In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.
Eighty years is currently the average life span in the West. Here’s how to make them happy and fulfilling:
1. Travel often.
Do yourself this favor before it’s too late. Without thinking too much about it, pack a pillow and a blanket at least once a year and go see a part of the world you’ve never seen before. You will not regret it.
Traveling has less to do with seeing things, as it does with experiencing them. It has less to do with discovering something, as it does with discovering yourself. In your travels you won’t find all the answers, you will find lots of questions you would otherwise have never thought to ask.
The thing about traveling to new places is that you run into your insecurities and fears around every twist and turn. You run into all the good things and bad things about yourself on a daily basis, and are provided the opportunity to grow far beyond your years.
2. Work on something every day that moves you.
When you strike that fine balance between the challenge of an activity and your skill at performing it, when the rhythm of your work feels in sync with your purpose, when you know that what you’re doing makes a difference, you become absorbed in the task at hand to the point where time ceases to exist. This is what true passion and happiness feels like.
So is there anything you do on a regular basis that makes you forget what time it is?
That forgetting, or optimal experience of pure absorption, is what the psychologist Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi calls “flow.” He describes the phenomenon as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
On your average day, flow experiences are those flashes of intense living when you’re engrossed in a meaningful task that makes you feel more alive. These optimal experiences can happen when you’re engaged in work, paid or unpaid, that move you. Work like this is something you should be pursuing on a daily basis. Read Flow.
3. Spend time with friends who improve you.
You can go through life and make new friends every year – every month practically – but there is no substitute for the few who truly improve you.
These aren’t the people who are simply nice to you; they’re the ones who help you uncover the things that are holding you back. In subtle ways, they bring ideas to your attention that change your life. These friends don’t just sit beside you unknowingly; they shake your world up, reveal your obstacles and weaknesses, and remain beside you because they care.
Friends like this are the most important people you will ever meet because they tear down the invisible walls you have built in your mind. In other words, they come into your life and reveal new, valuable layers of yourself that you would never have discovered without them.
4. Accept the risks that feel right.
Security is mostly an illusion. There are no sure things in this world. The nature of the world is constantly evolving. Reserving yourself with numerous safety measures is usually no safer in the long-run than indulging in constant exposure.
It is far more fulfilling to dare yourself to the mighty experiences life has to offer – enjoying great successes and enduring occasional failures – than to hide forever in safety, only to leave the majority of your life unlived.
5. Work hard and conquer great challenges.
The road to greatness is far from smooth. You can be absolutely certain that when you feel you are growing weak from struggle, you are in fact growing stronger than you ever have been before.
The more difficulties you encounter and overcome on your lifelong journey, internal or peripheral, the more significant and inspiring your life story will be. Read The Front Nine.
6. Make the very best of every situation.
One of the great secrets of happiness is freedom, and the secret of freedom is doing the best you can with what is done to you. It’s all about how you choose to respond to the sometimes unpredictable deliveries life ships. This simple choice makes a world of difference.
You are honestly free now and always, no matter what circumstances surround you. If you find your circumstances tolerable, by all means tolerate them; if you find them too confining, break through them – stretch yourself. Ultimately you are free because you alone are responsible for your thoughts and how you use them to empower your growth.
7. Provide great value to the world.
The best way to get ahead in this world is not to compete with others, but to serve them. If you want to score a raise at work, be of service to your boss. If you want to build a profitable business, be of service to your potential customers. Provide unmistakable value.
Value is what makes relationships, businesses, and personal endeavors thrive. When your strategy is to grab all you can as quickly as you can, you will grab far less than you are capable of holding. It is foolish to think that you can fool the world in any way. Success and happiness come when you choose to work for the world diligently.
At any age, in any situation, for every possible life path, there is value you can provide. Look closely and you will see opportunities everywhere. Read The $100 Startup.
8. Spread your light.
As the Buddha once said, “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” Spread your light through love and kindness to the people around you, and let the ‘giving spirit’ you initiate spread like a virus, infinitely touching the lives of people you may never meet, across boundaries you may never cross, in ways you may never have thought possible.
That is the power of your love and kindness, and it’s your ticket to making the world a happier place.
Photo by: Angela Sevin