1. Having a job you enjoy.
And it’s important to note that this doesn’t necessarily mean career. If building a demanding, complex career around which to base your definition of success and most of your time isn’t for you — that’s awesome! We live under this collective delusion that we are defined entirely by the job we do, which is an absurd notion. If you are happy doing a job that leaves you a lot of time and no stress for the rest of your endeavors, you should feel no shame in doing it. As much as someone shouldn’t toil in a service job if they dream of doing something with a corner office, someone shouldn’t feel chained to a cubicle if they long to have the freedom to get up and go when they so choose. The point is that we shouldn’t resign ourselves to making a living where we feel trapped or consumed by the job we’re doing, and we certainly shouldn’t let others tell us what it is that we should be doing, at any age. Whatever makes us happiest spending our working hours, we should do. After all, when the alarm goes off — it’s you who has to actually get up and go to work.
2. Being loved.
While there is no guarantee that you are just going to wake up one day and find your soulmate in the produce section of your grocery store, the idea that you should ever quit the entire game of loving and being loved because it hasn’t worked out yet is awful. Sure, the media may tell us that women fall off of some invisible cliff at the age of 30, after which they are wholly unloveable, but we all know that’s bullshit. Aside from there being many kinds of love outside of the romantic kind — all of which are wonderful and highly worth our time, if underrated — there is no expiration date on the kind of enjoyment we can find from being kind and loving to others and receiving that kindness in return. Love doesn’t have to be some blonde man in armor riding up on a white horse to take you off to the wedding registry at Neiman Marcus, but it does have to be something you’re open to.
3. Maintaining a nice environment.
I am the last person to be harping on someone about complete and utter cleanliness — I once left a pile of clean clothes on my couch and just kind of lived “around” them for so long that I had to re-wash them before I could put them away — but keeping things at least minimally organized certainly does help. As I’ve become progressively cleaner and cleaner, I’ve noticed that life has become unequivocally better. With an uncluttered desk, made bed, organized closet, and well-arranged cupboard, life just sails along so smoothly. Everything from your workspace to your bedroom is vastly improved with just a small amount of touching-up each day. And the funny thing is, with a little organization once daily, you’ll almost never have to “clean” again. At least, not “cleaning,” in that dreadful, I’m-going-to-have-to-dedicate-a-full-day-to-dusting-alone kind of way. It’s shocking how much better the world immediately seems when your drawers are neatly arranged by type of clothing.
4. Keeping good friends.
As we have to be ready for love — romantic and otherwise — we have to always be vigilant never to take friends for granted. Just because they are a constant in your life, and you (usually) don’t have sex with them, doesn’t mean they’re not people you should consider precious and worth your effort. And a friend who is not treating you well — one who makes you feel like they’re doing you a favor by deigning to hang out with you — is not a friend at all. They’re someone you need to get rid of immediately, just as you would an emotionally unfulfilling relationship. While we can often allow behavior (both on our part and those of our friends) in platonic relationships that we wouldn’t in romantic ones, it doesn’t mean that they can be any less damaging. A good friend is a precious thing, and must be taken care of on both sides.
5. Your body.
Whatever you feel comfortable in, body-wise, you shouldn’t be giving up on. If you feel good at a size two, eight, 16 — whatever. As long as you’re healthy and taking care of yourself (and not just lying to yourself about it), no one should stop you from looking the way you want to. No matter how much you may dislike what you see when you catch yourself in an unflattering angle in some mirror, it doesn’t mean that’s suddenly the end of your quest to be confident. And though we are all struggling with how we look and feel, everyday, and no one (no matter what they’re trying to sell), has the secrets to perfection, it doesn’t mean it’s something we can’t always be working on. We can always eat a bit healthier, be a bit more active, take a bit better care of our skin, and love ourselves a little more. But doing one without the other, or imagining that we’re going to suddenly will ourselves into a shape or size that will magically make every other problem disappear, is a dead-end. Loving and being okay with your body is a constant uphill battle, but one that is never not worth the fight.
6. Personal Change.
Whatever the goal is, no matter how far-fetched or inconveniently located it may seem, if it is something that makes us feel alive, we should be following it. Maybe it won’t perfectly take the form we’ve always imagined in our daydreams, and maybe it won’t happen on the timetable we would have chosen, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth moving towards every day. Even if you think that big move, or the dream career, or the house on the beach, or the championship trophy is something that you aren’t good enough for, why would you stop yourself from even trying? Why would you rather have the regret of sitting down and saying “I can’t,” rather than actively changing the things you do control and taking active steps towards what you want? We often forget that our big moments and successes are achieved in small increments — little steps that can seem almost unrelated to the bigger picture — and that is such a shame. Why is saving a dollar today that could allow you to fly to Rome tomorrow, or doing an online course this semester that will one day lead to your doctorate, not as much a cause for celebration as the end-goal itself? There is never a point at which we can no longer change, improve, or shape ourselves into what we desire. And the day you decide that your dreams are something that you’ll actively work on every day, you’ll know that every foot you’re placing is, at the very least, in the right direction.