I see a lot of motivational quotes from my friends on the various social media services that are related to living life to its fullest or making the most out of your day. Thinking like this is a great attitude to have but it is one of those things that are easier said than done. After all, we often get caught up with our day to day tasks and by the time we get around to making the most out of our day, it’s practically time for bed.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately because I definitely haven’t been living life to its fullest. I’ve been living in more of a reactive mode where my life feels like an endless pile of papers and lists of tasks that I need to get to. So of course, fun has taken a back seat. So out of frustration (which can be a fantastic motivator), I’ve created a list of seven things that we can all do to make the most out of our lives.
1. Wake up with the right attitude.
To get the most out of your day, you need to wake up in the right mood. If your first thought when your alarm goes off is “crap, I need to go to my stupid job!” then you’re starting your day in a manner that sets you up for misery. Consider how you wake up on a day when you’re leaving for vacation on while you’re on vacation. You’re probably excited, imagining all the fun you’ll be having and all the exciting things you’ll be doing.
The trick is to do this every day. As soon as you wake up, think about the good things that you can look forward to that day. It can be something big like going out with friends after work or something small like your dog running to greet you when you get home. Try to think about three things each morning (and they can be the same things from day to day) like this — and, if you need a little help think about them the night before, write them down on a sticky note and put it on your alarm.
2. Do something that makes you feel good about yourself.
We spend far too much time beating ourselves up over the things that we do wrong. It could be anything from smoking to overeating to giving in to being lazy. Life is not easy and we live in stressful times so it’s easy to succumb to our vices. So instead of focusing on the bad things that you do, try to do something that makes you feel better about yourself. This can be something as simple as dressing up so you look your best (even if you don’t receive any complements, it’ll boost your confidence), hitting the gym, making a healthy meal substitution at lunch or complete a task that’s been lingering on your to do list that bothers you.
3. Reward yourself.
Again, we live in a stressful and highly competitive society so it’s easy to fall into the trap where we’re focused on all of the things we need to do and leave little (if any) time for things we want to do. Make a list of treats (or guilty pleasures) for yourself and reward yourself every day. It can be food related (just remember to keep it in moderation or you’ll regret it), playing video games, goofing off on social media, reading for pleasure or anything else you enjoy. If you don’t take time out and treat yourself from time to time, you’ll start to resent your goals and the work you do. So treat yourself from time to time.
4. Minimize your time with negative people.
Negativity is as contagious as yawning. When you’re in a group of people that’s complaining, it’s hard not to feel the same way and join it. That’s why it’s important to avoid them as much as possible. If you spend your lunch complaining about your job with your coworkers, it might feel good to get things off of your chest but how will you feel the rest of the day? In this case, you may want to consider eating with a different group or finding an activity to do during lunch that puts you in a better mood such as exercising or reading. Again, this is easier said than done because sometimes you have no way of completely avoiding the negative people in your life so try to do this over time. For example, skip one lunch with the pity partiers each week for three weeks and then start skipping two. Or communicate with negative people via email rather than in person or over the phone.
5. Spend more time with positive people.
Again, we all live in different situations so not all of us have clubs of positive people that meet every day near where we live or work. But you probably have noticed that some people that you interact with day to day seem to be more positive than others. Try to spend more of your time around these people rather than those that always talk negatively. In the event that you don’t have people in your life that are positive, use social media to connect with people with the right attitude. Twitter is full of people that post nothing but inspirational quotes and Facebook and LinkedIn each have groups for people who are positive minded.
6. Watch your language.
What you say, whether you mean it or not, has a lot to do with how you feel. If you find yourself putting a negative spin on things or taking down about people, stop it. When asked about something, try to always find something positive about the situation no matter how bad it is. So if a project is behind schedule, you could say something like “at least we’re realizing it now so we have time to adjust and minimize the problem.” Again, it’s tempting to add to the misery when people are talking down about something so it’s often better to say nothing at all.
7. Watch your body language.
Smile. Smile again. Keep smiling. It’s very difficult to be upset or angry when you have a big grin on your face. Try it. There’s a lot to be said about body language and how it affects others around you, but the simplest thing to do is smile. About ten years ago, I was waiting in line at a supermarket and the people in front of me caused all sorts of problems (they were arguing over ten cents on a number of items) which was annoying me to the point where I wanted to scream. A college-aged woman got in line behind me and she smiled and said “hi” to me, despite the annoyed scowl on my face. She instantly changed my mood and we had a nice conversation while we waited. Her simple act not only kept her from being annoyed at a frustrating situation, but she also brought me around.
If you have trouble making yourself smile, think of something funny or watch a funny movie. I chose the photo at the beginning of this post because it reminds me of a fun time at a fun place (even though I had gotten laid off a week before that photo was taken). So think of fun and happy memories.
Moving from a negative attitude to a more positive one takes time and effort so don’t beat yourself up if you catch yourself chiming in on a pity party or sulking because something didn’t go your way. The key to any change is to make gradual shifts so that you develop positive habits. And it’s okay to be negative or upset at times. Things like a job loss or loss of a loved one often require a period of mourning. While there are people that are able to keep positive during even the toughest of times, not everyone can easily get to that point. You know you better than anyone else does, so if going cold turkey and just eliminating all negativity from your life works starting right now works for you, then go for it. Otherwise, take it in strides and make small but constant changes. I recommend starting with the first point of waking up with the right attitude as that will help you lay a strong foundation for a positive day.