Do you sometimes feel like something’s missing in life? Do you wish your life had less busyness and stress, and more balance, fun and ease?
A truly abundant life is not something you have to wait to achieve. Even if your circumstances aren’t exactly as you want them, there are some pretty easy things you can do to increase your level of happiness and fun, right now. And who doesn’t want that?
My scarcity mindset
For a long time now, the operative word to describe my own life has been overwhelm. No time for anything but work. No money for anything but necessities.
At least that’s the story I told myself.
The truth is, I was living with a scarcity mindset, and that’s no way to live.
I love working hard, and paying down debt is a top priority for me, but if the overall goal is happiness, a more humane, balanced approach is essential.
I do make time for creative pursuits, but that alone didn’t lead to the abundant feelings I was craving. Cramming 15 minutes of creative time into an already packed day is a good step, but it wasn’t enough for me. I knew I was driving myself into the ground, and I knew it would lead to no good if I didn’t make a change.
I’d been getting messages for awhile that I had to bring more balance and humanity to my life. I know from experience that the Universe has a way of whacking you upside the head with a 2×4 if you don’t pay attention to subtler messages.
So let it be stated for the record that I AM PAYING ATTENTION.
I’ve been focused lately on treating myself more humanely, and I’ve figured out some pretty simple, small changes that together are making a big difference. Perhaps they’ll make a big difference for you, too.
Here are 9 steps I’ve been taking to live a more abundant life right now.
1) Lower expectations to realistic levels
Turns out Passion Pluralites (otherwise known as Scanners, Renaissance Souls, Multi-passionates, etc.) are notorious for overestimating how much we can get done in a day or a weekend.
Guilty as charged!
When planning out my day, I’d invariably make a list that would be physically impossible for even Superman to accomplish.
Then I’d beat myself up for not getting more done.
Can you say “unrealistic expectations?”
It has taken awhile to accept that my super-human expectations are actually that – super-human – and adjust accordingly. And I won’t say that I’ve perfected this new outlook. But I will say that the adjustments I’ve been able to make so far have dramatically improved my quality of life.
Instead of just throwing 20 items on today’s to-do list, I’ll ask myself what actually needs to get done, and what I can realistically accomplish, and go from there.
It may sound kinda obvious, but wow, what a difference!
2) Make those expectations visible
It wasn’t until I had a Make Your Work Flow session with organization whiz Michelle Nickolaisen that I realized my system of keeping track of tasks and projects – my to-do list – was actually feeding my scarcity mindset!
I use a great little digital tool called Things to log and manage projects and tasks, both on my Mac and now also as an app on my iPhone. Having a central location to put everything – from tasks I need to get done today or this week, to projects I’m brewing up for next year – has been a boon for my sense of control over the chaos.
However, I’d fallen into the habit of dropping every new item in the “Today” box. So every time I looked at my to-do list for today I saw a bottomless pit of tasks.
This does not make for a sense of serenity and abundance!
I now use other “boxes” within Things to hold everything but a few items, and keep my Today box just for those things I really expect to be able to get to today.
I no longer see a string of “tasks I’ve failed to complete” staring me in the face, and it’s amazing how much less urgent this little change has made me feel!
3) Create margins throughout the day
An ex of mine, quoting a writer I can’t remember, liked to talk about having “wide margins to his day.” My life for too long has felt like a page with tiny writing crammed up to the very edges.
No space to breathe or rest.
For someone like me, who likes having several balls in the air at all times, the temptation to fill every moment with productivity (or at least the feeling thereof) is very strong. But without some margins, we go a little nutty, and lose out on overall productivity to boot.
One way I’m working on living more abundantly is taking more of my weekend as an actual weekend (as opposed to more time to work!) But I’ve found other, smaller ways to build margins into my life on a daily basis. And these small changes add up.
Ever eager to get more stuff done, my usual habit is to pack in “just one more thing” before I hop in the car to get somewhere. Which all too frequently results in my being late and having to rush like a maniac to get wherever I’m going on time.
Then, when I’m in the car, I’ve gotten into the nasty habit of checking my email/Twitter/Facebook/chat messages at every stoplight. (Exactly what I feared would happen if I got an iPhone, and part of why I put it off for so long!)
I felt mildly guilty about this behavior, but it wasn’t until I signed up for Susan Falcone’s wonderful Clearing the Chaos class and she shone a light on the “checking your smart phone at the stoplight” syndrome that I really thought about its affect on me.
Now I’m working on being more conscious about when I really have to leave to get to appointments, and stopping whatever I’m doing before then. And not trying to cram in “just one more thing.”
I’m also practicing just sitting at stoplights (can you imagine?). I even drive without the radio on sometimes, allowing myself to fill with quiet.
I’m not in my car a lot, honestly, but taking the few moments when I am as an opportunity to breathe has been a big contributor to my feeling less harried and more abundant.
4) Build in space for people
There have been some particularly stressed-out periods in my life when I would habitually beg off dates with friends, feeling like I “couldn’t afford” the time away from work.
I still have occasional periods when deadlines loom and I’m forced to work more than normal. But I’ve learned that prioritizing connections with people who are important to me is critical to my happiness and sense of abundance, so I do my best to make time.
Even when I’m busy.
My latest abundance addition is creating a weekly “Date Night” with my sweetie. I literally shut down my computer (so I don’t get sucked back on for “just one more thing” that turns into 2 or 3 hours before bedtime!) and spend the entire evening with him. Heaven!
The work always gets done, and I’m always happier in the long run to have passed the time with people I care about.
5) Build in space for your passions
The first time Susan, my life coach, asked me why I wanted to get back into making art regularly, I got a far-away look in my eyes and said “Because my whole day goes better!”
Hmmm… That’s a pretty good argument for make the space in my life for making art, right?
Whatever your passion is, you’ve got to make space for it in your life on a regular basis.
As a confirmed Passion Pluralite, making art is just one of my many passions. Folks like me, with many interests, have the extra challenge of having to make the time for multiple pursuits.
Sometimes I manage to make music, make art and write all on the same day, and those days are especially delightful.
But sometimes I have to let certain passions simmer on the back burner (or even wait in the refrigerator), while I crank up the heat on the pots on the front of the stove.
I’ve learned that this is okay. That I’ll get to the other pots when the time is right.
The important thing is that I’m always cooking on something.
Sometimes (okay, frequently) I’m frustrated that I don’t get as much time as I want. But as long I make some time – even just 15 minutes – to pursue my creative passions, I keep my toe in the creative stream, which for me is one of the most essential elements of an abundant life.
6) Build in space for play and down time
I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of a “Go, Go, Go!” kind of person. Naps? Time to play? Kitchen experiments?
Anything that isn’t directly related to getting me closer to my goals tends to get left in the dust.
But of course, the Universe finds a way to force down time on you if you don’t take it yourself, so better to pre-empt it.
And the truth is, I just feel more abundant when I take time to catch up on sleep. Or play catch. Or try out that soup recipe I’ve been drooling over. Incorporating plenty of “chill time” is a much more humane way to live.
7) Find exercise you love to do (and do it)
Okay, I know you’ve heard this one a zillion times. But the fact is, bodies are made to move. And when your body feels strong and powerful, you just feel more abundant. Period.
Personally, I’m not big on going to the gym. But I love yoga. And I love to walk. And I recently discovered that I love to throw the football around with my sweetie (who knew?)
I look forward to doing these things, which means I actually do them. And when I’m consistent about doing them regularly, I feel awesome.
8) Buy some happiness
In her year-long project and book, The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin discovered that although money can’t buy happiness all on its own, it can contribute to happiness.
My big money priority these days is paying down my mountain of debt, and that has a way of making me very tight-fisted. I’m a fan of frugality, but I’m also a fan of using money to create abundance. And sometimes the smallest of purchases can make you ridiculously happy.
Consider the OXO microplane grater my sweetie and I got the other day at a kitchen store. I’d been wanting one for the longest time, and now, for just $10, I get a daily grin of delight when I smoothly grate slivers of parmesan cheese on my salad or pasta.
$10 for potentially years of daily bites of happiness.
Today, at the Pacific International Quilt Festival, I treated myself to a jangly bracelet made of shell buttons for only $8. Wearing it makes me feel abundant.
9) Indulge in a little vanity
(This one is actually a sub-category of #7 above.) For years I avoided buying new clothes. I told myself I couldn’t afford the cost, or the time to go shopping.
With half my wardrobe falling apart, and the other half not quite fitting me anymore – either physically (ahem..) or style-wise – I gradually found myself wearing pretty much the same yoga pants and ratty sweater every day.
This does not for a sense of abundance make!
Recently, I discovered the joys of thrifting. Yes, it required an investment of time, and some money too. (Though probably 1/30th of what I would have paid in a retail store. I mean seriously – 12 items for $44? That’s freakin’ inSANE!) Plus I scored some way-more-interesting items than I would have been able to find (or afford) at the shopping center!
All of which make me feel great when I wear them.
Now when I wake up in the morning I actually have a choice of what to wear, all items I look forward to putting on.
You heard it from me: a closet full of comfortable clothes that make you feel attractive is a huge contributor to a general feeling of abundance.
So there you have it – 9 steps to living a more abundant life right now. I don’t claim that taking these steps is going to eliminate all stress, or that crunch times will magically disappear.
What I can say, though, is that since I’ve started consciously putting effort into living more humanely, I’ve felt significantly more relaxed, happier, and yes, more abundant.
Tell me: have you tried any of these tips yourself? Do you have other abundance techniques that have worked for you? Share your thoughts in the comments.
PS – Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!