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Last Updated on December 15, 2020

13 Keys to Living Your Best Life and Aligning Your Priorities

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.

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

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.

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.

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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.

    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.

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    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 Set 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 January 12, 2021

    7 Practical Ways to Change Your Thinking and Change Your Life

    7 Practical Ways to Change Your Thinking and Change Your Life

    Changing your mindset is no easy task, but having an open and positive mindset is a game changer. Your personal growth is what propels the choices you make for your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Just something as simple as changing your thinking can change your life.

    Importance of Mindset Work

    There’s great importance in spending time doing mindset work. Within this period, we begin to understand ourselves, and through that understanding, we become more compassionate and patient with ourselves.

    Our society and culture thrive on the busyness that life brings not only into our lives but even to our dinner table. With that comes some consequences of using “band-aid” solutions and quick remedies to get through particular blocks in our lives. Those solutions never last long and it’s about committing the time and effort to slow down, ground ourselves, and reshift our focus.

    Changing your thinking is not only to be more optimistic but giving your mind the breathing room it needs to grow and expand. It’s about looking at everything that hasn’t worked for you and being open to other ways that might.

    How to Change Your Thinking and Change Your Life

    Here are 11 practical ways to change your thinking:

    1. Show up

    Not feeling the gym? Go anyway. Don’t feel like playing the piano after making a commitment to practice every day? Do it and play.

    The payout of showing up and committing goes a long way. It builds confidence, and with that growth, your mindset begins to change.

    Of course, showing up may not always be fun but by meeting these small goals on your list allows you to tackle on the bigger ones that may seem far out of reach.

    2. Find an Anchor

    We all need an anchor, or in other words, we all need something to believe in when our thoughts are wavering. Whether you are religious, have a spiritual connection with a higher power, or have someone who grounds you – hold onto it.

    My dad first introduced me to the Law of Attraction when I was 17 and to be completely honest, I thought it was silly and never gave it much thought. Fast forward ten years and the Law of Attraction has become so integrated into my daily life that it’s become the anchor in my belief system. That anchor is also what propels me to be a better version of myself. It’s a light at the end of the tunnel when I have convinced myself that light does not exist.

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    The purpose of an anchor is to ground you when your mind and/or external factors come weighing you down. It’s about having faith and trust in that one thing or power when everything else seems to go dark. This is one of the most important things you need to have if you want to begin to change your mindset.

    3. Ask Why

    It’s really that simple. In order to change your thinking, you have to dig deeper into what it is that’s causing a reaction.

    • Why does it bother me that another person took the parking slot that I was waiting for?
    • Why do I feel uneasy when I dine at a restaurant alone?
    • Why do I feel happy after I purchase a new outfit?

    We ask “why” to a lot of external factors, but very rarely we ask that about ourselves. It’s also a way to get to know yourself as if getting to know a friend.

    As we begin to answer these questions, we realize that it’s not the external factors that bring happiness, sadness, guilt, or joy, and it’s more about understanding our own values.

    Now, have a conversation with yourself and reflect on your answers when you do ask these “whys.”

    For example:

    The reason why I’m irritated at this person for taking my parking slot is that I’m busy and have endless errands to run. I don’t have time to be looking for another slot.

    Reflection: how am I managing my time and are these time restrictions causing me unnecessary stress? I should prioritize my errands so I don’t feel overwhelmed.

    The reason why I feel uneasy when I dine in at a restaurant alone is that I don’t want people to think I have no friends.

    Reflection: I care a lot of what people think of me including strangers and it affects my emotional well-being. I don’t have these thoughts when I see another person eating alone, so why and when did I start having this opinion about myself? I should start dining out alone so I can learn how to step out of my comfort zone.

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    The reason why I feel great after purchasing a new outfit is is that I feel confident.

    Confidence is key because it determines how I show up when I meet strangers, clients, and overall how I carry myself. How do I maintain this confidence without splurging on a new outfit everytime I need that extra boost? I could wear my glasses or carry a book with me to help me play that part.

    Having these mindful yet straightforward conversations with yourself are simple ways you can change your thinking. Reflection is the key to understanding your strong and weak points.

    Here is also a great article on the power of self-reflection and ten questions you should ask yourself.

    4. Step out of Your Comfort Zone

    As mentioned above, we all have a comfort zone. Like a turtle, we feel cozy and safe inside our shell, but to change your thinking, one must be willing to step out of that shell no matter how much that shell feels like home.

    Our mindset will only begin to change if we allow ourselves to be exposed to the possibilities of change. Stepping out of your comfort zone can be one of the hardest things you can do, but it all goes back to building your confidence.

    Some of the most significant friendships I have to date is all thanks to the five seconds I decided to step out of my comfort zone, introduce myself, and carry a converastion.

    Strive to learn something new every day – even if it makes you feel a bit uncomfortable at first.

    Still wondering how to step out of your comfort zone? Take a look at this article:

    Is It Really Better to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone?

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    5. Look at Things from a Different View

    I once asked a friend what self-love meant to her. She answered, “self-love means being a parent to yourself.”

    I was never expecting that answer, but it got me the wheels in my mind exploring other definitions of what self-love could mean to others and myself.

    Changing your thinking also means being open to other opinions, especially if it challenges your own. You’ll begin to realize that the more mindset work you dive into, the more you will be approaching new opinions and ideas from a grounding and calming place. Things that used to have you on your defense will slowly turn into a question of curiosity instead.

    6. Slow Down

    Here’s the thing. You take the same route to work and leave your house at the same time. While on you are getting off the highway, you stop by your favorite coffee shop to order your daily brew, then you’re out the door and heading straight to the office.

    During this daily routine, have you ever noticed the color of the corner building right before you get off the highway? Or have you noticed whether your barista is left-handed or right-handed?

    Probably not, because most of the time we tend to live our lives on auto-pilot.

    Science says we make about 35,000 decisions a day;[1] therefore it makes sense that half the time our minds are on auto-pilot. There are great setbacks that come from having this “auto switch” including having those feelings of mindlessly scrolling through your phone or being so deep in your thoughts that you are mentally checked out.

    One way to change your mindset is slowing down. When you slow down, you begin to find yourself in the same tune and vibrations as the world around you. You begin to become aware of what resonates with you and what doesn’t. You start becoming present.

    If you want to change your life, you must be present in the life you are currently living in. By being present, you begin to shift to a state of gratitude.

    7. Eliminate the Excuses and Create Solutions

    How often do we use the word “but?”

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    For instance, “I want to eat healthier but I’m so busy that I can’t meal prep,” “I want to buy a new car but I’m still paying off some of my debt,” “I would like to start my own business but I don’t have the time or finances for that.”

    Now eliminate the “but” and imagine how you would feel if these external factors weren’t much of an issue.

    This is a simple but powerful technique in changing your thinking. It’s all about tapping into those emotions and eliminating the roadblocks that we spend so much energy focusing on. Instead, begin shifting your focus from the but’s and toward the “how’s.”

    Here’s some nice advice for you:

    How to Stop Making Excuses and Get What You Want

    The Bottom Line

    Changing your mindset is a work in progress and one that should be eye-opening as it is rewarding. It’s about getting to know yourself on a deeper level and creating a friendship with yourself along the way.

    There’s no one solution fits all, but it all comes down to taking that first step.

    More Resources About Living a Fulfilling Life

    Featured photo credit: Clay Banks via unsplash.com

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