It’s easy to get absorbed in our days and lose sight of the bigger picture (those things that matter most) unless we intentionally make the time and opportunities to remind ourselves why we’re doing the things we do. A life well lived incorporates on a day-to-day basis the principles we hold as most important.
Living a well-lived life that matters
If we sit down to think about how to live a life well lived, we might find our mind is blank. One way to think about it is to imagine you’re at the end of your life, looking back. What would make you feel you lived your life well? What is the big picture?
What does a life well lived look like to me? A life that reflects those things I truly value, the guiding principles of my life. These are the things that are easy to lose sight of when we are trying to work and take care of our home. But they are so important to remember!
What defines a life well lived for you will be as individual as you are, but here are my thoughts on what it means to me:
A life well lived is one that…
- Reflects integrity. This word means honesty, uprightness, probity, rectitude, honor, honorableness, upstandingness, good character, principle(s), ethics, morals, righteousness, morality, nobility, high-mindedness, right-mindedness, noble-mindedness, virtue, decency, fairness, scrupulousness, sincerity, truthfulness, or trustworthiness. In order for me to feel that I have made a life that matters, these things would need to be reflected in my words and actions on a day-to-day basis.
- Reflects authenticity and being my true self. To me, this doesn’t mean simply accepting my less than admirable characteristics. Authenticity doesn’t preclude seeking to improve and do better; it just means not pretending to be someone you’re not, and risking being vulnerable enough to let others see you for who you are (here, Brené Brown talks about how essential vulnerability is to connection)
- Results in a legacy of contribution to the well being of others and the larger world. It’s important to make a difference, which we talked about when discussing what a productive woman is, which is someone who orders her life in such a way as to maximize her positive impact on the world around her. We aren’t here just to consume, but to contribute and create and leave the world and the people we interact with better by meeting us.
- I put people ahead of things, so my life includes deep, lasting relationships. What matters most to me is those key relationships with my husband, my children and theirs, and my friends. Relationships need to be nurtured, which can be difficult if we are focused on our productivity and accomplishing goals. If we are not careful, we can lose sight of the importance of relationships.
- Reflects faith in God and faithfulness to my understanding of his teachings. This may not be an element of a life well lived for everyone, but for me, it’s a bedrock principle.
How to incorporate these elements into your day-to-day life
- Integrity. Let it guide your actions in how you interact with people and treat them, whether they are your family members, friends, or co-workers. Act with integrity even if no one is around to see it. Let integrity be an integral part of your character.
- Authenticity. Be willing to be vulnerable with others, showing your true self to the people you interact with. Be mindful of when you may be posturing or hiding out of a desire to protect yourself from judgment.
- Contribution. Look for ways to serve others and make their lives better. This doesn’t have to be a big event or something that takes a lot of time. But rather, it can be little efforts, such as showing kindness to your grocery store cashier or bringing someone a small gift. Look for opportunities to connect with others and brighten their day. Doing things for others will make you feel good and improve your day too.
- Develop your skills and talents and put them to use for the benefit of other people. For instance, with writing or teaching. Developing your talents can make the world a better place.
- Put people first. Notice when you’re too busy to pay attention when someone is talking to you and work on being more present in conversations. Open your home as well as your heart to others, make it a welcoming space. Pare down your belongings and your commitments, so you have more time to spend with the people you love.
- Faithfulness. Make time to read inspirational books to reinforce the key teachings that matter to you and actively look for ways to live them out.
How do we keep the big picture in mind?
1. Purposely schedule time to think about the various elements and how they translate into goals and actions.
Have your values or goals written down and review them each morning or evening. Journal about them. Some even rewrite them each day as part of their daily journaling practice.
Maybe take some time–a Saturday morning or a Sunday afternoon, perhaps–monthly or quarterly to review, re-evaluate, and re-calibrate
Take an annual retreat for reflection, inspiration, and planning. These retreats can be a time for you to reflect on the past year, your personal mission statement, do some inspirational reading, and plan for the coming year. (I’d like to offer a retreat here in my home for a small group of women. If you are interested in this idea, please email me.)
“Who do you love? What do you care about? What/ who makes you laugh so hard you cry? What’s that one thing you’ve been wanting to try but have never gotten around to? How do you take care of yourself? If you had more time each day, how would you spend it? Each week? Each year? If you had less stress and more calm in your life, how would you feel? What causes are you passionate about? What do you do out of obligation instead of genuine interest? What are three things you said yes to recently when you wanted to say no? If you invested the time, money, and energy that you used on shopping, sales, and building your wardrobe on something that really mattered, what would you create? Can you admit that you have enough? Can you rejoice in the fact that you are enough?”
As part of your retreat or your daily routine, try journaling your response to these questions to help you reflect on a life well lived and which elements are the most important to you
2. Read or listen to books that inspire you to think about your values.
Making this a part of your regular routine can help you keep the big picture in mind. I’ve found The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday to be very thought-provoking. He has short daily readings from the teachings of the ancient Stoics and brief commentary on them.
I have also recently been listening to Teach Us To Want by Jen Pollock Michel. She writes from a Christian perspective about the meaning, value, and misuse of desire, and it very much has me thinking about what I want (and what’s behind the wanting).
3. Find artwork or printed quotes that reflect those elements most important to you.
Incorporate them into your decor at home or office so you can see and reflect on them daily. Change them periodically, since things quickly become “invisible” to us.
4. Picture yourself at the end of your life.
Have your future self write a letter to your now self. Don’t censor yourself. Keep that letter where you can reread it often, and keep it in mind as you plan your week.
5. Have an accountability partner with whom you check in regularly.
This would need to be someone you trust to be vulnerable with and share what really matters to you. Ask each other for ideas and how you are both incorporating the elements of a life well lived into your every day.
Perhaps it’s because as the years go by I get closer to the end of my life than the beginning, but I do think often about whether I’m making good use of my life here on earth. The good thing is we don’t have to wait until the end to know it. With intentional thinking and action, we can make every day count.
What do you think?
What would you include in the elements of a life well lived? How do you make sure your day-to-day life reflects those elements? Share your thoughts in the comments section below or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or email me!
Resources and Links
- Teach Us To Want by Jen Pollock Michel
- The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday
- Project 333 by Courtney Carver
- The Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown
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Royse City, Texas