When someone wants to improve their life, the most common place to start is by setting some nice, big goals.
But contrary to popular belief, goals are not the most effective way to make your life more awesome.
Don’t get me wrong, goals are great. They can give you a sense of direction, push you to grow as a person, and you’ll feel proud and accomplished after achieving them. But that feeling is fleeting. And once the brief moment of triumph is over, you realize that your goal is now a thing of the past. And it’s time repeat the cycle by setting another one.
So while goals are an awesome tool for your personal development -and yes, some of them can increase your resources or add new possibilities to your life- most goals don’t actually do much in terms of making it more enjoyable.
Because your life is simply not experienced as a series of goals. It’s experienced as a series of moments. Therefore, the most impactful thing you can do to improve it, is to improve the quality of those moments.
My girlfriend recently came up to me full of excitement and told me “we’re living in a fairytale”.
And she was right. Sure, we also set goals, we also achieve them and then we quickly forget the whole thing happened. But our life is a fairytale. Because the everyday things, the things that could be the most mundane in our lives, are actually the most magical.
So how can you turn your own life into more of a fairytale?
STEP 1: Improve the quality of the things you already do.
Write out your typical day right now, how does it go? How is your time spent when you’re having a plain-old, uneventful Tuesday? Just the normal stuff: Eating, working, commuting…
How can you make each of these things more amazing?
- Imagine every meal you ate was a big sensual delight of flavors and nutrients. What would such meals look like for you? Now what would it take, to make every meal in your life one of those? (In our case that means cooking everything at home. But nowadays there are plenty of other efficient alternatives which may work for you).
- What if you switch all your hygiene products to the best smelling ones you can find, and make every shower feel like a spa visit?
- What if you try out different coffee beans and brewing methods until you have found the most delicious morning coffee (or tea) on the planet?
- What if every time you’re with a friend, you make it a point to ignore your phones and focus on how those moments make you feel?
These small upgrades of things you do each day, are a great place to start.
STEP 2: Subtract what you dislike
Find the little things which annoy you in your daily life.
- Is it your messy home? Schedule 15 minutes in the morning and evening to clean it (or outsource this).
- Is it your back pain? Make it a priority to learn and practice healthy movement.
- Is it your dog always peeing on the carpet? Call the shelter and ask them if they’d like to take a free carpet.
It’s normal to be annoyed on occasion, but if something happens on the daily, taking care of it will make a big difference in your life.
STEP 3: Add what you love
Pay attention to which activities bring you lots of joy, especially the ones you do only sporadically.
This could be a hobby like music, sports or crafts. It could be as simple as spending time with friends and loved ones. It could be anything, as long as the activity always makes a big positive impact on your mood.
Now find a way to sprinkle more of this activity in your typical day. This could mean that you have to cut out some other activities which you also enjoy, but that’s okay. You’ll do so in favor of something even better.
For example, I recently noticed that every time I go to the pool, I feel elated afterwards. But it was something I did only once or twice a year. Now that it’s become a regular activity, it has a much bigger impact on our life than other things we like and could’ve done instead.
STEP 4: Observe your speech for hidden needs
If you frequently hear yourself saying things like “I could really use an X or Y” right now, there’s a good chance that thing represents something you’re deprived of in your day to day life. Once identified, you can find small things that satisfy a little bit of that need, and do them regularly.
Here’s how that would look like in practice:
- “I could really use a vacation” → Plan regular time to rest in your daily life.
- “I could really use some sunshine” → Go for a walk each day of the year, even when it’s cold.
- “I could really use a massage” → Add some elements in your day to day life which can help you de-stress. Like yoga, meditation, or using self-massage tools.
Your body will always tell you about these needs when they’re still small. But ignoring them will make them bigger and bigger, until they’re harder to deal with.
For example, for the last 3 years, I often heard myself say “I want more space”. But I like having my days filled with lots of excitement and activity. So I kept ignoring it. Until I ended up in a position where I had given away all my space and had zero energy to move or do things.
As a result I had to spend a few weeks overcompensating: Being alone as much as I could, doing nothing at all, ignoring everyone else’s wishes. If I wasn’t so lucky to be in a position where I could spend a month without working, it could have taken me a long time to feel better.
But more importantly: I could have easily prevented that by adding little things in my daily life which satisfied my need for space: Closing the door to my office when working, taking small breaks between each task, saying no when people wanted to visit us in busy times.
Now that I’ve implemented these things, I can already tell I have way more energy.
STEP 5: Start with what you have
I know that not everyone is blessed with a situation in which they have absolute control over their schedule. But whatever your situation is: You can start where you are right now and make little tweaks as you go.
The way to do this is by taking a minute to reflect in the evening. Before you go to bed, ask yourself:
“How did this day make me feel?”
“Which things felt particularly great?”
“Which things exhausted me?”
“How can I make my future days have more of the former and less of the latter?”
The next day, adjust your schedule based on what you learned (or if you’re more of the free-flowing type, keep those things in mind as you go through your day).
You’ll often find yourself surprised by which things end up being the ones that bring you the most joy.
In some cases, you may find out that there’s indeed a big change you need to make. (For example: If your work situation is draining you, or you can’t help getting into fights with your partner). If that happens, turning it into a goal may be the right approach. But at least by the time you get started working on that, you will already have turned every other aspect of your life into a fairy tale 😉
Unlike goals, these are all simple, small tweaks you can already achieve today. And they can have an immediate, positive impact on your life. So why not grab that low hanging fruit first?
You can already taste the change today.