We don’t often use the phrase ‘best life’ here on TSLL. I did choose the phrase ‘best self’ in the title of my second book – Living the Simply Luxurious Life: Making Your Everydays Extraordinary and Discovering Your Best Self — because unearthing the gifts that reside within us, and that are always and will always be with us are entirely in our control if only we learn the skills to find them, but by focusing on living every single day well, indirectly, we are living our best life; however, sometimes, in the noise of the world, we can forget what those tools of living well are. And so, we sometimes focus on the larger picture which can draw our attention away from the power and necessity of tending to the details of our everyday life.
In fact, sometimes, I think we distract ourselves intentionally, yet unconsciously by focusing on the long-term goal, because it alleviates us of feeling we have to do anything right now. Which of course is absurd, but what I mean to say is we permit ourselves to be distracted by not taking the small steps today that are needed to eventually enable us to arrive where we want down the road.
The good news is, if you are doubting you will ever reach your goal, a way of living, or a life that you have been dreaming about, so yes, your dream life, I want to reassure you today, that by using these simple tools, which I have a feeling you already are doing, you are heading in the right direction, you are making progress, and you will arrive sooner rather than later.
It has been my experience, and in the not too distant past, where I have doubted I too will reach a goal, an outcome, a way of life, but when I looked at this list of tools to utilize, I was reminded I was putting each one into practice each day, and it was only a matter of time. What I needed was to remind myself that I was doing what I needed to do, and grand and wonderful things just take time to arrive so long as we are investing daily in a way that contributes to our eventual arrival.
So what are the tools?
Let’s take a look:
1.Clarity and Knowledge of the Why
Arriving at clarity can take time, arguably, this will take the most time at which to arrive compared to experiencing the benefits of applying the tools shared here today, but once we know why we want to travel down a particular path or road and live a particular life, our dream life, all that’s left is a matter of time and focus to stay on track. Here is a post about how to gain clarity to help you understand yourself a bit more, and why certain ideas, dreams, desires grab your interest; or contrarily, why certain ideals and ways of life are not to your liking.
Once we have this knowledge and why we are drawn to such a way of life, why and how it nourishes us, energizes us, helps us to give to the world in a way that we uniquely can, then we are pointed in the right direction and know the destination.
2. Embrace and exercise the power of setting intentions – daily, weekly, monthly, etc.
Setting intentions is different than expectations. Why? Intentions are within us, a compass that guides our actions and thoughts, versus expectations demand something outside of us to occur. Regarding the differences, Deepak Chopra teaches, “A clear intention is a necessary element to any successful endeavor. An expectation narrows the field of possibilities of the myriad ways the universe can delight you.” He goes on to explain, “One key difference between intentions and expectations is the onus of responsibility. Intentions rely upon choices you make yourself, whereas expectations usually demand actions of other people. Since it is impossible to control another person, your surroundings, or external circumstances, it is wise to put your energy into an area you can control—your mind, words, and intentions.” Read his detailed post about the differences and how they look in everyday life here in his post.
A new ritual and practice I welcomed into my life last year and what inspired me to design the two new notepads that were shared during French Week this last August was writing down my intentions for my days and the week ahead. By writing down 3-5 intentions for each week, it keeps me focused, not only on significant tasks to complete, but also how I wanted to move through the week – how I wanted to feel, how I wanted to show up in the world – because these directives (in other words, intentions) align with the life I am trying to cultivate, to live each day. I do this for my daily schedule as well, and then at the end of each week and each day, I reflect, assess and make sure I am staying on track, and correct myself as needed.
Monthly or longer term goals (or intentions, keeping the outcome we are seeking tasks that involve what we can do) can be approached this way as well. I have long term goals, usually 1-3 major outcomes I am working toward that take months, sometimes a year or more, and I check in at least monthly, but that is why I have the weekly list of intentions, so that I stay focused on the everyday ways of living so as not to be distracted and taken off course.
Speaking of distractions . . .
3. Become aware of how you distract yourself from your desired way of living
In his book Change Your Brain Every Day, Dr. Daniel G. Amen speaks about the choices we make during our days and why we make them. He reminds that “some things help you feel good now and later, while other things help you feel good now but not later.” In speaking directly about choices we think will stop the pain we may be experiencing should anything happen that is unwanted, but a choice that will often simply cause more pain later, even if temporarily mask the pain in the moment, he reminds that there are choices that can help us feel better now and later, and to choose those rather than the ones that makes us feel good now but not later.
In other words, we may have had a bad day for any number of reasons, but we need not make tomorrow worse by making a choice, or distracting ourselves with an unconstructive choice, simply to alleviate unwanted feelings in the present moment.
As we have talked about before here on the blog, when we shift our mindset to embracing unwanted moments as opportunities offering something for us to learn from that will actually take us where we desire to go, the stress immediately tamps down and we deplete far less energy fighting what we may have thought we didn’t want, but often is exactly what we need to arrive where we wish to go.
4. Rest in Self-Awareness
When we have self-awareness, while we may not have control over the feelings or thoughts we have initially, we can make sure we don’t throw the ‘second dart’ as was talked about in detail in this episode (scroll to #8). In other words, when a negative thought arises, we can catch it, acknowledge that this is an old default, a defense mechanism we used to practice but now knowing it isn’t constructive to living a life we love, acknowledge it as not constructive and stop it in its tracks. This is an exercise in self-awareness, and it is powerful in changing the quality of our days, decisions and energy reserves.
5. Strengthen your ability to be more aware and thus gain more clarity – cultivate a meditation practice
Through daily, regular meditation, we learn to understand our mind, and when we know our mind, we deepen our self-awareness, and thus gain clarity. Learn more about the many benefits of and how to meditate in this post.
6. Cultivate (and practice) the habit of gratitude every single day throughout the day
As we deepen our awareness, it becomes easier to see all there is to be grateful for. It may appear as though life has improved as we exercise a regular practice of gratitude, but really, all that is going well had been previously, we just hadn’t paid attention. It is our awareness to both ourselves (thoughts and actions and what motivates our actions) as well as to the world around us, understanding that nothing is guaranteed, that we acknowledge so much is already going well to make life a treasure to savor.
The strength and thus gift we give ourselves when we practice gratitude, and real quick, what I mean by practicing gratitude doesn’t mean you have to have a gratitude journal, although you absolutely can or simply write down what you are grateful for in your regular journal when you are inspired (or need) to do so. Practicing gratitude begins by simply paying attention to the present moment and seeing all that is going well – a clear blue sky, rain to refresh and provide refreshment and growth, good health, clean water, a war-free environment in which to go about our days, eye sight, hearing, the list could go on for miles. But back to the strength this tool gives us. When we are focused on seeing what we can be grateful for, we are not focusing on what is going wrong, because either way, we will find it. And what will energize us is the former, and what will drain us is the latter.
Make it a default habit to extend gratitude to others for actions – their thoughtfulness, their kindness – things they may do and have done for ages but perhaps have been taken for granted or expected, say something, be specific. Extend this gesture to yourself as well. When you eat well, when you care for your health, your mind, your body, honor your needs, extend appreciation to yourself for doing something that may have been very hard to do in the past, but now has become more habitualized in the best of ways.
7. Treat your body with respect
In an earlier post, I shared a detailed list of how to treat your body like a temple, a phrase often shared, but not fully understood or if understood, not practiced diligently due to distractions we engage in to make us feel good in the moment, but not later, to reference #3 above.
Often it becomes easy to let ourselves off the hook and not exercise or eat well because we feel good now due to either being young or having taken care of ourselves well for a good long time, but it only takes not being able to do what we love, or feeling physically in pain for us to appreciate our body when it is functioning well on all cylinders.
Prevention is key, but not only for the benefit of being healthy, for the benefit of being able to live the life we have dreamed about. We cannot do what we want if our body needs to be taken care of and heal itself. So by tending to eating well, exercising regularly and caring for our mind, thus our mental health, we are insuring we are not putting an obstacle in our paths unnecessarily toward eventually living the life of our dreams.
As I shared with weekly newsletter subscribers this past week in the archived post, adhere to simple rules when it comes to living well in your everyday life, and in this case for eating well: “Real food. Bookend with water. Add color.” Keep it simple, but helpful to support your intention.
8. Step outside of your everyday routine and have fun
This could mean travel, a short weekend getaway or a long, dreamed about vacation, but nourish your mind and being by stimulating it with a new environment that you have been curious to experience or return to if it is something you want to explore more fully.
Travel and stepping out of our routine to do something that speaks to us, that energizes us, opens windows to learn more about ourselves as well as the world, and brings us more fully to life, reminding us of what we care about, what are priorities and also what stresses need not be and we can let go.
We can never know the lessons we will discover when we hop on the plane, train or take that that long drive, but rest assured, there will be lessons available and you will return home with ahas you could not have reached had you not gone.
9. Embrace self-care with full abandon
In other words, prioritize self-love. It is not a luxury; it is not a ‘want’. It is a necessity, and the key is knowing what self-care rituals to engage in that will strengthen you to be well-nourished. Again, keeping in mind the teachings from #3, do what is good for you now and will be good for you later, be sure to take a look at these many posts that are full of ideas for self-care rituals to welcome into your regular routine.
10. Let the frustrations out, constructively
I have found that when I do have frustrations, fears, doubts or confusion about anything, it isn’t until I release it into the world in a constructive way, that I often either realize I am blowing it out of proportion or it is something that is far more navigable and is often teaching me something I need to learn about either the situation, the person or how I have approached an issue.
But the key is constructively.
In episode #316, Dr. Samantha Boardman in her book Everyday Vitality talks about why we need to refrain from venting (scroll to #7). And her reasoning aligns with what we have been talking about doing something that feels good now and later vs. feels good now but not later.
In other words, how you share and what you feel you need to share is the key. As well as to whom. What I mean by this is, sure, we’re going to have unwanted events that happen in our lives, some are going to be horrible, but venting just to complain without seeking a solution to another human being who doesn’t need to be burdened by our stress is unloving, unthoughtful and lacks complete self-awareness of how our actions affect others. Rather, share to find a solution with someone who you think will have an idea you had not thought of, or offer insight you need to hear about how to better approach the unwanted situation.
However, there are other ways to let frustrations out and they have everything to do with having more confidence in ourselves. As I mentioned above, often my own frustrations are far less disastrous than I initially imagine in my mind, and it is through journaling that helps me understand this.
Sometimes during moments of doubt, I will go back through old journals just to remind myself of the worries I had in the past and recall that I overcame those, and yep, 99% if not 100% of my worst fears never materialized and so many wonderful things did that I could have never predicted.
11. Let your mind be challenged in a field you are curious about
One of the best ways to create more opportunities as well as arrive at the destination we seek is to continue to learn. In other words, we have to change and grow in some way to be living our dream life if we aren’t already living it, so that means we are going to have to learn something (maybe many things) along the way. Sometimes we know exactly what those ‘things’ we need to learn are, but sometimes, we only have a general idea.
So continue to enroll in classes, pick up books and continue to read. Learn new skills and keep your mind agile, heeding your curiosity along the way with each choice. As you do, you ever so slightly open paths of opportunity that were not open to you before, and eventually, the door swings open and you see the chance you’ve been hoping for. Seize it because you have helped to make it possible.
Each of the above actions and choices are tools that will lead you to the life that at this moment in time may feel like a far away dream. How so? First, you have clarity about where you want to go; and second, you are continuing to keep yourself on track, first with having your intentions and checking in with them regularly as you move forward, but also because you are nurturing yourself well so that you can travel forward well, you can seize the opportunities when they arise and you can put in the effort needed to be disciplined and not let yourself be distracted, exercising the awareness of how to manage unwanted moments and seeing the gift they bring without letting them be a detour that pulls you off track.
Every once in a while along our journey, especially if we dare to dream outside the life we are currently living, we can doubt ourselves, doubt that we are doing enough, doing well, but in such times, take a look at this list, and be reassured you are doing exactly what is needed, and in time, you will arrive in what will seem to others like an ordinary moment, but to you will be a moment to celebrate. You made it.
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY
episode #104, Simple Rules for a Good Life