Are you living your best life? If your answer is an unequivocal yes, that is super awesome and you must write to me and to the folks reading this and share your formula (seriously). You may also know you are in a small minority of people. Most of us know we can be doing better than we are. This could mean a lot of different things to different people but overall it’s the same idea. We could be spending more time with family or friends, taking better care of our health, cultivating our passions, spending more time in service, or anything that we know would improve our quality of life, yet we forgo either taking steps towards it or implementing it into our day-to-day lives.
So what’s lacking? Why do we do this? We know the pat excuses about not having time, or energy, or money, or whatever else but it goes beyond that. It is clarity on what matters most to us that is missing or distorted. We may have it as an abstract notion or idea, but it’s so easy for it to swirl with all the competing interests, messages, and demands. Then it ends up sitting on the back burner of what we tend to and then we inevitably feel bad about this incongruence. Often not even knowing why we are feeling bad!
How to Break This Cycle?
The first step is gaining clarity outside of our heads on what matters most to us. Take a look around you right now. Not just into your immediate surroundings, but into your immediate life. Who do you spend the most time with? What do you put the most energy into? Are there common complaints you have that just keep popping up? What do you feel most regretful about? What do you feel happiest about? What brings you the most joy?
For Starters, Do This
Now an exercise for you. Begin writing in order what you value most in life according to the following. This is a simple starter to get you thinking about what you value in actions (what you actually do day-to-day.), what you value in words (what you think you ought to be doing) and what you value by heart (what would make your soul sing to be doing).
Clarifying this and putting it down on paper brings it to the front of your mind and out of the swirl of abstract notions, thoughts, and interferences. Take a good look at the letters on the page or screen, what are they telling you? There are some important things coming up that you can identify as essential in your understanding of what you need to do next. For example, look at the “time sucks” section and replace those time sucks with the “What I want to be doing” section. It’s brilliantly simple. Don’t make the mistake of looking for complicated and difficult answers, sometimes it’s so simple but that doesn’t make it easy. Sometimes we prefer a struggle but at least let us struggle in the right direction.
This is a process and if you treat it as such, you will reap big-time rewards. Continually refining your priorities in life is a valuable habit to get into. You will save time and energy that may have been wasted on activities, endeavors or even people who may be bringing little value into your experience, or worse yet, subtracting value away from your experience.
Take the Power Back
We often feel so powerless over the circumstances in our lives but we forget that we are the ones that hold the keys for a lot of what is happening immediately around us. Sometimes it is easier to pretend that’s not the case and continue working at the job that’s slowly crushing your soul, or hang out with the friend who seems to hurt you more than help you. Keeping your values in mind and regularly reviewing them will help avoid being stuck in these sand boxes and move up to things that really matter.
Living by Default
If we don’t make the time for things that are important to us, we will fill the time with things that are easily at hand or provide a quick fix of entertainment or comfort. For example, we may be wrestling in our mind with some abstract beast and constantly looking for something to soothe it. Instead of going after the real culprit (doing those meaningful activities that we are craving deep down), we thumb through Facebook, or flip through channels, we have another beer or fill the craving with a snack close at hand. Whatever it is, the result is more or less the same, a cycle of discontent and numbing. That’s no fun for anyone.
Make the conscious effort to fit into your day aspects of your top ranking values – build your daily architecture around these values. Set into place automatic reminders to keep you on track.If your top ranking values were health, family and education, remind yourself of this on a daily basis. You can have your cell phone buzz you at certain times and remind you to call your mom, or check in with your kids. You can add reminders to go for a walk, or stretch at your desk, take deep breaths. You can subscribe to blogs that teach you something different each day (like mine!) and take the 5 minutes to read something new. You can listen to what the deepest parts of you are telling you, before they start screaming, or worse yet, go silent.