Brendon Burchard, author of “The Charge,” believes there are three kinds of life: caged, comfortable or charged. Depending on where we are along this spectrum of our lives, we’re going to have a different quality of life. If we’re on one side of the spectrum, we’re often miserable and suffering, struggling and upset all the time. Whereas, if we’re on the other side, we’re fully engaged, energized and enthusiastic. Knowing where we are on this spectrum can completely change our lives, because we can make a decision about what type of life we want to live.
The Caged Life
The first type of life a lot of people live is just that. It feels like you’re caged, you’re trapped, be it in your past or your current circumstances. Maybe you’re trapped in other people’s expectations or maybe you’re just trapped in your own personal limitations of belief or behavior and you don’t feel like you can break free.
Everyone has been there, at times in their life, when they just don’t feel like they can get out of something or they feel like they’re really struggling, but over a period of time the caged life has a look, a feel and a sound. If you take a big animal, throw it into the zoo and put it behind bars, that big animal will suffer in frustration and want to get out of there. However, over a period of time, the animal becomes resigned and then goes towards the back of the cage, and just sits there, angry and frustrated, looking out into the world with resignation of anger and frustration.
You can tell when a person is there too, because they often say something and they have this recurring pattern of communication that, if you just listen, you’ll know that someone is trapped in the caged life, because when they’re back there, they’re resigned and frustrated and looking at all those “successful lucky people who were just born with all of that or they got lucky.” When they look to the world they often point in anger and say they don’t understand me.
They have this fire and the belief that others can’t understand them, that they are trapped in something nobody else could understand. But the great tragedy of all that is a simple thing, which is that those people who say others don’t understand and don’t know – their anger separates them from other people. Now, they’re less likely to be the ones who ask for help and yet, they’re the ones who need the help.
We can’t forget that the reality of the person who’s angry and resigned in life-thinking that no one understands them. They’re really operating from a place that’s high in ego, which is tough to say to people. They believe that they’re so special and their circumstances are so special that no one has ever had cancer, no one else has ever lost somebody, gone bankrupt and no one else could ever understand me, but the reality is that out of seven billion people and thousands of years of history somebody has been through it before.
Their belief that no one has, makes them less likely to ask for help. The caged life then, over a period of time, starts to feel miserable and usually only two things change your life, either something new comes into your life that rattles your cage or even breaks you free. Maybe you get lucky and win the lottery or a new person comes into your life and changes your perspective. Maybe a new circumstance or new opportunity comes in that forever alters the course of your life and breaks you free. For many, the second thing that changes our lives isn’t anything new that has to come into our lives, but something new has to come out of us. We have to make a different decision about who we’re going to be and what we’re going to go after in life. A decision about how hard we’re going to work and what we truly demand of ourselves everyday. A decision about how limited our lives will be by choice, NOT by circumstances. At some point the people who’ve been living a caged life, after a period of time of watching enough people go by, who are succeeding, if maturity lands on them, it lands on them with an impulse to say, I’ve got to take control over the direction of my life. I’ve got to break free from these bars that I’ve set up.
At some point, we come to realize in maturity that we set our own cages, we build our own bars and there was always a door over here that we could get out of, but we never made the choice to. When we finally decide to change our life, we’re more likely to go out that door, but we always have to remember and never forget that when you knock on the door of opportunity, it is work who answers.
It’s going to take a lot of work to change your life, to break free from the bars and get going again, but I think that’s the great opportunity. When people finally break through that cage, they get out in the open and have more freedom in their life, that kind of life has a quality too. It feels incredibly different. That kind of life feels freer. That kind of life, over a period of time, is incredible because you have more freedom to direct yourself and to do things, and what happens is people end up with deeper skills. They end up chasing their true passions more often.
As they get on a roll they start becoming more successful. As they become more successful, the things they think they wanted in their lives come into their lives. They got the 2-car garage, the white picket fence, the house, the kids, the friends and dinner parties, enough to get by and maybe a little more. Soon the excitement of that breaking free and getting into that new kind of life feels more comfortable.
The Comfortable Life
In this life, we feel extremely comfortable. We feel a sense of satisfaction, a greater sense of confidence about who we are and what life is really about and about where we’re going in life. We feel heightened degrees of competency, knowledge, skills and abilities. We feel like we got our life under control, things are good. Then, over a period of time, in the comfortable life, something also rattles and stirs within, maybe not a frustration but something in the sense of restlessness.
That restlessness is a feeling or sense that maybe there is something more. People who have a comfortable life also have a communication pattern. They say something on a recurring basis that you can tell they’re in a comfortable life, because what happens is that one day someone says to you, how’s everything going? Even though you have all the reason in the world to say “life is amazing,” you find and hear yourself saying, “it’s fine.”
The “it’s fine” is the tell of the comfortable life. It’s the tell that there must be something more. There must be another quality, another kind of life, which reveals to us that there is this other thing and that is this.
The Charged Life
The charged life has a different quality and feel to it as well. There’s heightened levels of energy there. People are more passionate when they’re living the charged life and because they are more passionate they feel more of the charge. It’s not a one-time spark or once in a while “I feel good,” but an enduring state of passion and happiness and satisfaction. It’s an enduring state that’s not triggered by comfort, but rather by challenge.
That when we challenge ourselves to go just a little beyond our current competencies, our knowledge, skills and abilities and we have to push ourselves a little further, that’s when we start to feel charged. So much of what we know in neuroscience of what actually charges our brains and enlivens us in our brains is seen by oxygenation and blood flow to specific parts of our brain, to the hormonal releases we can measure in the back of our brain, whether it’s dopamine, vasopressin, oxytocin or serotonin.
These things happen because we’re highly engaged with something that’s challenging us just a little beyond our current level.
Like Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi often talks about in psychology, the concept of flow, of doing something where we’re so engaged with it and you’re so engaged with it because it’s just a little harder than usual. So you aren’t quite comfortable you’re just a little outside your comfort zone, not totally or completely overwhelmed, but appropriately challenged to stretch yourself. The qualities the charged life basically has is that there’s a heightened and sustained level of energy and engagement, as well as enthusiasm and that’s the magic.
If you want to have a fully charged life you have to start looking forward to things again. You have to get excited about tomorrow again. You have to see your life developing again. You have to set yourself on a path where you’re progressing every day step-by-step so you know tomorrow will be better than it was today, that you know tomorrow you’ll become more of who you know you can become, that you know tomorrow by your simple choices and sets of disciplines and habits that you’re going to evolve into your highest self.
That is the path of the charged life. This constant engagement of the best within us, of pushing ourselves where we have purpose and progress of hoping to become our highest selves. When you live in that place and sense that every single day – that’s the magic. That’s what life should feel like. That’s what we all deserve, so maybe we should start aiming and challenging ourselves just a little more to get that.
-Brendon Burchard is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Millionaire Messenger, The Charge, and Life’s Golden Ticket. Larry King named him “one of the top motivation and marketing trainers in the world.”
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