I love a quote by Charles Spurgeon that imparts the following wisdom,
“It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.”
The last couple of weeks have been serendipitously abundant with information about how 2016 has been quite the rough year for many. Whether it’d be via social media posts, podcasts, personal conversations or comments from passersby, the general consensus seems to be pessimistically melancholic. And while most things in life flow naturally in both directions of the spectrum, I couldn’t help but wonder what made this year so terrible for most. I’m not quite sure that I’ve figured that out yet, but what I can contribute to the somber tone of 2016’s departure is a list of practices, habits and life hacks that have made a monumental impact in my life and can do the same for the way we perceive and navigate through 2017. Ready?
But……… Before we get into the list, I’d like to propose a mantra for the forthcoming 365 days:
“LIVE BY WHAT YOU KNOW AND NOT BY WHAT YOU FEEL.”
This short but sweet little number has been the fuel behind most of my decisions, big or small, and in just about every category of life. And I truly mean EVERY area. From exercise, to financial choices, to spiritual investment. So, now that we’ve covered the basics, lets get to the main points that will revolutionize your thought life, behaviors, satisfaction levels and personal accomplishment.
1) PRIORITIZE WHAT YOU REALLY DESIRE.
This point actually has 2 subcategories.
- Define what “having it all” really means to you.
- Stop giving up what you REALLY want, for what you want right NOW.
-Define what “having it all” really means to you.
In a culture where we are constantly spoon fed who we should be, what we should have, what we should want, who we should be with and what we should have under our belt, it’s absolutely critical that we silence all the external noise and listen to our true calling. As difficult as it may seem, imagine that none of those social standards existed. Imagine that trends disappeared, social media popularity wasn’t a huge economical driving force, that all philanthropic careers provided the same financial stability as stardom and celebrity fluidity, that hierarchy of social perception faded as a result of universal understanding, sensibility and wisdom. How different would your decisions be? What would your life and world look like? Well, lets give it a whirl. Brainstorm and write those visions down.
-Stop giving up what you REALLY want, for what you want right NOW.
What has happened to most of our wisdom calls in decision-making is that we’ve replaced what we REALLY want for what feels good now. And therein we see the feelings portion of our mantra creep back in monopolizing our judgment in accomplishing that which we truly desire or need. ( Need: In some cases for health reasons, etc.) So, what needs to occur here is a heavy shift in priority. Identifying our non-negotiable goals and reasons for each. If they have significant substance, which most intrinsic goals typically do, there should be a deep drive that has the strength to neglect the demanding nag and disease of instant gratification.
Note: treating yourself every once in while with elements that may “compete with” or “slow down” your goals, should also be included within margins. This way, you’d never be breaking your own commitments, which might leave a sense of defeat or discouragement. Rather, these tank-filling intermissions can be enjoyed guilt-free because you’ve already made space for them and anticipated their presence in your plans.
2) INVEST IN MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS.
And no, I don’t mean only looking after number 1. Because nowadays it seems to be all about us, and clearly THAT’S NOT WORKING, lets shift gears for a bit.
The key word here is meaningful. We may get overwhelmed at the thought of investing in everyone or pleasing the majority of people. Not only is this a ludicrous aspiration, but also a legitimately impossible undertaking. We will NEVER please everyone, so perhaps this is a good time to breathe and let that thought marinate for a minute. Okay, now that we’ve processed, lets talk about the meaningful relationships in our spheres.
Meaningful relationships are NOT those that:
-bring us popularity
-are convenient for us
-give us some kind of material benefit
-will lead to a promotion
-involve only people in high social or financial positions
-seem like the cool or trending interest within our groups
-provide only sexual satisfaction or connection
-make us beg for attention
-force giving on our part in order to also give in return (time, energy, money, affection)
-make us feel less than
Meaningful relationships ARE those that:
-are instilled in us by nature (family)
-are unconditional to us (sometimes we have taken these for granted)
-encourage our growth, wisdom, character and strength
-excite us about the future
-are respectful to our boundaries
-provide deeper connections in most areas (spiritual, emotional, mental and physical)
-build our self-esteem productively
-At times take more than they give (with humility, respect and love). Sometimes it’s a season to simply pour into certain relationships. Do not expect anything in return. You will see the fruitfulness of that at some point.
Another element that I’d like to highlight is that we should be kind, attentive and loving to everyone we encounter, but not all relationships require major investment, only those that are appointed to you (you know who those people are). With this understanding you’ll avoid spreading yourself too thin and losing your liver in effort to make everyone respond to you positively. Be okay with having a few quality, close friends and however many acquaintances. It’s not a popularity contest after all. Quality over quantity all day, every day.
3) BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT YOUR MONEY.
This does not mean to be a cheapskate. We need to think wisely about money. For starters, it’s just money. It’s not scarce. Not spending on something you need or have worked hard for, does not halt poverty. It just creates a mentality of scarcity that is not healthy for yourself or those around you; much less your financial future and ability to fluidly invest in the lives of others and experiences.
Now that we’ve covered that, lets touch base on the other extreme, which tends to be the most common: spending frivolously, particularly on things that bring zero value to our lives. According to recent research this is about 60-75% of our financial contribution to a dashing consumerist economy. We simply spend when we feel sad, when we like something, when we get paid, when we are bored, when we pass by things that get our attention, when we desire a make-over every other week, when we feel our identity dwindling, and the list goes on and on.
So, lets quickly think on most things we purchased in 2016. Can you even remember what most of those things were? Did you need them? Did they add significant value to your wellbeing and the nurturing of your internal life as an individual, family member or friend? Were they mostly things or experiences?
Now the KEY will be to live between these two extremes.
When it comes to your spending or shall we call it investing in 2017, think about your purchases before or as you are engaging in them.
-Do I need this?
-Will this be used often?
-Do I truly LOVE it?
-Does it fit the BEST way possible?
-Does it facilitate my life realistically?
-Does this nurture a relationship?
-Does this make an impact in some way?
-Does this fit my life goals?
-Am I shopping on impulse?
-Have I been influenced to buy this?
Lets remember being financially wise equals investing only in that which brings value to our lives. Once we adopt this lifestyle and currency habit, we will see the abundant margins we’ll have to now give, enjoy, donate, and help others, which is another MASSIVE factor in our overall life satisfaction and general levels of happiness. (We’ll talk about margins a little later.)
4) YOU HAVE THE TIME YOU NEED.
Most of us have heard the popular adage, “We all have the same number of hours,” which is true, yet can take on such contrasting meanings depending on the angle. This surely translates very differently to a single, recent college graduate who just got a full-time job and is considering numerous life options, than it does to a single mother of 3 who has 2 jobs in order to provide for her kids.
Although both of these examples have distinct discrepancies in the quantity of leisure or “tank-filling” time, reality is, they both have some level of it depending on the way the time is planned, managed and carried out.
The first step to this is, as we discussed earlier, establishing what’s important to YOU! These are your non-negotiable elements that must be in place so that you may not only fulfill your responsibilities, but also have a balance of mental, emotional and spiritual well being. While some of these may overlap, it’s crucial to clearly identify them individually based on each category!
I like to make a big rocks/little rocks list, where I identify some of my major, mid-tier and lower level responsibilities and goals. I then make a list under my name with all the hats I wear. Under each title, I list responsibilities for each and how much time a week I would like to or need to invest into those. One of the most important titles in this paradigm, which many may skip, is the place within a family structure like, “ girlfriend”, “wife” or “mom”. These are very important roles that you must also intentionally set time for and creatively invest in. The last, and probably most neglected title/category, is “tank-filler”. This is where you put the things you WANT to do per week. Things like, exercise, read, go outdoors, coffee with friends… you name it.
You later plug these activities into your weekly agenda or monthly planner. You’ve already decided how much time you’d like to invest in each. So plan accordingly. Also be realistic with the amount of time you have for each including travel times between activities. Once you have a generally strong flow of this, you can play around with some elements, remove what’s not working, add some new things, add time to things that take longer than you expected, etc. (I’ll dedicate a little more time to this life plan in another post.)
So all this time talk, leads me to point number five.
5) SPEND LESS TIME ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND MORE TIME LIVING.
By now, we’ve all seen the mind-blowing statistics, articles and numerous documentaries on how social media is sucking us dry of human communication, quality relationships and life enhancing experiences. It also subliminally inseminates us with the disease of comparison, breeding the most uncontrollable sense of inferiority and dissatisfaction we’ve seen in ages, in spite of all the STUFF, freedom and possibility we have at our fingertips.
It is my personal belief, that social media was originally created for connection, bringing people together across continents, expanding the convenience of communication and bridging the gaps between the separations we might experience.
So where did this all go wrong? Perhaps, when we starting bragging, ranting, or de-friending people as a result of their political or religious differences?
All that to say, USE social media with caution and filter your information, don’t let it USE YOU. I recently heard that the creator of Instagram described it as “visual crack,” and that seems about right if we have no control over what we take in. Limit your browsing to specific times of the day, follow only people or accounts that you are inspired and fueled by, not those that incite inferiority, jealousy, envy, dissatisfaction and anger. Many feel powerless to this step, but going back to the principle of working toward what you REALLY want, versus what you want right NOW, it’s probably not wise to invest every free moment checking in on what your ex boyfriend is doing or who the company hired, when you got laid off.
The art of FILTERING INFORMATION is quite transformative. It may be difficult to resist the constant temptation to see or know information that you’re curious about, but if it doesn’t serve your best self and life, RUN violently in the opposite direction. I PROMISE…. It’s a LIFE CHANGER. And, you’ll also magically realize how much time and energy you actually have once you drop those habits or social addictions.
That can now be invested in yoga, good books, fun movies, surfing, long walks, hiking, painting, blogging…. Heck, anything you’ve ever wanted to do.
6) EATING WELL + EXERCISING… EASIER THAN YOU THINK.
I used to see all the exercise and food gurus and think that their standards and lifestyles were impossible to reach. Well, they were right. At least at THAT moment. We look at our body goals and eating wish lists with spurts of excitement at the beginning, yet low level commitments once we get started. The reason for that is that we set extremely unrealistic expectations for the starting line. Everything GREAT takes time and there’s no away around that.
I remember after grade school, where I used to dance regularly and was very physically active, I fell into a slump. Didn’t really know what to do, what to participate in, or what I could actually stick to. So at some point decided that I was going to jog for 15 minutes a day, 4 days a week. I know that sounds ridiculous to many, but I knew then that with my lack of activity for the previous 2 or 3 years, I wouldn’t commit to much else. So as I went on strong for a week, I noticed I didn’t quit because the 15 minutes would be over before I knew it. Then I increased it to 30 minutes, then 45, and before I knew it, was running an hour to hour and a half. THIS is what I mean with setting realistic expectations. It doesn’t mean that you don’t reach for the stars; it just encourages crawling before walking.
Same applies to food. I had a particular difficulty due to my lack of time to prepare fresh, delicious and healthy meals every day. So I started making dinner every night (Monday through Thursday) for 2 meals. (Dinner that night and lunch the next day for my husband and I). Breakfast for us is typically easy, a quick smoothie, some nuts, fresh juice, some fruit, so that wasn’t huge issue, but lunchtime? Dear God, that was my constant jigsaw puzzle. Turns out, making healthy meals are typically easier and less time consuming than the non-healthy. Problem solved. And not only do I look forward to lunch, because last night’s dinner was bomb, but I also don’t waste any work time, or unnecessary money on junk fast food, or the expensive healthy options on-the-go.
7) GIVE MORE, TAKE LESS.
It’s crazy I know, but we all know it works although we stubbornly refuse to give it a consistent shot. Over and over, studies show how much philanthropy and any level of altruism significantly spike happiness. So it’s very simple, do something kind and self-less with no expectation of reciprocity or hidden agenda on a weekly basis. Whether it’s helping at your college organization, your church, a “go fund me” campaign, your child’s school, the local shelter, community events, or even purchasing some hot, fresh food for the homeless person sitting at the corner of your home daily or right outside the restaurant you are enjoying dinner at. It becomes second nature once you’ve made your mind up to include this as a priority. You will also need life margins to make space for this in your life.
Which also brings me to my next point.
8) LEAVE A 20% MARGIN IN EVERYTHING.
In the past, I’ve referenced a margin-focused book that I absolutely love by Richard A. Swenson. The overarching topic in this life manual is that we should live within 80% of all that we have and leave a 20% margin at all times. This of course, applies to money, time, space and just about anything else we can think of. When we don’t live at the edge of our seats simply putting out fires, we can truly enjoy every part of our journey and can have the breathing space to make wiser, well-thought out decisions and are not consumed by urgency, fear and lack.
9) OCCUPY YOUR SPACE.
We have homes, offices, cars and other spaces that say nothing about us, nor do they bring any type of joy. I’m a particular believer in surrounding yourself with the experience-enhancing elements that nurture your creativity, motivation and inspiration.
Having a lot if stuff is not conducive to this very principle. De-cluttering is the beginning. Give away or sell everything that you don’t use. (Yes, that means you haven’t touched or looked at for the last 3 months.)
After the cleaning has taken place, it’s time to add the goodies. Colors, smells, images that hit the spot. You know what those things are for you. Don’t be afraid of adding color. Aromatherapy candles and incense are go-to’s for me. I also love to have fresh flowers and handmade artwork from around the world. What are your creative triggers? Use and abuse them! It’s your space, live like it. Make adjustments as you go. Everything might not feel right, from the get-go, but you’ll figure it our little by little and be one step closer to your dream space. (And no, it doesn’t need to be the bombacious abodes you encounter on Pinterest. Small studio apartments can be just as magical.
10) TAKE YOUR SPIRIT ON A BUFFET DATE.
We erroneously overfeed and overindulge so many areas of our life while starving the areas that are built to sustain our core. Faith is a monumental factor in the level of mental and emotional stability, fear, anxiety, loneliness, assertiveness, and satisfaction a person will experience. When we are in tune with the spiritual and supernatural resource that is openly available to us, we realize we are not alone and the weight of life doesn’t fall solely on our shoulders. We are collaborators with God and as a result of that, we are able to release freely, breathe deeply, love greatly and move forward fearlessly. Without the certainty that we are loved unconditionally and cared for constantly, it can be quite debilitating to go through life. No roadmap, no direction, no companion, no purpose… sounds like a death sentence to me.
So perhaps it’s time to overindulge your spirit. Search, read, investigate, chat with others, inquire, learn. Don’t just settle for whatever you’ve been taught, or what seems to be popular these days. Dig deep, have a personal encounter. You will NOT be disappointed. Scout’s honor!
11) GIVE THANKS, EVEN BEFORE YOU HAVE IT.
Yes, you may always desire something you don’t currently have, but when you are thankful for EVERYTHING you do have, all else feels quite small and slightly insignificant. When you take the time to write down, meditate on and actively be grateful for every single thing, person, privilege or experience you have, you realize just how RICH you truly are. Practice gratitude in EVERYTHING! Your waiter at dinner, your bus driver, the light in your room when you wake up in the morning, your favorite book, the music in your elevator, the public bathroom you can use while you’re out and about…. I mean, everything!
12) WHATEVER YOU DO, DO IT WITH EXCELLENCE.
Pretty self-explanatory. Just give it your best. All of it. Work as if your boss was Oprah. Did I go too far? Haha! Ok, well I must admit, everything I do, I do it for God. For example, exercising and wanting my temple to be the healthiest it can be, I do that to serve Him and my life purpose. When I’m working with a client, I imagine that being Him. How would I treat Him? What would be His first impression? The way I treat my husband, the way I treat the barista a Starbucks, the way I treat the lady cleaning the floor at the mall, the way I treat the mailman. Every person should reflect a piece of the supernatural God that created them all. May we live accordingly!
SO… MAKE THIS THE BEST YEAR EVER.
This will also be on the list next year and every year after that. So lets begin with these basic principles and see what kind of lives we yield at the end of 2017.
I love each and everyone one of you and am eternally grateful for your love, commitment, readership, feedback, involvement and support. I thank you for believing that together we can create a beautiful and conscious world that is responsible for it’s present and future. I thank you for joining me in loving the lives we have and encouraging others to do the same. I thank you for the courage and audacity you have to be you in a culture that encourages otherwise. It gives me the hope and inspiration to keep shining my light as well. I thank you for simply existing in this particular moment in time and being my incredible tribe.
Hugette Montesinos Rodriguez
Now lets have an amazing year!!! Chee-hoo!!!