I don’t know about anyone else, but for me, I am always doing a “how I am doing on my life journey” type of gut-check.
Not sure this is a good thing either. To paraphrase and slightly amend Socrates, “The over-examined life is not worth living!”
Over examination is so automatic in our self-centered, self-obsessed, “Me, me, me!” culture.
Plus, I am not entirely confident in my ability to objectively self-assess.
As Nobel laureate, Richard Feynman famously said, “One rule of life, never fool yourself while remembering you are the easiest to fool!”
Often my expectations are simply out of whack. America’s cultural obsession with celebrity and wealth as the barometers of success have scarred me with the belief that if I am not a billionaire with six-pack abs, I have somehow messed up. That’s just ridiculous, isn’t it?
So to “right size” my life, I do the following spot check. This helps me simplify my life.
Am I happy and at peace now?
If the answer is yes, move on.
If the answer is no, then I need to work and fix it right away. After all, nothing trumps being happy and at peace.
Good news is there is lots of research and information on how to remedy a lack of happiness and peace. Surprisingly, happiness has little to do with what we might think it does. Abs and millions by themselves aren’t enough.
It turns out it is the little things in life that give the most to a happy demeanor.
As for peace-of-mind – that’s a bit more complex. Physical components like regular exercise, healthy eating, and adequate sleep are integral parts of the inner-peace recipe. So too is meditation. Maybe not so surprisingly, it is altruism – doing for others without expecting anything in return – that may have the biggest impact on feeling peaceful.
Do I have great people in my life that I interact with regularly!
Again, if the answer is yes, move on.
When I was a brooding loner in high school, my older brother told me that “life is about other people, it’s not all about Jim!” Wow, was he ever right!
Since then I have worked consistently at bringing people I like and admire into my life. Not surprisingly, this has required effort. But for the returns I get, I have found the effort to be small.
What do I do to develop and keep up these relationships? I make them a priority! I like them first and lower my expectations of what I need from them. I see it as my job, not theirs to be the friend!
A wise man told me once, “Friends are hard to get and once gotten, impossible to replace!” They are worth all the effort!
And one last thing – when I am with someone – I give them my full attention. I turn the phone off. I listen and pay attention during the time we’re together.
Am I growing – personally and professionally?
This is the one I find hardest to self-assess as my emotions often cloud the reality in both arenas. I make the mistake of taking things personally (often in the wrong way) when I really should not.
In graduate school, my thesis adviser told me my first draft was, “not graduate school material.” Ouch! I took it personally and got all defensive.
But, you know what, the time he was making to point out the errors and directing me to how to fix them represented a real care for me being successful. There was no reason to be defensive or feel hurt. That interfered with what he was actually trying to do, help me get better.
Friends and coworkers are the right people to seek feedback from. Keep in mind, that in almost all cases, underlying their comments is almost always a sincere desire to help.
So not growing? Then it is time to take a risk – step out and challenge yourself. Raise the bar on yourself, learn or do something new.
Getting married, becoming a dad, going to grad school, and changing jobs were all risks that I had balked at due to fear of things that never happened.
Ironically, those are the events in my life that have helped me grow the most and made contributed most to my happiness.
Come to think of it, why should I have been afraid anyway?
So if you answer these questions yes, you might get a break from all those ab crunches at the gym tonight!