This year has been one of the hardest for many of us. The norms that we have come to get used to have been upended by a virus that has swept across the globe.
One of the effects of coronavirus is that it has made us contemplate life and the way we lead it. Being locked down in our houses for months gave us time to reflect and ponder about how we live and the world we inhabit.
I know this was the case for me. I spent a lot of lockdown thinking about life and how it can change for worse and better. This time to reflect made me realise that some things in life are important, while others are less so.
It’s easy to fall into routines and habits that don’t benefit us. This has happened to me on multiple occasions and sometimes it takes a big benefit to shake you out of your stupor.
I don’t claim to be a self-help guru or the reincarnation of the Buddha, all that I am relaying in this article is what has worked for me this year and in times before that.
I believe that this advice can make a difference in your life and make you ponder the road you’re going down. All of us have space for improvement. None of us are the finished article.
Take a read of these ten pieces of advice and consider whether you can add them into your life and whether you need to make a change. That’s all I ask. As Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”
Drink more water
Hardly any of us drink as much as we should. Considering our bodies are 60% water, we should be drinking more to help our body and mind work optimally.
All of this points to the importance of keeping yourself hydrated no matter whether you’re performing mental or physical tasks. The reality is, a lot of us don’t drink enough water. It’s estimated that the average American drinks 1.8 cups of water a day, which is less than the recommended 8 cups a day.
The message is clear, we need to drink more water. An easy trick I use to drink more water is to keep a glass of water nearby when I’m working. This way I can just reach out and take a swig when I want to and not have to head to the kitchen to get a drink when I’m thirsty.
Start drinking more water, and you’ll notice that you’ll feel better, have higher energy levels and your skin will start to look better too. Staying hydrated is key if you want to lead the best life you can.
Your time is everything
Time is a depreciating asset. Every day we have less and less of it without knowing when it will expire. A paradox of life is thinking that we have all the time in the world when it’s always running out.
Every second, minute, day and week is one less that we’ll have in the future. This false belief that we have plenty of time left to do what we want can lead to inertia and a lack of action.
This is why it’s important to take control of your time and not let it take control of you. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, but not all of us it in the same way.
Make the most of the time you have on this planet, you’ll regret it if you don’t.
Consider your mortality
Related to the point above, it’s important to consider that you will die at some point. Death is an inevitability and too many of us shy away from this. Instead, we should embrace this eventuality and use it to fuel our lives and make the most of the time we have on Earth.
It’s a grim prospect to consider your death, but we should. I’ve had two near-fatal incidents while cycling to and from work, which made me realise the fragility of life. I was seconds away from dying or becoming a vegetable for the rest of my days.
It was a big wake up call which made me realise that there is no guarantee I’ll make it to old age and that one day I will depart this Earth. When we consider our mortality we realise that we are here for our short time, so we must make the most of that time before it’s too late.
As Benjamin Franklin said, ‘Some people die at 30, but aren’t buried until they are 80.’
Don’t be afraid to admit you were wrong
At some point in our lives, we will be wrong. It’s inevitable. In this day and age, it’s harder and harder for people to admit they were wrong. This leads to regression and cognitive dissonance which stunts growth.
Pride is a dangerous emotion to have. It’s good to be proud of what we’ve achieved, but if you’re too proud to admit you were wrong, you’ll struggle to make or keep friends, and you’ll struggle to make progress.
Accepting that we are fallible, that we are only human and mistakes are inevitable is a core tenet of being a human. No one will go through life without making a bad decision or getting something wrong.
By owning up to our mistakes we accept that we can improve, we accept that we were wrong and that we can use these moments to become better. If you think you’re infallible and perfect, then you’ll slowly become the opposite of how you see yourself.
Take responsibility and own up to your mistakes and failures.
Your health is everything
As we’ve seen living through a pandemic, it’s easy to take your health for granted. But when it’s put in danger, you realise how important it really is.
A healthy body is advantageous in many ways. It allows you to perform physical tasks with ease, you’re less likely to catch diseases and you’ll look good too.
You only have one body. You’ll never live anywhere else other than the body you reside in right now. So it makes sense to take care of it. If you don’t make your health a priority, it will become a priority.
Take care of your body, exercise, eat good food. Your body is the only one you’ll ever get. If you don’t look after it, it won’t look after you.
Get better bit by bit
Success doesn’t happen overnight, it’s an accumulation of gains over a long period. The Beatles practised for years before they became the biggest band in the world. They didn’t just start playing one day and record Hey Jude the next. It was due to years and years of toil.
This is what a lot of us miss when we look at success. We see the person fully formed and assume they were always this way. What we don’t see is all the effort that went on behind the scenes.
We don’t see the moments of doubt when they wondered if they would succeed. The hours and hours of deliberate practice with little pay off and the times when they wanted to pack everything in and quit.
The path towards success isn’t linear, it zigs and zags. However, if you aim to become a little bit better every day, you’ll get to where you want to be eventually. Sure, you’ll have some setbacks, but if you keep pushing forward, they’ll become specks in your rearview mirror.
Try and improve by 1% every day. After a year, you’ll look back and realise how far you’ve come.
Be careful about who you listen to
One of the biggest problems in our age is the proliferation of ‘gurus’ on the internet. With platforms like Twitter and Facebook, anyone can command an audience of thousands.
The majority of these people are not worth listening and can drag us down if we do. Question what you read and what you believe, if you see something on Twitter and Facebook, question it even more.
The problem with social media is that anyone can gain a following regardless of whether they are an expert in the field they purport to be or not. You only have to browse through Twitter, and various channels on YouTube to understand how random people can suddenly end up talking to millions of people across the globe.
This creates a fertile climate for misinformation. Fake news has been shown to travel six times faster on Twitter than real news. It’s clear that we’re swimming in a sea of information and not every life jacket is dished out to help us.
That’s why you must moderate who you listen to. Prune your social media of dubious ‘commentators’ and read books from respected individuals in the field you want to learn more about instead.
Your attention is a prized asset. Don’t give it to people who don’t have your best intentions at heart.
Travel by yourself at least once
Solo travel is one of the best ways to find out more about yourself. It’s an experience that changed my life and made me realise that I could look after myself and thrive in a different environment.
The realisation that you can survive by yourself in foreign countries is empowering and will give you the confidence to tackle life head-on. I remember feeling this way after my first solo trip to Australia.
I was terrified on the flight out there. Scared that I’d now have to look after myself on the opposite side of the planet. Yet, once I landed and got used to my surroundings, I was fine. It was the best time of my life, and I have done many more solo trips since.
When you travel by yourself, you realise that you’re more capable than you realise. Sure, it can be difficult at times, but most of the limitations we face are ones we arbitrarily put on ourselves. If you can overcome difficulties while you’re by yourself in a foreign country, you can conquer anything.
At least once in your life, travel somewhere new by yourself. The experience will teach you a lot and open your eyes up to the world.
Less is more
Do you need all of the possessions you own? Do they make your life simpler? Easier? Most of the stuff we own is clutter and ends up owning us in the end. We don’t need much to be happy.
When I went backpacking in Australia, I took a minimum of items in my backpack. Clothes, shoes, my phone and a few extras. I wasn’t sure how I’d survive with so few items, but it was much easier than I thought.
I had left the majority of my possessions behind in England and after a few months, I found that I wasn’t yearning for any of them, save for my bike. I realised that I could be happy and fulfilled with owning every new piece of tech, or the latest car.
The problem with possessions is that if you’re not careful, they’ll end up owning you. An extended break from all that you own will make you realise that you need very little to make you happy in life.
Before buying something, ask yourself if you really need it. If the answer is no, keep your money and spend it on something that you truly need.
We are blessed to live on a beautiful planet. The only place in the universe that we know of that can host life. The chances that we even exist are infinitesimally small. This is a basic truth of life.
It’s a miracle we’re alive, yet we complain and moan about all sorts of things. While this has its place, it’s important to step back and realise how lucky we truly are. Most of us lead a life that was unimaginable one hundred years ago.
Sure, it’s not perfect, and many things need to be fixed. But it’s better than what most of humanity has ever known. We inhabit a beautiful world, full of natural wonder, incredible animals, and other inspiring humans.
It’s easy to look at the negatives, but sometimes it’s harder to appreciate what you have in front of you. Focusing on the positives will make you realise how blessed we are to be alive on planet Earth.
A little about gratitude now and then goes a long way.