One of my biggest struggles in my day-to-day life is managing my priorities. And by that, I mean I take stuff wayyyy too seriously.
Car bill due? I’m thinking about it all day. Carpet to vacuum? Also on my mental to-do list.
Some people think that keeping these kinds of daily priorities in your mind is an act of mature responsibility. I know I used to.
But, more recently, I’ve been made aware of just how limiting that kind of prioritization can be. Not just to your mental health and your happiness, but it can limit the happiness of important people in your life.
If you spend all your time prioritizing your responsibilities, you’re likely ignoring some things that are very important to your life. Like your family, your friends, your “you” time, etc.
The best way to determine if you’ve got your priorities straight is to take some time now and again to re-evaluate them. Below are a few ways that you can start.
#1: Spend as much time as you can doing something you love to do.
Often, we push away our own needs in favor of the needs of our loved ones, such as aging parents, our spouse or children. While this is a noble practice, we cannot neglect our own bliss in the process. Make it a practice to do something that fuels you as much as you can.
A single mom who works all day and then takes care of her children at night might start to feel depleted. However, if she loves to crochet, this is something she could do for 15 minutes after the kids are in bed. By spending just a little time on herself, she’ll feel a little “fuller” in terms of her own happiness.
#2: Surround yourself with people who want to be happy.
This might sound like a strange request, but it’s important: if you want to be happy, the fastest way is to hang around with people who are happy. In other words, it’s time to distance yourself from emotional vampires. Certainly, you can’t do that 100% of the time, especially if the toxic individuals are your coworkers or relatives, but you can minimize the impact they have on you by minimizing your contact with them. Replace them with people who genuinely care about you and want you to lead a fulfilled life.
For example, a man may have an office colleague who enjoys bringing everyone down with his negativity. The man cannot completely cut himself off from this colleague, but he can help bolster himself by starting to form relationships with colleagues who are more positive. Maybe he can even try to use the positive energy he develops to make his negative coworker more positive.
#3: Set some personal goals that will get you closer to where you want to be.
Do you feel as if time is your enemy rather than your friend? Take control of the time you have by setting and accomplishing personal goals. They can be very challenging, such as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, or quite simple, like saving $100 a month to spend on a beach trip to North Carolina next year. Remember to divide your personal goals into doable “baby steps” and mark off each one you accomplish. If you have setbacks, don’t let them kill your dreams. They’re just tiny bumps in the long road.
Say that a woman age 37 wants to run a marathon before she turns 40. However, she hasn’t run farther than about one mile. Therefore, she starts researching running plans and systematically working her way up to two miles, then three, etc. By the time she’s 39, she’s ready to run a marathon thanks to her methodical planning and small accomplishments!
NOTE FROM BRENDAN: If you want to get really detailed with goal-setting, there are 3 modules in the Launch Your Life Academy that really break this down, step-by-step that you can easily implement into your life.
#4: Stay in the moment whenever you can.
As Ferris Bueller once famously quipped in the 1980s classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
While the Bueller character was fictional, his words ring true in the real world. Live each day by being fully in the moment. Resist the urge to be on “auto pilot” throughout your life, and you’ll find yourself feeling happier.
A college student might feel as if he’s always doing something and can’t slow down; he’s always busy. But then he starts to be more purposeful and deliberate. Just for fun, he tries different paths around his campus to get to his classes and winds up having a blast discovering new ways to do the same things. His life becomes about little discoveries, not about boredom.
#5: Start to forgive yourself and others.
It’s hard to be in a happy place when you’re angry or holding on to guilt, frustration and other negative emotions. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being in touch with your feelings, there’s a time and a place to set them free and let them go. If you’re holding grudges, you’re actually hurting yourself more than anyone else.
For example, a woman in her 50s may have been angry with her sister for more than 20 years. The rift has created tension throughout the family. Not a day goes by when the woman doesn’t get furious when thinking about her sister. Through therapy and determination, she starts to let go of the grudge and realizes that, while she still doesn’t want to be around her sister, she can stop wasting her time being mad. This enables her to have the freedom to fill her life with positivity.
#6: Get in charge of your health.
Have you allowed your weight or nutritional wellness to get out of control? Happy people are in charge of their health as much as they can be. While this doesn’t mean you have to become a gym rat, you probably can start eating better and enjoying a few exercises. Over time, you’ll feel powerful because you’ll know that you can govern your health.
Say a man in his 40s hears from his doctor that he’s at high risk of having a heart attack due to increased blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Instead of deciding he has no choice in the matter, he immediately begins to evaluate his health. Over a six-month period, he improves his health and lowers his risk factors. He feels strong, fit and happy.
#7: Learn how to delegate.
Your happiness could be as close as asking someone else to help you. Too often, people take on tasks and simply add them to their responsibilities. Eventually, they become slaves to those responsibilities and may start to feel disgruntled. This gets in the way of being satisfied. By delegating some of the tasks to others, the load is lightened and room is made for cheerfulness.
Maybe a mother of three works outside the home but still has the primary responsibility for all the cooking, cleaning and laundry. She feels as if she’s being treated as a maid, and not as a member of the family. Therefore, she begins to delegate some of the tasks she usually does to her spouse and kids. To her surprise, they do a better job in some areas – who knew a teenager could fold laundry so well? – and the household runs more smoothly. Best of all, she feels less “used.”
#8: Look at setbacks as opportunities to grow.
Setbacks in life happen. It’s how we deal with them that sets us apart. If you have something happen that sets you back, use it as a chance to slow down and objectively evaluate what’s going on in your life. Often, it can be a useful sign that something’s amiss and can be altered for the better.
For example, a man in grad school might get a terrible grade on a mid-term paper. He’s discouraged and begins to question his decision to stick with a higher education degree. Before he throws in the towel, though, he starts to look at the reasons he got the bad grade and realizes that he didn’t really do the assignment the way it was outlined by the professor. He sees that he wasn’t flawed in the way he wrote the paper, but rather the way he approached the topic. He uses this knowledge to ace future papers in this class, as well as others.
#9: Focus on what’s important to you.
Are you living someone else’s life? You may be if most of your decisions aren’t geared toward what’s really important to you. Take a few days and consider what you hold most dear in life. Are your actions helping you get closer to what’s important? Or are they moving you away? By aligning your actions with what you really want, you’ll find a truer sense of happiness and purpose.
Say a woman has been working at the same company for five years. She realizes that there is nowhere for her to go from a promotional standpoint; in fact, she doesn’t feel any passion for the industry. With this realization, she begins to take steps to get a job in a different field. It takes time, but as she pushes forward, she feels much more in charge of her life. When she lands the right position with the right company, she knows she made a great decision to focus on what was honestly important.
NOTE FROM BRENDAN: Check out my post Understanding Your Values that will really help you uncover what’s most important to you in life.
#10: Schedule down time.
There’s a large movement afoot that causes some people to believe that the busier they are, the more important they are. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Not only does being on the go 24/7 wear you down, but it also cuts into your happiness. While it’s impossible to be in a laid-back state all the time, you can start to schedule some “down time” or “me time” to just breathe and do whatever you want.
Perhaps a man who works in a high-stress field is putting in 70-80 hour work weeks. It’s beginning to eat away at him and he doesn’t like how his daily schedule is overtaking his social and personal life. He begins to add hours in his schedule where client work is not allowed, and he can do anything he wants – even nap! Suddenly, he realizes he’s more refreshed when he is on the job, and his life feels more in balance.
To be honest, I still think about my bills and responsibilities, but I try every day to prioritize the things that are truly important and put them ahead of paying the electric bill on time. And guess what – I’m still just as responsible as I was before.
The only difference now is that I’m happier, and the people around me are happier too.