“Gosh, this year flew by fast” – that’s a phrase you hear often as we get into the last few weeks of the year. For kids a year seems to take forEVER but as we grow older the perception of time speeding up seems almost real.
What thoughts come to your mind as this year is coming to an end? I believe your answer to this question can be a telling reflection about how satisfied you are with your life.
My hope is that you’re beaming, feeling excited about the many experiences you’ve had - evenings of laughter with friends, the school performance of your child, a vacation with the family, a new skill learned, an old hobby pursued, meaningful conversations with the people who matter most, moments of reflection and revelations, and the feeling that you’ve LIVED and even made a difference in someone’s life.
If you shrugged at this list wondering on what planet I live please keep reading. If it’s not excitement, what thoughts come to your mind as this year is coming to an end? “I’m getting old”, “same old, same old” or some other expression of indifference?
To me that’s a sign that you’re going through life without a clear direction. You wake up every morning and go through the same routine every day, work your butt off to be the best mom, wife, employee, and community servant, and nothing ever changes.
The trick to a happy and fulfilled life is for you to take control of it rather than allowing the rest of the world to control it for you.
What do I mean? If you don’t plan the type of experiences you want, everyone else will fill up every waking minute of your day with their needs. I’m not proposing you ignore everyone else. No, it’s not an all-or-nothing game. What I am proposing is that you become clear of what you want, why you want it, and create a plan to do it. Okay let’s break this down….
Step 1: Ask yourself 'what feelings do I want to experience more often?'
Are you looking to feel more joy? Love? A sense of achievement or maybe adventure? How about the feelings of romance, serenity, hope, awe, or amusement? Or is it a feeling of pride?
Select the top 2-3 emotions that you want to nurture/see more of in your life.
Step 2: Brainstorm how you can create those feelings in your life
Take a large notepad and pen, move
to a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted (sitting by a window or being outside in nature can be especially inspiring) and let the pen fly. All ideas are allowed. All ideas are put to paper. No filter. No judgement. Let the pen fill a page or two.
A great place to start is to look at your past. When did you experience these emotions before - in your childhood, when you were single, when you were married but didn’t have any kids?
Often the magic is found in the small things. Think of ways you can produce that emotion in less than a minute, 10 minutes, an hour, or a day. Think of ways to create that feeling when you’re by yourself, with friends, with family, with strangers…yes, strangers. Let me offer a few examples:
Things on my list that bring me JOY?
· Call a different friend every week and tell him/her that I love them and why.
· Go to a dance class or have my own dance party in my living room.
· Go to the comedy club.
· Count how many people I can make smile by smiling at them in the office/the park/etc.
· Grow and nurture a plant.
· Sign up for a painting class.
Things on my list that will give me a sense of ADVENTURE?
· Get in the car on a sunny Sunday afternoon and drive without knowing where I’m doing.
· Sign up for a subscription box – each month I get a box full of surprises.
· Sit in a completely different spot in church and commit to having a conversation with one of the four people sitting around me.
· Write three different notes including my phone number and tie them to three different balloons. Release them and see if I ever hear back from someone.
Okay, one more. This is FUN!!!
Things on my list that will make me feel PROUD:
· Go to a senior citizen home and talk to whoever is looking for company.
· Take 10 $10 bills out of the bank and commit to supporting 10 different people in need or 10 different causes before the month is over. No, this doesn’t require organization. Once you have the money it’s amazing how the right causes or people show up in your life.
· Book that long weekend get-away that you’ve been pushing off for so long. Yes, finally doing the one thing for yourself that you’ve been thinking about forever will make you feel proud once experienced.
· Engage in a conversation with someone who is very different than you…the girl at the train station with 3 nose rings, the 400-pound man at church, or the ‘odd mom’ of your daughter’s class mate.
You get the gist. Living life doesn’t require hours and days out of your busy routine.
Living life is about injecting small moments
of new experiences every day.
Step 3: Narrow down & Plan
Because you were brainstorming and wrote down every idea that flowed out of your brain, you may now find that some experiences seem more enticing to you than others. Having said that, don’t shy away from stepping out of your comfort zone. Like Elizabeth Gilbert said, “Living within your comfort zone is a sure way to a flatline life”.
I find there are two effective ways to plan these ideas into your week. One is to have a designated time every week to complete a task. For example, calling one of your friends to tell them you love them and why might be something you reserve for every Tuesday evening.
But some things you can’t plan out for the year - and that’s good as they’d otherwise become part of your routine and routine tends to make things boring. The way I solve that is to have an hour window reserved on the 1st Sunday of every month to plan.
Take your list of options and decide what you’ll do in the next 30 days and how you plan to space them out.
I have a calendar in the kitchen where I jot down every single one of those experiences. Now when I get to the end of the year, I take that calendar and flip through it. WOW! You’ll be amazed how much you’ve experienced. You’ll know what made you laugh, what made you feel amazing, and most importantly which of these many things you’d love to do again.
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