I have to be honest. 2012 gives me a pit in my stomach. After realizing my ideal life in 2011, website like this I’m afraid it might be all downhill after this.
In 2011, recipe I said goodbye to my job and my daily responsibilities and took off with the love of my life to travel around the world. I’ve spent the past six months on a perpetual vacation – drinking cocktails on white-sand beaches, what is ed trekking through ridiculously amazing mountain landscapes, and visiting famous wonders of the world. I’m working on a project that I whole-heartedly believe in, and I’m meeting extraordinary and inspiring individuals. And oh yes, on one of those white-sand beaches, I got engaged to an amazing woman who I’m falling more in love with every day.
So what’s next for me once I return home in June? Is it time for me to finally settle down, get back to climbing the corporate ladder, go through the wedding frenzy, make a home, have babies, build an organic farm in my backyard, send my kids to college, save for retirement and the whole bit? Am I back to the routine life of appointments, to-do lists, and responsibilities? Do I only have weekends and those two precious weeks of vacation each year to look forward to?
Merely writing this paragraph fills me with dread. Yes some of these things are the realities of life, and some of these things I really do want. But nothing scares me more than living an ordinary, uneventful life. So, I’ve decided to make it my mission to realize my ideal life every year. If there’s anything that 2011 has taught me is that if you can imagine it, anything is possible.
Of course, I realize this is quite a challenging mission. So in preparation, I’ve thrown myself into self-help books and spiritual literature. I’ve consulted tarot readers, Buddhist followers, and Hindu monks. I’ve gone back to the familiarity of the Bible and tried to pick up old spiritual habits of prayer and meditation. From all of this, here’s what I’ve come up with so far on the keys to living your ideal life all the time…
1. Imagine your ideal life: Before you can live your ideal life, you have to know what it is. Duh. But this was quite an epiphany for me when I read the Passion Test. The Passion Test asks you to answer the following question: When I am living my ideal life, I am _________. By thinking about my ideal life, I didn’t limit myself to what I thought was feasible. But I did have to dig deep and ask myself what truly would satisfy me. Sure, in my ideal life I’d love to be a millionaire, but is it money that I want or is it the freedom that money buys? After several days of contemplating this question, I was able to clarify the top 5 things that I want to have in my ideal life. And by imagining what these 5 things look like in detail (it does in fact include an organic farm in my backyard), I feel like I have a very clear mission to focus my life around.
2. Make a prioritized list of resolutions and goals that lead you towards your ideal life: The key here is prioritization. There are many, many things that I want to do. But at the end of the day I have limited time and resources, and if I try to do everything (which is my usual methodology going into every new year), I’m bound to fizzle out quickly. So what’s most important in realizing my ideal life: Running a half-marathon? Starting my own side business? Going away on romantic long weekends with Lisa? Investing in my career? Working on Out & Around? Having dinner parties with friends? Volunteering with foster children? Spending more time at church? Working on our house? I could go on and on. Everything on this list sounds great, but there are some things that will move me closer to my ideal life than others. The classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People talks about “Putting First Things First”, and I think this is a critical piece that I’ve missed in my previous goal-making life-makeover attempts.
3. Make a daily habit of reflection:We’ve all heard the Socratic mantra that “an unexamined life is not worth living.” Well, it’s true. I’m particularly prone to to move from one shiny object to another, so the only way I’m going to stay focused on working towards my ideal life is if I assess myself against it every day. In The Happiness Project, a woman attempted to increase her own happiness by following a new set of resolutions each month of the year, the one habit that the writer said helped her the most was checking through her Resolutions Chart every night. Those resolutions were what made her happier, and the habit of daily reflection helped keep those resolutions at the top of her mind as she went through each day. I’ve been doing it for the past three months now – it only takes 15 minutes each night, and it makes a world of difference.
4. Make rest a priority: There is an incredible amount of pressure from society to be productive and I certainly had a hard time Slowing Down the Amazing Race. Sitting around doing nothing feels absolutely sinful. But my paradigm really shifted after our stint at the ashram. There, I spent a solid two weeks resting on a hammock (see picture left), and I never felt more present, focused, and creative. Just as we schedule getting things done, we also have to schedule in rest and stillness. Rest could be in the form of meditation, or it could be taking a quiet walk, or it could be putting on headphones and tuning out to your favorite music. I have ‘Rest and Relax’ on my list of resolutions, and this is one task that I love making time to do everyday.
5. Be true to yourself: How many times do I do something because I think I should like it when I actually don’t? I can’t tell you the number of museums Lisa and I kept dragging ourselves to on this trip until we finally admitted that we hate museums. We felt like horrible tourists for skipping the Gandhi museum in Delhi, but the truth is that we’re far happier avoiding the traffic, going for a jog around the local park and having a cup of good chai while reading a book at a cafe. Speaking of books, for years I’ve tried to focus my leisure reading time on ‘high-brow’ books – you know, the stuff that would impress people at dinner parties. But I’ve come to realize that what I really enjoy is kid-lit and science fiction. Not exactly intellectual stuff, but my mantra nowadays is: Do more of what makes me happy, Do less of what I don’t.
What are your keys to living an ideal life? I would love to hear your comments…