As a psychologist and coach, I tend to think more about creating and living a life of value and meaning than I do about what I have achieved or what things are left to do. I care as much about the journey in life as I do about arriving at a destination. I AM interested in the big experiences that I have yet to have (such as swimming with dolphins or taking my children to Australia where I lived as a teen), but I am more concerned with the ordinary things that I want to do EVERY day that give my life meaning and purpose.
This is what I have figured out so far (definitely, a work in progress).
1. I want to connect with those I love everyday, be it a hug, a shared activity, a phone call, or especially a conversation. I make the effort to connect because love is the most important thing in life, without a doubt. Today I called my in-laws in Florida when I was home making dinner just to say hi and check in.
2. Identify your core values (the things that have been part of you your whole life) and look for opportunities to express them every day. One of mine is growth–I like to learn something new every day and try to learn from even my most challenging experiences. When I was young, I would often sit high in a tree and read my books; I still like to read, but from more ordinary spots like the couch!
3. Take care of your body. I try to sleep when tired, eat when hungry, stop when full, eat real (non-processed) food, and to eat with others for at least one meal a day. I try to be active everyday even for a little while; we were meant to move.
4. Breathe, meditate, stop and smell the roses. I try to take time daily even if it is just for a few minutes to do nothing, to notice what is, to be present in the moment. As a person who tends to overdo, meditating daily, even for a short while deepens my appreciation for life.
5. Do something nice for someone else every day. I challenge myself to look for opportunities, such as giving someone the parking spot I found first or offering to return someone’s grocery cart to the store. These small Random Acts of Kindness have been found in research to truly trigger a chain reaction of positivity, the “pay it forward” concept. It also helps me to feel happier.
6. Try to do something new everyday. This stimulates the brain and helps to keep us vibrant. Drive home a different way, taste a new food, listen to a new song. Think about what you could do differently or brand new each day.
7. Do something for yourself every day, just for you, whether it’s reading your novel, watching a favorite TV show, going for a walk, or painting your toenails. This is especially hard for parents, but is essential and good role-modeling for your kids. Parents are people too.
8. Laugh often. Read the comics, watch a funny show and try to see the lighter side. Laughing is so good for the brain, our heart, our mood. Try to find the humor in daily life.
9. Admit mistakes, learn from them, and then move on (i.e., make different ones). I figure we all make mistakes; I just don’t want to keep making the same ones over and over.
10. Acknowledge negative feelings such as sadness and anger. Let them wash over you like waves on the ocean. Don’t cling to them or push them away, deny or vent them. I try to simply feel them and let them go. They tell us what is important to us and we can use our emotions to spur us to constructive action and change.
11. (I couldn’t possibly end on #10) Maintain your connection to something larger than your self, some sense of purpose in the world whatever that is for you. When doing my coaching training and my daughter was 8, I asked her what her life purpose was. Without missing a beat, she told me, “to leave the world a better place for my children’s children.” I believe we all have a purpose in life and we have to figure out what that is and stay connected with it daily.
I will keep refining my non-bucket list, the list of things I try to do everyday to make my life worthwhile. I encourage you to do the same.
(But it’s still fine to plan that safari!) 8)