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Last Updated on January 25, 2021

13 Keys to Living Your Best Life and Aligning Your Priorities

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13 Keys to Living Your Best Life and Aligning Your Priorities

Living the best life possible means different things to different people. When you think about what it means to live your best life, what immediately comes to mind? For me, all of my ideas about a good life changed twenty years ago.

While my husband and I were on our way to Nairobi, Kenya, a mentally-ill passenger broke into the cockpit and tried to crash the plane.

For five harrowing minutes, the plane did acrobatics in the air.

In those moments of life hanging on a thread, what living the best life really means for me suddenly became crystal clear.

Do you have a strong sense of what you want out of life but find it challenging to achieve that in the face of your day-to-day responsibilities and stresses?

Recent research has revealed 13 keys that can help us strike this balance between the big picture of what we want out of life and navigating everyday distractions.

But first, it’s important to figure out what living your best life means to you.

3 Questions to Ask About Living Your Best Life

For me, in the moments we faced death during that harrowing experience on the plane, I became intensely aware of these three questions by which I was judging how my life had been up to that point.

How Am I Experiencing Love?

The love I felt in that moment for my husband, our loved ones who were on the ground, and all others in the world was truly profound. I became aware that love—both my ability to receive it and share it—matters more than anything else.

How Authentically Am I Sharing My Unique Gift?

We each have a unique gift—the unique energy and essence that is who we really are. Each person has a unique gift to offer that no one else can or ever will again.

Living our best life means finding creative ways to share our best selves, whether in our work, our creative hobbies, or simply how we live.

What Am I Grateful for?

It’s easy to focus on our worries and anxieties or the distractions of everyday life. However, when we remember our own mortality, we realize that each moment is a gift.

What matters most in the big picture perspective of our lives is very personal. However, figuring it out is how we uncover our formula for living our best lives.

What’s Distracting You From Living the Best Life?

Today, my morning started before the sun came up. Emails, texts, and appointments called for my attention, including requests from my friends, family, and coworkers, as well as news alerts about the latest global crisis. To say nothing of our puppy, who was asking to be taken out for her morning walk.

A dilemma most of us struggle with is time. How do we manage our time so that our lives reflect what matters most?

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These 13 keys can help us focus, live with greater purpose, boost our happiness and well-being, and authentically connect with the unique gift we each have to share, even in the face of day-to-day distractions.

13 Keys to Living the Best Life Possible

1. Identify What Matters Most to You

It doesn’t take a near-death experience to reconnect with what matters most. Sometimes, just a few moments of asking tough questions can help you do the same thing.

What matters most to you? If you learned you only had a limited time left, what would you want to do with your time?

2. Practice Being Present

Research has revealed that a simple way to be happier and live your best life comes from developing the ability to fully experience each moment. Mindfulness is the ability to observe the present moment without judging it.

Mindfulness has many impressive benefits for physical and mental health. Diabetic patients who were taught mindfulness skills experienced lower blood sugar and increased happiness.[1]

Mindfulness on the job has been proven to reduce exhaustion and increase job satisfaction.[2]

Mindfulness is not difficult to learn and is something we can do in a moment. Right now, take a deep breath, and notice how the breath feels as it is going into your lungs.

How does your body feel? Are your muscles stiff or relaxed? Do you feel warm or cold? Use your five senses to describe your immediate experience.

Use your five senses to describe how your body feels and your immediate experience. This is all it takes to be fully present.

3. Savor the Moment

An incredibly powerful technique that I’ve been coaching my clients to do and have been doing in my own life for several decades is something I call Creating a Miraculous Moment. This is very effective when it comes to living our best lives.

Here’s how you can create a Miraculous Moment, right now.

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First, become present by looking around and noticing what is happening.

Then, find something very specific that you are grateful for—perhaps the way the sun feels on your face, feeling safe, hearing beautiful music playing in the background, etc.

Combining mindfulness with savoring the moment is powerful, and the benefits are backed by research. Doing these things together can improve your psychological health and life satisfaction.[3]

4. Listen and Have Empathy

Living the best life has a lot to do with the level of trust, empathy, and intimacy we have in our relationships with those we love.[4]

In his book, Nonviolent Communication, Marshall B. Rosenburg, Ph.D., explains that learning to listen to others with empathy and presence can dramatically transform our relationships.

Being a good listener helps people feel as if we really care about them. It also helps us to understand what they need and want, so we can be of service and come up with positive solutions[5]. His methods are rooted in the idea that “observing without evaluating is the highest form of human intelligence.”

Skills Strengthened by Empathy

    5. Learn to Flow

    One of the most powerful ways to connect with our true selves and experience positive emotions is through flow.

    Flow is like mindfulness in action. Flow is when we are so engrossed in what we are doing that we get into a zone and stop thinking about anything else. We can experience this when playing an instrument, playing a sport, creating artwork, writing an essay, reading a book, etc.

    Being in flow increases our happiness, helps us reach optimal performance, and boosts our creativity.

    According to researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, one of the best things about flow is it puts happiness in our control.[6] Rather than being happy because of outer events, we are in flow as a result of an inner experience we create for ourselves.

    Find things that transfer your mind to a flow state in order to start working toward living your best life.

    6. Hit the Reset Button (Often)

    Sometimes, life sends us curveballs we aren’t prepared for. It’s important to know how to get back to the center—to who we are and to reconnect with our goals and priorities. If you ever find yourself feeling off-course or negative, imagine hitting a pause button.

    It only takes a minute to re-focus. Some great tips for resetting include stretching, taking a deep breath, setting goals or intentions, and then beginning again.

    Knowing how to reset our energy is important when it comes to navigating minor distractions and major life changes for personal growth.

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    7. Be Self-Aware

    There is a saying that awareness is the first step to healing. Sometimes we are so busy in life that we don’t take time out to hear our inner voice, which can have negative consequences for living the best life possible.

    We can also become blind to destructive habits that can have negative long-term effects on our well-being.

    When we prioritize getting to know ourselves, we gain information that can be extremely helpful in changing our lives for the better. If self-awareness is something you want to improve, consider working with a therapist or coach, journaling, meditating, or regularly sharing from a deep place of honesty with a friend who wants the very best for you.

    8. Comfort Yourself

    Self-awareness is great, but what we do with that awareness is even more important.

    Many of us have learned to be very hard on ourselves and self-critical in the face of challenges or aspects of self we would like to change. However, research shows self-criticism can have a very negative impact on our health, well-being, and the quality of our lives.[7]

    The good news is, self-compassion and the ability to reassure ourselves can be learned and can lower our risk of depression, anxiety, shame, and stress. Next time you find yourself being overly self-critical, try reassuring yourself, visualizing comforting and calming images, or imagining being comforted by a deep understanding, accepting, and empathetic friend.

    9. Do What You Love

    The benefits of hobbies and doing what we love during our free time have been widely accepted, including improving our well-being and reducing stress.[8] When we enjoy something, we are more apt to do it often.

    The more often we practice something, the better we become, and that can also act to boost our sense of well-being, confidence, and success.

    Activities we love are also those that can help us experience flow, which improves our happiness and can provide a direct experience of who we really are, our unique gift, and our true self.

    Shortly after our near-death experience on that flight to Africa, my husband and I took a three-month sabbatical and traveled around the United States, interviewing more than 100 people about their hopes and dreams, including what they’d always dreamed of doing. The joy on people’s faces as they shared their answers showed us that even the act of thinking about what we love to do can be a game-changer.

    Consider your own passions and what you love to do in order to find one of the keys to start living your best life.

    10. Develop Routines and Positive Habits

    One of the reasons the small stuff gets in the way of our big picture goals and intentions is that we haven’t established routines and positive habits.

    Routines can help us cut through the clutter, reduce distractions, and more easily accomplish all the little things that we all must do to survive, such as pay our bills, make our meals, wash and put away our clothes and dishes and yes, empty our email inboxes.

    Research shows that the better we are at creating routines to take care of our personal lives and health, the better our health and well-being.[9]

    One tip for creating a new habit, which Charles Duhigg discusses in his book The Power of Habit, is building habits on top of each other. In other words, if you already brush your teeth every night without fail, add a new habit to that already-established time and routine.

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    11. Commit to Your Connections

    The COVID-19 pandemic showed us firsthand how important our social connections are. Community is an important factor in how happy we are with our lives, and our long-term well-being and health.

    If you feel disconnected or like you want to strengthen your sense of belonging and improve your life, consider calling a different friend each day; joining a church or spiritual group, support group, or book club; or exploring cultural or community events that might be attended by other people with shared interests

    To reconnect with favorite friends, try scheduling a weekly hike, coffee hour, Zoom call, happy hour, or email/text check-in.

    We get what we put out there. Show up when people you love ask for help or seek connection. Let go and create healthy boundaries with people who drain your energy.

    12. Move Your Body

    Exercise is an important key to staying healthy and happy and reaching your full potential.

    Research shows exercise can prevent depression, limit long-term illness, improve our moods, and increase our longevity.[10]

    We now know that it’s not only exercise that matters, but also how we hold and move our bodies when we are going through the motion of our lives, including working at our desks. Recent research shows that simply sitting up straight can make us more likely to think positive thoughts about ourselves and what is possible for our lives.[11]

    13. Spend Time in Nature

    One of the best ways to live our best lives is to spend time in nature. From the benefits of vitamin D from sunlight, to simply getting outside of our own world and connecting with something greater, the benefits of nature are well-established.[12]

    The more we learn, the more we realize how important it is to protect our natural spaces, parks, and trees, not just for our enjoyment, but also for our physical and mental well-being.

    Final Thoughts

    Living the best life requires knowing what matters most to us and reflecting this in what we prioritize in our day-to-day. The good news is, with intention and focus, small changes can make a big difference.

    Which of the 13 keys for living your best life resonates most with you? Which do you think has the greatest potential to change your life for the better?

    When we feel distracted or off-course, all we have to do is remember that each moment is a gift.

    No matter how far the anxieties or distractions of our lives have taken us from where we want to be, it only takes a moment to reset, shift from distraction to gratitude, remember what matters most, and begin again.

    More on Living Your Best Life

    Featured photo credit: Court Cook via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Laurie Smith

    Inspirational Writer. Coach. Healer.

    How to Start Setting Intentions That Set You up for Success 13 Keys to Living Your Best Life and Aligning Your Priorities What Is a Complete Life? 5 Rules to Live By Understanding the 5 Stages of Life Can Help Navigate Hard Times how to get out of a funk How to Get Out of a Funk When You’re Stressed Out

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    Last Updated on October 7, 2021

    How to Make a Change With the Four Quadrants of Change

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    How to Make a Change With the Four Quadrants of Change

    Quitting smoking is the easiest thing in the world. Some people quit smoking a thousand times in their lives! Everyone knows someone with this mindset.

    But this type of change is superficial. It doesn’t last. For real, lasting change to take place, we need to consider the quadrants of change.

    Real change, the change that is fundamental, consistent, and longitudinal (lasting over time) has to happen in four quadrants of your life.

    It doesn’t have to be quitting smoking; it can be any habit you want to break — drinking, biting your nails, overeating, playing video games, shopping, and more.

    Most experts focus on only one area of change, some focus on two areas, but almost none focus on all four quadrants of change. That’s why much of change management fails.

    Whether it is in the personal life of a single individual through actions and habits, or in a corporate environment, regarding the way they conduct their business, current change management strategies are lacking.

    It all stems from ignoring at least one part of the equation.

    So, today, we will cover all four quadrants of change and learn the formula for how to change fundamentally and never go back to your “old self.”

    A word of warning: this is simple to do, but it’s not easy. Anyone who tells you that change is easy is either trying to sell you something, or they have no idea what they’re talking about.

    Those who want an overnight solution have left the article now, so that leaves you, me, and the real process of change.

    The Four Quadrants of Change

    There are four areas, or quadrants, in which you need to make a change in order for it to stick. If you miss or ignore a single one of these, your change won’t stick, and you will go back to your previous behavior.

    The four quadrants are:

    1. Internal individual – mindset
    2. External individual – behavior
    3. Internal collective – culture/support system
    4. External collective – laws, rules, regulations, teams, systems, states

    All four of these quadrants of change may sound like they could carry change all by themselves, but they can’t. So, be sure to implement your change in all four quadrants. Otherwise, it will all be in vain.

    First Quadrant — Internal Individual

    This quadrant focuses on the internal world of an individual, and it concerns itself with the mindset of a person.

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    Our actions stem from our thoughts (most of the time), and if we change our mindset toward something, we will begin to process of changing the way we act.

    People who use the law of attraction fall into this category, where they’ve recognized the strength of thoughts and how they make us change ourselves.

    Even Lao Tzu had a great saying regarding this:

    “Watch your thoughts. They become words. Watch your words. They become deeds. Watch your deeds. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become character. Character is everything.” [1]

    One of the most impactful ways you can make a change in this quadrant is to implement what James Clear calls identity-based habits. [2]

    Instead of prioritizing the outcome of a change (ex.: I want to lose 20 pounds), you prioritize your identity as a person (I want to become/remain a healthy person).

    Here are a couple of examples for you to see the strength of this kind of resolution:

    I want to watch many movies = I am a cinema lover
    I want to clean my apartment = I am a clean person
    I want to harvest my crops = I am a harvester (farmer)
    I want to swim = I am a swimmer

    This quadrant is about changing the identity you attach to a certain action. Once you re-frame your thinking in this way, you will have completed the first of the quadrants of change.

    Second Quadrant — External Individual

    This quadrant focuses on the external world of an individual and concerns itself with the behavior of a person.

    This is where people like Darren Hardy, the author of the Compound Effect reside. Hardy is about doing small, consistent actions that will create change in the long run (the compound effect).

    You want to lose 30 pounds? Start by eating just 150 calories (approximately two slices of bread) less a day, and in two and a half years, you will have lost 30 pounds.

    The same rules apply to business, investing, sports, and multiple other areas. Small, consistent actions can create big changes.

    This works — I’ve read 20 extra pages a day for the past two years, and it accumulated into 90 books read in two years. [3]

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    Here, you have two ways of dealing with change behaviorally: negative environmental design and positive environmental design.

    Negative Environmental Design

    This is when you eliminate the things from your environment that revert you to the old behavior. If you want to stop eating ice cream, you don’t keep it in your freezer.

    If you want to stop watching TV, you remove the batteries from the remote and put them on the other side of the house (it works!).

    Positive Environmental Design

    This is when you put the things that you want to do withing reach — literally!

    You want to learn how to play guitar? Put your guitar right next to your sofa. You want to head to the gym? Put the gym clothes in a backpack and put it on top of your shoes.

    You want to read more books? Have a book on your nightstand, your kitchen table, and on the sofa.

    You can even combine this last trick with my early advice about removing the batteries from your remote control, combining the negative and positive environmental designs for maximum effect.

    Two Sides of the Same Coin

    If you just change your behavior and leave your intentions (thoughts) intact, your discipline will fail you and the real change won’t happen.

    You will simply revert back to the previous behavior because you haven’t changed the fundamental root of why this problem occurs in the first place.

    That is why you need to create change both in the first quadrant (internal individual — mindset) and the second quadrant (external individual — behavior). These quadrants of change are two sides of the same coin.

    Most change management would stop here, and that’s why most change management fails.

    No matter how much you focus on yourself, there are things that affect our lives that are happening outside of us. That is the focus of the two remaining quadrants.

    Third Quadrant — Internal Collective

    This quadrant focuses on the internal world of the collective where the individual resides, and it concerns itself with the culture of that collective.

    There are two different distinctions here: the Inner Ring and the Outer Ring.

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    The Inner Ring

    These are your friends and your family. The Inner Ring is the place where the social and cultural norms of your friends and family rule.

    So, if everyone in your family is overweight and every lunch is 1,000 calories per person, then you can say goodbye to your idea of becoming healthy.

    In this case, the culture of your group, the inner norms that guide the decisions, actions, thoughts, ideas, and patterns of behaviors are all focused on eating as much as possible. [4]

    You need to have the support of your Inner Ring if you want to achieve change. If you don’t have this support, the the best way to proceed is by either changing your entire Inner Ring or distancing yourself from it.

    Beware — most Inner Rings won’t accept the fact that you want to change and will undermine you on many occasions — some out of habit, some due to jealousy, and some because supporting you would mean that they have to change, too.

    You don’t have to cut ties with people, but you can consciously decide to spend less time with them.

    The Outer Ring

    The Outer Ring consists of the culture of your company, community, county, region, and country. For example, it’s quite hard to be an open-minded person in North Nigeria, no matter how you, your friends, and your family think.

    The Outer Ring is the reason why young people move to the places that share their value systems instead of staying in their current city, county, or country.

    Sometimes, you need to change your Outer Ring as well because its culture is preventing you from changing.

    I see this every single day in my country, where the culture can be so toxic that it doesn’t matter how great of a job you have or how great your life currently looks — the culture will change you, inch by inch, until you become like it.

    Fourth Quadrant — External Collective

    This quadrant focuses on the external world of the collective where the individual resides, and it concerns itself with the systems, teams, laws, and rules of that collective.

    This quadrant is about the external manifestations of the collective culture. If the majority of the environment thinks in a certain way, they will create institutions that will implement that way of thinking.

    The same rules apply to companies.

    One example for companies would be those managers who think that employees are lazy, lack responsibility, and need constant supervision (or what is called Theory X in management).

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    Then, those managers implement systems that reflect that kind of culture– no flexible work hours, strict rules about logging work, no remote work, etc.

    Your thoughts, however, may be different. You might believe that people want responsibility, that they are capable of self-direction, that they can make good decisions, and that managers don’t need to stand on their necks if they want something done (this is called Theory Y in management).

    Then, you would want to have flexible working hours, different ways of measuring your productivity (for example, not time on the job but work produced), and remote work, if possible for your profession.

    This is when you enter into a conflict with the external collective quadrant. Here, you have four options: leave, persevere, neglect, and voice.

    Leave

    You can simply leave the company/organization/community/country and go to a different place. Most people decide to do this.

    Persevere

    This is when you see that the situation isn’t good, but you decide to stick at it and wait for the perfect time (or position) where you can implement change.

    Neglect

    This is where you give up on the change you want to see and just go with the flow, doing the minimal work necessary to keep the status quo.

    These are the people who are disengaged at work and are doing just the bare minimum necessary (which, in the U.S. is around 65% of the workforce).

    I did this only once, and it’s probably the only thing I regret doing in my life.

    Voice

    This is where you actively work on changing the situation, and the people in charge know that you want to create a change.

    It doesn’t matter if it’s your company, community, or your country; you are actively calling for a change and will not stop until it’s implemented.

    Putting It All Together

    When you take it all into account, change is simple, in theory, but it isn’t easy to execute. It takes work in all four quadrants:

    1. Internal individual — mindset
    2. External individual — behavior
    3. Internal collective — culture/support system
    4. External collective — laws, rules, regulations, teams, systems, states

    Some will require more work, some less, but you will need to create a change in all four of them.

    But don’t let that discourage you because change is possible, and many people have done this. The best time to start changing was yesterday, but the second best time is today.

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    Featured photo credit: Djim Loic via unsplash.com

    Reference

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