Life can be really hard sometimes. Everyone has a million responsibilities: family, friends, work, hobbies, ambitions, etc. It can all be a lot to deal with on a daily basis.
Over the past several years I’ve experienced this first hand: I’ve gone from having practically no pressure and responsibility at all to having important jobs and roles at companies, a real family to spend time with and care for, and lots of friends, hobbies, and ambitions to balance on my free time.
Overall, I think I’ve come to cope pretty well. I’ve definitely had my moments where I was completely overwhelmed (just ask my wife), but in general, I’ve learned to enjoy my life as much as possible while managing everything else pretty well.
Because I see so many friends and acquaintances going through the same things as I have, I thought I’d take a moment to write out what I do on a daily basis to help alleviate some of the pressures of life, and what has really helped me enjoy my life more.
Focus on the Present
The simplest way to start enjoying your life, and the only absolutely 100% guaranteed strategy I’ve learned is to put all of your energy and focus into whatever it is you’re currently doing.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re working out at the gym, dealing with a stressful last minute meeting, or handling something in-between: there’s something deeply, personally satisfying about living in the moment.
It gets your mind off of your worries and pressures, and instead puts you into action mode: the mode where you actually get shit done.
I’ve never once in my life regretted taking action when I was stressed – if anything, I’ve regretted not taking more action.
One of the things I tend to do (and I’m sure you’ve done this before as well) is to build up a huge mental list of all the things I need to do: chores, work, doctor’s appointments, gym, family, etc. It’s overwhelming, and pretty scary.
Since I’m almost never caught up with all that I have to do, it becomes a bigger and bigger mental strain. The more time that passes, the more irritable and annoyed I become. I feel stressed, and rapidly start dreading my life.
By doubling down and focusing on the present moment and exactly what I’m doing, all that stress instantly falls away. It’s very freeing.
Forget About Past Accomplishments
This was a tough lesson for me to learn, personally. I’ve had some limited successes in my life: starting a company, writing a book, accomplishing a lot of work goals, losing weight, getting into shape, etc.
There was a time when instead of focusing on new goals and opportunities, I’d simply sit at home relaxing, feeling confident in myself because of past successes.
Unfortunately, this is nothing more than procrastination.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you’re spending more time reflecting on the cool things you’ve previously done – instead of actually doing new things – you’re wasting your time.
I’ve regretted so much time that I’ve wasted simply being content with myself, instead of pushing myself into new, uncomfortable territories.
If you’re looking for a way to motivate yourself for the next big thing, stop focusing on the past, and start looking towards the future. Not having a big ‘buffer’ of comfort behind you makes it all the easier.
Be Hard on Yourself
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my entire life is to be constantly hard on myself.
I’m the sort of person who, if unchecked, will happily sit around all day doing nothing. It’s just human nature, after all. I was raised by two parents who provided plenty of positive encouragement and always made me feel special, so as an adult, I’m often tempted to view myself this way.
The best thing I ever did was to start being hard on myself, and demanding more.
I realized at some point (years ago) that I wanted to be the best possible version of myself: I wanted to be as strong as possible, as productive as possible, and as forward thinking as possible. There’s no way to do that if you’re easy with yourself.
If you’re noticing days pass by you where you can’t think of any forward progress you’re making, then you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. You’re not demanding enough of yourself.
If you truly want to be a better person (in any way: physically, mentally, monetarily, whatever), you have to constantly push the envelope. You’ve got to set clear plans for yourself, and execute them every single day.
You’ll most definitely mess up, but when you do, just look forward and double your efforts.
If you’re having trouble finding the motivation to push yourself, just think about what the ideal version of you would do. Unless the answer is “sit around doing nothing”, then dig deep down, take a big breath, and continue pushing forward.
Be Light with Others
While being very hard on yourself is a good idea, the opposite is true of other people.
Instead of holding other people to your standards, try to do the opposite: expect nothing of others.
What I mean by this is that there’s only one of you. ONE. This means that you’re the only person in the entire world who thinks the way you do. Nobody else has the same experiences, upbringing, thoughts, or plans. You are truly unique.
Because of this, everyone has their own sense of what they want to do. Everyone has their own priorities. Everyone lives in their own little world.
Instead of building up expectations of others, try to just accept people as they are: for good or bad.
Not only will this greatly improve your personal relationships and friendships, but it will help you learn to empathize with others more easily, and will greatly improve your outlook.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten annoyed with other people because of their actions. The number is probably in the millions. Maybe someone cut me off in traffic, or maybe someone cancelled their plans at the very last second – whatever happened, it annoyed me.
I used to let stuff like this really get to me. I’d spend minutes (or sometimes hours) thinking thinks like “Didn’t they think about this before doing it?” “How could they possibly think THAT was a good idea?” etc…
What I realized is this: I’d waste tons of time, mental energy, and effort being upset over something I can’t control. It’s pointless!
At the end of the day, something happened that I didn’t have anything to do with, and I let it ruin my day.
What a waste of a day!
If you can’t control something (and you can never control other people), learning to accept things as they happen will take you very far. It’ll improve your mood, your outlook, and your relationships.
Have Multiple Passions
This one is very important: you should have multiple passions.
At a young age, I became obsessed with computer programming. It was all I thought about, dreamt about, and spend my time doing. Because of this, I learned things quickly, and had many successes early on in my life.
One of the things I noticed as the years passed, however, is that there were days I ended up feeling awful because of programming. Sometimes I’d not accomplish what I wanted: maybe I couldn’t figure out how to use some tool, couldn’t understand a concept right away, or didn’t finish some project according to my personal deadline.
Whenever this happened, I’d go into a mini-funk. I’d feel bad about myself, and I’d lose interest in what I was working on.
The best solution to this that I’ve found is to always have multiple passions. For me, I’ve got two (currently): programming and bodybuilding.
I decided a while back that it was time to get in shape, and make some dramatic progress towards my ideal physical form. So… I started working out, lifting weights, and learning about nutrition.
Since I made that decision, there’s been two things I’ve done nearly every day for the past three years: write code, and work out.
The benefits from this have been really enormous for my mental health.
Some days I have a great workout, and also end up writing some great code. On these days, I feel amazing. I feel like I accomplished so much, and that my life is going perfectly according to plan!
Other days, I might have a bad day at work, but a good gym session. Whereas in the past this might throw me into a funk, because I had some successes in the day, I didn’t feel as bad. Instead of going to bed upset with myself, I’d go to bed satisfied that I made some progress towards my goals.
The main point is this: having multiple passions gives you an outlet for days when things don’t work out perfectly. It gives you more to look forward to each day, more motivation to continue making progress, and more options as to what do with your time.
The last suggestion I have to help you enjoy your life more is to read more books.
I spend a decent amount of time reading every week, which is one of the main ways I learn about happiness, personal development, and a wide variety of other topics.
Books have had more impact on my life than any other form of media combined.
If you’ve never looked into or read any personal development books (business books and non-fiction books also apply), you’re greatly missing out. While a lot of these sorts of books may be gimmicky, exposing yourself to methods that work for other people can be a great way to keep an open mind, and learn what works best for YOU.
One of the best books I ever read was The Power of Less by Leo Babauta. It really got me thinking about my life and my habits, and was a catalyst for changing my behaviors and thought processes.
While I used to think reading about personal development type things were a waste of time: they can actually be incredibly useful. By spending time and effort investing in yourself and who you are, you can really become a happier person.
NOTE: I’ve got a ton of friends who tell me they don’t have time to read books due to busy schedules, but that’s almost always complete bullshit. It only takes about 15 minutes a day of reading to learn something new, and move the needle forward. And if you don’t have time for that? Use audiobooks! I listen to them almost every day via Audible while in the car, working out in the gym, or during commutes. If you aren’t a member, you can sign up with this link and get 2 free books. Highly recommended.
Anyhow: reading more is a great way to further your personal education and subsequently help you enjoy your life more.
I hope some of these tips resonate with you, and that my own learning experiences can help improve your day to day happiness.
The most important thing to remember is that you are the only one in control of your life. You’re the pilot, the crew, and the engineer of your own happiness and successes. You’ve got to do it all.
If you want to enjoy your life, you can! It’s 100% up to you.