zen habits : breathe

Lifestyle Redesign for the New Year

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Eugene Yiga of Varsity Blah.

Mind, body, heart, and soul: These four elements make us who we are. In order to fully explore our potential we need to constantly nurture all aspects of our lives. It’s not just about being “well-rounded” or balanced; it’s about being anchored in what really matters. And with another year already upon us, now seems as good a time as any to start making some serious change.

The Mind

Everything begins in the mind. Every skyscraper, every painting, and every custom-made Italian suit were once ideas in someone’s head. Without these ideas, nothing would exist. Without new ideas, nothing will ever change.

The problem is that most people stifle new ideas without ever giving them a chance to flourish. One of the biggest things that held me back in life was my limiting belief about what was possible. I was always talking about how I couldn’t do this or how I couldn’t be that. Is it really surprising to see that what I believed actually came true?

We all need to start seeing the world from a different perspective. That comes from going out everyday and keeping our eyes open to all the possibilities. It comes from learning new and exciting things that force us to stretch our minds and move outside our comfort zones.

Put practically, there are a lot of ways to do that. Turning off the TV would be a good start. Pick up a book, a newspaper, or a magazine that doesn’t have yet another celebrity’s drinking problem on the cover. Go to a museum, a gallery, an exhibit, a film festival, a theatrical production, a classical concert, or a jazz concert. Take a dance class, a cooking class, or even an investment class. Do a crossword puzzle. Do a jigsaw puzzle. Learn a language, learn an instrument, or plan an exotic holiday just for fun. Phew! I’m sure you get the idea.

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The Body

Healthy living has become increasingly popular recently. And that’s definitely a good thing. Regular exercise and a balanced diet leave us feeling (and looking) good. But not many people follow this advice.

What’s up with that? Why would anyone not want to invest in something they know will pay dividends a thousand times over? I guess it’s because most people simply have no reason. They think of all the hard work and sacrifice it takes and then simply give up in advance. That’s why it’s important to have a good reason in the first place. Why comes first; how comes second.

My reasons for living a healthy lifestyle are simple. I want to look as good on the outside as I feel on the inside. Keeping that in mind is the reason I’m able to exercise regularly, even on days I’d much rather stay cuddled up in bed. It’s also the reason I’m able to avoid all those tempting chocolate bars at the supermarket checkout, as much as is humanly possible!

Another aspect of taking care of my health has to do with stress management. There are three approaches I have as far as that goes. Firstly, I make a constant effort to become aware of my emotions. I do that by keeping a journal, which has become the perfect outlet for everything on my mind. Secondly, I make sure I’m well-rested. I do that by meditating every afternoon and by getting enough sleep at night.

But the best way I’ve found to deal with stress is to manage my time. Like I said in Work in Progress, it’s about taking care of the big things so the little ones take care of themselves and the really little ones don’t bother me at all. To do that, I ask three questions to decide whether or not to do anything.

Firstly: Does it have to be done at all? If it’s not really important, I don’t do it! Secondly: Does it have to be done by me? If someone else can do it instead, I let them! Thirdly: Does it have to be done today? If I can put it off until later, I do. (Of course this assumes it won’t be put off forever!) Ultimately, it’s about working on what matters, focusing on one thing at a time, and always remembering that life is not meant to be taken too seriously.

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The Heart

This aspect is all about relationships. It’s impossible to go through life without interacting with other people on a regular basis. And it’s also impossible to ever feel completely fulfilled without strong relationships. You can be the smartest, sexiest, and richest person in the history of the world. But without people to share that with, none of it will matter.

The people we spend our time with have a powerful effect on us. They change us, whether we’d like to admit it or not. More specifically, they tend to make us more like they already are. Whiney people create more whiny people. Interesting people create more interesting people. That’s why it’s important to spend time with the right people and not the wrong ones.

Now I’m not talking about right and wrong in the way only a comic book could do justice to. I’m talking about what’s right for you. That’s something we all need to figure out. By knowing what qualities you want to develop in yourself, you can figure out whether the people in your life are keeping you on track towards achieving that or are dragging you off course altogether.

Personally, I look for three qualities. The first is vision. This is about being ambitious, living life based on some sort of direction, and having the discipline to go out and make things happen. The second is passion. This is about being outgoing, showing a spontaneous side every now and then, and always knowing how to have fun.

The third (and definitely most important) is integrity. That means living a principled life. It’s about being tolerant of other people, honest in your actions, and always an independent thinker. It’s about developing complete security in who you are and what you have to offer the world. It’s about living your own life instead of letting other people live it for you.

So, what do you do once you’ve found the right people? You hang onto them, is what! I’ve lost a few too many great relationships just because I got too busy with stuff that didn’t even matter. That’s why I now keep a list of all my contacts in plain sight so that I’m forced to look at it everyday. Nowadays, there really is no excuse. All it takes is a quick text. What are you waiting for?

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The Soul

The fourth and final element of all people is the soul. This is what really matters. It’s about finding your purpose and then living it everyday. Many people seem to think their mission in life needs to be a spectacular quest to “save the world.” That’s not true. It doesn’t have to be huge; it just has to be something. And it has to be what’s right for you.

Life really becomes a whole new experience once you figure out what you were born to do. Getting up in the morning isn’t quite as difficult as it used to be. All those little things that used to drive you crazy don’t seem as annoying anymore. Everything becomes so much clearer and life definitely becomes a whole lot more enjoyable too.

So, how do you figure out what you are meant to do? A good place to start would be at the beginning. After looking at all the things I wanted to be when I was growing up, I noticed a pattern. All of them, from movie director to human rights lawyer, had to do with other people. I always loved being an entertainer. I loved using my sense of humor to cheer people up and ultimately make their lives a little better. That’s how I came to realize my mission in life is to uplift, inspire, and ultimately change the world.

I also realized that the only way I can bring about this change is through my own efforts. I need to live a life of integrity and passion. I need to live life at such a high level that those around me are inspired to do the same. It’s the reason I’m so committed to my health and my work. It’s the reason I wrote this book!

That basically means I go out everyday and spend my time doing things that add value to my life and the lives of other people. And there are tons of those. Every time I read a book, go running, or do a favor for a friend, I like to believe I make a small difference in the world. Silly as it may sound, I believe those things add value to my life and I believe that value gets passed on to everyone around me.

That’s my key to happiness. It’s just a case of living one day at a time and making sure every day counts. It’s about doing little things that have a huge impact. A smile here and a compliment there really go a long way! In the end you realize that happiness is a choice and that you might as well be happy because 99% of the time there’s no reason not to.

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Well, that’s all I have to say about the mind, body, heart and soul. I hope I’ve given you some ideas you can apply in your own life. And I really hope you’ll take the initiative to make whatever changes you feel the need to. All the knowledge in the world means nothing unless it’s applied. If you’d like to learn a bit more about the things I’ve talked about, I highly suggest “Get the Edge” by Anthony Robbins. It is without a doubt the best thing that ever happened to me. It completely changed my life and I know it can do the same for you.

To read more from Eugene Yiga, check out his blog, Varsity Blah. To download your completely free copy of the South African or International edition of Work in Progress, right-click and save the relevant link.

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