ABC’s of a Richer Life

Many individuals are living their lives on autopilot, going from place to place, but not enjoying the ride. We get so caught up in the details of life that we don’t really stop long enough to enjoy life’s simple pleasures. Going from work, to your blackberry, to your cell phone and back again, becomes a bad habit that will rob you of being in the moment. Getting back to the basics is critical if you want to live a rich and prosperous life. Even some of the busiest people know the value of stopping every now and then in order to refuel and re-evaluate how their life is going. Otherwise, you become a hamster in a cage, running endlessly around the wheel, but getting nowhere. Here are some tips to focus on:

A. Awake and engaged

Many people go through life asleep, not really awake and aware of what is going on. They may go through the motions, but they are not fully present and engaged in the daily activities and joys. The first step in living a rich life is to become more engaged in your life. Put away the cell phone, the blackberry, the laptop or television. Remind yourself to be more aware during times that you should be enjoying the moment for what it is. Just the act of being more aware will act as a catalyst to ground you and open your eyes.

An exercise for being more aware and awake in your life is to set aside 30 minutes a day to be fully present in whatever you are doing. If you are washing dishes, try thinking about nothing else other than the feel of the water and the sound of dishes. If you are watching a soccer game, really be involved in the game. Watch the players, talk with the kids, be aware of the weather. Get sticky notes and write a statement.  Be in the moment.  Put these notes everywhere in your home, in your car, on your computer. This will act as a visual reminder to focus on what you are doing right then, not thinking about the million other things you need or want to get done.

B. Be true to your values

Your values will guide you and act as a compass in your life. What you value will keep you grounded on what really matters. It is when we get so caught up in the fast pace and craziness of life’s details, that we get further from our truths. When you disengage from your values, you ultimately end up dissatisfied and unfulfilled. Take some time to clarify for yourself what you value, above all else. Then, commit to only engaging in activities that honor these values.

Get out a piece of paper and write down everything you value in life – family, freedom, creativity, travel, health, spontaneity, children, and so on. Now, narrow this list to your Top 5 values. This is what you are saying is more important to you than anything else. Without these things, your life has little meaning. Now, take a step back and look at how you are living your life.  Are the commitments you make, honoring these values? If you value your health, are you living a healthy and active lifestyle? This activity will be a wake-up call to the changes that need to be made.

C. Create a social/support group

Being part of a strong social/support group will dramatically impact your ability to face life’s challenges. Taking the time to nurture this group of individuals will greatly improve your satisfaction in life. Friends will make your celebrations more meaningful and they will get you through the difficult times with comfort. If you do not make the time to nurture your friendships, over time, you will feel lost and alone.
Do you feel supported and surrounded by good friends? Do you make an effort to nurture these relationships? What simple steps can you take to make these people more of a priority in your life? Can you commit to calling a couple friends every week to touch base? Can you pencil in a lunch or coffee once a week? Can you schedule a get-away once a year? Jot down ideas, and then, begin to implement them.

Applying these tips can make a world of difference in how much richer you experience life.

Overcoming Fear

When my brother came to visit me last year, I wanted to do something fun and exciting with him, something that would alleviate the stress of being a caregiver to his wife, and to help us bond with each other.  So, I made plans to go zip-lining with him. I was already stressed from not being able to find the location for this activity for hours on end. In addition, I suffered from a fear of heights, but I felt the only way to overcome that fear was to face it head on. After all, I should be practicing what I encourage my clients to do. We finally reached the meeting point for this zip-lining event. Once each of us in the group got strapped into our gear and hiked to our destination, I made the mistake of looking down from where we were to begin zip-lining, which was 300 feet above the ground, even though it looked like an infinite distance. Of course, I was secured to a harness, but this gave little to no comfort at the time. I was petrified with fear, and my legs felt like complete Jello. It would have been easy to give up at that point, but I was being cheered on by the others waiting in line behind me. And, I wasn’t one to throw in the towel just quite yet. I literally felt like I was about to die, and part of me would have given my life to turn back right then and there. But, guess what?  I calmed myself down, took a deep breath, said to myself, “I can do this,” and jumped. Somehow, I managed to thrust my body off the cliff I was standing on, and the cable I was attached to, slid forward till I finally got to the next mountain peak (which seemed like 1/2 mile away). I managed to find the strength somewhere deep down and continued right past the fear. This taught me invaluable lessons on trust, finding inner strength, and most importantly, to never give up. I suggest that you realize the power of pushing through your fears, the power you give yourself when you do so.  Fear will only hold you back if you allow it to, remember that breaking through your fears will build your strength and increase your belief in yourself and your abilities.

 1. Name your fears

We all have fears that we have avoided for some time. Maybe you have avoided certain situations your whole life. Maybe this is a newfound fear. Whatever the case, these fears have guided your decisions, your life choices, and the path you’ve taken. These fears are not going to go away on their own. Ignoring them is the easy way out!  So, write them down where you can read them and vocalize them. This will make them real. “I fear being alone”, or “I fear commitment”, or “I fear speaking up for myself.”

2. Prioritize them

Now that you have your list, highlight the ones that seem to be all-consuming. These are the fears that take up a majority of your time and energy. You may have been in avoidance mode when facing these fears. The highlighted fears are the ones that you want to break through. You are tired of living your life in the shadows of these fears. You are ready to take the necessary steps to move past them.

3. Time to take action

Now is the scary part. You need to take action. List ways that would stretch your comfort zone. What risks can you take in regards to your fear? If you stretched yourself a little each and every day, how would your life be different?  Make a list of small, medium and large risks that you can work up to. Commit to taking action every day until the fear is conquered. I guarantee the act of facing the fears head on will decrease your anxiety over time.