This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources, and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.
What if the key to becoming successful and happy is to quit trying to be either? Would that throw a wrench into your career goals? Make a mess of your life plans? If so, then you need to read this.
Here’s the thing. Never before have there been so many people spending so much time searching for the secrets to a successful career and a happy life. Which is really a shame because they’re not going to find either, at least not that way.
There are lots of reasons why that is, but the most glaringly obvious one is that nobody ever got anywhere by doing what everyone else is doing.
Think about it. The world has never been more competitive. If you want to have a fulfilling career and live a good life, you’ve got to get ahead of the competition. The only way to do that is to do things differently, to find your own unique path that works for you.
(MORE: Why Originality is Overrated)
Here are six ways to do that, to become successful and happy.
Build real relationships. What a novel concept, right? While everyone else is wasting their time developing their personal brands and building huge online networks, get out and spend time with real people in the real world. One-on-one in real time. That’s the only place you’ll find real opportunity and friendship. And that’s where success and happiness comes from. No kidding.
Groom yourself. Want to know how great companies that churn out hundreds of future CEOs develop their talent? They identify and recruit up-and-comers and then groom them by moving them around into different areas and situations. That’s how they learn a broad range of skills. Experience. Get out in the world. Try different things. Get your hands dirty. That’s how you’ll find opportunity and figure out what makes you happy.
Do nothing. So much of life is out of our control. We never seem to have enough information to solve tough problems and make important decisions. When you need to gain some perspective, resist the urge to seek out more information. Turn off all the sources of communication, all the noise that distracts you. Just be quiet and listen to your own inner thoughts. Don’t judge them; just listen. The answers to life’s most difficult challenges are always there.
Work for a great company. Everybody wants to be an entrepreneur these days. Here’s a novel thought. Go work for a great company. Learn from people smarter, more accomplished, more experienced than you. Learn from the pros. Find a mentor or two. Learn how business works in the real world. Figure out how you can help that company be even better. What you can bring to the party that really matters and nobody else is doing. If you’re meant to be an entrepreneur, an opportunity will come to you. And you’ll be ready for it.
Do one thing at a time. Everyone’s so distracted with social media and all their slash jobs these days, try picking one thing you really want to do and just get it done. Prioritize. It’ll provide a sense of accomplishment and control. It’ll help you build confidence. Even if it fails, you’ll learn from the experience. And you’ll gain strength from knowing that failure didn’t kill you. That will make you more resilient and give you courage to tackle bigger things.
Be good to yourself. Most people who want a lot out of life are their own worst enemy. They take themselves too seriously. Judge themselves too harshly. Expect too much out of themselves and others. If you can learn to let go of all your expectations, quit trying so hard to get somewhere, you’ll learn that just being you, present in this moment, is all that matters. That’s what life is all about. And that’s when all good things will come to you. Success, happiness, everything.
(MORE: 3 Signs Your “Amazing” Company Culture Actually Isn’t)