Over the last year, I have been on a personal quest to figure out how to build a life I love. While this has always been a goal of mine, it is often far too easy to allow life to just happen instead of actively creating a life we’ll love. With the pressure of daily life like work, working out, school, meals, laundry, doctor appointments, bills, kids, and the occasional natural disaster or family crisis, I often slip into survival mode and forget (or not even take time to figure out) what it is that I really want out of life.
After reading dozens of books and listening to countless hours of podcasts over the last year, this is what I believe is necessary to create a life you love.
Value and Invest Time in Relationships
While money, status, success, and pleasure are all desirable goals, the biggest regret of people on their deathbed is the relationships they neglected over the years. While you and I don’t have unlimited time to invest in our family and friendships, we can make little changes to our routine and daily choices to spend more time with those we love.
For example, Brendan, our son, loves playing Minecraft. While I would prefer to spend afternoons at the beach, running, or reading a book, this week I chose to spend time playing Minecraft with him. He was so happy to explain his game, giggle while I was attacked by a giant digital spider, and ask for my help deciding where to place the furnaces in our virtual house. I chose to invest that time in him, playing with him, and I will cherish those moments forever.
Also, last weekend, Rob and I went on a quick trip. While we could have visited a number of neat places within driving distance, we chose to stay at a hotel near friends so we could spend time with them. It was wonderful to catch up, share a few laughs, and hang out.
Finally, at the office, I find it easy to zone in on work and naturally block out people and conversations that happen around me. While a strong work ethic is great, recognizing that people are the reason we do what we do is equally important.
So, although I work from home now, I am doing my best to slow down and take more time to talk to people, including vendors, and ask about life outside of work. It doesn’t come naturally to me, but all the work in the world means nothing without people. However, you and I can’t spend all our time hanging out with people. That brings me to the next tip to create a life you love.
Figure Out What Makes You Happy & Do More of It
Part of creating a happy life is finding out what makes you happy and then simply do more of it. What do you enjoy? Are there things you do or experience that put a smile on your face? Is there a way to incorporate more of that in your daily life?
For example, I love scented candles. We’ve placed them strategically throughout the house, and I am doing my best to remember to light them more often. I also absolutely love watching the sunrise and sunset at the beach. I have decided to turn sunrises and sunsets into part of my job so I have the opportunity to enjoy it more often.
What do you love or enjoy? If you aren’t sure yet, although it may be uncomfortable at first, make yourself try and experience new things to find out what you love.
In college, one of my professors gave a lecture on the phrase, “Nosce Te Ipsum,” which is a Greek aphorism meaning, know thyself. I wish I had listened a little closer to that lecture back then because it seems like only now, almost twenty years later, do I really understand the importance of knowing myself. If you don’t know what you like and don’t like, how can you ever create a life you love?
Once you figure out what you enjoy, create a list of those items or experiences and actively find ways to incorporate more of what you love into your daily routine.
Now that we value relationships more, and we are actively seeking ways to do more of what we love, it is time to work on our mindset.
Shift Your Mindset: Life is Happening for You, Not to You
Big changes like job loss, the death of a loved one, an unexpected move, divorce, or medical issues can quickly throw our world into a tailspin. However, how you and I approach these challenges can make all the difference.
Instead of viewing these situations with a victim mentality, I am trying to figure out what I can learn from these life experiences. Is there a lesson I can learn or a silver lining I can focus on? While it is impossible and unhealthy to pretend we are happy all the time, we can find something positive in any situation if we try hard enough.
A few months ago, we found out Rob received orders to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. This was not part of our plan. Most of our family and friends live in Florida, and I recently started a business here. While I love visiting California, moving there is already posing many challenges.
However, I can either look at this as terrible news or try to find the silver lining in moving thousands of miles away. I choose to think that there is a purpose, a reason, we received orders to California. While I might not have all the answers now, someday we’ll find out why. Until then, I choose to believe that this move is happening for us. We don’t have to move; we get to move.
So now we have our relationships in order, we’re doing what we love, and our mindset is in the right place. This brings me to the next, and possibly the most important tip of all. Only commit to what you can handle.
Know your limits, and learn how to say no. Read that sentence again. And again. And again. I hate turning down opportunities, but part of knowing yourself is knowing your limits. Your limits will likely be different from your best friend, your spouse, and your neighbor. Don’t compare your situation to others while deciding how much you can handle.
Figure out how much you, and only you, can handle in a day, what your unique energy level is, and what your emotional capacity is. Ultimately, whatever you do, don’t overcommit to a volunteer project or a party, and don’t take that promotion if it isn’t the right time for your family. It is impossible to create a life you love without giving yourself the gift of time.
If you have already overcommitted, find out if you can back out. Do your best to find a replacement. If you can’t find a replacement this time, keep your word, but don’t overcommit again.
If you stretch yourself too thin, you will find it is impossible to give the best of yourself and do a great job at anything. Unfortunately, it is hard to love your life if you run out of time to do what you love.
Plan Your Day, Your Week, and Your Year
You will need a plan to create a life you love. Do you enjoy sitting in the sunshine, reading, or sipping hot tea? Schedule those items in your day just like an important meeting or a dentist appointment. If you want to create a life you love, start by prioritizing things you love doing, even if they seem insignificant. The little things add up over time.
In addition to the little things, big things like your job can make a big difference in your happiness. If you no longer enjoy what you do, start figuring out what type of job you will enjoy. If your new career requires training, consider taking night or weekend classes, or find an internship. Sometimes life has to get a little messy and even a little worse in order to get better. This brings me to the next tip.
Hard Work is Necessary
Although it seems counterintuitive to discuss hard work and happiness at the same time, hard work is usually necessary to create a life you love. Want to have a great body? You have to work out. There is no way around it, and working out is not always fun. Would you like to have a million dollars in your bank account? You will likely have to be creative, disciplined, intelligent, and have an excellent work ethic. Would you like to get married? You will likely have to put yourself in uncomfortable situations, face rejection, and sometimes you will end up with a broken heart. Anything worth having is worth working for.
Live in the Present
Last, but not least, if we feel unhappy with ourselves, with our life, we are likely focused on something that happened in the past or something we think will happen in the future. Look around you right now. Have you eaten? Are you safe? Is there something you can do right now that you enjoy? Is there a goal you can start working toward?
Creating a life you love didn’t happen yesterday and it won’t happen tomorrow. Creating a life you love happens right now, at this moment. Choose to begin creating a life you love today.
Do you have any tips that I left out? I would love to hear them!