There is no shortage of advice out there on achieving happiness, success, and even wealth. But what about the goal of simply living your life well? This is an idea that’s not always easy to pin down, but it’s extremely important nonetheless. After all, what’s more important than making the most of your life? Here are some of the top strategies for a life well lived.
1. Identify Your Primary Goals
There are many systems for achieving your goals but what’s really important is setting appropriate goals in the first place. Many people fall into the trap of pursuing goals that aren’t consistent with their real desires. If you want to lead a fulfilling life, it’s essential to learn how to set goals that are truly meaningful to you.
One sign that it’s time to reassess your goals is if they are very broad. Make a list of your top goals. If you start writing down things such as “make lots of money,” or “great relationships,” it’s time to do some soul-searching. There’s nothing wrong with these goals but they aren’t sufficiently tailored to your life.
For example, there are myriad ways to make money but chances are most of these wouldn’t make you happy. Similarly, everyone wants fulfilling relationships but what does this mean to you? If you find it challenging to set meaningful goals, don’t despair. Start by setting the meta-goal of setting the right goals.
2. Create Healthy Boundaries
It’s more difficult today than ever before to set boundaries. In an age when most people carry their phones and other devices everywhere, you’re almost never out of reach. In some ways, it’s convenient to have such powerful tools for communication at our disposal. On the other hand, it also means that people can demand your time whenever they feel like it.
To live a balanced life you need to manage your time. This means saying “no” to certain requests and invitations. One passive way to accomplish this is to simply keep your devices shut off for certain periods. You also need the ability to decline requests that impinge on your productivity and well-being.
One way to look at it is that if you say “yes” to everyone, you can’t give anyone your full attention. You’ll constantly be rushing off to the next obligation. People who do this often end up overloading their schedules, which causes problems such as missed appointments, sloppy work, or perennial tardiness. That’s why you’re ultimately not doing people favors by agreeing to everything. When you’re more selective with your time, you give everyone, including yourself, more focused attention.
3. Let Go of Grievances
There’s quite a bit of evidence that forgiveness is good for your health. At the very least, it’s essential for your peace of mind. To look at the other side of the coin, dwelling on grievances only creates stress and unhappiness. Everyone, to one extent or another, suffers injustices in their lives. To keep reliving these in your mind prevents you from moving forward with your life.
Letting go of grievances doesn’t mean you can’t defend yourself or take measures to protect yourself from future harm. It’s more about what’s in your mind and heart than what actions you take. People who are unable to forgive mostly see themselves as victims. If you want to live a healthy and fulfilling life, focus on what you’re grateful for rather than on injustices and grievances.
4. Reduce Clutter
Clutter may not seem like a serious problem, but it’s symptomatic of confusion and disorder. Clutter occurs in many forms. In addition to a cluttered desk, room, or vehicle, there’s also clutter that invades your electronic devices, appointment calendar, and, most importantly, your mind.
Ultimately, decluttering is about your state of mind. Fortunately, taking practical steps such as throwing out unneeded items and keeping your inbox to a manageable level helps you sharpen your mental focus. It’s also good to practice meditation, take walks in nature, listen to relaxing music and other actions that reduce mental clutter. Some of the other tips on this list (especially letting go of grievances and setting boundaries) complement this kind of decluttering.
5. Understand the Difference Between Pleasure and Happiness
Success-oriented people often focus mainly on realistic objectives. To lead a fulfilling life, however, you need balance. Some activities are worth pursuing simply for their own sake. This includes socializing, reading for pleasure, pursuing your favorite hobbies, and whatever you do for fun. However, non-practical activities really fit into two categories.
It’s useful to distinguish between mindless pleasure and enjoyable activities that bring lasting happiness. Aristotle distinguished between pleasure and happiness. For example, watching a mindless TV show or drinking alcohol might bring short-term pleasure. Reading literature or pursuing your interest in the arts, however, is closer to what the great philosopher associated with happiness. This doesn’t mean you can’t take a break and simply enjoy yourself sometimes. But filling your leisure time with enriching activities contributes more to your long-term fulfillment.
6. Don’t Get Stuck in Your Comfort Zone
It’s difficult to grow if you never do anything that makes you feel anxious or uncomfortable. Leaving your comfort zone doesn’t necessarily mean doing something that terrifies you (though it might), whether that’s skydiving or public speaking. Even taking small steps in a new direction helps you expand your horizons.
Learning a new skill, talking to a stranger, or even eating an unfamiliar type of food are examples of small steps. Then there are larger steps such as moving to a new city, changing careers mid-life, or opening yourself up to a life-transforming relationship. Habitually taking small actions that expand your comfort zone makes it easier to take the larger ones.