Find the Sunshine in Your Life

Osteospernum: Two little stars emerge in the s...
Image by Mukumbura via Flickr

As I sit down to write this post, I find myself wanting to give you sunshine. Looking though my notebook of writing ideas the topics feel heavy to me – advice on how to survive, how to make do, how to become comfortable in uncomfortable times. But maybe what we need is simpler than that. Maybe we just need to reconnect to the little pleasures in our lives, those special people, things and events that already surround us.

As children it was easy to become absorbed in small pleasures. I remember spending entire afternoons in the hills near my home, exploring, playing, and finding new things. Fun was any place I could pretend was a house – I’d flatten tall grass, find a crook in our grapefruit tree, or sit in a hollow bush – anything to provide walls for my little tea parties.

It’s easy to get disconnected from the small delights in our lives, especially when we hear what sounds like dire news every day. Finding and enjoying these pleasures can provide warmth and texture to these precarious times.

Below is my “Sunshine List” for today – just a sample of what brings sunshine into my life:

  1. My breakfast, every day.
  2. A sunny walk at lunchtime with my daughter.
  3. Watching reality shows with my best friend.
  4. Taking a hot bath on a cold day.
  5. A coaching session where my client has an “ah ha!” moment.
  6. Elastic waistbands.
  7. Goofing around with my business partner when we’re supposed to be working.
  8. My house, especially when it’s clean.
  9. Finishing an article that I believe really captures what I want to communicate.
  10. Seeing my cat roll around in ecstasy just because I walked in my front door.

 

What puts the sunshine into your life?

Take a moment, put your feet up, and grab a pencil and paper and create your own Sunshine List.   Once you’ve created your list, what can you do with it?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Post it where you’ll see it every day and make sure you do at least one thing on your list daily
  • Each day add a new item to your list
  • Create a whole new list of 10 items every day for a week
  • If your list includes loved ones like mine does, share your list with them and suggest they write one of their own
  • Even if you don’t do another thing with your list, be aware of the things that add pleasure to your day and add them to your mental Sunshine List

It’s important not to get lost in the tension of everyday life. Staying connected with the small things that make us happy builds a storehouse of pleasure that can provide balance when troubles or worries strike. Take a look at your list – how many things on it are available to you every day? How many items on your list not only give you pleasure, but also give joy to someone else?  Our lists are filled with rich pleasures that increase the quality of our lives and of those around us.

Embrace Your Whole Life

Dad and daughter
Image by Peter Werkman via Flickr

How would it be to open your arms and embrace your whole life, to take a fresh peek in every corner, explore every dream, pay attention to everyone and everything that matters to you.  What would it be like to expand your focus to all segments of your life, not just the few areas that feel important to you right now?

It’s so easy for life to get lopsided.  As we struggle to accomplish what we want – get that degree, move up the corporate ladder, raise our children – we can get so caught up in what we’re focusing on that we ignore other meaningful areas of our lives.  We end up missing out on the richness of life, the dessert of life that comes after the meat and potatoes of day-to-day living.

A great way to expand your vision is to use what I call The Whole Life Inventory.  The inventory provides a snapshot of all aspects of your life, giving you information on how satisfied you really are.

Create An Action Plan

Here’s how:

  1. On a piece of paper list the following eight life areas:  Career, Health, Money, Friends and Family, Fun and Recreation, Physical Environment (your house, town, etc), Significant Other/Romance, Personal Growth (includes spirituality).
  2. Rate each area of a scale of 1 – 10 with 1 being unfulfilled, and 10 being very fulfilled.  This reflects how satisfied you are with each area in your life.  Write the scores next to each area.
  3. Next, rank each area by how important it is to you, giving the most important area a 1, the next most important area a 2 and down to the least important area which would get an 8.  Write the ranking next to the scores.
  4. Take a look at your inventory, what do you notice?  Are there any areas that scored high in importance and low in satisfaction?  These are the areas that you may be neglecting, areas that you know are important but can’t seem to find time for.
  5. For those areas that scored high in importance and low in satisfaction, ask yourself “What would make this area fulfilled, what would make it a “10”?  For example, if “Family and Friends” is important to you, but you have a low satisfaction score, examples of things that might make the area a “10” could be to seek out friends with interests similar to yours, spend more time with your children, or schedule more frequent visits with relatives.
  6. Now it’s time to act!  Identify one action step for each area you identified in step 5 and schedule time for the activities in the next few weeks. Some people may feel overloaded at this point, so keep the steps as small as necessary and give yourself enough time.  Just remember that as long as you’re working on one action step you’re making progress!

It’s refreshing and invigorating to step back and look at your whole life.  If you’re like most of us, there are things you love that you’ve been neglecting.  Spending more time with loved ones, exploring a hobby that invigorates you, creating a plan to improve your career or earn extra money – this is the most direct route to adding richness and depth to your life.