It’s easy to wonder if we’re going about our lives in the right way.
But what if you are? Or, what if you’re closer than you think?
For many of us, it feels like there’s something that’s missing. Perhaps we feel that we lack the right income, the recognition we deserve – or maybe we feel like we need to move to a new country altogether.
Things just aren’t quite perfect.
But, instead of focusing on what’s supposedly missing, let’s pay more attention to all the little things we’re doing, or could be doing. Because they all add up to create a richer and more authentic life, no matter the circumstances.
1. You stay in touch with your family
We don’t choose our parents, or our brothers and sisters. But if you’re lucky enough to have a family, let that love flow into your life regularly. They’re not going to be here forever, so reconnect in some small way if it’s been awhile since you last spoke. Make it a routine to keep in touch.
Your family may not be perfect, but maintaining your connection with some of, or all of your family will give you the gift of a greater sense of belonging. If there’s anything you can do to heal the past, be patient – and do your best to move through it.
They’ll be thankful for it. And so will you.
2. You meet friends every week
Based on the longest study on happiness by a group of Harvard researchers, the major finding was that the quality of your relationships – determine the quality of your happiness. And yet, it’s so easy to let your social life slide down into a small corner of your life. But by continually nurturing it, you’ll be taking care of one the most important parts of your happiness. According to positive psychology, that means you’re likelier to move in the right direction in all the other areas of your life too.
Strong relationships have been shown in numerous studies, to be the strongest predictors of life satisfaction. When you express yourself with a couple of different friends every week (something so simple), you give yourself the best chance of being happy. Life then doesn’t seem like it’s all about the pursuit, but more like an experience, you share in common with everyone else.
3. You laugh every day
Some of us live under the idea that we need to be serious to achieve big things. Based on a whole library of research documented by Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, people who laugh more are happier, and also counter-intuitively likelier to achieve more. As children, we used to laugh hundreds of times per day. As adults, that number gets whittled down significantly.
Humour is our primordial philosophy, but we only cultivate it through being mindful of the looking-glass we navigate our lives with. Dr Wayne Dyer once famously said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”. If you’re usually feeling tense and pressured because of the way you look at life, your character is going to eventually, permanently reflect that. But if you’re usually feeling amused, despite whatever’s going on, you’ll help shape your long-term character and life for more happiness.
4. You do what you love every day
Since your whole life will always be live within the confines of a single day, you do what you can to enjoy each one. While you may have goals, you realize that you only move closer towards them by fully embracing your present. Thomas Carlyle once said, “Our main business not to see what lies at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.” In the myriad responsibilities of work and life, you realize it’s important to keep your sense of play.
Sometimes doing what you love is a struggle. Sometimes you feel like procrastinating. But you still do your best make the time for what you love each day. Your love could be anything from practising an instrument, drawing, writing, painting, playing basketball, reading, or else. In the end, you end up leading a far more meaningful life as a result of your allegiance to your love.
5. You make yourself feel good each morning
Your daily morning routine is the foundation for your life. If you start off each day with an arbitrary script, then you’re going to get random results. And while it’s good to take chances in life, gambling on being intentional with your life isn’t a chance you take. So, you start your day by consistently doing whatever it is that makes you feel good; making it likelier you’ll make good things happen.
With a morning routine, you cultivate the mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional areas of your life. You head into your day already feeling fulfilled. Whether you read, exercise, journal, meditate, take a cold shower, or else – a sign that you’re moving in the right direction is that you know exactly what puts you in peak mental and physical state each day – and you do it more often than not.
6. You travel to different countries every year
Travelling is about much more than taking the time to have some fun and relax. It’s about going on adventures that disconnect you from your existing culture – so that you see yourself with a little more clarity. It’s about enriching your life, with unique, memorable experiences. Travelling lets you remove the pull of your current influences so that you experience yourself and the world around you in a new way.
While life may partly be about the hustle, it’s also about having a holistic life that makes you feel energised to be the best person you can be. Going abroad allows you to come back home renewed, ready to fire on all cylinders. When you look back on your time on this planet, you’ll savour every opportunity you took to push yourself out into different realms.
7. You realize that everyone is your teacher
Everyone you meet knows something you don’t. Every person you come across is a potential teacher or mentor. Since you know this truth, you’re more open to building new growth based relationships. But only some people can offer you advice and wisdom that’s truly life changing – so you look for people wiser than you in the right places.
Marcus Aurelius, the famous Roman Emperor, in his book, Meditations wrote: “the span we live is small – small as the corner of the earth in which we live it.” To make our view of the world clearer, our life larger, all we need to do is to: be open, ask the right questions, and continually test out new ideas. We need to reach out to potential teachers. We need to look for the gems what people share with us. With time and application, the different components of our life will start clicking into place.
8. You read books that broaden your views
If you realize that everyone is your teacher, you’ll naturally gravitate to books. Reading them will shape and mould your character, brick by brick. Over time, they’ll help carve out a masterpiece of an inner canvas. They’ll make you consider possibilities you would have never otherwise considered. And they’ll allow you to lead a more intentional and aware life.
One idea has the potential to change your life forever if you act on it. Lori Deschene, the founder of TinyBuddha, drastically improved her life situation, when she encountered the quote: “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” Sometimes, the most profound insights you have in your life will come through reading one sentence, one quote, in one book.
9. You invest in yourself
Countless people similar to you have made mistakes and often pass on their decades of experience – so that you don’t have to always learn things the hard way. Warren Buffett, the world renowned and famous investor, once said “It’s good to learn from your mistakes. But it’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes.”
Whether it’s through an online course, seminar, or a three-day event (related to skills you’re passionate about improving) – you’ll usually come back with an upgraded toolkit. Having the willingness to let go of your ego, by investing in yourself, will cut your learning curve and allow you to get the skills that some people have taken years to learn. Just because you’ve finished your degree doesn’t mean your life education is over. In fact, it’s always just getting started.
Remember: if you don’t invest in yourself, then who will?
10. You self-reflect on the direction you’re taking
You only ever have so much energy to give, and every once in awhile; you need to make a pit stop. That can take the form of a public blog, a written journal, or simply a conversation with a friend to reflect on your year so far. Simply relaxing on your bed is not reflection, it’s often just aimless thinking. When a Formula 1 car takes a pit stop, it doesn’t just sit there and ponder.
Great reflections are timely, efficient, and focused – like a race car getting its fuel and tyres replaced. Reflecting on your journey, is one of the most important things you can do for your direction and self-awareness in the long term. The active recovery will give you the clarity needed to act on hard truths – so that you can make wise improvements in both your personal and professional life. They show that you’re less worried about what you can’t control, and more about what you can.
11. You save money every month
If you don’t have money under control, you don’t live free. If you don’t save money every month, you’re not preparing for the future. Making a saving plan doesn’t have to be complicated. You just need to calculate how much you automatically spend every month on all your bills, and create a standing order for a monthly amount that you can easily commit to.
Brian Tracy, one of the most prominent self-improvement gurus, in his book, the 21 Secrets of Millionaires, wrote: “if you don’t save money, the seeds of greatness aren’t within you.” You save for the future because you understand that a little money saved each month, will end up going a long way towards your freedom. And freedom is something you value tremendously.
12. You eat healthy food (most of the time)
Anyone can eat a couple of fruits and vegetables per day. Anyone can eat one protein-rich meal per day. Anyone can skip the soda and make sure they drink enough water. Eating healthy is not a pursuit of perfection, it’s just about feeding your body more of what it needs, and less of what it doesn’t.
Yet, in a world where companies are spending billions of dollars on marketing processed foods, you can’t be too harsh on yourself if you eat unhealthy on occasion. Yes, we’ve all grown to love cookies, ice cream, and the like – but by feeding your body more nutritious foods most of the time, you’ll disable part of the lure processed foods have over you.
Eating healthy is not a vanity project. It’s about making sure you’re optimising your whole physiology so that you can perform and feel your best, every single day.
13. You exercise often – even if it’s just 5 minutes a day
Exercise isn’t just about improving your physique or your health; it’s also a way to improve your mentality and physiology. Similarly to fine-tuning a car, your body needs the right intervention to operate at its best. You only ever end up getting one body in your lifetime, so you do what you can to take care of it. Whether you go to the gym three times per week, jog once a week, play sports with your friends – you realize you were built to move.
Many people choose to exercise in the morning. Consciously or unconsciously they realize that their morning exercise ritual is a gateway into a higher state of energy and focus. And with that state, they can experience a far more rewarding day. If you’re exercising in some form every day (even if it’s just taking a long walk), then you’re also leveraging all the areas of your life closer to their full potential.
14. You’re mindful of your media consumption
With a flick of your fingers, you can get access to a whole variety of entertainment. Based on a 2015 International Communications market report, the average person in America consumes an average of five hours of Television per day. One of the easiest ways to relax and stimulate yourself after a long day at work is to turn on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or whatever’s trending at the time of your reading.
Zig Ziglar, in his book, How to Stay Motivated, mentions that the average Chairman of a board only consumes four to eight hours of television per week. Be the chairman of your life – by being mindful of the quality and quantity of information you allow to flow into your consciousness. You decide whether you want to experience the better part of the thrills you seek, through a screen, or your life. One choice takes you in the right direction; the other takes you away from it.
15. You occasionally disconnect from your smartphone
Disconnecting from your smartphone is you telling the world that you don’t need validation. It’s you telling the world that what matters more than your mobile interactions, is the work you do and the life experience you enjoy. You don’t need to be always engaged with your Social Media to have a great day. On occasion, you find letting go of the tic-tac-toe movements of your thumbs to be liberating.
The average person spends nearly ninety minutes daily on their smartphone. When you disconnect from constantly interacting with your smartphone, you start feeling calmer and more like an individual who’s here for a unique purpose. With that, your peace of mind ensues, and you start embracing your life just a little more.
16. You regularly put yourself out of your comfort zone
While it’s a noble intention to do something every day that puts you out of your comfort zone, you understand that it’s not always going to happen. But you still search for opportunities to do just that. Whether it’s speaking to that cute lady (or man) at the reception, asking a question you wouldn’t usually ask, or something bigger like choosing to go on a new adventure.
The Stoics practised a form of voluntary discomfort in their routines. They would take fasts on occasions, wear “the scantiest of fare”, and sleep on the floor – to absolve themselves of everything they feared from being taken away. Ryan Holiday, in his book, the Daily Stoic, mentions “that we must fight our biases and preconceptions: because they are a liability.” Doing what may seem unfathomable to the average person, whether it’s part of your routine or something that you muster up the courage for, will open you to up to a new dimension of gratitude and fulfilment.
17. You have an attitude of gratitude and rarely complain
Expressing your frustrations, with the intention of finding a solution, works a whole lot better than complaining. And it’s what you aim to cultivate more of in your life. How many pointless dialogues do you sometimes notice taking place around you? How many times do people complain about their lives in your friendships? Yet, you don’t let that put you in the same state of mind.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, once said, “all positive emotions come from love, all negative emotions from fear.” When you notice someone complaining (anger or fear), you give the person some empathy, but you steer the direction towards a more positive end. In your life, you catch yourself as often as you can before making any complaint – by taking a mindful breath and reminding yourself of all the things you’re grateful for. On the rare occasion, you catch yourself complaining – but you quickly let it go. Overall, you embody an attitude of forgiveness, gratitude, and generosity.
My Last Words
“There’s this underlying sentiment, subtly propagated through media (and our perceptual biases) that we first need to achieve something notable, to prove that we’re “moving in the right direction”.
In reality, the biggest breakthrough we could ever make in our lives is to cultivate the little habits, which allow us to move deeper into enriching the present. It’s only then, paradoxically, that we’ll be in a better position to achieve “notable” things.
Even if you didn’t notice all these 17 signs in your life, you can easily make the shift to do more of them. Our big life changing breakthroughs won’t happen in a single moment in the distant future. They’ll happen gradually, cumulatively, and will be measured in proportion to how well we’re building our best lives right now.
The philosophies in this article are practical and always in your hands.