“Be what you are. This is the first step toward becoming better than you are.” ~Julius Charles Hare
I admit, I have a beautiful life. I don't mean to brag, but I love the life I have and there is no other life I'd rather live. This wasn't always my truth.
Many years ago, I didn't think I would one day have a beautiful life. I had a terrible attitude, a soul-sucking job that I occasionally enjoyed, superficially at best, and I pursued things that would always leave me feeling empty. It took me a long time and a lot of work to get to where I am.
Today, like everyone, I have my own struggles.
I have personal deficits that I'm aware need fine-tuning (or major overhaul). I'm susceptible to sadness, negative energy from others, and occasional feelings of helplessness about the troubles of the world. But I focus more on laughter, celebration, and the depths of life. Overall, life is beautiful.
I'm not talking about aesthetic beauty, although a beautiful environment can contribute to a beautiful life.
I'm talking about a deeper kind of beauty. One that you can't buy from a store. One that makes you feel excited about being alive, that allows you to be inspired and be an inspiration, that shows your connectedness to other human beings.
I would imagine that many of you who are already living a beautiful life have your own formula for getting there. But for those who are curious, here are my seven key steps:
1. Know thyself.
It sounds simple. In reality, it's challenging to do. It requires focused introspection, which can be difficult, as most of us have built layers of denial about ourselves. I suggest having a really honest assessment of yourself.
Explore all areas: your passions; your deepest desires and fears; what makes you proud, insecure, and ashamed; what work you'd love to do even without getting paid.
Learning about yourself can be a hugely emotional process, but if you approach it with honesty, you will find it cleansing and therapeutic. A good place to start is the Myers-Briggs test.
I would also suggest engaging someone you trust to help with this process. This person needs to be someone who knows you well, who understands your strengths and weaknesses and whose opinion you respect.
This person can help you determine whether what you believe to be true about yourself comes through to the outside world.
Maybe you love connecting with others, but others find you aloof. This exercise will help point to truths about yourself that aren't readily visible to the outside world as well as universal truths you may not be ready to accept.
2. Define what “beautiful life” means to you.
Let's assume we all know it's not material things that will lead us to a beautiful life. This is the part where you ask yourself what's missing in your life. Is it love? Is it happiness? Is it inspiration?
Here are some other suggested questions:
What am I filling my life with that I’d rather replace with other things? What is preventing me from taking action? Is it fear? Do I think I don't deserve it? Are these reasons good enough to get in the way of building a beautiful life? If you're being honest with yourself, your answer will be a resounding “no.”
3. Start working toward living a beautiful life.
Think about ways to attain what's missing or eliminate what's unnecessary. This is where all the adventures take place.
It will take some work as you step out of your comfort zone, but it can be a lot more fun than you ever imagined. Adventures are exhilarating. If you commit to this step, you will no doubt feel how exciting life can be.
For example, if you're looking for love, perhaps you'll let a trusted friend know that you would love to meet someone incredible. Maybe you’ll consider online dating. Maybe you’ll go out on blind dates or try speed-dating. It can be scary at first but most likely it will get easier with practice.
Another example, say, your life is filled with way too much activity. You’d like to scale back and have some breathing room. Start by saying “no” a little bit at a time. If you’d rather go to a yoga class, you should do so instead of going out for drinks with co-workers.
4. Appreciate where you are in this process.
Building a beautiful life can be a tough process at first. There will be starts, stops, and lots of tension along the way. But, as with anything, beginning is half the battle. If you've gone this far, you have made progress.
Go ahead and allow yourself to feel good about being at the halfway point to living a beautiful life!
5. Adjust your expectations.
The funny thing about being an active participant in building your beautiful life is that it's full of surprises. You may find that things you've determined to be true about steps one, two, three, and four have changed. By this time, you've likely gotten a taste of how beautiful life can be through adventures and new experiences.
If you find that this process is leading you somewhere different from what you envisioned, ask yourself if you want to refocus or continue down this path. Whatever you decide to do at this point, it's likely that you have learned a lot about what living a beautiful life means to you.
6. Count your blessings and be thankful for what you have.
This is a step that can be inserted at any part in this process. Chances are, if you remember to count your blessings, you're already living a beautiful life. What's also true is that once you count your blessings, you'll realize that life is, indeed, beautiful.
7. Live your beautiful life.
Go ahead. You deserve it.
*Disclaimer: There are countless people who lack basic material needs such as food, shelter, and clothing, and I believe that every human being should have their basics met before they can seize their chance to live a beautiful life. I also believe that helping them is an integral part of living a beautiful life.