Quick—list 5 things you really want. Things you know will make your life better.
What was on your list?
Your dream job, dream house, dream car, dream body, dream guy?
We all know our lives would be better off with a fatter bank account, more vacation time, a beautiful home, a fulfilling career, and a partner who adores us.
But thinking about those things can make you feel kind of sad.
Will it ever happen?
Will you ever get the home and job and partner of your dreams?
Or is THIS your life? Look around you. If your life never changed from what it is now, would you be content?
For most of us, the answer is no. Life, as it is, isn’t enough. What keeps us going is the dream that someday we’ll get all those things we want, and we’ll be truly happy.
Which means we can’t be happy now.
Not when we don’t have what we want.
What’s worse, there’s such a gap between what you want and what you have. It can feel as if you’ll never bridge it.
Other people don’t seem to have that problem. They want something; they get it. You want something; you watch other people get it. Not fair.
But there is one thing that works.
I call it “small adjustments.”
When you know what you want your ideal life to feel like and you make daily choices to foster those feelings, you end up living the life of your dreams sooner rather than later.
Here’s how it works.
It all starts from the premise that what we want isn’t actually what we want.
We think we want the house, the job, the car…
But what we really want are the FEELINGS we think those things will give us.
What we really want is to be happy. To feel loved. To enjoy life.
Maybe the things we want will give us those feelings … and maybe they won’t.
Either way, wouldn’t it make more sense to set your sights on happiness, rather than the things you think will make you happy?
Think of it like trying get to San Francisco (happiness) from New York (your current life).
You certainly could plan to go through Cleveland (the career), Chicago (the house) and Salt Lake City (the man). That route would probably get you there eventually.
But why not just plug your destination into your GPS? Then, at every crossroads, you can adjust your route with your final destination in mind. Does this make me feel loved? Is this really making me happy?
Those small adjustments keep you going in the right direction, even when the route is one you’d never have planned.
When you keep your focus on the way you want your life to feel, rather than what you think your life should look like, you stay flexible. You’re more resilient, better able to overcome setbacks and find creative solutions to problems.
To use this technique for yourself, try this exercise.
Think of 5 core values/feelings that are important to you. They could be things like family, love, creativity, community, faith, fun, meaningful work, pleasure, peace, joy, wealth, or wisdom. List them on a sheet of paper.
That’s the destination you want to plug into your GPS. No matter what you do in life, you want to be heading in the direction of those 5 core values.
For each value, write down at least one positive change you’d like to see.
If one of your values is love, perhaps you’d like to be in a relationship or improve the relationship you’re currently in. Perhaps you’d like more romance or more time to spend with those you love.
For each positive change, list several baby steps you could take immediately to move you in the direction of your goal.
If you’d like to improve your relationship, you might decide to make a habit of kissing your partner goodbye each morning, or putting little love notes in places where he’ll find them unexpectedly, or reserving one evening each week for couple time.
That’s how you get to your destination.
Not by thinking about how great it will be once you’re in San Francisco, or by plotting the perfect route to Cleveland, or by stressing out when a road is closed and you need to take a diversion.
But rather by knowing you will get to where you’re headed eventually, because your choices are leading you in the right direction.