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The 10 Essential Keys To The Life You Want


1- Love is an action, not a feeling.

It would be convenient to go about life under the impression that love is ultimately that welling-up of passion in our chest, or “butterflies in the stomach.” We would all like to think that “love” is that vibrant rush of energy we get as we kiss our boyfriend or girlfriend. There is nothing more gratifying than the feeling of being wanted, appreciated and sought out.

But these sentiments and experiences could not be further from the open-eyed truth of what love is. For these are all experiences that allow us to remain in the well-enclosed bubble of our comfort. When we are the recipient of someone else’s generosity and interest, we do not have to leave the territory of our complacence.

It is a different choice entirely to step out of our boundaries and make a sacrifice for a truly loved one. For a man to commit to a woman whose physical appearance is marvelous is surely a wondrous enchantment. But for that man to still be present in his commitment five and ten years down the road is the mark of an authentic man, and a true lover.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal.

Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

To love is to be vulnerable.”

– C.S. Lewis

To love is to be vulnerable. - C.S. Lewis Click To Tweet

“Despite what popular culture claims, love isn’t just a bundle of sentiments. Love is, rather, the willingness to endure all sorts of difficulty, hardship, tedium, disappointments, and setbacks for the sake of someone else’s happiness and welfare.

Love is another word for sacrifice and responsibility. Love is the greatest thing in life.

In many ways, love is life.”

– James B. Stenson, ‘To Be a Man’

Love is the greatest thing in life. - James Stenson Click To Tweet


2- Having a relationship is not about what you get, but about what you give.

We find someone who we consider ourselves to be “crazy” for, and we are all too eager to jump into a relationship with them, for what will instantaneously benefit us. Our mentality regarding the individual we are now paired with resembles that of a purchase more than a promise.

Now, it is not necessary to go about making promises left and right in order to sustain a satisfying and genuine relationship. In fact, one is probably better off only making promises that have no shadow of a doubt in regards to fulfillment.

It is only fair to step into a relationship if you legitimately have the desire to know someone better, and, if the relationship goes well, to marry that person. There is not a single person on this Earth who enjoys being strung along with the “back-burner intent” of a relationship.

In a true relationship, both individuals commit 100%. Not 50%, not 90%, not even 99%. A relationship is with both feet in, or else you must have the courage to walk out.

When you do enter a relationship, do not expect it to be a type of vending machine where if you submit the right token and press the right buttons, that you will receive your desired outcome or “product.”

A relationship is not a transaction; it is a mutually beneficial partnership. Two people committing to one another cannot conduct themselves with one person granting every behest of the other. It is a conscious and endless effort of both individuals’ personal sacrifice towards the other.


3- The career journey you are on is not about arriving at the top of the mountain and simply camping out there. It is about the person you become along the journey.

Your career is about the person you become along your journey. Click To Tweet

I am guilty of these wrong thoughts myself. It is a very tease-worthy and accessible thought to think that success in business and one’s own career is simply a matter of  climbing to the top. Once you arrive at the top, it is very tempting to “cash out,” stop learning and essentially only surround yourself with those you care about most.

But the destination means nothing without the journey. If there is no sacrifice to be made, there is no triumph to be gained. The point of striving towards high goals is so that the daily disciplines of reaching those goals chisel you into who you wanted to be in the first place. Deep down, whether we know it or not, the factor that makes accomplishment so satisfactory and powerful is not actually making the sacrifice. It is growing into the version of yourself that is able to surmount the sacrifice.

The mountain you are scaling is not about reaching the summit; it is about the transformation you are undergoing to become a mountain climber.


4- Money is not a means unto its own end. Money is meant for investing in other areas of your life that give back to you in transcendental ways.

Receiving a lot of money gives us that thrill of wanting to spend it all immediately on pleasurable ends. But coming into the possession of a surprise $1000 is like winning free chocolate shakes for a month. It is all about how you spend it.

Use the financial means you have to create a firmer foundation for yourself and those you love, by spending it on resources and material goods that give back. Forming a healthy diet, having adequate and appropriate clothing, and a solid roof over your head are simple but critical places to start. Do not buy things with money you do not have, and with the money you do have left over at the end, give to others in need. Giving is a gift in and of itself – you can mark my word.

Giving is a gift in and of itself. Click To Tweet

It is lovely to be able to spend an amount of cash on oneself for pleasure and leisure’s sake, but when the moment is gone and the next day arrives, you will be back at square one.

If you are blessed to have a high level of financial stability, that is an absolutely tremendous thing. It is up to you to spend and invest wisely.

If you are someone who is still striving towards a higher level of financial stability, that is fantastic as well. Take time to learn more about wise investments, so that if a sizable blessing comes your way, you will know how to handle it!


5- You are defined just as much by what you do as what you refrain from.

From our childhood, we begin learning more about the world around us and our place in it by the choices we make and the interests that we develop. We begin making more choices that start to shape a potential career path for ourselves, and we slowly associate with people who share our choices more often.

We can get so wrapped up in our self-views based on what we pursue that we forget that our individuation also includes what we avoid. Both our pursuits and avoidances can be good or bad. We could pursue drinking but avoid eating whole foods. We could also pursue hard workers and avoid slackers. It is all about the combination of our pursuits and avoidances that equal who we consummately are.

Use both sides of this coin to shape exactly how you are uniquely you.

You are defined just as much by what you do as what you refrain from. Click To Tweet


6- Time spent can never be time refunded, and is therefore the most precious commodity available. It is also the most priceless gift someone can give.

Money can be spent and returned, resources can be used and returned, (and tragically,) even people can be used and returned. But time can never be returned. Time is a train that waits for no one. It is simultaneously arriving and departing, never switching tracks and never slowing down.

When you invest your time somewhere, you must be fully aware of what all the potential dividends might be, and if they are worth your investment. It is the most precious and costly gift you can ever bestow, so spend accordingly.

Fortunately, life has a way of reaping what was sown, and handing the crop back to each respectful planter. We can choose to go about life recklessly early on, and end up learning strong and painful lessons that could have gone differently, had we chosen differently. But life will never run short on dishing up what it is that we need to learn, based on our choices.

What is doled out in plenty will always return in plenty.

What is doled out in plenty will always return in plenty. Click To Tweet


7- You are your own worst enemy.

There is no one else who will fight you harder, convince you better, taunt you longer, or defeat you faster than yourself. You are your own greatest obstacle to overcome.

You are your own greatest obstacle to overcome. Click To Tweet

If you have convinced yourself that a choice is not worthwhile, no one else will be able to spin you 180 degrees. If you have persuaded yourself that the value of an endeavor is worth commitment, no one on the face of the planet will be able to drag you out of that mentality.

You are the first person to greet yourself in the morning, and you are the last person to say goodnight to yourself in the evening. Even if you are an extrovert and you are energized by spending time with other people, and you deeply enjoy creating opportunities to be surrounded by others, your own thoughts and inner dialogue still remain superior to all external interactions you may have.

If you can overcome yourself internally, no one and no thing will be able to defeat you externally.


8- The more you ride the roller coaster called Emotion, the more it will ride you.

Humans are fundamentally emotional creatures. We could not escape emotion if we tried. The core of our choices rest on the emotional backbone that provides as the rudder from which our life’s direction pans out.

When we are happy about something, we want to tell the world and invite all of our friends and family into the aura of our enthusiasm. When we are downtrodden, we often want to seclude all of those who are close to us, burying ourselves under a pile of our miseries. Occasionally, we will aim to garner attention for ourselves through weak, self-centered attempts at pity and sympathy. These attempts only bring about further isolation – both from those we love and our opportunities at reversing our afflictions.

Those who are able to experience joy and exuberance to their utmost capacities are those who frequently practice emotional intelligence and emotional moderation. Life cannot exclusively be spent high-wired, for when we come crashing down from the heightened experience, the ground level will greet us with more fierce actuality than we are prepared for.

Moderate your emotions – if not for the sake of your own, then for the sake of those near and dear to you. When we employ the discipline that is necessary to keep our emotions in check as a whole, we are making greater room for each separate emotion to flourish as necessary.


9- The light in which you view yourself is the light in which you view others.

The points and characteristics which we ascribe to others are the points and characteristics that we attribute to ourselves. When we view someone else as “judgmental” for having made a particular comment, we are including that in the fundamental build-up of who we are.

When someone takes the time to go out of their way and make a sincere remark, we may often respond by calling the other person “very thoughtful.” This example pans out in the exact same way.

In regards to the aspect of being judgmental, I am not saying that any and all comments made throughout life are permissible and excusable. I am simply iterating that in order to most accurately and clearly describe who someone is and how they behave, we must take care not to make rash decisions and judgments ourselves.

A person who makes racist comments is a racist; there is no getting around this. The key is not to make blind and belligerent accusations that belie the need to address the motivations for an individual’s psyche and circuit of behavior.


10- Your life is the sum of all the individual choices you have made.

At the end of the day, the way you feel about yourself and your accomplishments is comprised of the choices you made throughout the day. Big or small, each choice we make is the next stone on the cobblestone path that we are laying out for ourselves.

Everything from the food you put in your mouth to the clothes you wear on your back, to the person you marry and the vocation you pursue are all threads in the tapestry of the individual that you are. You open the doors that will bring forth the influences and figures that will shape how you grow, and where you continue to go in life. Choose wisely!

The beauty of choices is that regrets can be used as the groundwork for future satisfaction. The framework of who you are does not have to be composed of the fragments of detrimental paths you once treaded. Who you are is the person you are today, living out the choices you are now making. Let today be the fertile ground for which the harvest of tomorrow may bring a bountiful reward.

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About Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an author and blogger who helps writers become leaders through their best, most beneficial ideas. His books include Ignite Your Beacon, Writing Clout and Tomes Of A Healing Heart. For free downloads and weekly tips on leveraging your writing through realistic leadership, visit: