06/17/2015 11:23 am ET | Updated Jun 17, 2016

4 Ways to Be the Leader of Your Own Life


A Seattle CEO drastically cuts his own salary to give his staff a raise, and triggers newfound success for the firm. A legendary airline founder announces the largest parental leave package in history. In politics, the long and arduous race for the U.S. presidency is beginning, with candidates jockeying as they embark on a marathon to 2016. Today's news is full of leaders, showing their mettle.

Standout leadership involves relying on vision and sense of purpose for the long haul. When tested, the best leaders draw on reserves of strength. But what grounds that inner strength, and gives them stamina, is a clear vision and purpose. That's how Mark won Ironman Triathlons, and how Brant has completed many Dance of the Deer rituals -- a grueling Huichol ceremony. Whether in politics, business, sports, any great trial, or just life itself, that's the way to succeed: stay grounded in your own sense of purpose and vision.

Here are four ways we can use that sense of vision and purpose to become leaders of our own life:

Stay mindful of your purpose. The Dance of the Deer, the Huichols' most sacred traditional dance, can last for days and nights: observants dance nearly continuously, just taking short breaks. What enables the dancers to push beyond their threshold is why they are dancing: for good crops, a good life, for your family's health and well-being, for life itself. This is a ceremony with a deep purpose that transcends the needs of any individual, and once dancers complete it, they are filled with a profound sense of larger meaning (and accomplishment) that makes the tremendous effort worthwhile.

Assume it will be hard. If the Ironman was easy, it wouldn't be such a victory to finish it, let alone win it. Same with completing a novel, pushing for and getting a raise; or striking out for new territory. If you want something, accept that you're going to have to work for it. When the going gets hard, remind yourself of your goal -- and transmute those negative thoughts into positive desires and actions.

Use affirmations to stay grounded. Affirmations are grounding reminders of purpose. For instance, you can say to yourself: "Give me the strength I need to keep going. Help me to find my way through this test. Help me to learn what I need to from this so I can go on. I'm trying, so help me."

Live the life you're asking to live. If you ask for a fit body, then eat all your meals at an ice cream shop, you're not going to stay fit for very long. Practice what you preach, and that includes the company you keep. Stick to the thoughts and actions that empower you, not weaken you. And surround yourself with people who share your values and have their own positive attitudes. That healthy community will help you find your own higher self within

A powerful life, filled with possibility, means there will be tests along the way, barometers that gauge your fitness to live the life you're asking for. And while the Huichol draw on their own strength, reminding themselves of the purpose of the Dance of the Deer, they also take short breaks from the ritual to recharge, and then come back to pursue their goal renewed. Stay flexible, stay aware and try to stay consistent with your purpose and your vision. You may not be running for president, transforming a company, or competing in a triathlon. But whatever your goal is, you can attain it -- with vision and purpose.