FORBES: Are You Focused on Your Outer Life or on Your Inner Life?

As published in Forbes

You can focus on your outer life and you may or may not have a wonderful inner life. Or you can focus on your inner life and achieve significantly better results.

In working one-on-one over the last two decades with some of the most educated, successful and seasoned executives, I began to notice how some of our world’s best leaders often get stuck in their personal and professional lives, unable to advance themselves to their desired level of effectiveness, satisfaction and true fulfillment. What I came to realize is that these seasoned leaders become stuck due to a habit of thought, a persistent and limited way of thinking that is largely — if not exclusively — focused on their outer life.

I call this the Outer Life Trap. We fall into this trap when we habitually focus on the outer world and use external events and people to define us, confirm our success and meet our need for validation and love. Leaders are often unaware they have this habit of thought. Sometimes they are also unaware of their inner life and its vast importance to the effectiveness, fulfillment and real success they seek.

When we fall into the Outer Life Trap, we never feel quite as satisfied or fulfilled as we expected to feel by this stage in our lives and careers. We can be easily frustrated, judgmental, emotionally exhausted, uninspired and completely disconnected from ourselves and others. We sense that we are missing out on our lives, as we lack the ability to enjoy the success we have. We find it difficult, if not impossible, to be present. We know we are less effective than we could be but don’t seem to be able to make a change that actually changes anything real. We worry that life will never feel how we want it to feel and that we will never experience our real potential.

There is a road map to achieving the life and leadership impact you seek, and it requires only that you start to cultivate a rich and rewarding inner life. You do this by learning to see, truly see, all the beauty, joy and success that exists in your life today. This practice alone will allow you to feel greater satisfaction now and recognize and take advantage of the limitless opportunities that arise out of this feeling and the present moment! You will immediately become a more effective leader for the people you work with and through — up, down, across and both inside and outside your organization — because when you feel good, you will be good for others.

By cultivating a rich and rewarding inner life, you will create new habits of thought — brand-new neural networks — that, with repetition, will change in a very real way the physical structure of your brain. This inner work requires awareness, discipline and effort up front, but the more you think new thoughts, the more those thoughts produce strengthened neural connections, such that soon you will realize that your entire experience of yourself and the world has changed.

“There used to be a lot of jerks in my world,” a past client told me. “I don’t know where they all went.”

The result of focusing on your inner life is that you will experience spontaneous joy: a feeling of ease, flow and connection to yourself and others. You will feel alive, free, loving and present, perhaps for the first time in your life. You will wonder how you ever missed noticing this much beauty in everyday events. Everyone around you will appear beautiful and you will have fun wherever you go and whatever happens. You then know you are living the life you intend to live, achieving so much more with a fraction of the effort by living and enjoying your real potential, today and every day.

10 Ways To Achieve Greater Success By Cultivating A Rich And Rewarding Inner Life

  1. What is it like living inside of you daily? Write it down.
  2. Notice where you have focused most of your internal attention over the last week (e.g., on world news, work, money, people, problems, illness/health, family situations). Notice if this is the same or very similar way that you have focused your attention over the last month, year, decade.
  3. Notice how your mental focus and habitual thoughts make you feel and then behave. Start to see how your patterns of thought impact your daily inner experience of life.
  4. Decide today that it matters how you feel.
  5. Write this down in a place where you can see it daily: My thoughts and feelings create my future.
  6. When you feel good, notice why. What thoughts and behaviors make you feel great?
  7. Write down five to ten words describing how you want to feel daily — how you dream of feeling! Some typical responses include confident, present, powerful, important, successful, intelligent, wealthy, admired, sought-after, loved/loving, engaged/engaging, inspired/inspiring, healthy, fit, clear, focused, alive, calm, relaxed, light, available, approachable, human, humorous/funny.
  8. Take the first 5 to 15 minutes of every morning to practice feeling how you want to feel. Do this by writing down all of the good, exciting and inspiring thoughts that the day ahead could hold for you if you simply decided to focus your inner attention in a beneficial way.
  9. Discipline yourself to remove your inner attention from anything you do not want.
  10. Give your internal attention to only what you do want. Place it on thoughts that make you feel good, excited and inspired.

Truly great leadership (a.k.a. the ability to work extraordinarily well with and through others) requires self-awareness (awareness of how you think and feel), self-knowledge (knowledge of how your thoughts and feelings impact your behavior and results) and self-mastery (the ability to focus your inner attention in a way that can best serve you and, therefore, others).

The only place you will ever live is inside of yourself. Do the work of cultivating a rich and rewarding inner life and everything — everything — outside of you will improve.

To learn more or inquire into the Inner Life Leadership Academy, visit

The Inner Life Leadership Academy is a year-long program for executive level business leaders who want to reach an unprecedented level of personal understanding and corresponding leadership mastery.


About the Author

Susanne Biro is a coach to C-suite and executive level leaders. She is the founder of Inner Life Leadership, an app for business professionals who want to reach an unprecedented level of personal understanding and corresponding leadership (and life) success. Susanne is an author, executive development program designer, facilitator, Forbes & CEO Magazine contributing writer, and a TEDx and keynote speaker.

For over two decades, Susanne has worked internationally with senior-level leaders in some of the world’s best companies. Whether coaching one-on-one or authoring, designing, and delivering leadership programs, her passion is the same: to help leaders reach their next level.

Susanne can be reached at 604.864.5408 or via email at


Our world has changed, rapidly and in unexpected ways. As the crisis hit, I offered and held pro bono sessions with leaders from around the world. And I want to continue to do what I can to help. As a result, I now offer hourly sessions to ensure leaders everywhere can quickly get the perspective, clarity and focus they need to lead themselves, and therefore others, well during these challenging and uncertain times.

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