I think about death a lot. Not in a depressing or cynical way. It’s more of an acknowledgement that I know it’s a real possibility every day whether I want it to be or not. I don’t know if I’m trying to come to terms with the reality that we all die or if I think about it because it motivates me to live harder. I may be nervous it will happen when we least expect it or sooner than we want it to. I’m not fearful of death. If anything, I’m fearful of not living. I have a healthy respect for death as no one can know exactly when it’s coming, so the question is: How can we live well while we have the opportunity?
That’s what I want to talk about: Living well.
When I first started my corporate job out of college I was working a typical 8am-4 or 5pm schedule. I had a good morning routine of getting up and working out before work or at the office during lunch but by the time I got home I felt tired, lazy, unmotivated and didn’t want to do anything. I would make dinner, watch some TV, sometimes run errands and by the time that was done it would be time for bed. My work weeks turned into just that – weeks where I worked. I didn’t do anything I truly loved during the week and I liked my job enough but I could think of quite a few things I enjoyed more. I was 21 years old and I already wasn’t super impressed with working life.
During this time I was planning super adventurous weekends, hiking, camping, skiing and doing the things I truly enjoyed. The weekends became my outlet. The problem was – I felt like I was “living for the weekend” when I really wanted to live for each day. Life is too short to not uniquely enjoy each day you are privileged to wake up to. I started to try to think of ways I could make my weeks more interesting and fun e.g. seeing friends, getting outside for a walk on a new route after work, writing, working on puzzles instead of watching TV, volunteering somewhere. I found that when I tried to do something new or something I enjoyed each week, my weeks started to become more interesting. I started to look forward to things during my work weeks and not just on the weekends.
Shortly after covid hit I started a new job which was fully remote. Being fully remote gave me more time and freedom during my work week as it cut a lot of activities that took time out of my day (e.g. packing a lunch, getting fully ready, commute time to and from work). I found myself wanting to get out of my apartment and away from my work space more during the week so I added more activities that would get me out and about. I started enjoying my time during the week even more.
A few months later my apartment lease was coming to an end. I knew that hiking and exploring national parks and mountainous areas made me the happiest and I wanted to dedicate more of my time outside working hours to that. I decided to pack up and start traveling month to month to different places and I committed to exploring the new areas I was living in every day. My life transformed when I incorporated doing things I love into my every day life. I’m more motivated to get my work done and I’m way more excited for every week because I know I have various adventures planned. Whether I’m taking a new walking route around the neighborhood, checking out a cafe or hiking a new local trail, planning activities I enjoy to fill my free time makes my weeks much more joyful. It took some planning and committing time and energy to doing more of the things I loved and less of the things I would typically waste time on. At this time in my life, I’ve struck more of a balance between really living and working and I want everyone to be able to add at least a little more joy into their work weeks and life too.
I came up with a little activity you can do to help find opportunities to add more joy to your weeks. When I feel like I don’t have time to do something I love, I do this to reprioritize what I am spending my time on. Odds are you have more time than you may think to do things that bring you joy.
How to start to focusing on living well (aka doing more things that bring you joy):
- Make a list of the things in your control that bring you joy. Sit and think about what you are doing when you are your most joyful self. Are you spending quality time with your family and friends? Traveling and exploring new places? Volunteering and helping others? Moving your body? Creating content, painting, reading or writing? Enjoying nature or gardening? Going for a drive? Trying out new recipes? Doing something you’ve never done before? Write down the list of things that make you the most joyful.
- Really dig deep here and get specific about these items. A few of mine are: Doing a puzzle with my sister, reconnecting with an old friend, hiking a new trail, traveling to new places, enjoying a cup of coffee from my favorite cafes, Boyne Mountain with my family, the feeling after a tough workout, volunteering, helping Luke at mountain farmers markets, any time I am in the mountains, attending a musical, writing, sunset walks after work, etc.
- Next, think about things in your control that take away from your joy. What are things you do that make you less joyful, more unhappy, unmotivated or sluggish? Examples could be: Spending too much time scrolling on social media, putting too much attention on the news, using too much time after work in unproductive ways, not holding up commitments you made with yourself, etc.
- A few of mine are: Spending time on social media- comparison really is the thief of joy, snoozing my alarm in the morning, binge watching tv shows, thinking about doing a chore for a reallllly long time before actually doing it, not intentionally planning the working hours of my day to make the most of my time spent.
- See where you can swap out the activities that take away from your joy with the activities that add to it! Each week think about the time that you would normally be doing an action or activity that takes away from your joy, make a swap for an activity that brings you joy instead. The key here is actually planning the activity into your week so you can ensure you are making the time for it.
- A big one for me was scrolling on social media or watching tv after work. I replaced that time with a walk or a hike on a local trail and the sunshine and fresh air added so much joy to my life. Something that sitting on the couch could never do for me.
You may feel like you really don’t have the time or energy to do things that add more joy to your week but I really encourage you to try this if you’re feeling in a rut or run down from the day to day grind. Adding bits of joy to your every day creates a snowball effect to ultimately add a lot more joy to your life. So, here’s to moving from living to living well and making the most of all the days we have left.
Until the next tale… Happy trails.