Keys to a Life Well Lived

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday I want to encourage you to remember five critical keys to a life well lived. If you apply this advice daily to your life I’m confident that you will derive more joy and happiness this season than ever before. I challenge you to…

LIVE SIMPLY! We have been conditioned to want more of everything in order to satisfy our needs and desires. But I challenge you to take a courageous look at all the “stuff” you have in your life and ask if it is a benefit or if it is a burden. Some things we own create a need to store, maintain, and insure, which takes time, energy and money. Other things we think we need create clutter, which produces stress. Do you really need a separate set of dishes for every holiday and season? Do you really need every obscure tool in the Harbor Freight catalog? Do you really need to hold on to every book you ever read? Another challenge to simplify is learning to say “No” sometimes. Carefully consider the activities, social events and obligations that are most important to you and your family, and give yourself some down time in between. Sometimes you will have to say “No” to good things to make room for the best.

LOVE GENEROUSLY! When all is said and done, the most important thing we have in life is our relationships. And you don’t have to be an extroverted party animal with 1,000 friends in order to enjoy loving, satisfying relationships. People do not come into your life by accident – they are a gift. Love them in whatever way they need, whether it’s a simple phone call to let them know they’re important to you, or practical help in their time of need, or a voice of reason, rebuke or encouragement when they’re in trouble. I would challenge you to love others even when they aren’t able to reciprocate in a way you would like. Think of the welfare of other people when you make decisions. Generous love may mean telling your children they can’t have something they really, really want because it is not ultimately good for them. When dealing with other people, ask yourself, “What is the most loving thing I can do?” and do it.

CARE DEEPLY! A satisfying life is virtually never centered on yourself. Food, entertainment, travel and toys are all enjoyable, but they do not provide the meaning and purpose that a well-lived life requires. I challenge you to ask yourself what larger purpose you have been uniquely called, designed and equipped to fulfill. Consider carefully what is most important to you or what tugs at your heart, and find a way to make a difference. If you are heartbroken to think of children – or even animals – who don’t have loving homes, find out what you can do about it. Not everyone can adopt or foster, but you can help the organizations who are doing that work. If you have a heart for helping people learn to read, sign up as a tutor. If you are angry about injustice, learn ways to become part of the solution. If you are passionate about making a difference and doing something to contribute, I guarantee your life will be more meaningful that you could ever imagine.

SPEAK KINDLY! None of us can go through life without experiencing disagreement or even anger with other people. Conflict cannot be completely avoided, but unkindness can. In the heat of disagreement, make every effort to avoid demeaning the other person with name-calling, insults, or attacks on their character or competence. Instead, make a commitment to speak kindly to everyone. Heartfelt expressions of concern, compliments, and sincere affirmations are soothing to hurting people and uplifting to the discouraged. You can choose to infuse your life with positive thoughts and feelings by challenging yourself to think of kind things to say to everyone you encounter. A lot of people complain to the grocery store cashier, but you can be the one who says, “Thank you” with a genuine smile. Think of how your home life might improve if you and your spouse made the effort to verbalize what you appreciate about each other and thank one another for big and small contributions to the family. “I appreciate how hard you work.” “Dinner was delicious – thank you!” “I’m so impressed with how you handled that situation.” Kindness often yields a great return on investment and can multiply as you give it away. I challenge you to try that, and promise you’ll love the results.

BE GRATEFUL! The essence of gratitude is appreciating what you have instead of focusing on what else you want. Recognizing the daily, even mundane, blessings we enjoy helps immensely with our satisfaction in life. Stop to think for a minute about the luxury it is to be able to take a hot shower, to own a refrigerator so you can keep your food fresh, to have an electronic device that connects you to the world (you wouldn’t be reading this blog without one!) Think about the gift of your five senses and the ability to read. Think about how blessed you are if someone loves you. If you have a home, transportation and enough to eat, you are rich beyond much of the world. Bigger, shinier and fancier things are not the key to the well-lived life. Being grateful for every breath, every day of good health and every opportunity to live life to the fullest will allow you one day to look back and be satisfied that you made the most of the life you were given. Always be grateful, and you will always have what’s most important – a well-lived, satisfying life.

“The richest people in the world are not the ones who have the most, but the ones who need the least.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

Live, Work & Relate Well!

Dr. Todd

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