Growing up, I always held a sinking doubt that I would ever have a life like the ones I’d imagined for myself. Even though I’ve always bit off a bit more than I could chew and somehow managed to work my way through it, I didn’t think that what truly mattered to me would ever come to pass. I’m not the girl who dreamed of money, big houses, or a designer lifestyle. I wanted to write and to capture moments on film — to get swept away in a creative life where my own story was as captivating as those in the novels I’d read.
My best days are spent creating or going on adventures — enjoying whatever new thing this day brings. Despite this, year after year I made choices that took me far away from that dream. Something inside me just didn’t think it was possible for me to get there.
Then one day something changed.
I was out for a long walk, thinking about my life. All of a sudden, I realized that every day little bits of the life I wanted slipped into my day. Maybe if I just focused more attention on those seeds of happiness, they would bloom into the life I wanted. I started small, adding in more time to write and create. I also switched up my routines to turn mundane moments into the lifestyle I’d always imagined living.
Being more mindful about how I’m spending my days has helped me have happier days that reflect the life I want. Instead of imagining a better life for myself, I’m able to see how I’m already living well. Additionally, I know how I’m spending my time, which allows me to make better choices. At the end of the day, it feels good to know that I’m using my limited time on Earth to do things that I love.
Want to try having more happier days? Here are a few strategies that I’ve used to live a better life:
Name the things you experience, and connect them with the life you want. No matter how far off you are from your dream life, you likely have bits and pieces of that life that you don’t even notice. They may not be as idealized as you had envisioned them in your mind, but they’re there. Throughout your day, be in the present moment, acknowledging what you’re doing and how it fits into your ideal life.
When you find something that fits, write it down. When something isn’t working, think of a small change that could make it work better for your life. Over time, your life will look more and more like you’ve always dreamed of living.
Realize that reality never matches fantasy, and that’s okay. When we imagine our ideal lives, it’s never an accurate picture of what they would really be like. We often picture snapshots of the highlight moments or imagine experiences that are lacking the full range of emotion that we experience in real life. This means that sometimes when we get what we want, it doesn’t feel as good as we expected it to be.
Everyone experiences it to some degree. I’m reminded of all of the pop songs about how hard it is to be the “it” girl. Life is always a messy struggle, even with things are going swimmingly.
Open your mind to the different possibilities for living the life you want. Having a narrow focus makes it hard to see the bigger picture. While you may not be able to have the life you want exactly the way you pictured it, there are many possibilities for meeting your wants and needs. Instead of thinking in black and white, enjoy all of life’s shades of grey, which provide many paths to the same destination.
When I first started thinking this way, I came up with an easy example that applies to my life. I enjoy art and want it to be part of my life. Right now, I go to a lot of free art shows, which allows me to enjoy something I love at a price point I can afford. When I have a bit of extra money, I like going to bigger museum exhibits. One day, I hope to visit the Louvre. No matter what you want in your life, there will be different options for pursing it.
Slowly incorporate more of what you love into your life. When you do notice things in your life that aren’t working, start to improve or replace them with things you do love. While every moment won’t be perfect, your days will be better overall. Start slowly and see how things develop. Living well is not a race and shouldn’t cause you stress. Pick one small thing at first and experiment with adding more happy activities to your day.
Stop questioning your happiness and looking for troubles. When people ask about your day, tell them about your good moments. Make it your practice to focus on what’s going well rather than what isn’t. It’s okay to have happy, trouble-free days. If you find yourself searching your mind for a reason your day was tough, stressful, or too busy, acknowledge the urge but let it go.
Better days are right around the corner, but you have to go look for them. Believe that you can live the life you want, and soon it will be your reality.