13 ways to have profound and rare life experiences

The passion behind your goals is experience. Better than, “What are you trying to accomplish?” is, “What are you trying to experience?”

What are you experiencing right this instance?

Look around your physical environment. Is this the experience you want to be having?

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Research has found that experiences are more meaningful than material things. Experiences, then, are a better investment than stuff.

As you apply the following strategies, you will have deeper, richer, and more powerful life experiences.

1. Follow your gut, and logic will follow

What may initially seem crazy eventually becomes the most logical and clear explanation. The process of trusting your intuitive voice allows you to weave together inspired work and even an inspired life.

For instance, when discussing how he wrote the music for the Disney film, Beauty and the Beast, Alan Menken said you must follow you heart, throwing your feelings metaphorically “out there” and following those feelings. What you will find, Menken explains, is that logic and sense will naturally follow.

In a similar way, Steve Jobs has said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

If you don’t know what you want, you’ve probably made things too complex or too reasonable. Listen to that voice within. Follow it, even if that means only taking one step forward. Eventually, you’ll be able to throw what you feel inside “way out there,” and watch as those impressions magnetically pull you forward.

2. What you’re really looking for is experiences

The purpose of every goal is to have a particular experience or to create an experience for someone else.

Rather than starting with a goal, ask yourself, “What is the experience I’m trying to have?” Once you can answer this question, you can then determine effective means for having that experience.

The Wright Brothers wanted to fly. Others have wanted to stand on Mount Everest, or have a happy and healthy family, or be a millionaire. Elon Musk wants to die on Mars.

What is the experience you’re trying to have?

Is it love and acceptance?

Is it feeling closer to God?

Is it having a healthy and strong body?

Is it more specific?

Experiences are what make us human. They are what make life meaningful. You can put a price tag on many things in life, but certain experiences can’t be bought with money.

Certain experiences can only be had after years of hard work and directed focus. For example, you can’t have the experience of running a successful company without committing to all involved in getting there. You can’t have the experience of earning a Ph.D. without years of schooling.

The greatest experiences in life are safeguarded from those who don’t have the vision and dedication to achieve them. You can’t experience the thrill of being with the person you love if you’re unwilling to put yourself out there. You can’t have the experience of finishing a marathon if you don’t train.

What experiences would be worth a lifelong journey of commitment and discipline to achieve?

What are you really trying to experience?

How can you begin having those experiences now?

What do you need to consistently be doing in order to have the greatest experiences you could possibly have in your life?

Therein lies the path before you.

3. Experiences are what open the door to greater experiences

Jim Rohn, famed author and motivational speaker, tells the story of his “turning point” moment. When he was 25 years old, a young girl scout knocked on his door and asked if he’d buy cookies. Embarrassed by the fact that he didn’t have the two dollars to buy the cookies, he lied to the girl. “We’ve recently bought some cookies to support your great organization,” he said.

The girl thanked him and left. When he shut the door behind her, he stood quietly in the entry way of his home. After a few sober moments in his thoughts, he told himself, “I don’t want to live like this anymore.” And he really meant it. He was determined to figure out a better way to live his life.

Shortly after having that experience, he was introduced to a man who would become his mentor for the next six years. This mentor changed Rohn’s life, and taught him the core principles Rohn used to become successful and help millions of other people become successful.

The Tao Te Ching states, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear.”

Jim Rohn believes he either wouldn’t have been presented the experience of working with his mentor, or he wouldn’t have recognized the opportunity had he not first had his “girl scout cookie” experience. It was that experience that facilitated great opportunities in his life. Because he was truly ready to change his life, he attracted the experiences that made it happen.

Hence, Jim Rohn consistently taught throughout his career, “Success is not to be pursued; it is to be attracted by the person you become.”

After you have certain experiences that fundamentally change you as a person, you will attract greater people, opportunities, and experiences into your life. Like attracts like.

4. Certain experiences can only happen in a particular context

Some experiences require a particular context. For example, it sometimes takes getting away from all the noise and being out in nature to get personal clarity and insights.

What is the context that would most naturally facilitate the experiences you’re trying to have?

Without question, every context — or situation — has an underlying agenda and culture. The energy of certain situations will directly oppose the experiences you are trying to have. If you’re serious about your goals and values, you will keep yourself from those situations. You will also be mindful and proactive about being in the environments that will most likely facilitate the experiences you’re trying to create.

5. Consistently ask yourself, “What’s the greatest experience I could have in this situation?”

Within every situation, there is a range of possibilities. Most people live beneath those possibilities, even though they are completely available to them.

A friend of mine recently told me of the experience she had during a workout competition. She was trying to do a rope-climb several times and smashed into a mental wall. It took everything in her to break through that wall and watch herself do something difficult. This experience was monumental to her.

On a simpler level, look around yourself right now. You are in a situation. Since you are reading these words, you are clearly looking at a screen. But what else is around you?

How could you have the greatest possible experience in your present situation?

Sometimes, it takes courage to create an amazing experience. For example, you may want to genuinely tell a family member how much you love and appreciate them. This level of vulnerably and honesty may seem risky to you. However, if you muster the strength and act, you can radically alter the situation for better, and thus create a beautiful and powerful experience you may not have had.

6. Be mindful of your situation and make modifications to improve it

Again, take a moment to be mindful of the environment around you. It’s a good practice to do this regularly. Mindfulness, after all, is simply an awareness of your context.

What are some slight modifications you can make to your environment to enhance the experience?

This could be as simple as changing the music, tidying up, or expressing gratitude to those who are with you.

If you’re in the car with your lover, a simple modification could be putting your hand over the center console and holding their hand. A slight tweak to the situation unlocks the possibilities of a far different experience.

7. Track what you think about and pray for

“A man’s mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth.” — James Allen

What do you consistently think about?

Most people spend their energy focused on the gap between where they are and want to be.

· “I DON’T have that book contract.”

· “My relationship ISN’T going well.”

· “I WISH I was healthier.”

All of these thoughts compound the problem. What you focus on expands. Where your eye goes your body follows.

Just as negative, people are often thinking about the very experiences they’re trying to avoid. From a psychological perspective, having an avoid-orientationstalls behavior, creating a paralysis by analysis. Conversely, having an approach-orientation activates behavior.

Keep your eye on the experiences you’re trying to create. That will pull you forward toward those experiences. You need to be in action, moving. Breakthrough rarely occurs without action.

Does your mental and spiritual environment match the external environment you’re trying to experience?

An insightful practice is writing down what you’re praying for on a daily basis. Doing this helps you discover how bland and broad your prayers probably are, allowing you to think and pray more concisely and specifically. Overtime, you’ll be able to look back on your entries and discover your consciously created reality.

8. Have a few 90-minute “Jam Sessions” daily

Research has found that employees are distracted from their work every three minutes. To make matters worse, it takes approximately 23 minutes to get back to a state of focus after being distracted.

If you’re serious about achieving your goals, you’ll need to have creative and focused “flow” experiences, often. Flow is when you are fully immersed in a state of energized focus and enjoyment toward the activity you’re doing.

Hard work and long hours were the recipes for success in the 20th century. Deep focus and creativity are the recipe for success in the 21st century.

Being in deep focused activity is like pushing yourself hard at the gym. After each workout, you’ll need to rest and recover. Hence, your brain can deeply focus for approximately 90 minutes before it needs a break.

Famed psychologist Anders Ericsson, who coined the term “deliberate practice,” found that the top performers all had similar practice characteristics:

· They practiced in the morning

· They practiced for three sessions per day

· Each session was 90 minutes or less

100 percent focused when working, 100 percent recovering when you’re not. This is the recipe for making huge gains toward your goals. Ironically, most people will struggle to do this in our distraction-saturated world.

If you can even get one 90-minute “Jam Session” per day, you’ll likely get more done than most people do in a week. Again, most people work in a perpetual state of distraction. Like sleeping but never getting to REM, most people work but never experience FLOW.

9. Don’t let other people steal your “capital time”

In order to create flow-state experiences, you’ll need to cultivate environments that facilitate deep focus and creativity. For extreme sports athletes, those environments may be jumping-off cliffs or surfing waves.

But what are you trying to experience and achieve?

Again, look around you right now. You are in a context as we speak. Does your context activate or inhibit focus?

How likely are you to have peak experiences and deep creativity in your current environment?

One easy tweak is to completely remove your phone from your environment while you work. During your 90 minute “Jam Sessions,” you are completely unreachable. The world will be fine without you as you dive into flow, because when you emerge you’ll be able to give them your full self.

If you don’t protect what Jim Rohn calls your “Capital Time” — another description of “Jam Sessions” — undoubtedly other people will steal it away from you. You may have the best of intentions, but as T.S. Elliot has said, “Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions.” I would add that most failures also occur despite good intentions. Commitment is far more powerful than wishing.

10. The cost of distraction is more than you think

How much is your time worth?

If you want to make $250,000 per year, you’ll need to make approximately $150 per hour. If you want to make $125,000 per year, you’ll need to make approximately $75 per hour.

Whatever your perceived value, it’s good to put a dollar amount on your time. This keeps your goals and daily behaviors in proper perspective.

Watching 20 minutes of YouTube then, isn’t exactly free. If your time is worth $150 per hour, then watching YouTube for 20 minutes actually cost you $50.

Everything has a cost. The greatest cost is the future experiences you are sacrificing for momentary pleasure. Is watching YouTube videos worth the cost of having those highest of experiences?

Distractions are not free! The cost is enormous! Distractions are costing you your time. They are also costing future time in the form of opportunity cost. You can’t get lost time back.

11. Have as many “disconnected” days as you can

Darren Hardy, author of The Compound Effect, recommends another practice for experiencing high productivity. He calls this practice, “disconnected days.”

Just as you should be completely disconnected during your 90 minute “Jam Sessions,” you should regularly schedule entire days where you are completely disconnected.

No email.

No phone.

No social media.

Just you, fully able to dive deep into the creative or restorative process.

Without having a formal name for it, I’ve had regular “disconnected days” for years. They are my most productive and some of my most meaningful days.

These disconnected days need not be all about work. Actually, having disconnected days entirely for the purpose of rest and recovery is also essential. For instance, on Sundays, I don’t use the internet at all, nor do I work. I use my Sundays for connecting deeper with my family and my spirituality.

Darren Hardy recently said he’s trying to have 150 “disconnected days” in 2016. That’s a great goal. And without question, it will yield enormous results.

Unplug from the matrix. Do the work you truly want to do. Live your life. Build toward the dreams and goals that mean everything to you. Don’t sacrifice that which matters most for that which matters least.

12. You go as fast as those you are following

Who you follow determines where you get in life. If your leader isn’t moving forward, you’re not moving forward, because your results are a reflection of your leader’s results.

Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest runner, has broken many world records in recent history. What’s just as interesting, though, is that even those losing to Bolt are breaking world records. In other words, those who are losing to Bolt are running faster than anyone who has ever lived.

How are they doing it?

They’re just trying to keep up with Bolt. They’re able to go faster than they ever have because of who they are following. Indeed, the very fact that Bolt is in their environment completely changes their abilities.

Being aware of the results of those you’re following is just as important as being aware of your context. Who you follow is part of your context.

13. Doing less takes courage

“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” — Stephen King

It’s hard to cut trivial distractions — things you know are holding you back — from your life. It’s even harder to cut great things from your life in order to focus on that which is best.

It takes courage to edit your life. As Steve Jobs has said, “You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”

Quality is far more important than quantity. When Steve Jobs was with Pixar, he decided to do something revolutionary. Most movie companies made dozens of movies and hoped to bank on the few that really worked. Instead, Jobs and Pixar decided to create just one movie every year. Focusing the energy of lots of smart people on one project would yield the greatest results, Jobs believed.

If you spend the majority of your time on trivial matters, or on things you could easily delegate or outsource, you’re not maximizing your value.

It’s well known that 80 percent of results come from 20 percent of the activities we do. It’s good to do an 80/20 analysis and 1) delete or 2) delegate the 80 percent of activities in order to 3) double-down on what truly matters. Then do another 80/20 analysis of the 20 percent yielding your results (0.20 X 0.20 = 0.04). Double-down on that. Focus as much as you can on those things of highest value.

As you focus on the highest impact activities, you will make enormous progress toward your goals. Thus, not only will you enjoy the ride more, but the ride will also move much faster. You’ll get to see more of what you really wanted to see. Time will slow down for you.

Conclusion: Don’t compartmentalize your life
“One man cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in any other department. Life is one indivisible whole.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Your entire life is a context, a system.

When you change a part, you simultaneously change the whole.

The smallest tweaks could make an enormous difference.

Look at your life. How are little decisions holding you back from the experiences you want to have?

Make those changes immediately. Continue to improve the contexts all around you and you will increasingly have the experiences you’re striving to have.

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This article first appeared on Medium