I believe every one of us is searching for significance and satisfaction in life. My work as a financial advisor has put me in contact with a lot of different people at differing levels of wealth and poverty, and I’ve become convinced of a simple truth:
Success, satisfaction and significance aren’t born out of your account balance or income, but are achieved by the way you engage life in the present
In the first part of this series, we discussed talked conceptually about engaging life. This article is about practical ways to begin more effectively engaging each moment. I would encourage you to choose one or two habits to start practicing and then come back when you begin to see how these are changing your life.
People are really important. Though the statement should be somewhat ubiquitous, we live in a lightning-fast, “connected,” culture that demands immediate responsiveness and determines personal worth based upon output. To preserve our position in society, the pressure is on each of us to do more, stay in our lanes, and give into the constant barrage of push-notifications, texts, emails, and tweets, all-the-while staying in our own lane just to keep up with social and professional expectations.
While we can’t completely eschew cultural or professional standards, we can choose to embrace our inner-contrarian and foster relationships with others instead of our Facebook addictions (I realize the irony of posting this article on Facebook… and yes, I would love for you to share it). Here are three easy things you can put into practice here.
- When you greet someone, STOP and greet them. What I mean is, eliminate every passing “hello” by stopping your feet and turning your whole body toward the person you’re talking to. When you don’t even stop, you are actually communicating that the person you’re walking by that they are less important that everything else going on. By taking an extra 5 seconds, you can effectively communicate the opposite.
- Every time you ask “how are you,” try to ask at least one follow-up question.
- Don’t look at your phone when you’re in a conversation or a meeting. This might be difficult, but an overwhelming majority of the communications we receive don’t need an immediate response. Think about all the thinks that make your phone beep—text messages, push notifications, emails, and a ton of other stuff. If you waited an hour to respond, would there be any real consequences at all? What about a day? This is a really hard habit to build, and you may need to start by turning your phone off or leaving it silenced in a drawer when you’re spending time with others.
When you do these things, you’re fostering real relationship instead of fostering your technology and productivity addictions. You’ll also find that everyone around you will begin to see that they matter to you. Your relationships will deepen, your impact will grow, and you’ll become more satisfied in the way you’re engaging life.
It’s not always easy to see everything we’re called to do or be, but it’s usually easy to identify things that are counterproductive. If you identify something that gets in the way of engaging life the way you should be, make a change. Write down the activity or distraction you would like to eliminate from your life, create a plan for how you are going to avoid the old habit and replace it with something better. If you’re really ambitious, try doing making this a monthly practice.
You’ll need to take some time to be mindful in order to accomplish this. I like to take regular pauses during my day just 2 or 3 minutes every couple of hours to ponder. Others like to journal, or take ten or fifteen minutes to visualize their day and then time to reflect in the evening. Try some different things. You might want to set a reminder on your phone to remind you to be introspective.
Practice Expressing Gratitude
I believe gratitude begins to grow as we begin to serve others. That’s another post for another day, but if you really want to grow your gratitude, there are three key things you need to do giving and serving being the most important. VOLUNTEER and DONATE!
There’s a third habit that is simply learning to express your gratitude over and above complaining. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably found that complaining is the easiest form of communication. It’s taken me years of practicing gratitude only to find that I have a lot more to do. To be successful at being a grateful person, you need to respond to frustration with thanks. When you catch yourself wanting to grip about something ask yourself, “how might I be blessed and not realize it?” Enlist your spouse and your friends to help with this by encouraging them to respond to you when you complain with questions that will help you search for blessings in the midst of your frustration.
When you do these things, you’ll have better relationships, connect with your purpose, and you’ll begin to find that some of the dreams, goals, and plans you’ve had were really distractions from engaging life in a way that will bring you true satisfaction. At the same time, I believe you will be able to pursue your passion and create the best future you didn’t even know you wanted!