A few years back, I was skimming a magazine when I came across a story of a woman’s journey with cancer. She shared how incredibly surprising the diagnosis had been, and how it turned her life upside down in an instant.
She gave a piece of advice that has been engraved in my mind ever since. I remember her stating:
“When things are going well in your life, it is the time to work on its key components. Getting a cancer diagnosis is not the time to kick off working on your marriage or forming a group of supportive friends. You want to have these things in place before then.”
It is when things are “good”, the quieter period in our lives or those more routine moments that we tend to classify as “boring”, that the best time exists for us to work on our lives. It is then that the best opportunities exist for us to put in place the key life structures that will carry us through living the life we dream of living, despite the circumstances. Or at a minimum manage the pain we encounter.
The message from the author of the magazine story was a wake up call: When things are good is when we must do most of our self-realization work. And the reality that we will encounter challenges, from the small inconveniences, to the devastating, unexpected events, could not be more clear.
The wake-up call a few years back was, well a WAKE-UP. There are four key areas that many have identified as foundational in the “building” of a life. Here they are, as well as easy, life changing steps you can take to slowly and consistently make better choices in the creation of your life. Two key words here: slowly and consistently. As I myself have begun incorporating the below, nothing has produced overnight results. Though slow, I am choosing to take small steps that will eventually, and hopefully, be stringed together into bigger, impactful steps. My hope is that these can serve as direction for you, and the resources that I share as some easy go-to steps.
Four key life areas and go-to strategies
Working on improving the relationships with those closest is an obvious step. Yet, it’s hard and it will never be perfect. As many of you know, I believe that those closest to us are meant to be our greatest teachers. So look for the best resources out there to help you work through the issues and strengthen the bonds. One of my favorites: Relationship and Marriage expert John Gottman, who uses 40 years of research, clinical experience, and long term scientific studies to provide actionable tools. He is amazing! Take a look at my experience from his weekend workshop in Seattle.
While we can’t predict everything that can happen, we can make the choice to get on well researched, preventative paths by taking small, consistent action every day. I break it up into small pieces and build from there.
Just a few key actions can have a tremendous impact. For me these have been (1) minimizing the amount of refined carbs I eat, (2) eliminating refined sugar from my diet (I do treat myself to the occasional chocolates or sweets), (3) eliminating the amount of processed food I consume, and (4) eating as many organic, fresh ingredients as I can in each meal.
Here’s more on decreasing sugar from your diet as well as building better eating habits. The changes detailed have transformed my body and health. Not only did my body become leaner and tighter, feeling stronger, more satisfied after meals and less hungry, but with these changes I felt and looked more like myself every single day.
Get it done. We know that getting your body in motion is a must. I do this 5 times a week, whenever, wherever. Even through 8.5 months of my pregnancy! These days, there are ways to work out at home, while traveling, and for very short period of times. Here’s a great way to exercise at home in very little time (NASA approved!) and here were my favorite ways to exercise during my pregnancy.
As many of you know, I am a committed, practicing meditator. I meditate anywhere from 20 mins to 90 minutes every single day.
The scientific proven benefits of meditation are incredible: increases immune function, decreases pain, decreases inflammation at the cellular level, increases positive emotions, decreases depression, decreases anxiety, decreases stress, increases social connection and emotional intelligence, makes you more compassionate, makes you feel less lonely, improves your self-control, increases grey matter (brain), increases the volume in certain areas of the brain, increases brain cortical thickness in areas related to paying attention, increases focus and attention, improves ability to multitask, improves memory, improves ability to be creative and think outside the box, among MUCH more (can there actually be more? Yes, there is!).
Can you think of a better way to prepare for the surprises in life than this one? Start mediating, even if just 5 minutes a day. You have the time to reap the above benefits. Here’s how to build a meditation practice. My personal benefits from meditation are endless, with just a few being:
- Less stress
- More time in the day
- Higher immunity with less to no sick days
- Better relationships
- Much more!
Over the years, I’ve made a choice to spend time here and really know where I stand and what is my unique relationship with that which is greater than me (irrespective of what I may have learned in the past). I can tell you this is the best decision I have ever made.
3. Friends & Family
So this is one that I (1) really wanted to strengthen and (2) needed to invest more time in. It is so easy to get caught up in work and family that we forget about our community or do not make the time to see friends and nourish these relationships. Yet friendship takes effort. Here are the best ways that I’ve been able to tackle this:
Date your friends
With some of my closest friends, I have a standing breakfasts once a month. I choose to do breakfast because it makes it less likely for the craziness of the day to get in the way of our date. How often have you set up drinks with a friend, only to cancel last minute when you have to stay late at work, or take care of something unexpected at home?
Instead, I choose to wake up early and meet a friend at 7:30 a.m. before my day starts. It also follows advice I learned at Stanford Business School. Professors have advised that when starting a company or working on a business idea while still working full time, to dedicate the early morning to this venture, as you give it #1 priority and actually make progress.
Identify key support
I know my go-to friends for the many aspects of my life. When I was pregnant, I reached out a ton over text to my friends that were pregnant. We were all up at 2am unable to sleep! I know who my friends are that I can speak to about abundance and The Universe; and I know who my friends are that work out with me and talk endlessly about nutrition and food. It’s an amazing way to bond, connect, and learn something new.
I identified very early on that I must be in a work environment that supports my life goals. Hence my move two years ago to this venture. Steve Jobs said it best: “I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
OK so I am not saying we all have to go build Apple computers. Do not let your Destructive Self get the best of you here by whispering in your ear that this doesn’t apply to you, that you aren’t Steve Jobs, and that you have to be stuck at a job you hate or else you will starve to death and be homeless.
What I am saying is to inquire as to whether where you are at is the right place for you to be given all of the things that could happen in life, and if it is not, that you begin to explore, research, and investigate alternatives that you might consider. Just for consideration…for now.
So are things going really well for you now?
Great! Now is the perfect time for you to get to work.
Are things not going so well?
It is even more important for you to start before things get any worse (which hopefully they do not).
TODAY do this:
- Identify what are the relationships in your family that you want to strengthen? Start doing that immediately.
- Take stock of your health. How do you feel about yourself? How do you feel about the efforts you make to exercise and eat better? How are you taking care of your mental and spiritual health? Overwhelming to make massive changes at once, so just take one very tiny small step at a time every day.
- Do you have friends? If not, make some. If so, take care of them. Check out some of my ideas above.
- Get real about your work. Making job and career changes can take a lot of time, so again, like your health, start by taking very small, tiny steps a day. Maybe today just give yourself 15 minutes to think about what you love doing and seeing what ways people have made a living out of it.
Let me know how it goes! I would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment or question below. If you enjoyed this post, I would be honored if you share it with your friends, family, and community.
Lots of love,