Enjoying your life is simply a matter of the way that you feel. There is a common belief that happiness comes about as a result of having certain things (money, material goods, relationships, etc.), but in all actuality, whether or not you are enjoying your life has always boiled down to the simple question of how you feel about your life.
No amount of of money will help you to enjoy life if you are miserable on the inside. No relationship will define or complete you when a relationship – by definition – involves two or more people. No cache of toys and treasures will make you happy if you believe that you must have toys and treasures to be happy.
Bob over at Every, Every Minute started The Desiderata Project where bloggers choose a passage from Desiderata and expand upon the concept in a blog post. I chose the following passage as a reminder that enjoying the actual journey of life is more important than not having happiness until that journey has been completed:
“Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.”
In order to provide a simple formula that people can use on a daily basis to enjoy their lives rather than constantly focusing on the future, I have used the acronym S.T.O.P.
S – Stop
There is a simple truth of the human existence, and that is that most people simply do not take the time to STOP and think about all of the things that they have in their lives to be grateful for, and they also do not pat themselves on the back for having those things as a result of their own efforts.
You can completely discount things like fancy cars, tropical vacations, beautiful homes, and trinkets and baubles. Try being grateful for the basics before you start worrying about a higher level.
Do you have a roof over your head? Are you able to read and communicate with others? Do you have enough food to survive? Before you go thinking that those things are not worthy of your gratitude, consider the fact that there are millions – millions – of people in the world who live outside, cannot read or write, or who will die from malnutrition.
From that perspective, just being alive with a full belly and a roof over your head suddenly seems like a gift, doesn’t it?
T – Take Action
Assuming that you can see the wisdom of stopping on a daily basis to be grateful for the little things in life, now ask yourself what you can do to give back every day. This isn’t a matter of starting some altruistic foundation, of tithing 10% of your income, or even of constantly focusing on the needs of others.
You can keep it much simpler than all of that, yet still put forth an effort every day to give back. How many times have we all heard that “the little things” are what matter most – especially in relationships?
Every single day, do one thing that is completely selfless. Stand at the entrance to the grocery store holding the door for a full 30 seconds as you see that elderly person using a walker heading in your direction. Pick up your neighbor’s newspaper off of the sidewalk and take it up to their door. Give a knock just to hand it over and say “Hi’ before moving on with your day. Wash the dish that someone else left in the sink even thought it isn’t your responsibility.
The possibilities are obviously endless, but the point is that these type of acts will usually take less than 5 minutes of your life, but they will make you feel great! Yesterday at the grocery store I saw a lady juggling cans and she didn’t have a cart to put them in. I had a cart, but I didn’t have as many things as she did, so I took my stuff out of the cart and gave it to her. She was SO grateful, and I felt like a million bucks for having made the effort.
O – Organize
Sometimes the best times in our lives are completely “off the cuff” and we didn’t even know that we were going to be taking part in those activities. On the other hand, by making sure that you have time for those activities, you open up a slot for your life to pop something wonderful in there.
Every day, arrange your schedule and your responsibilities so that you have 30 or 60 minutes when you will have no responsibilities whatsoever. This is not exercise time, or time to run errands, or even a scheduled nap or meditation. This time is blank. Make no plans for it whatsoever. If you get to that point in your day and you don’t have anything better to do, then you can decide if you want to exercise, nap, run errands, etc.
The point is that no matter what you do with those 30 or 60 minutes, you send yourself the message that your life is about you. For at least 30 or 60 minutes you are going to do something that has absolutely nothing to do with anyone but yourself. Try it for a few days. Trust me, it is a freeing experience!
P – Participate
The final step in this process is participation, and this is meant as proactive participation in your life, not reactive. Almost all of us go through life with a huge pile of things that we feel we should do, but how many of those things are conscious efforts to actually participate in the process of life, rather than just going with the flow?
Regardless of what it may seem like from an outside point of view (job, family, spouse, etc.), your entire life is made up of things that you do because you want to do them. Not all things are as enjoyable as other things, but you are participating in the creative process of your life every single moment of every single day by the things that choose to do.
So ask yourself every day: “How can I proactively participate in the creation of my life today in a way that will make me feel good?”
Again, refer to the fact that most of the things that we do are reactive to our environment, and that environment is rarely there simply for our amusement, or to make us feel good. So what can you do today – and every day – that will make you feel good? After all, that is the goal, isn’t it?
In order to remember how to enjoy your life, simply S.T.O.P. Take personal responsibility for your own level of happiness every single day.