In crafting the life you dream about, it’s important to give attention, ideally, to every area of your life: to your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being; to your relationships, both personal and professional; and to your environment, from your living quarters to the health of the whole planet. Other factors weave into it too, such as your financial health and your vocational health; factors related to the work you do in the world. The idea of how everything is interconnected was the focus of exploration in my Optimal Living TV series about the integrated nature of well-being. It can seem like a lot to have to look after, but know this: as you take steps in a positive direction in one area of your life, the benefits ripple out and influence the other areas almost effortlessly.
Last week, we completed the Do What You Love Telesymposium, a three-week series of interviews with amazing individuals who are doing work that they love and who shared how you can do it too. While the focus of the Telesymposium was primarily on career endeavours, it was easy to see how the benefits of doing rewarding work that was meaningful to them, influenced the speakers for the better in other areas of their lives too.
When you’re doing work that makes you feel alive and vibrant, it brings layers of delight and wonder to the other areas of your life, and it works the other way too: wonder and delight in other areas of your life can bring life and vibrancy to the work you choose to do.
Sometimes, thinking about optimizing every single area of your life can feel daunting, especially if you feel far out of alignment in more than one area. If that’s the case, the task might feel so overwhelming that you’re stopped cold in your tracks. But there’s good news: improvements in one area of your life always lend themselves to improvements in other areas of your life. With each positive step you take, the task becomes easier and easier.
So how to begin building the foundation for the life you dream of, in all the areas of your life? It starts with deeply knowing and honouring your own personal values. These are not necessarily the values you grew up with, or the things you were told you should value, or that society expects you to value. Other times, those things are in fact the things that you hold dear. Either way, it’s important to really get clear on the things that you, deep in your heart, personally value and thrive on. These are the points you should plot on your treasure map, and they are the foundation upon which to build the life of your dreams.
I was reminded of a few key principles of how to distill your own personal set of values – your treasures – through the interview series over the last few weeks:
1. Create space. Almost always, the yearnings of your soul are whispered to you. They stir – gently, quietly, abiding in your heart – waiting to be honoured. Insistent on being honoured. When they’re not, it affects your well-being in a myriad of unpleasant ways. In order to hear those whispers, it’s important to carve out time and space for those yearnings to be heard. Not just once, or for a few short weeks until you get some ‘aha!’ moment, but on an ongoing basis throughout your life. Since you continue to learn and grow and evolve your life through, it makes sense that the yearnings of your soul will do the same, and you’ll get new ‘aha!’ moments as your life evolves. Give yourself the gift of creating the time and space to let yourself do some ‘active daydreaming’. Allow your heart to speak to you about what’s really important to you; what you hunger for; what you most deeply desire.
2. Consider the things you love – write down (or draw) all the things you love, even if they’re entirely unrelated, and especially if they’re not ‘things’ at all (i.e. values or qualities, like ‘honesty’; ‘adventure’; or ‘cleanliness’). Think of the things you loved to do as a child; the things that totally engross you and capture your attention; the times when time either flies or stands still, when you don’t notice the clock and feel good right through to your bones. Think of ecstatic moments you’ve had in your life; times when you were on top of the world. What was it about those moments that you loved? Another trick is to think of your favourite movie moments, and what were the qualities or values they represent for you: Freedom? Romance? Resilience? Ingenuity? These are things you want to incorporate into your life wherever possible.
3. Consider the things you can’t stand – Do this first if you can’t think of things to write for #2, but even if you can do #2, do this step anyway. On a sheet of paper, draw a line vertically down the middle. On the left-hand side, write down the things that drive you bonkers in the world: everything from world hunger, to clutter on your kitchen counter, to working for a meek boss. This sounds like an exercise in misery, until you get to part two: after you’ve written the things you can’t stand on the left side of your page, write the opposite thing on the right-hand side. For example, ‘world hunger’ becomes ‘enough for everyone’; ‘clutter on your kitchen counter’ becomes ‘ample space to prepare delicious meals’; ‘working for a meek boss’ becomes ‘working for a confident, congenial person’ (or perhaps, ‘working for myself’). Now tear off the left side of the page, and (safely) shred it, burn it, or flush it. The right-side of your page is where you want to focus your efforts, and represents the things you want to dwell on, and strive to build into your life.
Make sure that the things, values and qualities you treasure are incorporated into your daily life – both personally and professionally – in whatever way you can in this moment. These are the things you should mark down as clues on your treasure map; this is where you should put your focus, and these are the things you should strive to bring into your life. Honouring your values will lead you to your buried treasure, and light your way on the path to unearthing the life of your dreams.