1. Live out of your deepest self – your heart. You really cannot do anything if it is not “you” that is doing it. We are all looking for love and we often act out a “fake version of ourselves” in hopes of being more lovable. But deep down, we desperately desire to be loved for who we really are – with all of our imperfections. Authenticity will repel some people, and that is okay. But living out of your true self will attract far more people. This does not excuse you from working on personal flaws or other issues. Ultimately, the goal is to become the best version of yourself possible. To find and reconnect with your deepest self (your heart), I would recommend reading Waking the Dead by John Eldredge. He teaches us how to find healing and resolution for life’s hurts – things that can keep you from truly flourishing. Where is your heart? What are you passionate about? What is your life’s purpose? Where are you going? What are your goals? Don’t lose touch with your dreams because they reveal something very profound about you.
2. Develop a two-way relationship with Jesus of Nazareth. Surrender yourself completely to God in Christ Jesus. In Him, your heart will truly flourish. With the help of the Bible, get to know Jesus by reading the Gospel of John, for starters. I recommend the Revised Standard Version of the Bible from Ignatius Press. Join a Bible Study or start to attend a Bible-based church. Develop Christian friendships and grow in a simple Christian way of life. Begin to spend 10 to 15 minutes reading Scripture and talking with Jesus every day, then use a journal to jot down your thoughts. Some Christians are great at spreading the Good News, praise and worship, as well as daily Christian living. Catholics excel at ultimate doctrinal questions, a devotional life of deep prayer and finding the true Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist. One can draw from the wealth of all of this in following Jesus. If you need help along the way with more difficult questions, find out what the Magisterium is and check out the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In the end, Christians will let you down, but God is so faithful!
3. Embrace relationships while keeping good boundaries. We need people in our lives. They give us life and help us grow. Quality relationships fill our lives with joy. When we are with others, our brain releases a feel-good hormone called oxytocin. Many people who are isolated become oxytocin-deprived and depressed. We need to interact and engage with real flesh-and-blood people. Of course, when you have people in your life, there’s always the potential for trouble! For this reason, you need to set healthy boundaries with your coworkers, family members and others. If you need help in this area, try Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s classic book Boundaries. Even with good boundaries, we will still make mistakes as will others. Knowing how to forgive and how to ask for forgiveness is an essential part of healthy relationships. Family issues can be tough and often require years of work to fully deal with – especially when abuse is involved. Start the process now.
4. Take care of your health. Health isn’t just the absence of illness. It includes all areas of your life: physical, psychological, social, spiritual and other aspects – total health is about leading a balanced life. Our bodies, minds and hearts are not garbage cans (at least they shouldn’t be). What are we putting into them? Are the people we spend time with healthy for us? Is the media we read and watch healthy? Is the food we consume healthy? How is your psychological health? Your mood? Sometimes our mental state is affected by what we’re eating (or not eating). The Mood Cure by Julia Ross is a great resource for exploring the connection between diet and mood. Are you getting enough exercise? Praying enough? Consider your overall health and see whether you need to make any changes.
5. Do work that you love. Life can be miserable when you hate your work. One of the keys to job satisfaction is finding a job that matches who you are. What are you passionate about? What are your interests? What is your mission in life? Two great resources for helping you answer these questions are What Color is Your Parachute? by Dick Bolles and Do What You Are by Paul Tieger, Barbara Barron and Kelly Tieger. Discover what kind of a person you are and slowly move in the direction of finding work that will fulfill you. It might take some time, but eventually you’ll get there. Explore around. Don’t be afraid to make some mistakes. If you need to take a pay cut, remember that it is better to make less money and find happiness than to be rich and miserable. Keep the end goal in mind and make choices that will serve you best in the long run.
6. Get your finances in order. The hard truth is, life requires MONEY. A good starting point is following the most basic financial rule: you need to bring in more than you spend. (So be careful with credit cards.) Do you know how much you spend? And what you’re spending it on? Track your expenses and create a monthly budget. If you need help shaping up your finances, I recommend The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Many people have financial trouble because their state of mind keeps them in a state of financial chaos. Suze Orman addresses this in The Courage to be Rich. Other great resources are David Bach’s Automatic Millionaire and Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad. For kicks, read The Millionaire Next Door to understand why millionaires have money – they are frugal. There are many financial gurus out there who can help – just be cautious about investing your money in something based on anyone’s suggestion. Always get a second and third opinion.
7. Look on the bright side. Sometimes it’s hard to be positive when there’s so much suffering in the world. Bad or negative things do happen, and we shouldn’t necessarily ignore those things. But there is also a lot of good in the world, as well as a huge swath of in-between things that we can see in either a “glass half-full” or a “glass half-empty” way. Choose “half-full.” Do you struggle with negativity? Are you jealous? Sarcastic or cynical? Why? Get to the root of your feelings and see what you can do about it. Consider reading The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. Remember that our words are VERY powerful. Compliments have an amazing power upon people. We should spend far more time complimenting others and less time criticizing them. You will make their day and they will love you for it. Try it.
8. Consider yourself an “eternal student.” Read whenever you have a chance. If you are interested in something, someone has probably written a book about it. In some ways, we are what we read. Where are your interests? Pursue them. They might turn into a job. Where is your passion? Read about it. Join a book study group. What do you struggle with? Learn how others have dealt with that same issue. What are your problems? You can find solutions. Savor new ideas. Break out of your narrow way of thinking. Stand on the shoulders of giants. Scale the heights!
9. Find a personal mentor or life coach. We are often our own biggest obstacle to growth. If we think we can do it all by our lonesome, we really limit ourselves. We crawl by ourselves when we could fly with a little help. Many times, we have issues or “heart wounds” that keep us from moving forward. We need people who can see us “from the outside” to help us sort it all out. Sometimes a friend can serve as a type of mentor. Or you might want to hire a life coach. You may even be able to find someone you admire who will mentor you for free. They may be flattered you asked! In any event, don’t do it alone. Look for wisdom. Find someone who can encourage you on the journey. Sometimes a person of the opposite gender might be a better coach for you. Working with a coach or mentor gets us out of ourselves and opens us up to new ideas and a fresh view of the world.
10. Take small steps toward your goals every day. Take baby steps and keep a journal. Many people give up because they take on too much all at once. But it is the concerted effort of many little changes that brings about the big changes. As the saying goes, “Luck favors the prepared.” Would you be prepared if good fortune came your way? Would you even know what to do? Part of the answer lies in arming yourself with solutions (see #8). The solution to losing 50 pounds is not getting rid of it by next month. Rather, it’s creating a realistic plan for losing a few pounds each month. Formulate achievable goals or you will give up in frustration. Celebrate when you achieve these small goals. A journal will help you see how you are doing and appreciate how far you have come. A mentor can hold you accountable. If you need help getting started, check out Zig Ziglar’s Goals DVD.
There you have it. The ultimate list. Did I leave out anything? What do you think is essential for having an absolutely amazing life? Are you willing to give even some of these a try to see how absolutely amazing your life can be? Good luck!