More often than not, significant change occurs in our lives against our will. We think we are not ready or that things have to happen in a particular order and then life throws us a curve ball and we have to accept change NOW! It is uncomfortable at the time but later we often say that we are better or stronger once the change has been accomplished. When these things happen, the sooner we are able to leave our grief over the lack of control or planning and are willing to embrace the process, the more we stand to gain in terms of potential transformation in the course of change. Our path in life is not a straight one and the better we get at taking the curves, expecting the unexpected, the happier we can be in the course of difficult times. This does not mean that we have to be super happy ALL the time but it means that the inevitable curve balls of life won’t knock us out completely when we take one in the head. We can pick ourselves up, learn the lesson, see what needs to be done, and keep going. Above all, perseverance and hope will take us through any storm.
Our tendency as humans is to find a comfortable routine and settle in to it. When we are overwhelmed by demands on us, sometimes it is good to find this comfortable place so that we can recharge. But what we must be aware of is that routine can also kill us because in order to progress as people physically, mentally, and spiritually we absolutely need to get out of this comfortable place and challenge ourselves regularly. This can take many forms depending on the area of our lives that need to be improved. We must regularly take stock of where and who we are and understand where we need to do some work. If we have health issues, we may need to challenge how we take care of ourselves from the food we eat to how much we move our bodies. If we have psychological issues, we need to work on our minds and seek help to break negative thought processes and find new healthy ways of thinking. If we have spiritual issues, we may need to read different books or go out a speak to people to get a new perspective on our lives. As people, we have a responsibility to make the most of the life we have been given and part of that is to regularly look at ourselves with a loving but critical eye and assess what we need to do to have a good life. No one can do this for us – the responsibility is fully in our own hands. Our families and friends are part of our lives but we alone are responsible for our own happiness.
How we spend our time is a major factor in being able to do this work particularly if we have what seems like other more pressing things to do. Isn’t it selfish to spend time on ourselves? Well, yes and no depending on how you look at things. Most of us have to work in a job to earn money for our sustenance and many of us have children or elderly parents that need our help and attention as well. Non-negotiable obligations like these take up a lot of time in our lives – there is no doubt about this fact of life. So how then do we find the time to make progress on ourselves? In reality, this boils down to how we define success, the choices we make in our daily lives, as well as our obsession with perfection. Let’s talk about these in reverse order.
The first thing we have to accept to make progress is that we are never going to be perfect. You may think that you are not a perfectionist but how often do we put things off because we don’t think we have time to do the job “properly”? We do it all the time. We have to accept that if we have a lot of obligations in our lives that nothing will ever be done perfectly, instead we will just do the best that we can do with the time and resources at our disposal. And most importantly, we must accept that THIS WILL BE GOOD ENOUGH. Really, it will. You just have to trust me. Don’t put things off because you can’t do it properly, just do the best you can within the constraints of your life.
The second thing we have to accept is that to make progress we may have to sacrifice some of the things we do for relaxation that don’t really matter or contribute to our well being. The biggest and most prominent of these has to be television and Internet. I know myself that I can sit down and think I am going to be checking to see what people are up to on Facebook for 5 minutes and then end up sitting there for an hour. I also know that I can sit down on the sofa to watch television and end up watching something that I did not intend to watch. They suck you in especially if you are sitting comfortably after a long day. We must be aware of what we are spending our time doing and try to stop using our time mindlessly and decide to take these single hours of time to do something meaningful to make our lives happier. Instead of an hour spent on Facebook or watching television, I could better spend this hour reading a book that informs something I am trying to improve for my life, preparing a healthy meal for my dinner, or even sleeping so I am less tired for tomorrow. This is hard but these small slivers of time can make the difference between healthy/unhealthy and happy/sad.
The third and probably most important thing is accepting what success means in the context of our own lives. Not all of us are going to be billionaires or movie stars. What do you want to achieve in your life? What do you spend your time and money doing to achieve that? The most valuable resource we have is TIME. Money can buy many things but the most important thing it can buy is time. If you can spend your money differently to give you more time then you will win. Fancy cars, clothes, gadgets, etc will not make you happy in the long term no matter how attractive these material possessions seem. Use your money wisely to give yourself more time. This can mean a lot of different things, saving up a nest egg so that you can retire earlier or being careful how you spend so that you can work part time. This does not mean living without any comfort but it means not letting yourself be swayed that somehow just because it is expensive with a label that it is always better than the cheaper, simpler product. My budget friendly car will get me to my destination just as well as a fancier model and because I don’t have a car payment, I can work part time.
Change is never always simple or easy but once we understand that change is something we need to embrace and use to our advantage, we will be less likely to fall down a hole when we unexpectedly find ourselves in the middle of an issue that requires us to change. By accepting that change is an integral part of our life experience, we can learn to be more adaptable and understand that having to change does not mean that we have failed! If we already have a practice of trying to review our lives and what we need to do to make progress towards our happiness, then we will better cope with life changes that appear unexpectedly and it becomes easier to integrate any required changes into our plans. This self knowledge and self awareness is an active thinking process and you may find it helpful to have a notebook to jot down ideas and information that relate to your journey. I would also encourage you to regularly spend a few minutes allowing your mind to clear and to gain perspective on any situation that you may find yourself in by choosing silence. Learn to quiet the mind so that you are not overwhelmed by thoughts or feelings. Take care of yourself by stepping away from the stress and noise to find your place of comfort within.
If you would like more information about how to manage your money, I recommend reading Millionaire Teacher by Andrew Hallam. There is a recent new edition available. I have found this very useful for planning how to save for the future.