In my previous article, I drew on three characters from literature to explore what messages they convey about living a meaningful life.
I suggested that maybe our aim should be to live today the best we can, as meaningfully as we can, and not get too obsessed with long-term meaning, goals and objectives.
In this article, I’m going to offer you nine nudges that have helped my clients live a more meaningful life day-to-day. I hope they will help you too.
What are you prioritising right now?
What is important to you right now? What do you naturally prioritise and focus on without thinking? Examples could include…
- Work/career, establishing yourself, getting a promotion
- Getting on the property ladder
- Paying off the mortgage
- Finding a partner
- Starting/raising a family
- Learning and developing yourself
- Spending time with friends and wider family
- Travelling and appreciating different cultures
- Being active outside and enjoying nature
- Helping people, animals, the vulnerable and fighting their corner
- Developing yourself spiritually
- Wanting to make a name for yourself, change the world in some way
Rather than criticise yourself, or feel guilty, or wish you were doing something else, consider that maybe you focus on what you focus on because right now that is the most important priority for you.
Maybe this is where your meaning rests for now and so accept it. Remember though that nothing in life stays the same and you can and will change priorities in time.
NUDGE 1: Consider that your current priorities are the key to meaning for you right now
Is it a wholehearted yes?
This is a biggie! When you do what you do, do you do so wholeheartedly?
If you are someone whose inner talk and so prompts for action run something along the lines of:
“I must do ….”
“I should do …..”
“I have no choice but to….”
“I ought to ….”
And your days contain thoughts such as:
“If I don’t do X, Y will be upset/disappointed/angry/”
“I feel guilty if I don’t …”
“I don’t want to let X/Y/Z down”
And you constantly feel resentful, overwhelmed and guilty, exhausted, irritable and anxious.
Then use these negative responses to evaluate your actions and activities and, if you can, stop doing things that provoke resentment or that you do out of guilt or obligation.
To feel more fulfilled, begin to act out of desire, because you want to, because your immediate knee-jerk reaction is to say ‘Yes’ wholeheartedly. You will then start to feel lighter, more contented and at ease with yourself, with others and with life.
NUDGE 2: Act out of desire and not obligation or duty. Do everything wholeheartedly.
Change your attitude toward things that you have to do for now
In the immediate moment, if you have no choice but to care for your elderly parent, work very long hours, accept you’re not getting promoted etc, do your best to see the upsides, the positives, the benefits of doing what you do.
For example, that you love your parent and looking after them might bring you closer together, you will earn more money or be part of a successful project if you work long hours, or you can focus on personal development if you remain in the same job.
NUDGE 3: Accept what you can’t change and try to see a benefit.
Reflect on the values your actions demonstrate
When you think about the actions and activities you do every day, what do they say about you?
What values do your actions demonstrate?
Feel proud for what you are already contributing.
NUDGE 4: Identify the contribution you are already making.
If you do know what you want…
Make it happen! I
f travelling is what you crave start to put together a plan of how you can make it happen.
What needs to be put in place for you to turn your dream into a reality?
Write your goal and develop small actionable steps to achieving it and tick them off as you go along.
NUDGE 5: If you know what you want, make it happen.
What are your top three strengths, skills, abilities?
Doing what comes naturally to us, what we are especially good at can be a very effective way of introducing meaning into your life.
If, for example, you’re naturally methodical, organised and conscientious look for opportunities to put these to good use.
Working for a charity if you value altruism, in production management if you like film and TV, in financial administration if money is more important to you.
If you’re not sure what strengths and qualities you have, try out the following two websites to help you.
viacharacter.org (good for character strengths)
123test.com/cognitive-ability-test (good for ability testing)
NUDGE 6: Identify your strengths and work out how you can draw on them in life.
Allow yourself time to appreciate what you have
Consciously become aware of the small, good things in your life.
For example, a cool shower after a hot day, your warm and cosy bed, central heating, your cute pet, your favourite music, birds chirping, local anaesthetic at the dentist, reading in the park, scent of fresh flowers, a beautiful sunrise or sunset, and so on.
NUDGE 7: Be thankful for what you have.
Draw on all your senses
Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, experiment with experiencing life in the moment to the full.
What can you smell? What do you see? What do you hear? How do things feel to touch? What about tastes?
NUDGE 8: Draw on all your senses to experience the present moment fully.
What about sleep?
This might sound counterintuitive yet getting more sleep is arguably the single most important thing you can do to help your well-being and support yourself in living a more purposeful life.
As experts in sleep research (such as Matthew Walker) have argued, sleep is the foundation of our vitality and feeling alive can be the key to unlocking a more meaningful life.
NUDGE 9: Get more sleep!
In conclusion, finding meaning in our lives doesn’t have to be a major exercise that is so overwhelming we become paralysed and stuck.
Instead, there are many small steps or nudges that we can take to help us live a more meaningful life today.
Photo by Nate, Unsplash