While we each may express it in our own unique style, and our individual paths will twist and turn in different directions along the way, I believe that we all share a common desire: To live a meaningful life.
There are uncountable multitudes of strategies we could employ, tasks we could set ourselves, and practices we could adopt, each of which would move us further along in our journey.
I’ve taken some time to explore several which, while I wish I could say I have already mastered, I’ll most likely be working on (perhaps even struggling with) for the rest of my life.
I share them with you, because I believe they’re worth the effort.
12 Most Effective Keys to Living a Meaningful Life
Do unto others.
Live out the Golden Rule (which is surprisingly consistent in its message throughout many systems of belief); that is, treat others the way you would wish to be treated. Not just the ones you love, and not just by simply refraining from unpleasantness or indifference. Go out of your way to cherish them.
Cultivate a spirit of gratitude.
Practice gratitude on a daily basis, even in areas where it seems difficult or even impossible to do so. One example that always comes back to me is from a friend who, when going through a particularly difficult time financially and struggling to pay her utility bills, still cultivated a spirit of gratitude by reminding herself what those bills represented – warmth, light, contact with the outside world – and being thankful for having access to those things. I’m not sure I could have done the same thing in her position, but it’s something I try to remember when I’m struggling to live in gratitude.
Open your eyes and heart to beauty and wonder.
Look around you. Look up occasionally! Notice. Pay attention to the little things in your world that make you happy – the twinkling eyes of a loved one, the faint scent of spring in the air, a laugh heard from across the room. Don’t let anyone – including yourself – minimize the importance of small joys, but rather acknowledge and celebrate their presence in your life.
Life isn’t ALL serious, so enjoy the ridiculous side of things! Watch a silly video, read a hilarious book, spend time with people who crack you up – whatever happens to tickle your funny bone. Find ways to giggle, chuckle, snicker, chortle, or (best of all!) laugh until your sides ache – every single day.
Learn from your mistakes, but don’t waste time on regrets.
This is something that’s always been difficult for me, but I know that wallowing in regrets today only brings more regrets tomorrow… particularly if what you’re regretting is wasted time! As with so many things, it’s a balancing act we need to learn – allowing our mistakes to teach us without letting them weigh us down.
And, speaking of balance…
Strive for balance.
I tend to be an “all or nothing” person in many ways – one of the worst being the attitude that if I can’t do it perfectly, I won’t do it at all. Yet in so many areas I have proven to myself time and again that I am more fulfilled and content when I strive for balance rather than living in extremes.
Carpe Diem – Seize the Day.
Life is short and precious, and once our time is gone there’s no retrieving it… so let go of whatever fear may be holding you back (failure? success? judgment? ridicule?) and take steps to pursue your dreams. Today.
Nurture and express your creativity.
You – yes, you! – are a creative individual. Avoid getting bogged down in comparisons with others and what you believe to be their superior abilities. Be gentle with yourself – you don’t have to be perfect or produce a masterpiece. Find, nurture, and take the time to express your creative voice (maybe even share it with others). And have fun with it!
Share freely without expecting anything in return.
Every one of us has something to share – money, time, talents, love – and life is so much richer when we hold these gifts with open hands instead of clutching them tightly and keeping them to ourselves. And without any expectation of receiving something in return, hurt feelings and resentments may be kept at bay.
Be the change you wish to see.
Be aware, get involved, show you care. Speak up for those who have no voice, stand in solidarity with those who are oppressed or cast aside. Use whatever power is within your reach – your words, your talents, your vote, your money, your time – to effect positive change in our world.
Learn to listen, and listen to learn.
How many times do we hear what we think someone is saying, rather than what they are actually saying? Learning not just to hear, but to actively listen, improves communication and minimizes misunderstandings. And when we listen with an open mind, it’s amazing what we can learn!
Now, to help me work on my practice of Number 11, I hand Number 12 over to you.
How do YOU practice living a meaningful life?
(P.S. Want some more “12 Most…” posts? Visit the Write Tribe Linkup!)