We’ve all heard the old saying that nothing in life is free. While few would disagree with the statement, we often forget that although nothing is free, many of the best things in life are completely within our grasp – as long as we remain focused, patient and work for them.
It’s often the incremental things that we do on a day-to-day basis that have the most lasting effects.
I have five ‘buckets’ that I like to use. You may have more or less. The trick is to make daily investments in each of these, small enough so that we don’t feel the pain.
Do something that improves your physical health. Instead of two hours parked in front of the TV or computer screen, can you turn it off and go for a 20-minute walk? Maybe you can walk to the store instead of driving? Climb the stairs instead of waiting for the elevator.
I have even started taking some meetings while strolling in the park. We’re more apt to begin on time, finish on time, and we get a little exercise in the process.
It’s vital that we spend our emotional energy wisely. The ways in which our emotional energy can be squandered are endless: The 24-hour bad news cycle, traffic, unreasonable deadlines, toxic people. Try to surround yourself with people who will uplift and inspire you, not deplete and depress you.
If that jerk on the radio makes your blood boil, then why are you listening to him? Spotting the negative influences may take some practice as we have become so used them. But we don’t have to indulge them.
The mind is like a muscle and needs exercise too. Can you learn one new thing every day? Big or small, it doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s somebody’s name, a piece of history that you’ve always wondered about. Maybe you can learn one new word from the New York Times’ most frequently looked-up words list?
When author Philip Roth recently bought himself an iPhone, he said, “Every morning I study a chapter in my ‘iPhone for Dummies’. Now I’m proficient.” This from the man who won a Pulitzer Prize.
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Try to get in touch with a ‘higher force,’ whatever you perceive that to be. You don’t have to meditate for three hours a day, go to a mountain top, pray to God or even believe in a God. But try to connect with something bigger than yourself for a few moments each day.
Even if it’s just to stare in awe at nature, or see your humanity reflected in another person. One of the best ways to do this is to practice gratitude daily. Pick out the things in your life that you are grateful for – especially those things you would normally take for granted.
The most effective prayer in the world has two words: “Thank you.” When you do this, you will find yourself reconnected to the source.
I call this the daily ‘reach out.’ It might be someone who has been on my mind recently. An old college friend I owe an email to. Someone I bumped into on an airplane once. An introduction I would like to make for someone.
It costs us nothing to pick up the phone, write four lines or tweet 140 characters. But it says to somebody, “Hey, I’m thinking about you.” If you can add value, or give them something, then so much the better. Nobody can do everything on their own. We need other people, just as other people need us.
So try to practice one daily reach out. You may be surprised by the results.