As much as we want to plan for our future, we aren’t guaranteed anything beyond today. It’s the here and now that’s the most important time of our life, and the one we have most control over. With that in mind, if you just focus on making each day as fulfilling as possible, then you are giving yourself the best chance of living a great life when all is said and done.
So what makes a great life? Incorporate the following eight routines* into your day, then repeat every day after that for as long as you live.
1. Challenge yourself
Many people erroneously think the goal of life is to reach a stage where you’re completely comfortable, without any more mountains to climb or fears to overcome. Picturing yourself on some beach drinking piña coladas in retirement sounds nice, but it’s bullshit. That would be fun for a day or two, and then you’d be bored. The truth is we will always need some form of challenge in our lives. Whenever we work hard and overcome fear to achieve something difficult, the rewards are plentiful. Our free time feels a lot more enjoyable, happiness levels increase, hell even food tastes better, because we feel like we’ve earned it. I experience a low-level feeling of anxiety and self-doubt any time I sit down to write. I get the same feeling whenever I go to jiujitsu practice. This anxiety occurs because I know these activities are going to be hard and challenging. There are so many other things that are easier and more pleasurable that I could do instead. But I still choose to challenge myself every day, because I know that once the hard work is done the rewards are going to be wonderful.
2. Move your body
Putting in time each day for physical exercise is an essential part of a healthy life. It doesn’t matter whether you prefer walking, running, dancing, biking, or whatever, as long as you engage in some type of consistent physical effort. You don’t have do any crazy workouts or spend a bunch of money on a gym membership either, just do the bare minimum and go for a brisk walk if that’s all you can manage (even better if you can break a sweat). The human body is so adaptable and self-sufficient that even just a half hour or so of movement each day can help you maintain good health throughout life. Not only that, if you push yourself hard enough, you’ll be rewarded with a wave of endorphins that lower stress and increase happiness. This post-workout bliss is one of the best natural highs you can ever experience.
3. Learn something new
Exercising your body helps you stay in shape, but your brain needs a workout too. And just like the dopamine hit you receive from a hard workout, learning is one of the best natural highs out there. Anytime I learn something new and interesting, I’m rewarded with that same pleasant rush of pleasure chemicals. So not only are you getting smarter, but you feel great as well.
Education is a lifelong process that shouldn’t end when you finish school, especially when you consider what an incredible time we are living in for learning. We have easy access to an unlimited amount of information that we can consume in a variety of ways. If you’re interested in learning about a certain topic but reading books isn’t your thing, there’s certain to be a documentary or YouTube video you can watch, or even a podcast or audiobook to listen to. It’s never been this easy to learn something new and expand your mind.
4. Get a full night of sleep
No matter how busy your life is, getting sufficient sleep should always be a top priority. I used to take pride in sleeping as little as possible, and brag that I would just sleep when I’m dead. How stupid I was! There are few things in life that are as restorative, and that have as positive of an effect on our outlook, mood, and health, as a full night of sleep. When I get eight hours of uninterrupted sleep I feel like a completely different person; more optimistic, focused, and energized. It’s amazing that you can get all of these benefits from something that comes naturally and doesn’t cost you anything.
5. Be social
Spending time with friends and family is what makes life fun and meaningful. We are all social animals, and companionship is vitally important to our well-being. Even if you’re a full-blown introvert, all of us could benefit from spending some time socializing each day, if just to get out of our own heads. Life just isn’t as colorful if we have no one to share our hopes, laughter, and triumphs with.
Being social is even more necessary when we aren’t feeling our best. Many of us, myself included, tend to isolate ourselves when we are feeling down and want to be left alone. This is a mistake. Despite how we’re feeling in that moment, being around others is exactly the remedy we need. Every time I make the effort to get out of my head and be social, I feel better. Without exception. There are few things in life that can raise our spirits more than the comradery of being around people we love.
Not everything you do needs to serve a productive purpose. As stress builds up throughout the day, your mind and body need time to decompress and recuperate. When and how you choose to relax is up to you. I personally love to relax after a meal so I can digest properly, as well as leading up to bedtime so I can ease into sleep. My relaxation method of choice usually involves a good book, a funny sitcom, or a glass of wine, but it can be anything. Even if it’s completely unproductive and mindless that’s ok, as long as it helps restore your energy levels.
Aside from its restorative effects, relaxation also helps you tap into your subconscious. When we are busy with life, we are usually so preoccupied with the tasks in front of us that we have trouble seeing the bigger picture. When we are fully relaxed and our minds unburdened, it’s much easier to discover new insights about ourselves, and our lives, that were previously not so obvious.
7. Give back
All the knowledge and wealth we accumulate is pointless if we just keep it to ourselves; giving back completes the circle. Giving back can mean a wide range of things, whether it’s volunteering your time, giving money to someone in need, or just checking in with friends and loved ones to see if you could help with anything. It doesn’t have to involve a huge commitment either. Just make it a point to do at least one thing over the course of your day that helps someone else. Not only will that person be grateful for your help, but giving back makes you feel good too, so everyone wins.
We all need a brief sanctuary from the constant stimuli of our everyday lives. Making time for a few quiet minutes each day to clear our thinking, reflect on our lives, and count our blessings, provides an enormous boost to our well-being. I’ve found this usually works best first thing in the morning, or right before bed. I’ll close my door, put my phone on silent, and jot down a few reflections in my journal. Just these few minutes of daily silence can help provide a lifetime of clarity and appreciation.
*Notice that most of these activities require little or no money. Think about that when considering how much wealth you actually need to live a great life.