Life can be complicated when you don’t have a good guide to live it by.
Some people are fortunate to find that in philosophy, religion, or the way they were raised. Others struggle to find things that click well with them to build the kind of life they want.
The following list of the ten most important things in life is by no means exhaustive. And there are surely things that you could add and remove from the list based on your perspective of life.
Regardless, these ten things can help get you on the right path toward having the kind of life you desire.
1. Do your job well.
We all have a job to do – and by job, we don’t mean just the place you go to earn money.
Every responsibility we have is a job that needs to be done and should be done well. Whatever is in front of you, whatever is your job to do, is something that deserves your attention and best effort.
It’s about training oneself always to do your best, even if it’s something as mundane as doing the laundry or sweeping a floor.
Doing your job well on the first pass means you don’t have to return to it and do it again. That is a valuable thing, whether raising a family, putting in a job application, or painting a fence. If you’re going to do it, do it well.
2. Practice honesty and integrity.
It’s strange how we seem to value honesty and integrity yet punish it simultaneously, especially when it’s inconvenient.
We have everything from the small lies that so many people accept and tell to heroic acts of whistle-blowing, which often ruins the whistle-blower’s life. It’s hard to be honest and do the right thing when it seems so easy not to.
The practice of honesty and integrity does provide many benefits. People are more likely to trust what you have to say, even if they don’t want to hear it. You generally garner more respect because you are a person who doesn’t necessarily go with the flow.
And probably the most valuable aspect of practicing honesty and integrity is that it keeps people who are dishonest away from entangling you in their actions. If they know they aren’t going to sway you or they have something to hide, they generally leave you alone, which certainly helps avoid their drama and the consequences.
3. Live life in moderation.
Life requires moderation to live well. You can’t just blow your entire paycheck week after week and expect to have a good life. Too much food will make you overweight and unhealthy. Too much sleep will rob you of experiences and the time you need to do good work for the benefit of your life. Too much entertainment and laziness today will undermine your future.
On the other hand, too much work and responsibility will create a heavy burden of stress you need to carry with you. You can easily burn yourself out if you don’t learn to moderate your efforts and rest when needed. You can burn bright for a little while, but if you go too long, then you burn out or have a nervous breakdown.
Moderation and balance will serve you well in your quest to live a good life.
4. Establish healthy boundaries.
Family and friendships are a hugely important part of life, as we humans are social creatures. But to get to those quality relationships, you have to have healthy boundaries.
The family that we’re born into isn’t always the best or healthiest. Sometimes, they may be difficult or toxic people. And the way you keep yourself from being harmed by those people is through the use of healthy boundaries.
Healthy boundaries are also beneficial in meeting new people and forging new relationships. They teach other people how you expect to be treated. Boundaries also help you determine when you are not being respected and should walk away from a relationship that no longer serves you.
Social connections are important, but healthy boundaries are even more important. Those good social connections you have today may not stay good forever. Life happens.
5. Live in the present.
The past is gone, and the future is always on the horizon. The only thing you truly have for certain is this present moment, right now.
To live in the present is to not spend your time longing for the past or constantly anticipating the future.
Granted, that’s not really how people work for the most part. It’s pretty normal to long for some fun or better times you had in the past. It’s also pretty normal to anticipate and hope for a better future.
But some people take those things too far. They spend too much time daydreaming or swimming in the depression of their life not turning out how they might have imagined.
That needs to be avoided. That’s time that could be better spent improving your present, which will improve your future as a consequence.
6. Take care of your body.
You only get one body – take care of it! Brush your teeth, go for walks, exercise, eat in moderation, get active!
These things are important to help the finely-tuned machine that is your body stay in good working condition.
To take care of your body is one of the greatest acts of self-care you can give yourself. You don’t want to break your body down early and deal with the consequences of those choices when you get older.
Some things don’t heal completely and never get back to exactly how they were before, like a back injury. A young person who feels invincible may have no problem lifting all the heavy things right up until they tear something or throw their back out.
Then you deal with that injury for the rest of your life because it won’t heal perfectly. Maybe you’ll need surgery or have a reduced range of movement. Nothing quite like throwing out your back from sneezing too hard!
Invest in a healthy body today and you’ll reap the dividends of that investment in your future.
Of course, not everyone is blessed with good physical health all the time and you may have ailments that are beyond your control, perhaps even long term issues. Still, taking care of your body as best you can will help manage symptoms and benefit your mental health in the face of adversity.
7. Never stop learning.
One of the great things about life is that there is always an opportunity to learn more. There are always things you don’t know, that other people know, that may be buried in books or articles or classes.
It’s so easy to fall into the rut of “I know enough” because, hey, sometimes learning can be exhausting. You learn new things, figure out something that doesn’t work for you, and now you want to change that thing. Learning can be a lot of work, particularly if you have a hard time accepting you might be wrong or need to change what you’re doing.
Take breaks! It’s okay to take a break when you’re feeling overwhelmed. And once you’ve had your break, well, then you can dive right back into it and see what else there is to learn out there.
Another great side effect of learning is that it exercises your brain and helps keep it healthy. Some studies suggest a reduced rate of diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia in people who do logic puzzles.
8. Quality time management.
Every single person in the world has the same 24 hours in their day. How you use those hours is going to determine the kind of life you have.
There is indeed nothing promised. You can work hard all your life and never truly get ahead. That’s why you have to dedicate some of those hours to finding better ways to go about life. Maybe it’s devoting some of that time to getting new training, schooling, or credentials.
But to do that, you’ll need to have quality time management. Stop wasting time. There are so many hours in the day to get things done if you know how to say “no” to the things that will waste your time.
And really, there are so many time-wasters out there. That can be anything from people trying to take advantage of your willingness to help to binge-watching shows on your streaming platform of choice.
That being said, there is nothing wrong with rest and relaxation. You aren’t a machine. You will need to rest up sometimes as we’ve already mentioned in point #3. And if part of your self-care routine is lounging on a day off and watching some shows, then hey, more power to you. Just don’t let it derail your life.
9. Take action.
There are no guarantees in life. There just aren’t. People who agonize over every little detail to try to figure out the best case outcomes are often wasting their time. They could have accomplished so much more if they had just stopped thinking so much and just did what they wanted to do.
A little planning is expected and perfectly okay. It’s good to make informed decisions. However, there comes the point when research turns into “analysis paralysis.”
How do you know when you’ve done enough research? The easiest way to know is that the information you’re gathering starts repeating itself. When that starts happening, it’s most likely time to take the next step and do the thing that you’re thinking about doing.
Starting a new thing is always a little uncomfortable, if not exciting. Embrace the discomfort and step into it.
Or if procrastination is your enemy and you just keep putting off whatever needs to be done, try to find a way to overcome your tendency and do the things on your list. However you do it, just make progress of some sort toward a job that needs doing or a goal you want to reach.
Nothing much comes from a life of inaction.
10. Quality sleep.
Quality sleep is the cornerstone of a healthy life. Your body and mind need rest.
There are so many reasons why people don’t get a good night’s sleep. Sometimes it’s poor sleep hygiene habits like using devices before bedtime, not having a good mattress or pillows, or drinking caffeine late in the day. Other times, it’s something harder to control, like recurring nightmares or sleep anxiety.
Whatever the reason may be, finding a way to improve your sleep quality and rest will likely improve your quality of life. Deep sleep is when the brain replenishes many of the mood-balancing chemicals that it uses throughout the day and maintains itself.
Feeling rested makes it so much easier to be happy, deal with the challenges of life, and approach your day with vigor.
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