We are often so focused on what’s next — getting a promotion, a new house, a bigger car.
After one achievement, we’re already thinking about the next one.
Our life becomes one big accumulation of achievements, in our relentless drive to succeed.
But the problem with that is, while we are racking up these ‘wins’, we aren’t really participating in the world around us.
When we are always thinking about what’s next — and tangible signs of success — we are not engaging in the life that we are living right now.
We only have so much time on this earth, and there is no way of knowing exactly how much time we have.
The reality is that each moment, week, and year of your life is precious. And finite.
If you are living today thinking about what you can achieve tomorrow, your daily life will never be fulfilling.
Setting goals and driving toward them is good, but not when it comes at the expense of enjoying the life that you have right now.
We need to think more about making today’s life as great as possible, instead of charging as fast as possible into tomorrow. You don’t know how many tomorrows you’ll have.
And when your time does run out, your personal achievements won’t do you much good.
If you want to make the most of each day you do have, here are some good places to start:
Prioritize family and friends over work
At the end of their life, nobody wishes they had worked more.
It turns out social connection is the greatest predictor of overall life happiness, and also vital to our health.
Add more socialization into your life by developing regular social rituals such as impromptu happy hours, pot lucks, or backyard barbecues. Set a weekly dinner and invite your extended family. Live close to your friends or make friends with your neighbors.
Choose social experiences over material things
Research shows that experiences bring people more happiness than material goods.
Instead of buying a new shirt or watch, or even a new car, opt for social experiences instead. For example, a dinner out on the town, sports or concert tickets, a vacation, theater or museum tickets, a cooking class, or a wine tasting.
Join a club that aligns with your interests and passions
Research has shown that joining a group that meets even once a month produces the same happiness boost as doubling your income.
This could be a book club, walking club, wine tasting club, faith-based club, sports club, or anything else that is meaningful for you. Prioritize clubs that have members similar to you in age, values, and interests in order to make new friends.
Choose a job that puts your talents to good use and enables you to make a meaningful difference
Work should be something you look forward to, rather than something you dread. Make sure you believe in the overall mission of your employer, and that you can make a meaningful contribution toward that mission.
You should also aim to develop at least one true friendship at work. Research shows that having a best friend at work is the biggest determinant of whether you like your job.
Unplug after work hours
You will never gain perspective or fully experience life if you are constantly buried in email or scrolling through social media. I personally go offline for 12 hours each day — from about 8pm — 8am. I also try to avoid email and social media for one full day each weekend.
Keeping this schedule enables me to prioritize my family and my health. I have found that balancing my online and offline time helps me to achieve balance in my life overall.
Spend Time Outside
It is all too common to spend most of our days inside and in front of a computer screen. Getting outside and connecting with nature is a powerful way to clear your mind and reduce stress. Increasing your time outside (which could be as simple as taking a walk) will likely do wonders for your mood and outlook on life.
Volunteer your time to help people who have less than you
Volunteering has been shown to boost your health and happiness, while helping those in need.
In general, focus on giving to others instead of accumulating things for yourself. Donate to charity, be the first to pick up the check, and overtip at the end of your meal.
Practice your faith
Research shows that attending faith-based services 4 times per month will add 4–14 years of life expectancy. This holds true regardless of the faith you practice.
Add a daily dose of humor
Tell a joke, read the comics, watch a funny TV show, or go to a Comedy club. In fact, the simple act of smiling reduces stress and increases happiness, even if you’re faking or forcing the smile.
Achievement is good, but making the most of each day is even better.
Truly experiencing life is the best achievement of all.
Stop thinking about what’s next, and start living for today.
Hopefully the above principles and habits will help you along that path.
Andrew Merle writes about living well, including good habits for happiness, health, productivity, and success. Subscribe to his email list at andrewmerle.com.