There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. – Albert Einstein
My blog Aliventures has the tagline “getting more from life” so I’ve got a fair few thoughts on how to do just that.
I’m going to start with five key principles that – so far – have helped me feel happy and secure, and which have led me to where I currently am in life, doing what I love, with strong relationships with my fiancé, my family and my friends.
1. Value freedom over money
When I left my day job a couple of years ago, it was because I’d learnt to value my freedom – of time, of creativity – over money. I found myself much happier with a significantly lower income and loads more time to do things which I loved.
Valuing freedom has also meant that I’ve never had a credit card: I hate the idea of being stuck paying off loans, and I’d rather save up for a few months than buy something right now and end up paying a lot more in the long term.
Are freedom and money in conflict in your own life?
2. Give others the benefit of the doubt
It’s so easy to get frustrated by the actions of others. Perhaps someone leaves a nasty comment on one of my blog posts, or bumps into me in the street, or is snappy with me on the phone. I could react by getting angry.
I prefer to attribute the best possible motives to other people. Maybe that person who sent the cranky email had just had a really awful day. Maybe that thoughtless man running through a train station – and knocking me with his case – was in a tearing hurry to catch a train to be with his dying grandmother. I’ll never really know. And regardless of whether or not I’m right (most of the time I’m probably not!) – I definitely feel better when I assume that other people have a good reason to behave as they do.
Next time you get het up about someone’s “appalling” behaviour, think of an alternative explanation.
3. Eat well
I used to eat a lot of junk food – and food which wasn’t particularly tasty or satisfying. After losing weight in my late teens, I’ve become more focused on eating healthy (and nice!) food.
We have to eat to survive, but I think that seeing food as mere fuel is a mistake. Sure, you could live on rice and beans, or soggy takeaway sandwiches, or burgers and fries – but you probably won’t be enjoying it much.
Eating well also means taking time to enjoy meals, and eating lunch and dinner with my fiancé as often as possible. 🙂
Do you take the time to buy, prepare and eat food which you really enjoy – and which makes you feel good?
4. Resist advertising
I’ve been keenly interested in words all my life – and I’m very aware of how marketers can manipulate us by clever use of language. I’ve also seen friends and colleagues spend a lot of money on the latest, greatest gadgets and similar.
It’s well worth learning to cut through the hype and consider things coolly. Adverts often plant thoughts in my mind – ooh, wouldn’t it be great to have that? – but in all honesty, if I really wanted or needed something, I’d get it regardless of whether or not I’d seen an ad. Buying more stuff doesn’t make me happier.
What tricks do you see adverts using to pull you in? (Being able to spot these is a real help to resisting.)
5. Use and celebrate your gifts
I’ve always loved writing. I enjoyed writing essays in school (weird kid, I know), and I attempted my first novel when I was 15. For the past couple of years, I’ve been making a living from my writing – and this is a huge part of me enjoying my life! It’s great to be able to use my gifts (not just writing but also an aptitude for technology) in my daily life.
What are your gifts? How could you make fuller use of them (perhaps in a voluntary capacity)?
The next five are areas where I’m trying to grow – habits which I haven’t quite built yet. I’m getting there, but I’m aware that there’s still considerable work to do!
1. Be patient
I like everything to happen fast. I’m struggling with patience particularly at the moment, as we’ve just moved house, and the whole process has been more frustrating and time-consuming than I wanted.
(We’ve got to wait another nine days to get our broadband connection up and running – I’d like to say I was taking this with good grace… alas, I’m finding it very hard!)
Would more patience make your life run more smoothly?
2. First things first
In Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey writes about the importance of “first things first” – putting the important stuff in its rightful place. I’m definitely getting better at this, and I try to preserve my morning hours (when I’m focused) for writing – but I’ve noticed a tendency recently to backslide…
What’s your “great work”? Is it getting a prime position in your life?
3. Say “No” more often
This is an area I’ve struggled with for many years. I hate to say “no” – not just to other people’s requests, but also to my own whims and desires. I’m slowly but surely getting better at turning down new commitments, and focusing on doing a few things well rather than trying to unsuccessfully juggle far too much.
Who – or what – do you need to say “no” to this week?
4. Value your creativity
When I was a student and when I was working in my “proper” job after university, my creative activity tended to come last. It was squeezed into corners of the day, or put aside for months on end.
I’ve learnt that I’m happiest when I write fiction on a regular basis. I tend to go through fits and starts with this – sometimes I’ll spend a huge amount of time on fiction for weeks on end, other times I’ll do none – but I’m gradually learning to find a balance.
Do you treat your own creativity as something life-giving and joyful – or something which you brush aside?
5. Accept help from others
I hung out on my own a lot as a child and teen, and became proud of doing things my own way, without help. Even as a young adult, I felt that I should stand on my own feet and make my own way in life.
Over the past few years, I’ve become much more accepting of help from other people – my parents especially, but also the advice and support of friends. I’ve realised that a lot of my old attitude was about pride, and that I can grow faster and achieve more by accepting the abundant help which I’m offered.
Who would love to help you, given the chance?
It’d be great to hear your thoughts on any of these ten points in Comments below – or further principles which you’re living by, or trying to.