Every once in a while we’re brought face-to-face with the fragility of life. Perhaps a young acquaintance suddenly passes away, a friend or loved one is diagnosed with a serious medical condition, or we have a close call ourselves. Suddenly we have a visceral sense of how short and uncertain life really is.
In that moment of clarity there is often the question: ‘If my days are limited, how do I really want to spend them?’ We may think of the relationships that matter to us, our health, the bucket list, spirituality, or what we are doing with our career.
But as those thoughts surface, so do the obligations of today. Before long we’re swept back into the busy-ness of life. These questions are important because they bring our values into focus. So why don’t we act on them? It’s because change takes time, energy, and sometimes, financial investment as well.
For example, you may want a job that’s more purposeful. But first you need to figure out what you want to do. Then you need to dedicate resources to rebuilding your life around that career. Or you may want to focus on relationships, spirituality, or your health. But change in those areas requires building new habits – and new habits require energy.
When you consider making these kinds of changes, it could easily lead to overwhelm and no action at all. But what if it could be simpler? What if you could spend 5 to 15 minutes today doing something a little bit more purposeful and aligned with your values?
Here are some quick 5-minute exercises, one for each of the five most common areas that people want to improve.
Write a list of five people who matter to you, whom you haven’t seen or talked to in a while. Next to each name, write the any of the following: the thing you most enjoy doing with them, one of the fondest memories you have, or something you most appreciate about them.
Once your list is complete, write a quick note or even a text message to each person that says something like, “Just wanted to let you know I was thinking of you today and laughing as I remembered our camping trip last year.” If you have time and want to take it further by scheduling time to catch up, you can, but you don’t need to. Never let lack of time prevent you from letting people know they are in your thoughts. Remember, the goal is to take simple actions.
We probably all have health improvement goals we want to make but haven’t worked into habits yet. Here are three things you can do TODAY that will make an immediate difference:
- Take a walk outside, preferably in a place that feels like nature. Studies show that regular time spent outside close to nature does wonders for reducing stress and increasing our ability to focus. You’ll get back the time you invested a few times over with your increased productivity when you return.
- Commit to going to bed earlier tonight so you can start tomorrow with more hours of sleep. Consistent sleep levels have the same positive effects of being in nature, in addition to supporting better health.
- Make a phone call and get ONE appointment on the calendar that you feel is important but have been blowing off.
- Bonus: Meditate for 5 minutes anytime today.
Many people get caught up in the idea of ‘finding their passion’ in order to feel that they’re doing purposeful work. But I’ve found that the best place to start with your career is to get clear on your life purpose. You’ll end up finding that you can live that purpose in so many different ways, which can easily integrate it into most any job or activity.
With this principle in mind, one thing you can do in just a few minutes is write very quick draft answers to the following questions:
- What kind of contribution or impact do I want to make to this world while I’m here?
- How can I make this contribution in very small ways every day of my life, no matter where I am or what I’m doing?
For example, if you want to make a huge impact on the environment, you can make little impacts every day by recycling or volunteering with an environmental group. If you want to feed the hungry, you can contribute to a charity or give food to one homeless person in your neighborhood. If you want to lead others and help them become their best selves, you can start by practicing listening and supporting your peers and team members today. You can still take steps to make changes in your career when you are ready, but this approach allows you to start making an impact immediately.
If you don’t have a bucket list, start one now by writing ten things you want to do or experience before you die. Have fun with this one!
If you do have a bucket list, decide how to do one thing on your bucket list within the next six months. Enjoy brainstorming and jot down a few ideas to get you started. Then set a date!
One way to work on your spirituality in the short term is to simply show up. Whether it’s returning to your regular place of worship, attending a group discussion meeting or taking a yoga class, a simple step can make all the difference.
Another thing you can do today is to spend a few minutes outside in nature in a quiet place where you can think without distraction. Or find a peaceful place inside where you can journal, meditate or read.
It will be tempting to avoid these kinds of activities in favor of ‘productive’ tasks like finishing a few chores around the house or cleaning up email. But even though they don’t take very much time or have a HUGE impact in themselves, they do add real, purposeful value to an ordinarily busy day. Plus, it helps ensure that the limited time we have in this world is spent more in line with what matters most, starting now.
Throughout our coaching programs, our ultimate focus is on creating permanent positive change that empowers our clients to live happy, effective, values-based lives. Feel free to reach out and schedule a consultation at any time. We’d love to hear from you!