Life can seem complicated sometimes. Finding the right relationship, feeling happy, performing at work, managing to raise healthy children, caring for aging parents, and making a marriage work are just a few of the things you might be juggling individually or all at once. Sometimes you might be so busy that you forget to breathe and step back from the chaos long enough to remember where you are. Losing touch with time and place is not a natural part of life. It’s a chronic issue that has permeated our culture because we’re spending too much time on the things that deplete us and not enough on the things that sustain us.
As your list of things to do grows into a scroll-length document, you know deep in your heart that there are more important things for you to tend to that aren’t even on your list. You find yourself saying “time is flying by.” You speak about your days as being “busy” or “stressful.” You dangle from the monkey bars struggling to get to the next rung, but it’s getting harder and harder to hang on.
Shuffling through days, wondering where the time is going, and merely surviving instead of living are not healthy ways to exist. Consider this a wake-up call reminding you that your life is passing you by and that it’s time to become a participant instead of a bystander.
When life gets chaotic and busy, you stop paying attention to your own needs and slowly begin to forget what nourishes your soul. Getting connected to your core values and what’s most meaningful in your life requires a bit of excavation, but as you dig the shovel into the soil of your truth, you’ll realize what’s been buried and create the opportunity to unearth what’s gone dormant.
Many people blindly seek happiness or love in the hope of feeling better about the state of their lives, but what really brings transformation and change is the understanding of how to live your most authentic life. Authentic living brings your values and behaviors into alignment. More simply put, it’s when you’re doing what’s most important to you as often as possible.
Each journey toward authentic living is unique, but I’ve narrowed it down to five pieces of the life pie that have been shown to most profoundly deepen meaning and connection to the self.
Although we usually think of connection in terms of friends and family, it comes in many forms. You make connections daily every time you go out into the world. You connect with your animals, with nature, with strangers, and with yourself. A brief phone call, a moment of greeting, a nod of acknowledgment, and eye contact are all forms of connection that shape the way you feel and exist in the world. When you go hours or even days without an authentic form of connection, you’re depriving your soul of a much-needed nutrient. Make connecting a priority in your life by making time for friends and family, reaching out in the community, or simply taking a walk in nature.
It is an essential part of your well-being and life to spend time doing the things you love or that feed your mind, body, and soul. As a culture, we notoriously push our own needs to the bottom of the list, claiming that we can’t be selfish or that we don’t have the time. No one will advocate for your self-care except you. You need to take what’s rightfully yours, which is time for yourself. Even if you love being with your kids, and even if pleasing others brings you pleasure, this isn’t the same as giving to yourself what you need to feel whole.
In the simplest terms, renewal is a break. For most of us, the only time we get renewal is when we’re sleeping, and even that is limited in the busiest of times. It’s sad to think that in order to rest, we need to be unconscious; it doesn’t have to be that way. Making an active effort for renewal is a fundamental part of living authentically. You see renewal all the time in the natural world, such as when farms are cleared for a new harvest or when a forest fire burns acres of trees. Under the surface is new growth that can only rise up in the space that is cleared. Whether it’s a few moments of quiet time or a scheduled vacation, make time for renewal and replenishment in your life.
The notion of community is connected to many positive states of being, including happiness and a sense of meaning in one’s life. The feeling of belonging literally shapes the brain and promotes positive feelings. We perceive this just by spending time with family and friends, participating in clubs, and being part of a group. Community is the cornerstone of a healthy life because it offers a provision of support and an opportunity to experience the self in relation to something greater. Community needs to be high on your list of personal values because you wouldn’t be able to survive without it.
The grind of life takes us further and further away from the mystical. Whether it’s your religion or a spiritual sensibility related to something else in your life, connecting with the mysterious and unknown is invigorating and centering. Tied to faith, spirituality offers a grounded place within the self when things feel overwhelming or like they’re just too much. Think of it as your refuge or safe place to retreat to when things become hard.
Modern-day culture has all us of living overly individualized lives, which gives a false sense of personal sustainability. We live our lives like we’re on an island while denying the truth that we need much more.
It is only when we become clear about what we need, what we believe in deeply, what we stand for, and how we want to exist in the world that we can create a life that is not only honest but fulfilling.