What does it mean to you live your life fully?
I have heard it described in many ways such as: live without regret, make conscious decisions, live freely, fulfill your dreams, live every moment as if it is your last, and more.
What’s it going to take for you personally to live your life fully? How do you get there?
Here are some tips to get you moving in the right direction.
1. Stop waiting to begin your life.
This is it. This, right now, is the fabric of your life. Stop waiting for the perfect time, the great relationship, the perfect body, a new job, enough money, or whatever your best excuses for waiting have been. Start now. Start with who you are today.
Who do you want to be right now?
How do you want to feel today?
Take that class you always wanted to take, begin meeting new people, treat your life as if this is all there is. Given who you are in this moment, what will give you satisfaction, fulfillment, and bring you joy now?
2. Be deliberate
Rather than letting life run YOU, take charge. Begin to live your life by design instead of by accident. Be very selective about what you participate in. Don’t do anything out of obligation. Stop attending events and activities that you aren’t interested in and fill your life with activities that you love instead.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What would I be doing if I only had a short time to live?
- Is this activity in alignment with my goals and desires?
- Does it bring me happiness or satisfaction?
- Does it nurture me?
- Does it challenge me in a good way?
By deliberately choosing how you spend your time you will be more likely to achieve your goals and desires. You will find more fulfillment and happiness on a daily basis.
3. Learn to HAVE deep feelings without being RUN by them
Some of my favorite ‘memes’ I have seen on social media platforms include ‘Never make permanent decisions based on temporary feelings’ and ‘Don’t act upon emotions that will go away’.
Most of us know that suppressing our feelings and emotions can be harmful. However, being run by your ‘feeling’ of the moment leads to chaos, drama, and an inability to reach your goals.
Emotions and feelings have a time and a place. Get support, join a group, get some therapy. YES! Learn to feel deeply and find healthy emotional outlets. On a day to day basis however, do not let your emotions get in the way of your commitments. Set your goals, and follow through, even and especially when you don’t FEEL like it.
A more insidious way that ‘momentary feelings’ can wreak havoc on your life is through triggered responses. How many times have you been ‘plugged in’, ‘triggered’, angry, or upset, and then said or done something harmful to your relationships? Perhaps you said or did something that you couldn’t take back or that caused irreparable damage?
Learning to recognize and experience your feelings and reactions is vital to being congruent, vulnerable, and at choice in your life. Learning to tame those very same emotions, learning to contain them and be in charge of them is what will let you live deliberately and be the person that you want to be. Both are important, however timing and context is everything.
Remember, feelings are not prophecy, and they do not need to determine your reality. Take time to recognize your emotions for what they are, and then choose your actions based on your commitments rather than your emotions. Following through, even when you don’t feel like it or want to, will allow you to reach your goals consistently.
4. Stop being a pleaser
There are many ways that you might be acting as a ‘pleaser’. Saying ‘yes’ when you want to say ‘no’, offering help that you don’t want to give, not giving an honest response, not standing up for what you believe in, or by simply saying ‘I’m fine’ as a response to an inquiry into how you are doing when you feel awful are all examples.
You might find yourself eating food you don’t want to eat because someone gave it to you or made it for you. As a result, you wind up overeating, or feeling bad about your body. Or perhaps you attend events that you aren’t interested in, and then lose out on time for yourself or time for participating in some activity you love. It could just be that you simply lose out on having time to do nothing.
How many times do you sell out on your own well being just because you don’t want to hurt someone else’s feelings? If you look deeper, you may see that the person that you are protecting is you. An example of this might be that you don’t say ‘no’ to someone because you are afraid that they will get angry and you are afraid of allowing them be angry with you. It is your own fear of their anger that you are avoiding. Hurting yourself in order to avoid confrontation or to protect another can be really harmful to you and to the relationship or person you are trying to protect.
Being kind is a good thing, yes! I am not suggesting you become a self centered jerk. I am saying that taking care of your own needs, letting go of your attempts to control others’ feelings, and starting to set clear boundaries are all important ways that you can begin to take back your power, and to begin to live more fully.
Consider beginning to really show up in your life in a more honest, real, and transparent manner. Being compassionate and kind, but true to your own heart, what would that feel like? How would your life be different?
5. Engage in enjoyable physical movement
We are meant to move. Exercise, for some people, has become this tortured activity designed to whip you into shape. Movement may have lost it’s enjoyment for you, and could be thought of only as painful activities that you are supposed to suffer through in order to look good or at least get healthy. Movement for the sake of movement is not even part of our repertoire.
But we are meant to move. We are animals. We have energy that needs to be expended; when we don’t use that energy we can turn it inward against ourselves or become volatile and direct it at others.
If exercise is not your thing, find something that you love and do it for the sake of fun. Walk. Dance. Swim. Play. Find a sport. Take a class. Do anything that makes you happy and feel good just for the sake of playing and enjoyment. It will actually increase your energy, you will sleep better, and you will feel happier in general.
6. Deal with your past and step fully into the present
Dealing with the pain, hurt, disappointment, and emotions from the past is vital to living fully in the present. Get help and support, get involved with therapy, workshops, personal growth movements, and anything that helps you heal. Do whatever you need to do to complete with your past so that you truly can live in the present.
At some point, we need to move on. We need to forgive, accept, complete, and take full responsibility for making our present life what we want it to be.
I love the saying ‘forgiveness means letting go of the right to revenge forever’. It doesn’t mean you are saying that what happened in your past was necessarily OK. It simply means that you are accepting what happened in your past, that you will work to find the gifts and lessons from your experiences, and that you will no longer put any attention on resentment, vengeance, retribution, being right, waiting for an apology, hoping to get the last word, or wishing that your past had been different.
7. Reach For joy instead of avoiding pain
Most people don’t change until they are in so much pain that they can’t tolerate it anymore. It may seem easier to keep going in the same direction in your life, even if it is painful, unfulfilling, joyless, and empty, than it does to change and move out of your comfort zone. At some point, the pain becomes intolerable, there is a crisis or event that makes the situation worse, and then we change just enough to get out of pain, and perhaps plateau again at a different, but familiar comfort zone.
Some of you may remember this from a beginning psychology classes in college; punishment, such as beating yourself up for a ‘bad’ behavior or habit’, is called a negative reinforcer. Negative reinforcement has a very powerful effect on behavior. It increases the likelihood that a behavior will occur again. In other words, the more you beat yourself up for failing, the more likely you will keep failing. Positive reinforcement includes appreciating even the smallest movement in the right direction. By appreciating small changes, you increase your tendency to keep moving in the direction you are appreciating.
From the perspective of choosing to live your life fully, instead of only changing when you are in pain, take on the idea of growing and changing because you want more joy or satisfaction in your daily life. Consider stepping out of your comfort zone and stretching when life is tolerable, simply OK, when it is good or even when you are feeling great.
What do you want more of? What would bring you more satisfaction? Rather than taking action only to avoid pain and rather than just talking about your desires and dreams as some remote possibility that might happen someday when the moment in right, take action based on what you want more of in your life now.
Keep moving forward, onward, upward, especially when you are happy! Rather than allowing the inertia of day to day familiarity drag you into a downhill spiral of dissatisfaction, and boredom or pain, commit to using your desires and dreams as your motivators for growth and transformation, and keep yourself spiraling towards joy.
8. Commit to ongoing growth and change in small ways
Make personal growth an ongoing and regular part of your life. ‘Black and White’ thinking and ‘all or nothing’ mentality is a quick killer of dreams and aspirations. Rather than waiting until you can change your entire life, or being overwhelmed with the idea of completely healing the patterns that have been with you forever, pick something small to start with and create achievable and easy goals.
“Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs” Henry Ford
Begin to make small attainable changes. Walk once a week. Sign up for one class. Say ‘no’ to one thing you don’t want to do, and ‘yes’ to one thing you would love to do. It is easy to be excited and get started with one small change, and it is much more likely you will follow through. Making a few small changes will create positive momentum, you will gain more self confidence and trust, and it will give you more energy and excitement in your life overall.