Have you ever wondered what you’ll think about at the end of your life? What memories will you think of? What will you regret? What changes can you make now to live a more meaningful life?
While there will always be things we regret, we can also take steps to make our lives more meaningful. By pondering the things people typically regret at the end of their lives, we can find common themes that show us ways to live a more fulfilling life.
When we put these ideas into practice, we learn how to live life to the fullest. Here are (in no particular order) seven practical steps you can take to live your life with purpose.
1. Prioritize your work-life balance
“Working too hard” is one of the top regrets of people at the end of their life. While there’s nothing wrong with hard work and ambition, overworking yourself will take its toll – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Whether your job is your passion or just a way to keep food on the table, balancing work and life can help you feel more rested, reduce stress, improve your performance at work, and boost your overall mental health.
Finding the balance between work and life can be challenging, but remember that work-life balance is an ongoing process. Some weeks, finding balance may be easy, while other weeks may require more thought and intentionality. But there are some small steps you can take to improve your work-life balance, like:
- Saying no to extra work commitments
- Using your time off and legally required breaks
- Unplugging from devices for an hour at home
- Doing things that help you rest
Work-life balance looks different for everyone, so find what works for you and helps your life feel more meaningful. Even small changes can make a significant impact.
2. Spend more time with loved ones
Along the same lines, many people regret not spending more time with their loved ones. We often fall into the trap of thinking that our family and friends will always be there, but in reality, we only have a limited time with those we love. That’s why it’s so important to cherish time with family, whether with your parents, siblings, spouses, children, or friends who are your “found family.”
Plus, spending time with your loved ones can improve your mental health and help you cope with stress by providing a stronger support system. While spending quality time with your family may be difficult if everyone is busy with their own things, be intentional about carving out time together. Eat a meal together at least once a week. Do chores together while singing to your favorite music. Plan a tech-free family game night. Go to community events. Spend some time outdoors playing games or hiking.
Whatever you choose to do, intentionally set aside time together and prioritize it – try not to let anything interrupt your time. Both you and your family will benefit from your time together.
3. Don’t be afraid to take risks
What holds you back from taking risks? Uncertainty? Fear of failure? While caution and restraint can be good, they can also keep you from exploring new opportunities. Our instinct is often to play it safe and stay in our comfort zone. But if you refuse to take risks, you miss out on many amazing things life has to offer.
Whether you try out skydiving or get up the courage to talk to your crush, getting comfortable taking risks can open up new opportunities and boost your confidence. If you find yourself struggling to take risks, start small. Try out a new hobby or compliment a stranger at the store. Don’t be afraid to ask for support and advice from someone you trust.
And remember that taking risks is different from making bad choices! Not all risks are worth taking, and don’t let anyone pressure you into taking a risk that may harm you or someone else. For a few more tips on assessing risk, visit this article.
4. Be yourself
How often do you worry about what other people think of you? In a world where we’re afraid to be judged, many people struggle to be themselves. From the outfits we wear to how we talk and the media we consume, it’s tempting to try to create a version of ourselves that we think people will like.
But you can’t please everyone, and the harder you try to, the more you lose sight of who you are and the more unfulfilled you’ll feel. Instead of trying to please others, embrace what makes you unique! When you choose to be your authentic self, you can build deeper relationships with the people who truly matter and who love you for who you are.
While you may find this hard initially, you can take small steps to grow more comfortable being yourself. Check out these practical tips for building your confidence and embracing who you are.
5. Keep in touch with friends and distant family
A common regret many people have at the end of their lives is losing contact with their friends. Our relationships with others are a part of who we are; the people we choose to care about shape us in unique ways. When someone we love moves away or our life circumstances change, it can be easy to drift apart and lose contact.
Sometimes, once a relationship starts to fade, it gets harder and harder to reconnect. But there are many ways to bridge that gap and keep your friendships going, even if they look different. Share a funny video you think they’ll enjoy. Send them a card on their birthday. Write them a letter. Text or call to check in with them. Read the same book or watch the same movie and talk about it. Plan a trip to visit them.
Above all, don’t be afraid to reach out. Your friends will most likely be excited to hear from you, and even though your relationship may look different, you can still support and encourage each other.
6. Give back to others
In our busy lives, it’s easy to stay focused on ourselves. But taking time to think about, care for, and give back to others can improve your mental health and help you feel a greater sense of purpose. In fact, 94% of people who volunteer say that volunteering boosts their mood. Even simple acts of kindness can increase your happiness and self-esteem and help your life feel more meaningful.
By taking time out of your day to do something nice for someone else, you divert your attention from your own problems and channel your energy into something that benefits others. You don’t have to do anything big, either! You can compliment a stranger or give someone a card with a sweet message. Let someone merge in traffic. Volunteer at your local soup kitchen or food bank. Give a family member a hug.
There are hundreds of ways, big or small, that you can give back. Check out this page for inspiration or come up with your own idea!
7. Enjoy the small things
How often do you find yourself longing for the weekend or anticipating your upcoming vacation, wishing the days would go by faster? While these moments of rest are worth looking forward to, focusing only on the next big event can make you lose sight of the beautiful, everyday moments.
Taking time to enjoy the little things in life can help you appreciate what you have and feel more satisfied with your life. Building an “attitude of gratitude” helps create a positive mindset, improves your outlook, and gives you a new perspective.
Enjoying the little things looks different for everyone. You could take a few minutes to enjoy your coffee outside in the sunshine or cuddle your cat. Embrace a child’s goofiness and act out a story with them. However you choose to enjoy the small things, cherish those beautiful moments you experience every day.
As you consider these ways to create a life that feels more meaningful, don’t stress about making the “perfect” life. Instead, think about what you want from life and what’s most important to you. A meaningful life doesn’t look the same for everyone, and what works for one person may not work for everyone. Most importantly, take everything one day at a time. Change doesn’t happen overnight, so focus on making small daily choices to create a meaningful life.