up get-togethers now?


  1. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

The topic of happiness is a deep one and in some ways, it’s a complex area to focus on.

Let’s begin. We can break down “let myself be happier” into:

a) Devote energy and time to those parts of life that bring me happiness
b) Shift my daily habits so I can have happy moments often

a) Devote energy and time to those parts of life that bring me happiness

Some people put their own happiness as last on the list. So what happens? Nothing. They do not get around to having happy moments.

A couple of times, I’ve asked certain clients: “Are you numb?” Numb is close to “death.” It’s certainly not “feeling fully alive.”

Sometimes, it’s true that going directly for happiness does not work.

“Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Still, we can be kind to ourselves. Consider treating yourself like you are your own best friend. Some actions do lead to more peace and enjoyment.

What works for you? Listening to good music? Having a good run? Assembling a puzzle with your child?

Now it’s your turn. What are some things can you do on a daily basis to give yourself access to good experiences and happy moments?

b) Shift my daily habits so I can have happy moments more often

What does it take for you to enjoy a happy moment? If your reflex is to say something like “I’ll be happy when our client Kervin is _____” then you have a problem. Why? Because you seem to postpone happiness.

A number of people have found it quite helpful to learn to have a happy moment with “little things.”

I have a habit of saying, “I’m grateful for every blessing.”

Furthermore, I learned a method from author Chade-Meng Tan. He said, “You decided to attend this workshop. You got into your car and now you’re here. Did you say, ‘I’m so happy!’”?

So the idea is to take a moment and say something like: “I wanted to read this blog article. I’m reading it. I’M SO HAPPY!”

(I admit it. Just saying that silly thing gets me to smile and sometimes even laugh!)

Now it’s your turn. What will you do to make space to enjoy little moments each day?

*  *  *  *  *  *

Let’s face the truth. We’re not standing still. We’re either getting stronger and better — or we’re starting to drift away from healthy living.

You CAN design your life as one of success and happiness.



Tom Marcoux
CEO (leading teams in United Kingdom, India and USA)

Speaker-author of 40 books (with free chapters on )
Executive Coach
Spoken Word Strategist
Author of Time Management Secrets the Rich Won’t Tell You (See more when you CLICK HERE )
1.8 min. video (on YouTube): Tom Marcoux pulls back the curtain about how his directing a feature film that went to Cannes Film market helps with “Building Your Brand”:
Author of Connect: High Trust Communication for Your Success in Business and Life (See more when you CLICK HERE )
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