I was reading an article recently in a monthly magazine that I receive from USAA and it really struck a chord, so I decided to postpone this week's original topic (on the importance of sleep and the various sleeping disorders) in favor of a discussion of the aforementioned magazine piece. Written by a woman named Jean Chatzky, the article details the key things that have "made" the top 30 percent of Americans, in terms of wealth and success.

I've always been personally interested in such stories, having read the Napoleon Hill series "The 17 Principles of Success" and "Think and Grow Rich." These aren't fascinating to me because of the idea of "making a million," but rather for their philosophical vision of success in the broader sense - success defined not monetarily, but by a complete and thorough approach to making life count. I think it pertinent to re-iterate some of these concepts, from time to time, especially during this financial era of our lives.

Chatzky offers 8 commonalities to the top 30 percent in America and mentions some intriguing statistics along the way (the first of which is the lead in to the main part of her writing, in which she mentions that 9/10 of the top 30 percent were not among the elite group to which they now belong just ten years ago...fascinating). The first on the list - and I presume, thought it's never mentioned, that these are listed in no particular order of importance - is to be optimistic. I'm a huge proponent of this one, for there's a reason that each guru out there includes it as a cornerstone of their stance. Frankly, it's just a lot easier to make it in life if you have a good attitude and don't allow the negative scenarios to play a predominant role in your thinking and planning. Plan as if things will go your way, rather than assuming that they won't.

Resilience is listed second. Kind of going hand in hand with optimism, she states that resiliency is something that you are 50% born with, according to studies. I don't have a theory on that and - to be honest - don't think that it is something that can be objectified. But one thing is for sure...you've got to have it. Life isn't all sunshine and roses. As the quote at the bottom of the page states, "Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it." #3 is passion - one that I've very passionate about. If you put it out there that you are seeking your "calling" (so to speak), then it will find you or you will find it - however you want to put it. Chatzky mentions looking back to your childhood to find something that you get pumped up about and trying to find an adult corollary. Good stat - on average, people will end up with 12 different jobs within four different careers during their lifetime. Imagine if you found a passion for something and pounced on it...

Connectedness makes her list at the fourth position. Another way of putting it would be networking...getting yourself out there and telling people about yourself, what you do, and what matters to you. Too many people walk around with a false belief that everyone is scrutinizing them all the time...and that's just not true. There are rare exceptions, but - trust me - people want to know you. / Intuition is her fifth of eight recommendations. Chatzky refers to it as a gut feeling...your hunches, so to speak...and she suggests that you learn to follow and trust your gut. I would call it a good knowledge of your sense of self. If you don't trust your own decision making, then you are liable to make bad or unsound decisions. Learning to trust yourself is vitally important to all forms of success, in my opinion.

Two of the final three are saving habitually and investing in stocks. Saving is not an easy thing in our instant gratification society and, admittedly, the idea of saving for later disrupts my "live life one day at a time" philosophy...but there's no denying the simple fact that the more money you save now, the more you'll have for later. Chatzky suggests you simply set aside money from each pay period for savings/retirement. Nowadays, you can set it up online to occur automatically. Give that a shot and see if your financial situation over the next year doesn't improve. As for stocks, I'm still personally torn on that one, having never had much success in that realm. Yet, that's not to say that taking calculated risks is a bad thing - it's a good thing, without question. Everything good in life has some risk involved with it.

Last but not least, Chatsky lists gratitude as the 8th item necessary for success. I think that one is vastly under appreciated. You to have to be thankful for what you have. "Gratitude is the antidote to materialism."

So, let's quickly tie that back into your health. Stress is the #1 cause of disease in the world, and emotional stress is a big deal. Financial and security woes account for more grief and despair than anything else in the world. By staying ahead of the game and adopting a simple plan of attack, you'll likely find yourself less stressed and better prepared to deal with things when, inevitably, life happens...

Thinking good things for you, as always,

Dr. Chad