Annie Dillard is famous for writing, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” We can take her words as a reminder that the thoughts, conversations, people, activities, and environments that we choose to fill our daily lives with — become our lives. And this makes the case for choosing the substance of our lives wisely.
Here are distilled findings on habits that support the continuous pursuit, and the sustainable practice of, a meaningful and authentic integrated life. But please remember — this list is not enough, there are no shortcuts to sustainable change; there are no hacks to a meaningful life, so make sure to enjoy the journey as it ever-unfolds. As you read this I invite you to listen, and take time with, whatever thoughts surface while you are reading this piece.
Because your journey begins when you begin to listen.
1. Be quiet and make time to listen to the voice within, every single day.
Check in. Ask yourself why you are making a certain decision. Ask yourself the WHY behind your actions. Is that you dictating your actions or external shoulds? It takes considerable effort to separate your voice from others, but when you do this, you will begin to be make decisions that are clearly reflective of your personal mission and values. When you do this, that voice inside of you will literally sing. You will know EXACTLY when you have made a decision that honors that voice. It will feel like a loud, strong, and boldly joyous “YES!”
2. Make mental fitness your secret weapon.
When was the last time you noticed a negative thought enter your mind? Maybe it’s happening right now? Learn to identify those when they enter, label them, and choose to move your focus elsewhere. The strength of your mental capacity to focus your mind on what is important is what enables you to actualize your mission in life. If you are always drained and you don’t know why — chances are your mind is a wild beast. Tame that thing!
3. Search for your moments of flow, investigate them, and then structure environments to foster tapping into flow throughout your day.
Do you feel in the zone working solo plugging away at what you love? Great, make space for that to occur and guard that time like your dreams depend on it — because they do.
4. Do something daily that brings perspective to your individual experience.
Look at the ocean, pet a dog, touch a tree — take a few minutes each day to remind yourself that you are a part of a system MUCH larger than yourself. And remember that everything you do is a little ripple in this larger ecosystem, that every day in your life is also just a ripple in your life. Remember that your actions are powerful — but not singular.
5. Cultivate mental space and clarity early in your day through a mindfulness meditation practice.
It is mind blowing how this will shift your day. Your breathing becomes a vehicle for cultivating clarity and ease throughout your day; in meetings, walking down the street, during high intensity conversations. Continue to remind yourself to come back to that calm through your focused breathing. This will change your productivity, and not because you are “hacking” anything, only because your mind is at peace, and therefore of greater power.
6. Revisit your core values EVERY SINGLE WEEK.
Ask yourself how you are honoring your core values through your actions on a personal, professional, and social level. Be authentic with the values and with yourself. If your day is out of alignment with your core values, chances are you are not pushing forward your true mission in life. Remember, how we spend our days is how we spend our lives.
7. STOP LOOKING FOR SHORTCUTS. You are either honoring your mission in life and accelerating that progression — or you are not.
There are no quick fixes and hacks when it comes to honoring the life you were meant to bring to life — the impact you were born to honor. Taking continuous daily actions in alignment with your higher calling is the most productivity-inducing thing you can do. Even better, it is sustainable, which is the key to lasting change and impact.
8. Speak positive affirmations to yourself. Personal affirmation is far more intrinsically satisfying than external gratification.
Did you present a great proposal you poured your heart into? Write an article you’re really proud of? Meditate every day this week? Wonderful! Look yourself in the mirror, congratulate yourself, and remind yourself how empowering it feels to complete something meaningful to your mission in life.
NOTE: If this sounds crazy to you, ask yourself when’s the last time you celebrated a silent win with yourself?
9. Write on paper every damn day!
Tangibly express your thoughts and map out concepts.
10. Surround yourself with proactive, passionate, truly authentic, and multidisciplinary people, communities, and thoughts.
11. Create a routine that feels right to YOU.
Do what speaks to you, otherwise, you won’t adhere to it in the long-term, and consequently it won’t create long-term change. Things that are simple, nurturing, and recharging are great, for example 10-minutes of morning journaling.
12. What you resist persists.
I learned this when I told my coach that everyone at my old job looked miserable and she responded to me, “Have you heard the phrase, “If you spot it, you got it?” Do you think this may be a reflection of your own mental state?” And then it hit me, regardless of the actions of others, we often perceive what we are putting out. If consistent pain points are popping up in your life, slow down, and take time to investigate their deeper source.
13. Investigate, reflect, and experiment.
This is a wonderful way to look at what is serving you, what is not, and to track your individual experience and experiment with new ways of being.