I’ve read a lot of self-help books. All have a common theme: only you have the power to change your life.
Take this Tony Robbins quote for example:
Most people are so busy surviving and making a living, they forget to design a life. And if you don’t take the time to design your life, you’re going to miss out. You’ll snap your fingers and ten years will happen. You’ll look back and think: where’d it go? Ten years from now you will surely arrive. The question is: where?
Great, in theory. But how do you actually put it into practice when bills need to be paid, and commitments have been made?
Newsflash: there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Happiness is a deeply personal thing, after all. But here are three approaches that have helped me create a life I actually love (on most days anyway, let’s be real), and will hopefully help you, too. No trust fund or giant financial safety net required.
1. Day job.
Let’s cut to the chase: you have to work. And sometimes it sucks. But while you may not be able to change your day job instantly, you *can* change your mindset a little more each day.
You don’t need to be wholly dedicated to your job. You don’t even need to love your job. You just need to accept your job for what it is: something that provides you financial security. It’s all experience. It’s all learning.
If you only wait for extraordinary experiences and THE dream job, you’ll always be discontent.
A lot of life is mundane. It’s about taking ordinary experiences and making them great, about seeing the possibility and pleasure in the little things. Give yourself time. It’s easy to look at yet another bill and feel like you’ll be stuck in 9-5 employment forever. But you have options. You can move on. Whether you adore or detest your job, start saving however much you can a month. It doesn’t have to be much, just something. Call it a freedom fund. Because life becomes easier when you feel you have options.
2. Side hustle.
If you’re searching for your purpose, stop. You’re not going to find your “purpose” overnight. It’s a process. But you can start a project to get you closer. Side hustles remove your sole focus from your day job. They stop you from putting all of your emotional eggs in one basket. They give you equilibrium.
A life based on goals alone can only be disappointing. But a life made up of passion projects is enriching, whatever the outcome (just ask Elizabeth Gilbert).
Start by thinking about what you enjoyed as a child. Perhaps you loved to paint? Or make jewelry? Or write? Try it again, with the intention of learning and having fun in the process. You may even make some $$$, too. And if you think you don’t have time, think again. Let’s do the math. A full-time job is, in fact, only 23% of your time. Everyone has 168 hours a week. Your day job is only 40 or so of yours.
3. Non-profit pursuit.
If you have a job, somewhat of a social life and a side hustle, you may feel you’re too busy for anything else. But I beg to differ. You can’t afford to be too busy when it comes to giving back.
In order to feel like we matter, we need to do something, however small, that matters.
Once a month, I spend a few hours away from my everyday reality to try and better someone else’s. It could be gardening at a local community center on a Saturday afternoon, doing a shift at a charity store, mentoring a young person, or donating old things to people in need.
Giving back changes your whole identity more than any top job or degree can. Everyone has something to give. We all need to get out of ourselves and our own problems for a while. What better way than to help someone else with theirs? If you found out you were dying, you’d want to try something new, right? Well, you are. We all are. I rest my case.
Don’t settle. There’s no fun in living a life that is less than you’re capable of. But instead of thinking how to solve your whole life at once, try adding to it instead. One good thing at a time.
Bianca is a writer sharing honest musings on careers, creativity, money and more. She has interned at Vogue, consulted some of the biggest names in branding and e-commerce and currently leads the copywriting team at TripAdvisor. Follow her via her blog and on Twitter.
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