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Why are we so frequently inclined to do the things that are least important but so reluctant to do the essential things that success and happiness demand? What is the voice that whispers to us: Just let it all slide. Why worry about all that discipline nonsense? It is the voice of negativity, a voice that has grown increasingly stronger over the years as a result of being around the wrong influences, thinking the wrong thoughts, developing the wrong philosophy and making the wrong decisions.

Related: How to Stop the Rampage of Negative Thoughts

Part of the solution to quieting the voice of negativity is learning to listen to the still, small voice of success, which resides inside each of us. The voice of success is constantly struggling to be heard about the loud promptings of the voice of failure. Our own free agency allows us to follow whichever voice we choose. Every time we allow ourselves to succumb to the voice of the dark side of life, and are persuaded to repeat errors instead of mastering new disciplines, the voice of negativity grows stronger. Conversely, each time we listen to the urgings of the voice of success, and are persuaded to turn off the TV to pick up a book, to open our journals and record our thoughts, or to spend a quiet moment pondering where our current actions might be leading us, the voice success responds to these new disciplines and grows in strength and volume as each day passes. For each new discipline, another step forward.

We can never totally eradicate the voice of failure from within us. It will always be there, urging us to think and feel and act in a way that is contrary to our own best interests. But we can effectively silence this destructive influence by developing a sound philosophy and a positive attitude about life and our future.

Creating a new philosophy is easy to do. Making new and better decisions is easy to do. Developing a new attitude is easy to do. All the worthwhile and rewarding things are easy to do, but the major challenge—the one that could leave us with pennies instead of fortune and trinkets instead of treasures—is that it is is also easy not to do.

We must keep a watchful eye on the subtle differences between success and failure, and be ever mindful of the inner urgings that would have us repeating costly errors rather than developing new disciplines.

Related: How to Start a New Discipline

We must each make our own conscious decision to reach out for the good life through the refinement of our thoughts and the careful examination of the potential consequences of our accumulated errors. We must not allow ourselves to think that the errors do not matter. They do. We must not allow ourselves to assume that a lack of discipline in one small area of our lives will not make a difference. It will. And we must not allow ourselves to believe that we can have all that we want to have and become all that we wish to be without making any changes in the way we think about life. We must.

The journey toward the good life begins with a serious commitment to changing any aspect of our current philosophy that has the capacity to come between us and our dreams. The remaining pieces of the puzzle of life can be of little value if we have not first made the firm resolve to do something with this piece of the puzzle.

Everything is within our reach if we will read the books, use the journals, practice the disciplines, and wage a new and vigorous battle against neglect. These are some of the fundamental activities that lead not only to the development of a new philosophy, but also to a new life filled with joy and accomplishment. Each new and positive activity weakens the grip of failure and steers us ever closer to the destination of our choice. Each new, disciplined step taken toward success strengthens our philosophical posture and increases our changes of achieving a well-balanced life. But the first step in realizing this worthy achievement lies in becoming the master of our ship and the captain of our soul by developing a sound personal philosophy.

Related: 5 Things That Affect You and Your Life

Adapted from The Five Major Pieces to the Life Puzzle
This post originally appeared on SUCCESS.com.

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