There must be a way to optimize what activities we perform that have the highest impact on our lives in a positive way. This answer in Quora by Visakan Veerasamy points out 5 main activities that provide the most highest value to ensure that that you have a good life.

The highest leverage activities in my life have been:

1. READING

I believe that any advantage I might appear to have in computational ability, imagination, perceptiveness and expressiveness- ALL OF IT is a consequence of the vast amounts of reading I did as a child. Reading expands your mind. It gives you new and interesting perspectives to work with. Reading exercises the mind, it gives you new possibilities, it allows you to learn from the minds of others.

I believe that the benefits of reading have compounded effects- when you have had your mind expanded, you approach the rest of life with a more open mind, you’re more perceptive to little details, you pay more attention, you get more out of every subsequent experience. This compounding never truly goes away.

Read a chapter a day (any book!) for a great life.

2. EXERCISE

Physical fitness is vastly underrated by anybody who isn’t physically fit. There are very strong links between the body and the mind. Sometimes you can get upset, lethargic and frustrated simply because you’ve been too much of a slob too long.

The long term health benefits of exercise cannot be ignored. I know some old people who are haggard, frail and struggle to walk. I know others who are springy, fit and independent, with sparkles in their eyes. The difference? Usually exercise.

This point is meant to focus on the physical, but there are all sorts of other exercises to consider. Reading is a mental exercise. Compassion is an emotional exercise. Whatever it is that you care about, use it or lose it. Play chess, play guitar, play. Exercise.

Exercise for 20 minutes every day for a great life.

3. INVESTING IN RELATIONSHIPS

We can’t make it on our own. We are inherently incapable of fully understanding ourselves without the valuable perspectives and insights of others. We can try to be as independent as we possibly can, but we will still always need shoulders to lean and cry on, people to nourish and motivate us, to teach us.

My new favourite soul-enriching thing to do is to Private Message(PM) people on Facebook. We can post on their walls, sure, but there’s something very public about that in a way that forces superficial interactions. PM them, ask them how they’re doing, ask them how they’ve been feeling. Sometimes me and my wife send each other lengthy emails even though we see each other all the time, because quiet moments of introspection and thoughtfulness yield different (and, in my opinion, superior) interactions.

Of course, there is no substitute for human contact. I try to have coffee with my mates at least once a week, and it is enriching beyond measure.

By the way, don’t neglect yourself. You are the one person you can neither leave nor escape, so invest in your relationship with yourself. Take yourself out for coffee, sit yourself down and get to know yourself. What do you care about, what are your dreams, what sort of novel would you write? How are you doing, how have you been feeling? These are important questions.

Spend a few minutes a day with your friends and loved ones (including yourself) for a great life.

4. SLEEP.

Whenever I sleep well, life is awesome. I’m  bright and clear. I make good calls, and sometimes I even come up with interesting and creative solutions to everyday problems, in startlingly quick time! I get my reading done, I get my exercise done, I enjoy my conversations more. I pay better attention and I speak more lucidly, with clearer thoughts.

Whenever I neglect my sleep, I notice myself making worse decisions, being more lazy, lethargic, passive, irritable and less cognizant, less in-control. I complain more. I am more susceptible to spending too much money on unnecessary things, more susceptible to losing my temper and generally behaving in ways in which I do not deem fit.

Sleep well every night for a great life.

5. MINDFULNESS/CONVERSATION.

I define conversation as the meaningful clashing of ideas and perspectives. You don’t need to be talking to someone else- you could explore your own mind, or the natural world, and that would be a form of conversation- anything that leads to insight and understanding. Mindfulness.

Exercise can be a kind of conversation you have with your body- if you’re not listening, you could get injured.

Reading is, ideally, a conversation with other human minds, past and present.

Your relationships grow the most in moments where you are paying the most attention to one another.

Passive, thoughtless routines will not do in this pursuit. Pay attention. Give a damn. Care. Listen. You can differentiate all great experiences and mediocre ones by assessing the mindfulness/thoughtfulness present in a process. Steve Jobs was a mindful, thoughtful guy with regards to his work. Buddha was a mindful, thoughtful guy. So was Jesus. All good artists, all great anything- be mindful, pay attention, have a great conversation- with yourself, with each other, with the world. Devote yourself to learning and understanding new points of view, so that you better understand your own.

Pay attention and be engaged for a great life.

 

Featured photo credit:  group of young people having a good time outdoors via Shutterstock

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