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12 Ways to Live Deliberately: Plan Your Path

Here are 12 simple yet essential ways that you can live your life more deliberately and stop letting your destiny be decided for you.

1. Choose your work

This may sound overly simplified, but it is relevant none the less. There may be some of you who are exactly where you want to be, but I suspect that many are not. Whether you hate your job, like it but wish you were doing something else, or just don’t like your daily routine, it is up to you to actively change your circumstances.

I think that many of us have been burned in the past when we attempted to land our ‘dream job.’ We might feel as though we’ve ‘given it our all’ and just can’t do it. I’m here to tell you that if you settle now, you will feel stuck and unsatisfied for the rest of your life. This is not to say that ‘if you don’t do ____ you will never be happy.’ Instead I am just sharing a truth of the human heart. We are passionate beings that need to satisfy our visions of who we want to be, and if we settle for a version of ourselves that is below this standard, we will always live in regret.

2. Stop hanging out

‘Free Time’ is a wonderful thing. The only problem is that it is not actually free. One way or another, we had to earn it. I think it is essential for all of us to have downtime, even time where we are just watching the clouds go by. I would just like to encourage you to make sure that the results of this time spent are positive. Make sure that you are truly benefiting from it.  Because if you find that you are just wasting your time or ‘killing time,’ then you seriously need to re-think the way you relax.

3. Eat deliberately

Our diet has a tremendous effect on our health, not just the how long we live kind of health, but, more importantly, how we feel every hour of every day. So the next time you buy your food at the grocery store, try to think about what kinds of foods will help promote good, clean, consistent energy and all-around health.

4. Actively help others

There’s no question that we, as human beings, should help one another. This is a given. But if we aren’t actively doing so, we will not have a choice in how we want to help. This is a common area where our society doesn’t live deliberately. We just do our own thing and then hope to be in the right mindset when a need comes our way. This is often a cause for frustration.

The fact of the matter is we are not always ready to help. Maybe our health is bad or we’ve been overworked and just don’t have the energy. Do yourself a favor and actively help others when you are in your best condition. You will be more helpful to the receiving party and will enjoy the process much more.

5. Give yourself an allowance

Just like our time, our money will slip through our fingers if we let it. Most people will pay their bills before they do anything else. This is fine but not the best way to go. Almost every financial adviser you talk to will tell you to pay yourself first. If you don’t, you may never truly get paid. One common argument to this idea is that you may not have enough to pay your bills if you don’t pay them first. This can be true but is not as common as you may think.

Picture your money as a pizza with three slices. One slice is for essential items like your bills, another is for savings (paying yourself), and the last slice is for miscellaneous purchases. This miscellaneous area is full of things that you may not even remember buying—things like eating out or buying that $5 cup of coffee once or twice a week. By the end of the month these things add up and you will see that the money to pay yourself is usually there, it’s just being wasted instead of invested.

6. Have mini-tasks ready for unexpected downtime

Throughout the day we are presented with little bits of downtime, 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there. Not very much time on their own but noteworthy if added together. So instead of just ‘killing’ this time, try to come up with a few small tasks that can be worked on when the moment presents itself. If you do this, you will have found a great tool to chip away at larger tasks, a little bit every day.

7. Play hot potato with your To-Dos

One of my technology consulting clients uses my services to help him to be more productive. One of his struggles is in trying to stay on top of all his emails. He receives hundreds a week and always gets behind. What I taught him was to treat every email as a hot potato. Once it is passed to him, he has to pass it back as quickly as possible or he will get ‘burned.’

This analogy can be used in every area of productivity. It’s nothing new but is a great way to look at the tasks that come your way. All too often we let things get backed up and then feel overwhelmed as we try to play catch up. So instead of allowing this to happen, treat every new ‘to-do’ as another hot potato that needs to be taken care of right now. The more you get into this habit, the less behind you’ll be and the more productive you’ll become.

8. Cut the fat

One of the greatest enemies of living deliberately is clutter. These unnecessary objects in our lives prevent us from moving throughout our lives with a quick, light efficiency. Simplify now and create the necessary habits to stay streamlined. The lighter your load and the less ‘stuff’ you have to take care of, the more time and energy you’ll have to focus on the more important things in life.

9. Capture your memories

It’s widely known and accepted that life isn’t about the destination but about the journey itself. So why do we rush through this time without capturing the wonderful moments and memories that we encounter. Make it a high priority to take many pictures and keep many journals of your journey. Fifteen minutes a day is all it takes to capture some of the key experiences that you can later remember and share with future generations. This is also important for our ability to remember where we came from. Knowing where you’ve been will help you see how far you’ve come.

10. Get out of debt

Debt is slavery. You have to work off the money you owe or you’ll be in trouble. Of course I’m not talking about your mortgage or even most car payments. But taking out a loan so you can get a new ‘toy’ to play with is a big no-no. It’s not worth it. Just like clutter can cause resistance to your attempts to make progress in your life, so too can debt be a barrier to making the most out of your time and energy.

11. Physically push yourself

I could have said ‘exercise,’ but I don’t think this is accurate enough. Many of us may walk or run every other day or so and this is good. But I find that many of those same people aren’t really pushing themselves to get stronger and healthier. It’s easy to get comfortable in our exercise routines and stop breaking a sweat. We need to consistently push our bodies past this point of comfort to continue to reap the full benefits that come from exercise. And if you aren’t getting any kind of workout, well, then, start. Exercise is one of the best fuels for our motivation. Without it we are putting ourselves at a huge disadvantage.

12. Never stop learning

One of my clients is a 90-year-old writer who is sharp as a tack. When I first met her, I figured she was in her 70s, but even then she seemed to be no more than 50 years old in her mind. When I asked her how she stayed so sharp she replied, “I never stopped writing.” Our minds are muscles that need to be consistently worked out. Once we stop challenging them, they will only grow weaker.  Just like my client, never stop doing what you do.

You can be different! You can be one of the few that actually pursue your dreams with every intention of attaining them. You may not have total control over your destiny, but if you’re not deliberately living your life, you are just handing the keys over to someone else.

Adapted from by Eric Hamm. Eric writes about personal growth at his blog Motivate Thyself. 

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