A year ago I wrote myself a note that I ended up publishing, with a view to reminding myself of some basics in life and general guidelines to be able to check in with every so often, in order to see just how life was travelling.
The Post seemed to be of interest to a few people at the time and I appreciated the feedback very much. Here, almost a year on, I’ve revisited this, updated and hence am keen to share it again.
As so many of us seem to increasingly experience, the months, weeks, days and even hours these days are seemingly flying by. Is it really that life speeds up or is it that as we age, the overall time period of each year when compared with our total years on the planet decreases and hence a year has the impression of being a fraction of our time? Maybe it’s a case of needing to involve ourselves in more new things or book getaway breaks well in advance, in order to break up what might be seen as the same old, same old.
I wrote this note in the form of a checklist to refer back to monthly, to not just remind myself of what to do but also if ever in doubt of what’s important in life. Sometimes it’s important to look back and check out where you’ve been. I think about it as if driving a car. You need to check in the rear view mirror now and again, but spend as much time as possible looking forward.
For me, a key thing is to endeavour to not get caught on a ring road.
So here’s my checklist for myself for what it’s worth, with a few additions, updates and comments that I’ve found can help me to maximise life or at least keep it in check. Just please remember, I’m no expert by any means, however I sincerely hope that some of the following might also help you. Cheers
Celebrate, every day – we used to live next to a lady who invited us for dinner and served our food on incredible Versace plates. We said to her that she really didn’t need to pull out the best dinnerware for us as we were also likely to break something. Her response was that this was how she lived and that why would you keep ‘good stuff’ locked in a cupboard. If it breaks, it breaks. We now do the same and therefore look at it as every day being worthy of a celebration of the good stuff. If you have it, use it. After all, what are you saving it for? If you achieve anything, any day, recognise it and celebrate it! If you think back to something that you never did celebrate but should have, then do it now! Who cares! Others will want to celebrate with you too, no matter how small the win.
Ask yourself, ‘What have (or haven’t) I/we celebrated recently and what’s on the horizon?’
Don’t be so hard on yourself – we’re human, we don’t know all of the answers, but we’re doing our best mostly. Stop often and reflect. Don’t compare so much and definitely, do not engage in being sucked in by what we might think we are missing out on and don’t have, particularly via some social media – for the most part, remember that it can be a filtered life that we’re often witnessing. I’m pretty sure that we all have ‘stuff’ going on. Life consists of so many things from your health, to your family, your social connections, your spare time, your hobbies, your finances, having a roof over your head, your ability to dream etc, etc, so look at it as a real life landscape right to the edges, not just as a 1-Dimensional picture. It’s ok to be happy, content and feel that you have life in perspective, when you weigh it all up. It’s definitely not all about the money.
Ask yourself, ‘Do I feel that on balance, that I’m doing ok?’
Smile & say Hi more– think about how great it feels to smile. Whether it’s wandering around, watching our kids play sport, walking down the street, walking around work, looking at something in a shop or even when standing waiting at the crossing. It might sound silly but it always makes me feel good to be smiling and it seems to make other people who glance at you feel good too. Think about how people feel when they look across at the traffic lights and see a happy person – maybe it changes their outlook on today or snaps them out of a stupor. That’s really pretty cool. I need to do it more.
Ask yourself, ‘Am I doing this as much as I could and in every appropriate situation?’
Lock in Daily Exercise – this is a daily meeting with myself and I try and do all that I can to make it happen. Put in it the diary and don’t give up that slot unless you really, really must. We never seem to regret exercise after the fact, unless of course we get an injury! So my thinking is to start, push on through and make it a habit as quickly as possible. For motivation, it seems to be a good thing to involve a mate, your other half or your kids too.
Ask yourself, ‘Am I in a ‘good habit’ phase at the moment and am I making all daily meeting with myself?’
Learn to Breathe (& try Yoga!) – whether it’s taking in the early morning air on a walk, calming myself before take-off, centering myself in the lead-up to an important presentation, thinking about how to resolve a dispute of some kind, trying to keep things in check during exercise or doing some yoga; every time without fail, being actively aware of my breathing now, seems to make me feel better and more in balance. Recognising that I was an extremely shallow breather was a breakthrough that has led to so many positive flow on effects.
Ask yourself, ‘Am I consciously breathing slow & deep as much as possible? Am I finding that I’m letting my mind leap to conclusions before they’ve even happened and in fact are unlikely to happen?’
Full Health Check – every 6 months, using my birthday as one of the markers. Particularly as we age, being proactive on this one can tend to really minimise any anxiety. Why wouldn’t you?
Ask yourself, ‘When was the last time I made the time and went to the doc?’ ‘Have I got Health Insurance?’
Compete in an event or group activity – get this one in the diary, whatever is your go-to sport or hobby – there will be an event and at every level. Maybe look for a 5km run, schedule in the next sprint triathlon season, say Yes to a Mountain Biking trip with mates and their kids, join a group swim squad or book a court for the next 4 weeks in advance for tennis with mates. It’s good to compete again and remember that feeling. Actually what’s really great is the kids seeing you compete.
Ask yourself, ‘What is scheduled in and how far in advance am I looking?’
Enjoy Learning More – I listen to usually business books via Audible or quick podcasts in the car (on 1.75x), watch the odd doco or TedTalk and recently started reading some fiction which I haven’t for years. It’s great to take your mind off the work stuff.
Ask yourself, ‘When did I last listen to something or feel that I was still learning?’
Keep filling in the Dreams Book…although it’s moved to Trello! – one of the best presents ever from my wife (Actually if I’m honest, the best presents in my life full-stop have been from my wife): A 101 Dreams Book. I was up to around #52 when rather than have to look at each individual entry/idea, it seemed that there were some dots to be joined. I’ve found Trello great for getting a heap of ideas out of my head and being able to feel more organised. Evernote is also a good one, whereby if a thought jumps into your head, it’s easy to record against that idea.
Ask yourself, ‘Am I actively thinking about the future and what I’d like to be doing?’
Ask myself ‘Am I doing what I truly want to be doing?’ – Look in the mirror, and see if the answer is “Yes, exactly what I’m doing in all areas of life” or if it waivers from that.
Ask yourself, ‘Is it time to refer back to my Dreams book (Trello) and ask if any great life ideas’ time has come?’
Create better, new reference points – plan more experiences in advance. Always, always have something to look forward to, no matter how small. Remember how experiences help stop that life loop. Rather than having no tangible reference points because every day it feels like kids, work, demands, grocery shopping, tiredness, kids, work, again…we were incredibly fortunate to take some family time out for an extended period last year and although I was hesitant before going, it was absolutely the best thing we could ever have done. Good memories truly are priceless.
Ask yourself, ‘Have I booked in the next family holiday, a dinner with mates, a family get-together, a new weekend activity for the fam?’
‘Do I/we really need this?’– I think my true belief in this has only really kicked in since we were able to experience our family trip, however before buying whatever it is, I always ask myself this question. Better yet, if you can encourage your kids to ask this same question even the odd time, then they may just see that experiences trump ‘stuff’. Sometimes though, do just do it! Just maybe not every time.
Ask yourself, ‘Do I feel guilty about buying something recently and is that justified?’ ’Would I be better to put my money towards an experience where hopefully good memories will last forever?’
Don’t walk past a mistake – I can’t remember where this came from. It must have been school, however it has stuck with me and I know when I’m not practising this and let myself down. Whether it’s stopping and helping someone in the street, spending an extra minute speaking with someone at a function that I may not really want to do but feel compelled that they just need someone to talk to, or maybe it’s even stopping to pick up some rubbish that’s blowing in the wind and put it in the nearest bin. Don’t always think someone else will pick up the pieces – actually it’s our job too. Your gut usually tells you and it oddly tends to be right.
Ask yourself, ‘Am I practising this?’
Listen more (& try to put the phone down)– ditto for the above. Just do more of it. People appreciate it. Time is precious.
Ask yourself, ‘Am I giving each person I’m with, the respect they deserve by stopping, listening and waiting to reply, rather than simply ‘hearing’ that they’re talking?’ ‘Have I been putting down the phone once home, giving the family the attention that they deserve?’
Gratitude. Wake up, look out the window and say thanks every day – no matter what the weather, no matter what happened yesterday and no matter what I have planned for today, even if it makes me anxious for some reason. Expressing gratitude for what we have and the ability to work on the things that we don’t have but might like, or those things I know that I can do better. There are a lot of good things in life, no matter how small. They add up.
Ask yourself, ‘Did I do that today?’
Keep reminding myself that I’m only a youngster in the scheme of things – yep, sometimes I feel knackered and catch myself complaining (or worst still, groaning!). Sometimes my body creaks. Sometimes I feel like it is one step forward and one sideways and even backwards. Life is like that. No big deal. The reality is that in today’s life & lifestyle, at 46, I’m only just nearing halfway.
Ask yourself, ‘Have I spent anytime, wasting time thinking that I’m in any way old?’
Be 100% You Always, but…– no matter what. Don’t wear a mask but also don’t get walked on by people taking advantage. Think about those uncomfortable times where you feel that you need to be a slightly different version of you. Do your best not to relinquish you. If it’s happening a lot, then reassess and maybe get out of the looped situation that’s being presented or actually just be you rather than another you, then the anxiety may dissipate. Maybe it even means reassessing who your friends are and the social situations that we find ourselves in.
Ask yourself, ‘Have I been 100% me?’ ‘Am I proud of the 100% me and could I have done something differently?’
Be vulnerable & be ready to ask for help if you think that you need it – remember that you can’t do life all alone and it’s extremely fortunate that people ultimately do care about you. Be sure to remind yourself that it’s important to check in with a mate or someone that you trust, regularly.
Ask yourself, ‘Am I ok or do I need to ask for help?’ ’Do I need to do that right now?’
Phone (or text) a friend– have a think right now. Someone out there that you know, possibly needs to know that someone is thinking of them, right now. Once a week, randomly text or better yet call an old mate or family member, to just say hey. It’s our paying it forward and it can make a massive difference to lives at a time when someone really needs it. Maybe it reconnects you with someone that you care about. Send good wishes out of the blue. There is no need to expect anything back. It will happen.
Ask yourself, ‘Who have I contacted this week?’
Be Disciplined – there are plenty of ways to have fun, but what is watching reality shows or spending time on social media reading about filtered lives, actually adding to life….or is it wasting life? Imagine what you could do with that time….spending time interacting more with the kids, planning a new business, joining some dots, making a difference in people’s lives, planning a family trip, organising that elusive filing, writing a blog…I know that I can always do better. Put down the phone and watch life in 3-D, not 2-D or even 1-D.
Ask yourself, ‘Am I making the best use of Now?’ ‘Am I proud of how I’m spending time?’
Put health & family first, always – yep, work takes up a large part of each day, but is it your rock? What revolves around what? Yesterday can never be reclaimed. I try my best to be where I’m expected to be, when it matters and ensure that I’m as fit & healthy as I should be.
Ask yourself, ‘Have I been asking myself every day, if there is more that I can be doing to make my wife, kids and extended family & friends, have a great life?’ (This might be as simple as getting fit).
Get Sufficient Sleep– I definitely have fallen down in this area but am doing better at just getting up from the TV and getting to bed, rather than waiting another 5 mins. The early mornings are magic, so give yourself the best chance of feeling great about cracking into the day, by having refuelled your body overnight at the right time of the night.
Ask yourself, ’Am I just talking about getting to bed earlier or am I doing it?’
Think about your Obituary – Keep living life and working on what you’d be proud of it saying at the end of a happy & healthy life, way, way in the distance.
Ask yourself, ‘What tweaks can I make to life today to shape this?’
Reminder Checklist –
Celebrate, every day Don’t be so hard on myself
Smile & say Hi more
Lock in Daily Exercise
Learn to Breathe (& try Yoga!)
Full Health Check
Compete in an event or group activity
Enjoy Learning More
Keep filling in that Dreams Book
Ask myself ‘Am I doing what I truly want to be doing?’
Create better, new reference points
Recognise & Celebrate the Wins, no matter how small
‘Do I/we really need this?’
Don’t walk past a mistake
Listen more (& try to put the phone down)
Gratitude. Wake up, look out the window and say thanks everyday
Keep reminding myself that I’m only a youngster in the scheme of things
Be 100% Me Always, but…
Be vulnerable & be ready to ask for help if I think that I need it
Phone (or text) a friend
Put health & family first, always
Get sufficient sleep
Think about your Obituary
Thanks and best wishes.