Introducing: “How to live a full life in 5 easy steps”

Introducing: “How to live a full life in 5 easy steps”

This is the first chapter of an e-book I wrote for a client.

You only get one life….why not maximize it?

 

Chapter 1. Introspection

 

This is a call to arms, a sounding of the alarms, and an opening of the floodgates. It’s time for you to reset, recharge, and reinvigorate the mundane redundancy of your life. Because if you are like “most people,” then you have a deep, wretched, and fetid ache in your soul. Most people hear a little voice clamoring for attention in the back of their minds, and they ignore it. Why? Because they are too busy. Work, go to school, do the laundry, clean the apartment, eat a meal, go to sleep, and repeat. You see, most people go through their daily grind and never realize what they’re missing until they’ve aged beyond their ability to grasp it. It is a true shame to no longer possess the capability to achieve maximum balance between leisure and labor. People often go their entire lives working a job they hate to sustain a lifestyle that makes them miserable, ultimately ending up in a substandard retirement, and becoming a parasitic drain on their family’s resources. The sheer gravity of the situation is enough to bring tears to your eyes.

How did it get like this? At what point did people start putting their happiness on hold in service of an uncaring faceless corporate and/or bureaucratic liege? How did it come about that the public at large has sacrificed the passions of their hearts to toil away in front of a computer screen, chained to a cubicle, quietly cursing under their breath? Remember when you were growing up and you truly believed you could do or be anything that you set your mind to? What happened to that optimism? Where did the dreams of yesterday disappear to? This all began the moment people ceased to explore their own potential. The increase of aptitude is a lost art in America. We are simply no longer as adept at finding and nurturing our own talents. However, all is not lost. There is always an end to the darkness of the tunnel, and at that end, the light is blinding.

It is high time you recaptured that sense of invincibility. It has been too long since your imagination had as much leverage as your rationality. It’s time to grab hold of life and ride it like the uninhibited, wild, and insane mustang it really is. Living doesn’t have to be boring, slow, unfulfilling, and tedious. This can be avoided. In point of fact, it’s easy to avoid. All it takes is a little common sense, and a lot of tenacity. So if you’re tired of living just to get by, and ready to roll up your sleeves and get down to the business of becoming your ideal self, then take a deep breath and plunge into the five simple steps to leading a fulfilling life!

First off, we need to figure out what makes you happy. So what do you take the most pleasure in? Which of your daily/weekly/monthly/yearly activities brings you the most joy? This is the first, simplest, and by far the easiest step to take.

1.      Make a list.

That’s it. Seems too simple, doesn’t it? Well, believe it or not simplicity usually holds a great deal of clout over the convoluted. You have to learn to walk before you run after all. Don’t worry, after your list is finished, things are bound to get more complicated. In the meantime, just grab a pen and paper, or a keyboard if you prefer. Drink a cup of coffee, and take some time to really concentrate on the things you do that make you happy. As you write, rank the items on your list numerically from 1 to 10, 1 being the least satisfying thing imaginable, and 10 being pure bliss.

This list is yours and can be as informal and brief, or as organized and exhaustive as you decide for it to be. The important thing is to get down, on paper, a point of origin for yourself. Why is this important? Because every journey starts with putting one foot in front of the other. This is how it starts. If you have a comprehensive compendium of activities, actions, or objects that really captures your attention and put a smile on your face, then you always have something to refer back to when you’ve come to a dead end.

The purpose of this list is to become a jump off point for your introspection. Now, what exactly is introspection? Introspection is the ability to examine your own thoughts and experiences, then based on your examinations, to also come up with some helpful or productive conclusions. The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates put forth the assertion: “An unexamined life is a life not worth living.” This is one of the great sayings that has really held up quite well over time. If a man is to go through life without ever thinking deeply about his purpose, ambitions, or passions then how can he expected to achieve anything? It’s a truth so self-evident it hardly needs to be restated. Yet people are constantly failing to do this simplest of things. What possible reasoning could they possess for such gross personal negligence?

Ego.

If you haven’t met your ego yet, I’d like to take the opportunity to introduce you to your greatest asset and your most hated nemesis. The ego is a double edged sword so sharp it could cut a diamond. It allows you to brush off criticism, increase self-esteem, have unwavering faith in yourself, and push through any adversity. However, it also inhibits growth, alienates friends and family, creates false expectations, and refutes any and all attempts at humility. The ego can keep you from introspection by fooling you into thinking you can’t benefit from it. Your ego will tell you that you are already at your pinnacle, that there is no higher peak to ascend. Even if you exist in a state of perpetual shame and self-loathing, it is your ego that keeps you there. You must remember that even if it is self-pity, it’s still self-centered.

If you are able to put ego aside and concentrate on self-improvement, then true change is within your grasp. Which is why step one is so important, it actually side steps the ego by concentrating on extrinsic factors. You’re concentrating on the activities that make you happy, which then allows you to see patterns in your own behavior. Before you know it, you might find yourself examining the “why” behind the joy you take in these activities instead of just the “how” that it takes to achieve the joy.

At this point you might be thinking, “Well, if I’m just writing a list of things that make me happy, isn’t that self-centered?” It is and it isn’t. If you were writing a list of things to do to make yourself happy for no other reason than to break temporarily from the depressing malaise of life, then this is only a distraction, and it is indeed selfishness. However, that isn’t what you’re doing. You are making this list with the object of learning about and improving yourself in mind; and because self-improvement doesn’t just affect you, it almost never equates to selfishness.

What do I mean by that?  If you are to engage in self-improvement, and it has a profound effect on your life, then you will become a happier more fulfilled person. Have you ever noticed that happy people tend to flock together? Ever wondered why that is? Well, it’s because being around other happy people makes you happy. Having interesting, confident, and competent friends that actually enjoy their lives increases personal happiness. The inverse is true as well. If you constantly surround yourself with angry, malcontented, arrogant, or stupid people then you’re likely to become that way yourself. No human being lives in total isolation, we’re social creatures. We imitate our surroundings, so it’s instinct that we should look for the happiest and most successful people to be around. This is another area where having a healthily sized and properly aligned ego will help you.

Never imagine you are the alpha in your circle. If you draw people to you and exert influence upon them, then it’s an ability of which you should be aware, but not proud. The responsibility to your fellow man is too great a burden to add the weight of pride into the mix. You will always run into cocky people, and if you can’t stand that type of person, it’s probably because you see the qualities you hate about yourself reflected in their attitudes. Since these kinds of people are always going to be around, you should go ahead and try to avoid becoming one of them, just in case people start avoiding you.

So where to start on your list? Start small. Think of the little things that make you happy. Maybe it’s the morning cup of coffee: crushing up fresh beans with a finely made French press, inhaling that memorable aroma, sitting down for a relaxed breakfast, and taking that first warm sip. It could be the first chords of your favorite song resounding through your car stereo and reverberating off the windows. Traffic would be a pretty dismal experience without Pink Floyd to help you through it. Perhaps you’re a history buff, constantly looking into the past of a certain subject. This closet academic attitude can be one of the most fulfilling pursuits available. Whether your pleasures are innocent or guilty, start with the little ones and move outward.

Take your interest or hobby and write it down. Then take that idea an inch further. If you like listening to a certain band, then you’d probably love seeing them live. If you like a morning cup of Folgers, then you’d probably love the gourmet brands. Or if you actually are the adept in antiquity, there’s probably a museum in your city with some fascinating exhibits.  The important thing is to start the process of association. Once you understand what makes you happy, you can figure out what about that something actually elicits the positive energy. The goal of this initial list is as simple as the execution of the task itself. By writing these activities down you are providing a template for your own happiness. A personal guide which you construct for yourself.

Once you’ve completed your list, you’ll probably be pretty excited to go out and actually do some of it. Well, go to town! Hit the streets and really push yourself to hit at least two items a day.  Try this for a week and see the difference it makes. This part of the program is all about building momentum. You want to get a good head of steam up to carry you through to the harder work of real growth down the line. So go nuts! Overdo it a little. Just be ready for the next step, because if you aren’t used to pushing your limits, this next part can be slightly scarier.