If we take the time to spring clean our homes, wouldn´t it make sense to apply the same approach to our own lives? Spring cleaning is a popular time for donating old clothes and scrubbing visible surfaces but, at least in my childhood home, collecting crumbs and dust bunnies from places you’d never otherwise see was a big part of the effort. There’s a certain satisfaction that comes from knowing that your home is clean, and doesn’t just look that way. Plus, it’s a good way to keep unwelcome critters away.
It’s helpful to apply the same logic to your whole life, and periodically peek into the places you normally take for granted to do some routine maintenance. Here are some important things to check, in order to make sure you’re giving yourself the best shot at achieving your full potential during the rest of the year.
Also read: 5 Lifelong tips to feel happy in midlife
- Survey your circumstances.
The human brain’s natural, evolutionary preference for ease and familiarity can get us mired in situations that we wouldn’t actually choose if we had to do it over again. Ask yourself: if you could wave a magic wand and transform your life however you’d like, what would it look like? For now, don’t worry about whether the fantasy is realistic or achievable; give yourself permission to let the sky be the limit.
- Figure out what you need to do to achieve your ideal lifestyle.
Solutions can come later; the point of this exercise is to bring to conscious awareness to aspects of your life that are misaligned with your deeply-felt longings. Then you’ll have an idea where your efforts to create change in your life might yield the best bang for the buck.
- Understand what your intrinsic motivation is.
People often strive for things that are external to them, like making more money, or having more power or a nicer car. These are called extrinsic goals, and research shows that focusing on them can diminish your overall feelings of happiness and wellbeing. People who hold intrinsic goals—for instance, to be skilled, compassionate, fulfilled, or trustworthy—tend to be happier, regardless of how successful they are in achieving them.
- Tie your extrinsic goals to your intrinsic motivation.
For instance, if you’d like to make more money, a corresponding intrinsic goal may be to become more skilled at your job, or helpful to your coworkers. If you start making progress in those goals, it’s a win-win: your chances for making more money at work increase, and you’ll almost certainly feel happier and better about yourself in the meantime.
- Pinpoint who your role models are.
The best intrinsic goals arise from values that are genuinely important to you, but identifying those values may not come easily. Try making a list of people you admire, along with the qualities of theirs that you like so much. Perhaps generosity, honesty, or commitment to their craft? Whatever they are, their resonance with you probably means that you would enjoy having them, or having more of them, yourself.
- Don´t lose sight of your values and intrinsic goals.
Intrinsically-satisfying goals and your deeply-held values are durable. Keeping your sights set on them can help keep you stable and pointed in the right direction when inevitable short-term and day-to-day difficulties threaten to throw you off course.
- Nurture real-life relationships.
Other people serve as more than a point of reference in your life, of course: your relationships are crucial to your overall wellbeing. Online interactions with others do have a place in this discussion, but our senses, brain, and nervous system—working together in something called the “social engagement system”—are optimized for detecting, cultivating, and savoring in-person human contact. When your deepest human social needs are being met, this system produces short-term positive feelings and long-term psychological and physical health benefits.
- Figure out who or what your safe haven is in life.
We need to feel seen, heard, acknowledged, and cared for; to have the sense that someone is there to respond if we need help. We need people to support and help us feel capable of achieving our goals, while not making us feel dependent upon them. And we need to feel that, if things don’t work out, we have a safe harbor to return to, with them.
- Close the door on toxic people.
Such people may be obvious and intentional in their undermining of your efforts; others are more subtle. It can be helpful to assess how well your roster of relationships is meeting those universal social needs I mentioned. Also, compare the characteristics of your social contacts to those that your “admirable” people embody. Consider how any mismatches you find may be impacting your wellbeing now and, ultimately, your ability to achieve the kind of life you fantasize about.
- Be kind to yourself.
Using these tips will help you to take stock of who you are—the deepest, most genuine you—and what might be preventing that core part of you from gleaming. A little polishing might do the trick, or you may have to put in a bit more elbow grease. Sometimes, getting unstuck means making hard choices about your career, the people in your life, or any number of factors to which you’ve become accustomed.