Dear Future Self,
Today I want you to tell you that life is not a binary system. It’s not 1 or 0.
Calling, purpose — name it whatever you like. The more mornings you wake up striving to build the self-awareness habit, you will realize that there are more than one thing that makes you happy in the truest sense and adds meaning to your life.
In fact, in my 27-year journey so far, I have found that the most accessible way to create meaning in one’s life is by exercising one’s health and well-being.
And I’m not solely talking about a lean, muscular, toned body. That is one part of the whole well-being equation and a great place to start.
I want you to imagine a tree with its various branches. That’s your well-being and the branches are the different aspects of your well-being.
You get to choose and nurture your own branches.
During my research in how to create a meaningful life, I found that the following branches are a must.
Ignore one and you’ll soon find yourself in the chasm where hopelessness, worries, and depression dwells.
So let’s start with the first branch which is your…
- Physical Well-Being — No matter what, take great care of your physical body. Because in the end, that’s the only place you’ve got to live.
In fact, here’s a question for you — if you had a million-dollar race horse and if you kept it up late at night, and let it drink booze and smoke cigarettes, and live on refined carbs and processed food — how many races would your horse win?
If you’re still wondering, then let me tell you this — you have a million-dollar body and you are here to win the race of life. That’s a truth I hope you’ll remember for long.
Here are some rules I want you to live by to strengthen your physical well-being everyday —
→ Eat real foods. Ensure your digestion is strong. Manage your energy. Become a kid again and start moving.
→ Stay away from man-made food-like substances — the people who make them don’t care about your well-being. It’s all about the bottom line.
→ In fact, a good rule of thumb whenever you get confused on what to eat, just stick to Michael Pollan’ platitude— “Eat Whole Foods. Mostly Plants. Not too much.” Use this rule along with the 80/20 principle i.e. eat whole foods 80 percent of the time and then you may choose how the remaining 20 percent looks on your plate throughout the week — you’ll do great with your physical health and vitality.
But I do want you to remember that the above 20 percent of your diet will also determine how long you get to live and enjoy your well-being on earth.
Any time you find yourself breaking these rules, ask yourself this question — does this act of indulging in addictive foods and not exercising inspire me or expire me?
This will help you break that negative pattern and get back to strengthening your physical well-being.
Now let’s move on to the next branch. That is your…
- Mental Well-Being — The day you stop growing is the day you start dying. The simplest and cheapest way to exercise and strengthen your mental well-being is by forming the reading habit.
Pick one book in a field you’re curious about and then read it. Curiosity will make you want to know more and if you’re curious about the good things, you’ll end up creating meaning.
Remember what you read in Man’s Search for Meaning –
“What matters is not the meaning of life but the specific meaning you attach or give to an experience or task at any given moment.” — Viktor Frankl
And then try to stay away from news. That’s junk food for your brain. Rather use that free space to create more room for new knowledge that will enable you to come up with new ideas and create new things.
Here are 3 basic rules I want you to remember to keep strengthening your mental well-being –
→ Never stop learning and share what you learn with others so that you reinforce that knowledge to your brain
→ Keep brainstorming ideas daily because this habit helps to flex your brain muscles which otherwise would get atrophied. (Good rule of thumb — you should have 10x more bad ideas before you have that 1 big idea that will pull you to take massive actions).
→ Creativity is not for the selected few. You can and must start creating something out of nothing because that’s what exercises your brain’s pre-frontal cortex where your genius resides.
While you take care of your physical and mental well-being, I also want you to give great attention to your…
- Emotional Well-being — Harvard researchers did the longest study on what creates lasting happiness and meaning in life.
The answer — long-lasting relationships. So be mindful of your important relationships. Nurture them by having honest conversations with them.
Remember that the power of vulnerability will make you stronger and not weak.
Here are a few routines to incorporate in your life –
→ Every quarter, spend some time to assess the people you spend most of your time with. The people who inspire you or challenge you to become a better person — these are the relationships you want to invest more of your time.
→ Stop spending time with the extreme complainers or people who drain all your energy down.
→ Talk to your parents because one day they will die and you don’t want to have regrets of not having talked with them during their last days.
→ Laugh every day. Try some stand-up on Netflix or Saturday Night Live on days you’re struggling to laugh.
Now that you know what to do with your body and your mind, I want you to also focus on your…
- Spiritual Well-Being —Remember that spirituality is different from religion. What ever you believe about religion, practice it.
As for strengthening your spiritual well-being, do this simple routine of asking yourself this key question every day –
→ What am I grateful for this morning?
Think of the relationships and the opportunities in your life that you’re grateful for. Think of an object that is close to you or something that happened yesterday that you can be grateful for.
Flex your gratitude muscles and you will create joy and fulfillment without spending a single dime.
→ Pray and you will exercise your spiritual well-being as it brings peace to your spirit. Pray to the sun, pray to the Lord, pray in front of your idols, the wall, or sit on your chair and pray to the energy of the universe.
→ Remember to breathe because it activates your para-sympathetic nervous system. This keeps your grounded and help build the mindfulness habit.
→ Meditate the way it works best for you.
Lastly, enjoy the small wins in your journey because that will enliven up your spirit for the good.
Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. These are the 4 branches that you can imagine as the 4 pillars that will help you to stand up straight and hold a strong ground.
Now guess what’s the spring board to your 4 pillars that will help you to expand your knowledge, energy, passion and share your work with the whole world? That branch is your…
- Financial Well-Being — I want you to remember that while money might not be everything, it ranks high up close to oxygen — you need it to stay alive and grow.
The more money you have, the more of who you already are comes out. So don’t think that money will make you bad. Rather use it as a tool to create and share all the good you want to do while you’re alive.
But don’t spend all your time and energy only thinking about getting rich. Rather answer what is the lifestyle you want and then do the math of how much it’ll take to make that happen. Once your’re aware of your number, ask yourself –
What can I do to generate ____________?
How can I go from my current net worth to _________?
This simple habit of asking open-ended How- and What-type questions will give you all the answers you seek.
Financial freedom is a worthy gift you can give to your family. So never get comfortable by how much you make. Rather focus on leveraging the money you make to work for you.
These are the 5 branches of health and well-being that I hope you’ll keep nurturing and growing every day.
There are 2 human needs that I also want you to remember because they will help you to create lasting fulfillment in your life.
The first is the human need for…
→ Growth — Each quarter, do an assessment to see if you’re growing or not. If you’re not growing, you’re dying.
But as long as you continue to grow, you will realize there’s so much more to learn, to do, and to create, that one lifetime will feel short.
The second is the need for…
→ Contribution — The secret of living is giving. Period!
At times when you are unable to give back in dollars, give through your time, your skills, your companionship, your service, your humor, your laughter.
But no matter who and where you are, you can contribute.
On some occasions, it might take some creativity from your part to give. But don’t let that stop you for enjoying the true joy of giving and contribution.
That’s all I’ve got to say. This is the information that will take you a long way while helping you to create a meaningful and fulfilled life.
→ Strengthen your physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and financial well-being.
→ Keep growing, keep contributing.
Life is an amazing gift. Make sure you get the best out of it as long as you get to live it.
Now time to keep moving forward.
You create an awesome every day! Okay?
Your Present Self,
— Ankurman Shrestha
Originally published at medium.com