The grass is always greener where you water it.
Just like grass, your dreams and goals will only sprout and grow when you nourish them daily. How can you live your best life and what are you doing to cultivate the future you dream of?
Let’s face it, life has a way of getting in the way. When was the last time you sat down and thought about the things you really want in your life and what brings you happiness and fulfillment? When was the last time you contemplated your long term goals and dreamed of what your future can look like?
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the daily grind. The morning routine of getting the kids up and ready for the day, making breakfast and then commuting to work. You work all day and then begin the long commute back home. Dinner seems like such a monumental and time consuming effort that you end up stopping for take-out. Add in homework, cleaning, bedtime routines and a little Netflix before finally making it to bed. The next morning, it starts all over again.
We get so caught up in this cycle of daily life that it’s easy to lose sight of our dreams and goals. We forget what it is that really brings us joy. We forget to nourish and cultivate the future we dream of.
But we only have this one life to live. It should be our lifelong pursuit to find what brings us joy and fulfillment, and then design our own unique happy life.
It’s time to rediscover your inner spark of joy and learn how to craft a life of fulfillment and happiness. Here are some steps you can take to define your current level of happiness, and what you need to focus on adding to, or subtracting from, your life in order to finally start intentionally living your best life.
Contents and Quick Links
- 1 Create your happiness list
- 2 Review your list and how it fits with your current life
- 3 Include your family
- 4 Compare lists
- 5 Example
- 6 Recap
- 7 Action Steps
- 8 Related Reading
Create your happiness list
It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.
– Lucille Ball
Start by making a list of the top 10 things that are most important to you and make you happy. I call this the happiness list. For some people, this will be a simple and easy task. For others, you may find that it takes a few days to complete. But that’s okay. It’s important to put thought into this and narrow your list to only the top 10 things that are important to you.
What you will find through this process is that there isn’t much room for material possessions. It isn’t the big fancy home that brings the most joy, it’s being with the people you love. That fancy car that exudes the image of enviable social status and wealth is not nearly as valuable as having a career that is fulfilling.
Consider the times in your life when you felt the most content and happy. What brings you the most satisfaction?
If you could use a little more assistance creating your happiness list, I’ve got you covered! Download the free workbook and follow the simple steps to define and prioritize your list, then step through the process of making changes to design your happier life. You can always access the pdf workbook, along with many other useful personal finance and goal setting resources, in the FREE Resource Library.
Review your list and how it fits with your current life
Once your list is complete, review each item and ask yourself whether your current life is in line with what actually makes you feel happy and fulfilled.
How is your current lifestyle in alignment with your list?
Review each item on your list and write down how your current lifestyle meets that need.
How is your current lifestyle preventing you from living your best life?
Go through your list once more, only this time, write down how your current lifestyle is in disagreement with what brings you the most joy and fulfillment.
For example, you want more time with your kids but don’t have very much of it because you are working long hours.
What can you change in order to better align your life with your happiness list?
Finally, brainstorm what changes you can make in order to live your life in alignment with what makes you feel truly happy.
Going back to the previous example of wanting more time at home with your kids, perhaps you can explore other job opportunities with flexible hours or cut back on your expenses such that you can work less.
Include your family
Explain this process with your partner and request that they create their own happiness list. Since everyone’s list is unique, you don’t want to create your list together just yet.
You may or may not want to include your kids in this exercise as well. It will depend on their level of maturity as well as how willing you are to accommodate their choices.
For instance, they may say they wish they had unlimited time to play video games. Or, they just may surprise you by conveying a desire to contribute to their community, explore a creative outlet or connect more with extended family and friends. These are things you can easily accommodate and work into your family lifestyle and schedule.
Once you and your partner / spouse each have your own complete happiness list, with 10 items that bring the most joy to each of your lives, it’s time to compare them.
- What do they have in common?
- What is different?
- Did you learn something new about your partner?
Now that you both have an understanding of what makes the other happiest, how can you combine your lists to create the ideal life together? What is currently working well and what could be changed?
Go through each item and brainstorm what needs to be added to, or taken away from, your life in order to better align with the life you both want to live. Review areas of current focus and determine whether that focus should shift or change altogether.
Example: You and your spouse have discussed buying a bigger home in a better neighborhood. You’ve each been working overtime trying to save more money for a large down payment. After reviewing your happiness lists, you realize that it’s quality time with family that you are missing and want more of. Buying a larger, more expensive home, which will require maintaining a high level of income to support, is not in alignment with what you really want. Instead, you can do some minor remodeling to better customize your current home and reduce hours worked, or even have one spouse stay home and adjust spending to accommodate living on a single income. This will free up time to spend with your kids and provide more fulfillment with less stress.
In writing this post I wanted to go through the entire exercise, first on my own, then with my partner. Here’s the result:
My Personal Happiness List
- Family: Maintain close relationship with my son, have the freedom to make quality time with my partner and our kids, including breakfast together, discussing the upcoming day and prepping for the day together, time to make dinner then enjoy activities together.
- Travel: Discover new cultures, experience different towns and cities and landscapes
- Fitness: Stay physically fit with regular exercise and healthy eating
- Entrepreneurship: Create something of value which will help others and generate income
- Nature: Through hiking, travel, gardening – a way to be in touch with the world around me
- Community: Friends, family, new contacts, be in touch with others and maintain relationships, teach and help other people
- Financial security: Continue to build wealth and contribute to the family finances, teach financial responsibility, have the financial freedom to work because I want to and focus on what I love, create a secure retirement
- Animals: Continue to have a connection and bond with animals, reminder of empathy, different communication needs and the companionship that they offer.
- Love: Time, communication, respect, support, and connection with my partner.
- Clean and organized space: Disorder adds stress to my life and makes me feel emotionally disordered and distracted. A clean space adds calm to my life.
How my current lifestyle is in alignment with my list
- While I work more hours than preferred, I love what I do, the company I work for and the people I work with. I enjoy job satisfaction on a daily basis.
- I’ve enjoyed a few trips to Europe over the last few years, as well as shorter trips around the US.
- I exercise regularly and feel physically fit and healthy.
- I live in a beautiful area, hike regularly and enjoy my surroundings.
- I love my partner and feel so very fortunate to have him in my life. My life is so much better for having him and his family in it.
- I love my current home, and fully expect to love my new home even more when I move soon. I look forward to gardening more and enjoying a new community with beautiful views of the ocean.
- I have a fantastic relationship with my son.
How is my current lifestyle preventing me from living my best life?
- Most everything that isn’t aligned with my list is due to a lack of time because I work too many hours at a job that is too far away.
- My commute is too long
- While I love my job, I work too many hours away from home and family, as well as friends. I don’t focus on meeting new people and extending my network
- Not enough time to work on my side projects (like this blog!)
- I have a cat but wish I was home enough to own a dog and spend more time with horses
- My space is often cluttered and in need of deep cleaning, which adds to my stress level
- I’d like to add more travel without feeling financially stressed.
- I also need to increase savings and investments for passive income and continue my path to financial independence.
What I need to change so that my life is better aligned with my list
- Decrease the number of hours worked, number of days I work, or put a timeline on the length of time that I will continue to commute and work long hours.
- Continue to save, invest and work on creating passive income and additional income streams.
How my list compares to that of my partner
Our lists came out fairly similar, with most of our emphasis on being present and engaged with our children and each other. Staying fit, travel and work satisfaction are very important to each of us.
Not surprisingly to me, we differed on our hobbies and the fact that I feel the need to be connected with animals by having pets and working with horses. I wouldn’t want or expect us to do everything together, it’s important to have separate interests. However, I’ll have to compromise on the number of pets we welcome into the home!
I certainly have a heavier emphasis on financial security, which again is not even the least bit surprising. So long as we continue to maintain our open discussions about family finance, I know I have his full support to go after my personal finance goals.
This exercise did provide some reassurance that we value a similar lifestyle and are on the same page regarding the future we envision.
Life is too short to spend it on the things that don’t actually bring joy and fulfillment. The exercise of writing out the top 10 things that make you happy serves to remind you of what matters most. Then you can be aware of whether the choices you make, and the things you choose to spend money on, are actually adding to your life in a positive way.
What makes you happy will change and evolve throughout the years. Therefore, creating your happiness list and then building a lifestyle to support what brings you joy is a never ending process. But you get to live your best life trying to figure it out.
- Write down the top 10 things that make you happy and bring highest level of fulfillment.
- Have your spouse, or even your kids too, create their own list.
- Think about how your current lifestyle supports your list and what changes and improvements you need to make. Think outside the box, get creative and explore every option.
- Small changes today add up to big results later on. Focus on incorporating small changes to start living your best life.