As human beings, one of our deepest-rooted desires is to have a meaningful and happy existence. You’ve probably heard of the saying, “Live your best life.” It’s good advice.
We all want to feel connected to both ourselves and others. We want to feel that we’re part of something important and that we’re making a difference in the world.
We want to look back at our lives and our achievements and be proud. In short, we want what the saying says: to live our best lives.
But what does it really mean to live your best life?
You are a unique individual, so living your best life is exclusive to you. Your best life will reflect your true values. It will be made up of what makes you happy and will be colored by what making a difference means to you.
3 Questions to Ask About Living Your Best Life
For me, in the moments we faced death during that harrowing experience on the plane, I became intensely aware of these three questions by which I was judging how my life had been up to that point.
How Am I Experiencing Love?
The love I felt in that moment for my husband, our loved ones who were on the ground, and all others in the world was truly profound. I became aware that love—both my ability to receive it and share it—matters more than anything else.
How Authentically Am I Sharing My Unique Gift?
We each have a unique gift—the unique energy and essence that is who we really are. Each person has a unique gift to offer that no one else can or ever will again.
Living our best life means finding creative ways to share our best selves, whether in our work, our creative hobbies, or simply how we live.
What Am I Grateful for?
It’s easy to focus on our worries and anxieties or the distractions of everyday life. However, when we remember our own mortality, we realize that each moment is a gift.
What matters most in the big picture perspective of our lives is very personal. However, figuring it out is how we uncover our formula for living our best lives.
Start the Journey
What does it look like to live your best life? The following are some practical tips and tools to move from living your current life to living your best life.
1. Be the Best Version of Yourself
To live your best life, you must be the best version of yourself. Don’t try to be something or someone else. Don’t try to be what other people want you to be.
Focus on who you want to be. Play to your strengths and be proud of what makes you different. You are brilliant.
Gretchen Rubin, in her book Happiness Project, created her own commandments. The first one was “Be Gretchen.” This gave her permission to follow her gut feeling and make up her own rules.
For example, she stopped forcing herself to enjoy parties, cocktails, and fashion just because that’s what she thought society expected.
So, inspired by Gretchen, create your own commandment: “Be more YOU,” and remind yourself of this every day, unapologetically.
2. Observe Yourself
To work out what the best you looks like, you must get to know yourself better. It’s your best life after all – not anyone else’s.
Start to notice how you respond to various situations. What are your habits? What makes you happy? What frustrates you? How do you behave under pressure? What gives you energy? What drains you?
Spend a week simply noticing. Write your observations down so you remember.
3. Identify Your Bad Habits
As part of your observations, start to notice your bad habits. Consider the things that don’t ultimately make you feel good.
Does scrolling mindlessly through Instagram make you happy? For 5 minutes, perhaps, but for longer?
That last glass of wine was delicious, but do you pay the price later?
That chocolate was enjoyable at the moment, but now that the sugar high is over, are you feeling regretful?
Observe yourself first. Then, start to deliberately do more of the things that make you happy and give you energy.
At the same time, work on reducing then eliminating the habits that squander your time, drain your energy, and ultimately don’t make you happy.
Need help conquering your bad habits? Read How to Break Bad Habits Once and For All.
4. Set Intentions
After having thought about what makes you happy and what drains your energy, focus on what living the best life looks like for you.
One of the keys to this is being intentional about it. When you deliberately set intentions, you are more likely to act with purpose and drive.
Setting intentions is different from setting goals. Goals are your list of things you want to achieve. You can set them daily, monthly, yearly, or a combination.
A common practice is to define goals and write them down. This makes them more tangible and makes you more accountable, therefore, making the goals more likely to happen.
The subtle yet important difference between goals and intentions is that when setting intentions, you decide what kind of positive feelings and emotions you are seeking.
For example, “This week, my intention is to approach my admin tasks with gusto in order to complete them more quickly.”
Intentions can be more motivating than goals because if you don’t achieve your goal, it can feel like a failure and can ultimately hold you back.
If you don’t achieve your intention to approach something in a specific way, you can more easily regroup and have another try.
Write down your intentions every month, week, or day, using whichever time frame works best for you.
For example, “I intend to enjoy going swimming three times this week” or “I intend to assertively build my network in my local area this month.”
Setting intentions gives you something to focus on, and it also helps to manage the feeling of being overwhelmed that often happens when we set ourselves goals.
5. Visualize Living Your Best Life
Visualization can help you to cement your intentions. It involves visualizing how it would feel to live your best life once you achieve it.
It can help you to further establish what you want and allow you to settle into a positive mindset.
To visualize, first choose your focus. Choose a specific intention and how you will feel once it is accomplished. Then, take the time to daydream and allow your imagination to wander.
For example, if your intention is going swimming three times a week, imagine what you will look and feel like:
- What will you wear?
- How do you get there?
- What time of day do you go?
- How do you feel when you’re in the water?
- How do you feel afterward?
Ask yourself these little questions and allow yourself to feel the same feelings you would feel if you were currently fulfilling your intention.
16 Ways to Live Your Best Life
Now that you’ve decided and visualized what your best life looks like, let’s look at some more practical steps you can take to achieve it.
Whatever you do, focus. If you swim, swim. If you study, study. Multitasking is a myth. It’s not possible to do more than one thing at a time well. Focused work is the least tiresome and the most productive type of work.
Michael LeBouf, the author of The Millionaire in You, said,
“Winners focus, losers spray.”
2. Take Responsibility for Taking Action
Taking action can feel scary. We fear failure, but we can also fear success. It can be easy to feel too busy to achieve your intentions.
However, you have the choice to take action and live your best life or stay the same. It’s up to you, so take responsibility to take action.
3. Live in the Present
Every day is a new opportunity to live your best life. We so often get stuck because we put things off.
We can think, “When I’ve lost 10 lbs I’ll go swimming,” or “When I feel more confident I’ll look for a new job,” or “When I get my new running shoes I’ll start running.”
How about starting from where you are? How about using what you already have?
We often put off taking action until we have the newest phone/camera/game/course/book/shoes as if they are the keys to happiness. In the process, we forget about what we already have.
Grab the camera that you have, put on your old running shoes. Go and do something interesting today with what you’ve got. Fancier gadgets, better clothes, or a slimmer body won’t make you better. Action will.
4. Practice Mindfulness
Research has revealed that a simple way to be happier and live your best life comes from developing the ability to fully experience each moment. Mindfulness is the ability to observe the present moment without judging it.
Mindfulness has many impressive benefits for physical and mental health. Diabetic patients who were taught mindfulness skills experienced lower blood sugar and increased happiness.
Mindfulness on the job has been proven to reduce exhaustion and increase job satisfaction.
Mindfulness is not difficult to learn and is something we can do in a moment. Right now, take a deep breath, and notice how the breath feels as it is going into your lungs.
How does your body feel? Are your muscles stiff or relaxed? Do you feel warm or cold? Use your five senses to describe your immediate experience.
Use your five senses to describe how your body feels and your immediate experience. This is all it takes to be fully present.
This applies to the environment you live in as well as the people you spend time with. Use Marie Kondo’s decluttering method of asking, “Does it bring you joy?”
If your answer is yes, you keep the item. If you hesitate or say no, you donate it or throw it out. Simple.
This also applies to people. If there are people in your life that make you feel bad, drain your energy, and don’t bring you joy, let go of them.
Instead, spend time with the people and activities that give you energy and make you feel good.
6. Relish the Simple Things
When we’re busy, we can forget to appreciate what we have. Take time to focus on the simple things. Even when you’re feeling low, there’s always something to be grateful for.
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Be deliberate in being grateful for what you do have, rather than resentful of what you don’t.
Journaling is simply writing your thoughts down.
According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, writing your thoughts and feelings down on paper not only helps you get your thoughts in order, but it can also help ease symptoms of depression and manage stress and anxiety.
In the chaos of life, it is easy to overthink, feel anxious, or not appreciate what you do have. Journaling can help you manage your thoughts and feelings and productively cope with life.
Be curious and keep learning. Ask more questions and keep pushing yourself to step outside of your comfort zone and learn.
What are you interested in or curious about? Perhaps it’s learning more about where you live, or reading up on a particular topic? Maybe it’s traveling to a new town or country?
According to Dan Pink’s research, learning is a key motivator. Whether you feel like you’ve gotten stuck in a boring routine or you’re stressed by the tasks of daily life, learning something new is a way to step outside yourself and your comfort zone.
Create a bucket list of all the things you’d like to do and learn and the places you’d like to go to, and start ticking them off.
8. Make Someone’s Day
Being kind to others makes them feel good, and it also releases chemicals in your body that make you feel good. Think about a time you gave someone a gift that they loved. How did you feel?
You don’t have to start giving people gifts to make someone’s day. Think about small, thoughtful gestures: a genuine compliment, opening the door, offering to help someone.
All these things can make a big difference in someone’s day.
9. Look After Your Body
Eat what nourishes you, including plenty of vegetables and fruit and food that’s natural and unprocessed. Drink plenty of water.
Exercise because you like it, not because you’re supposed to go to the gym.
Reject the idea that you have to push yourself really hard at exercise, and instead try out a variety of things – for example, walking the dog, gardening, yoga, swimming, or dancing.
Find what you enjoy. When you enjoy something, you’ll be motivated to do it more.
Get good rest! We’re all different in terms of the amount of sleep that we need. However, most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep.
If you’re not getting that much, then check out healthy sleep tips from the Sleep Foundation.
More tips for staying healthy: Powerful Daily Routine Examples for a Healthy and High-Achieving You.
10. Manage Your Inner Critic
Most people have an inner critic that tells them they are not good enough, that they’re a fraud, and that they are going to be found out.
This happens especially when we step out of our comfort zone and change things. If you are living your best life, your inner critic likes to jeopardize that.
The next time it appears, acknowledge what’s happening and call it out. Whatever it is telling you, list all the reasons it’s wrong.
11. Be Prepared to Change the Plan
You may have set intentions to live your best life. However, life is not linear, nor does it work in lists. You must expect to be flexible and change the plan as life throws things at you.
The end game remains the same: to live your best life. It’s just the route to get there that will inevitably change.
12. Learn to Flow
One of the most powerful ways to connect with our true selves and experience positive emotions is through flow.
Flow is like mindfulness in action. Flow is when we are so engrossed in what we are doing that we get into a zone and stop thinking about anything else. We can experience this when playing an instrument, playing a sport, creating artwork, writing an essay, reading a book, etc.
Being in flow increases our happiness, helps us reach optimal performance, and boosts our creativity.
According to researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, one of the best things about flow is it puts happiness in our control. Rather than being happy because of outer events, we are in flow as a result of an inner experience we create for ourselves.
Find things that transfer your mind to a flow state in order to start working toward living your best life.
13. Hit the Reset Button (Often)
Sometimes, life sends us curveballs we aren’t prepared for. It’s important to know how to get back to the center—to who we are and to reconnect with our goals and priorities. If you ever find yourself feeling off-course or negative, imagine hitting a pause button.
It only takes a minute to re-focus. Some great tips for resetting include stretching, taking a deep breath, setting goals or intentions, and then beginning again.
Knowing how to reset our energy is important when it comes to navigating minor distractions and major life changes for personal growth.
14. Commit to Your Connections
The COVID-19 pandemic showed us firsthand how important our social connections are. Community is an important factor in how happy we are with our lives, and our long-term well-being and health.
If you feel disconnected or like you want to strengthen your sense of belonging and improve your life, consider calling a different friend each day; joining a church or spiritual group, support group, or book club; or exploring cultural or community events that might be attended by other people with shared interests
To reconnect with favorite friends, try scheduling a weekly hike, coffee hour, Zoom call, happy hour, or email/text check-in.
We get what we put out there. Show up when people you love ask for help or seek connection. Let go and create healthy boundaries with people who drain your energy.
15. Move Your Body
Exercise is an important key to staying healthy and happy and reaching your full potential. Research shows exercise can prevent depression, limit long-term illness, improve our moods, and increase our longevity.
We now know that it’s not only exercise that matters, but also how we hold and move our bodies when we are going through the motion of our lives, including working at our desks. Recent research shows that simply sitting up straight can make us more likely to think positive thoughts about ourselves and what is possible for our lives.
16. Spend Time in Nature
One of the best ways to live our best lives is to spend time in nature. From the benefits of vitamin D from sunlight, to simply getting outside of our own world and connecting with something greater, the benefits of nature are well-established.
The more we learn, the more we realize how important it is to protect our natural spaces, parks, and trees, not just for our enjoyment, but also for our physical and mental well-being.
Live each day like it counts, and remember, it’s your choice. Your best life is unique to you. Don’t compare yourself to others – focus on living your best life, and enjoy the learning, exploration, and experiences along the way.