“What can I start doing today to make my life happier and more fulfilling?”
This is one of the most common questions readers ask us via email, blog comments, and social media. So today I want to share some simple, actionable ways to improve your happiness and wellbeing on a daily basis.
In the seven years of this blog’s existence, Angel and I have had the pleasure of meeting, coaching and interacting with hundreds of truly inspiring, happy, prolific people. And the more we have interacted with people like this, the more we realize the similarities in how they prioritize their lives, and how their priorities align with our own.
What becomes evident is that, to sustain happiness, we must focus our attention on the right things, in the right ways. Every growing human being (that means all of us) has resource constraints: limited time and energy. It is critical that we spend our resources effectively.
Here are 10 ways to prioritize your life and your to-do lists for increased happiness and fulfillment:
1. One thing at a time, with full presence.
In other words, make the thing you have chosen to do the number one priority while you’re doing it. Focus with your full attention. See the value in where you are, while you’re there. Enjoy what’s happening, while it’s happening.
In the end, you will come to realize that the best days are the days when you don’t need anything extreme or special to happen to make you smile. You simply appreciate the moments and feel gratitude, seeking nothing else, nothing more. That is what true happiness is all about.
2. Family and close friends are at the top.
Nurture your important relationships in such a way that when you tell the people you care about that you care about them, you’re simply reinforcing what they already know based on how you have prioritized them into your life.
Give them your full attention. Let them see their own beauty in your eyes. Let them find their own voice through your listening ears. Help them discover their own greatness in your presence.
Make the people you love a top priority, always.
3. Focus on importance, not urgency.
As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”
Truthfully, the most important thing in life is knowing what the most important things in life are, and prioritizing them accordingly. Sadly, most of us spend too much time on urgent things and not enough time on important things.
So do yourself a favor and implement these three action steps every time you’re building or sorting your to-do list:
- Think about the difference between what is urgent and what is important.
- Review all the obligations on your list.
- Do what’s important first.
Sometimes everything on your list will look important, which might be true to an extent. But as you practice prioritizing, you will get better and better at it. And eventually you will know, without question, when to set aside the important things in order to accomplish the vital ones, like spending quality time with loved ones. (Read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.)
4. Keep your efforts aligned with your purpose.
Getting anything worthwhile done is a matter of connecting with why you have chosen to do this thing in the first place.
Don’t allow others to confuse you. Don’t let them convince your heart what is right for you. Your heart already knows. Listen to it. Don’t let anyone else dilute the power of your inner voice. You’ve got to stand up for something specific, on your own two legs, or you will achieve nothing worthwhile in your own mind’s eye.
Within you there is a formidable and undeniable sense of purpose. Happiness comes from making a solid and persistent connection to that purpose. When your intentions are supported by a “why” that has meaning, you will find the “how” to bring them to life.
5. Play to your strengths and delegate when it makes sense.
When it comes to tackling big projects, you can try to do everything yourself, or you can reach out and find the right people to help you. The first choice will raise your stress and blood pressure; the second choice will raise your consciousness and effectiveness.
Choosing the right perspective is so important; you CAN see life’s challenges as opportunities. When an unexpected obstacle is suddenly standing in your way, don’t get overwhelmed. Take a breather and regroup. Someone else nearby knows how to get around it. Find and engage them.
For example, if your website is suddenly having glitches with a new web browser, don’t read a giant book on web design. Hire a professional web designer. See the problem as an opportunity to delegate. Life is trying to teach you that most long-term, worthy endeavors are team efforts, and so much more palatable when shared with others. Every unexpected obstacle in life is a lesson on teamwork in disguise, solvable with the right team of people.
6. Socialize and share with peers.
Regardless of what you’re trying to accomplish, it’s always easier if you have a group of people who understand what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what challenges you’re facing. Staying in touch with these people and sharing ideas with them will accelerate your effectiveness and happiness. Best selling author, Seth Godin, refers to these people as your tribe members.
A tribe is a group of people connected to one another via an idea, movement or common goal. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. Godin says, “A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”
Every single one of us craves the feeling of being part of something bigger than ourselves. By nature, we are tribal, but oftentimes we become disconnected from our tribe. We know our people are out there – somewhere – but we feel lost and disconnected from them. If you’re feeling disconnected, open up to your peers and initiate a conversation. Tap into your tribe.
7. Give what you can, as you seek what you desire.
In many ways, life is a circle – what you put in to it comes back around. When you make a positive impact in the world, the world will have a positive impact on you.
If you want to be rich, be generous. If you want to make friends, be friendly. If you want to be heard, listen. If you want to be understood by others, take the time to truly understand them. If you want to live an interesting life, be interested in the happenings around you.
You won’t always get back exactly what you wanted or expected, but when you give what you can you almost always receive what you need. (Read The Secret.)
8. Leave the past behind as you plan ahead.
Let old problems remain where they belong – in the past. No matter how many times you revisit the past, there’s nothing new to see. Don’t let what once happened get in the way of what is happening. Just because you’ve made mistakes doesn’t mean your mistakes get to make you. If something important didn’t work yesterday, figure out what changes can be made today.
Tame your inner critic; let go and move on productively. You must make a conscious effort to do this, it won’t happen automatically. You will have to rise up and say, “I don’t care how hard this is. I don’t care how disappointed I am. I’m not going to let yesterday’s problems get the best of me. I’m taking the lessons and moving on with my life.”
9. Commit to self-respect, regardless of the issue at hand.
Whenever you catch yourself in a rambling bout of negative self-talk, stop and ask yourself, “If I had a friend who spoke to me in the same way that I sometimes speak to myself, how long would I allow this person to be my friend?”
Remember, the way you treat yourself sets the standard for others, and the world at large, to follow. Above everyone else, YOU deserve YOUR respect. So make sure your decisions, behaviors and actions reflect your self-respect as you carry out your plans. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Self-Love” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
10. Leave room to breathe.
Things don’t always go as planned. Good things can’t always be planned. Be flexible and open to life’s twists and turns.
Organize, but don’t agonize. Keep your space and time ordered, but your schedule underbooked. Create a foundation with a soft place to land, a wide margin of error, and room to think and breathe…
Freeing yourself from an overbooked schedule lets you experience more of life’s good surprises, and also provides you with flexibility when the unforeseen disrupts your foresight.
So, in summary…
Focus on your priorities, but take things in stride. Make decisions, not excuses. Live one moment at a time. Count your blessings, not your troubles. Let the wrong things go. Look for lessons in unforeseen obstacles. Ask for help. Give as much as you take. Make time for those who matter. Laugh when you can. Cry when you need to. And always stay true to your values.