Nowadays, the Internet is saturated with blogs and articles with headlines such as “10 Habits Successful People Practice” or “Oprah’s Morning Routine: A Formula for Success.” These articles focus on emulating the standards and routines figures we perceive as successful have adopted. They tend to include waking up at 4 am, meditating, reading, and writing self-reflections, all before heading out the door for work.

I used to read these articles and by the end felt a pang of guilt in the pit of my stomach. I tried setting my alarm to wake up at dawn, thinking one day it would lead me to success. It was just not part of my nature and I ended up feeling sleepy and unproductive all day. I quickly had to admit to myself that I am just not a morning person. In fact, I get my energy and exuberance late at night, and that is also when I have my best ideas. These articles frustrated me because the routines they tend to cover over and over simply weren’t suitable for my living style.

It took me a long time to accept that I did not need to conform to what a handful of these famous figures did. Instead, I spent time on self-reflection and figured out what works for me to perform at my best. This way, I was much happier and got to sleep past 4 am.

In this blog I want to share with you five things that I found helpful in my journey, and I hope it inspires you to find what works for you.

1. Listen to your intuition

Whether we realize it or not, we typically know what is good and bad for us, but we’re surrounded by so much external noise that we end up not listening to the voice of our intuition that knows what’s best for us. I call it the “voice of our soul” while others may call it a “gut feeling.” In the past, I blocked this voice due to fear and low self-awareness, but that resulted in negative emotions such as feeling lost, dependent on external factors, and simply being unhappy. Then, over time, I had to learn to trust that voice and to connect with this deeper knowledge. Only then did I gain clarity about what I wanted in life and find a new sense of inner joy. We all listen to our intuition differently. Some of us find clarity and perform self-reflection through prayer, while others do so through meditation, writing, being in nature, feeling their body’s reactions to various situations, and many other ways. Whatever works for you, just remember that all the knowledge you need is within you. Trust and listen to it.

2. Re-frame your language to re-frame your mindset

I often hear phrases like “I’m jealous of her” or “I wish I had his life” when people talk about others they deem successful. Words such as jealousy and envy weigh us down. These words result in us doubting our own abilities, putting ourselves down, and not recognizing the blessings we have in our lives.

Recently, during the installation of the new board of a non-profit that I served on as a president, I was passing down the presidency to Mark. As Mark was accepting his new role with a speech, said to me, in front of the whole organization, “I think of your life and how much you have accomplished, and I feel inspired by you.” I looked back at him as he was speaking with tears in his eyes and felt a swell of warmth and pride. I was touched when he said that I inspired him.

Listening to him, I realized the power of the word “inspire.” It is natural to compare our lives to others, but instead of feeling jealous or envious, lets use positive feelings that motivate us to learn from others and rise by being inspired by their journey.

3. Just be yourself

This is simple advice that is so often overlooked. My sister used to tease me and tell me to “try to act normal” and “don’t be yourself.” She thought because I see things differently and act differently than the average person that I need to suppress my nature to be accepted. When so many are walking around with masks in order to belong, lets do ourselves a favor and be ok with who we are, whatever that looks like. Until we are comfortable with who we are, we won’t connect to ourselves. If we don’t value our uniqueness, then no one else ever will. Many people read this advice and brush it off because they believe that society has norms that must be followed, but I argue that societies are built of individuals that each have unique stories and perspectives, and that we’ll only get to experience those perspectives if people are free to be themselves.

4. Surround ourselves with people that believe in us

I learned over the years the importance of being selective about the people that I choose to surround myself with. It is critical not to make time for negative people that tend to deplete our energy and make us doubt our abilities. We definitely cannot achieve our goals alone and it does take a village to accomplish big dreams. My journey is an example of the importance of having positive people that truly believed in my purpose and emotionally supported me throughout my ups and downs to help me get to where I am today. Progress and success do not occur in a vacuum and it takes many, many, many people who are willing to help. Find them and pour your energy into nurturing those relationships.

5. Success: a moving target

Though I’ve been using the word “successful” throughout writing this blog, I am skeptical of this word’s significance. What is real success? So many times when we achieve something, we tend to want more of it, and in many cases our desires change to a totally different path. To me, success is just like a mirage that keeps changing and evolving, and it is definitely not a destination. There will be times when we will feel lost, and times where we have to reevaluate what our desires and dreams are, and that is okay! This is simply the nature of self-discovery. It is a winding road with many twists and turns, so let’s allow ourselves the freedom to travel our paths fearlessly, because what matters more than success is self-fulfillment, joy and satisfaction with who we are.

Lets not be intimidated by important figures that wake up at 4 am and seem to be doing all the right things. Instead of adapting our lives to what other people do that work for them, lets continue to discover what works for us and do more of that.

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