Things You Can Start Doing Today

For a simple, meaningful life.

Photo by Anderson Miranda from Pexels

You don’t have to wake up at 5 am to get ahead. You don’t have to give up all the foods you like. You don’t have to chant affirmations to yourself in the mirror every morning, if that’s not your thing. You don’t have to buy that glass gratitude jar from Nordstrom.

Do all of these things if you want. But don’t expect them to make a huge difference in your life by themselves.

Most of us don’t care about making millions of dollars. We just want to pay off our student loans. You know, that $50K we racked up while trying to improve our lives the first time around.

Instead, we want a simple, meaningful life with a slice of comfort and security. We yearn for the things that prior generations took for granted. So how do we get there?

Nobody has all the answers. But I’m pretty sure you don’t achieve a simple, meaningful life by forcing yourself to wake up at 5 am if you’re a night person. You don’t get there by driving around a Tesla to make people think you’re successful. You don’t get there by wearing a more expensive outfit to work. You get there by defining your own terms.

I’m making a list of some things I’ve done that have made my life simpler and more meaningful. You can do the same.

Start exploring your sexuality.

Some of us wait too long to find out what satisfies us in bed. We grow up accepting what some church dumps on us about what counts as normal. Or we base our expectations on Hollywood and porn. We think an alternate sexuality disqualifies us from meaningful relationships.

Maybe we couldn’t control what our friends and family did to us as kids. It screwed us up. But we can unscrew ourselves. It doesn’t matter what you’re into. If you’re not hurting anyone, enjoy what turns you on. Enjoy it on your own if you have to. Sexuality matters to your quality of life.

Start figuring things out for yourself.

Someone’s always happy to sell you their $500 seminar on the latest bouquet of buzzwords. You don’t always need it. Scratch that. You don’t need it most of the time. Buy a book instead. Learn by reading and doing.

Straight A’s mean nothing outside a classroom. A college degree guarantees you nothing but debt. The ability to solve problems and learn new skills already outweighs the value of a diploma. And the best driving teacher is a safe parking lot.

Start giving yourself the benefit of a doubt.

You don’t always need bullet-proof confidence. Everyone does need to know their limits. But you can’t reach those limits unless you test them.

A timid person says, “I’ll never figure this out.” An arrogant one says, “I’ve already figured it out.” A confident one says, “I think I can figure this out.” And they get to work.

Start questioning everything.

Including yourself. A confident person doesn’t say, “I can’t do this.” But they do say, “Am I going about this the right way?” They also say, “Am I thinking about this from the right perspective?”

A double-yellow line divides the lane of advice from the lane of perspective. You don’t need to know what everyone else would do in your situation. But it helps to hear others’ takes on a problem.

Start saying, “I have to go.”

We donate a lot of our time to people who don’t deserve it. Yes, everyone needs a social life. But not everyone needs that much of one. Some of us enjoy nights alone. We shouldn’t let norms change us.

We shouldn’t let some new study on loneliness trick us into hanging out with people, just because we think it’ll prevent a heart attack. Spending time alone doesn’t make you lonely. Being lonely does.

Start reading more.

There’s one foolproof method of seeking out smart perspectives. Read. Books. Articles. Blogs. Even a good television show can make you think differently about things. Strive for a healthy diet of words.

A good book can solve problems you didn’t even know you had. That’s a good thing. We all have lots of problems we don’t even know about yet.

Start letting your dreams evolve.

Everyone wants to be famous when they’re a kid. Then we grow up. So should our dreams. Someone who wanted to sell paintings in high school winds up becoming the director of an art museum. The aspiring rock star turns into a high school band conductor. And so on.

That’s not failure. It’s adaptation. So many of us keep blinders on our so-called dreams or passions. We get picky. Only the best version of our dream will do — the one we saw on TV. We pass up a dozen other chances along the way, and make ourselves miserable. Start thinking bigger, but also smaller. You’re not just an aspiring artist or actor or musician. You’re a creative person. You want to create. Find ways to do that, and enjoy them.

Start picking up weird hobbies.

Some of us have forgotten how to relax. We think that means falling asleep in front of Netflix. Or spending all night at the bar. Hey, both are fun. But your mind needs more than work balanced by hours of vegetation.

Most of us actually don’t like just sitting around doing nothing. That’s not relaxing. Find something to do. Anything.

Last week, I feverishly wrote out an erotic fetish novella. Just for me. Lots of sex. Illustrated. The kind of stuff that turns nobody else on. I had a blast writing the thing in between all my classes and normal work. On top of everything else, that little project brought me great joy. I’ll enjoy reading it in bed even more. It may never see another person’s eyes.

Start settling for third best.

You can challenge yourself without always gunning for first place. In fact, maybe you shouldn’t. Stop trying to envision an outcome, and just focus on what you love about what you do. By “love,” I mean what you find satisfying, interesting, or somehow important.

Ambition can ruin anything. Instead, focus on excellence. Solid work doesn’t always win first place, but it’s always rewarding.

The success will come, or it won’t. And if it never does, you won’t feel like you’ve wasted any time or energy. There’s nothing wrong with bronze, unless you only did something for the medal.