2018 has been a year of seeing many people around me turn the page on their final chapter of life. Witnessing the deaths of those around me, young and old, has ushered in some reflection on life and the value of each day. While the conversation of death seems to be painful (understandably) for who experience the loss directly, speaking about it is also like “walking on eggshells” for those less directly involved. I empathize with those who are struggling with the loss, as I have experienced it myself. But, I believe avoiding the conversation rids us the opportunity to enjoy the great memories and celebrate life.
With this conversation as a backdrop in my mind, I’ve become increasingly determined to live my life in a way that creates as many memories and successes as I can. I’ve come up with the following five simple actions that I’ve found consistently produce the most lasting, enjoyable memories:
Accomplish one substantive goal daily
A significant contributor to happiness is the feeling associated with accomplishment. I mentioned in a recent article that I often enjoy simple tasks like mowing the lawn because of the rush I experience when I set a goal and see it completed. A Psychology Today article furthers the point saying, “Accomplishments and know-how can’t be handed out or downloaded into someone’s brain…. They must be earned through individual effort. It is the endeavor that generates a sense of pride and inward esteem.”
Beyond contributing to happiness and self-esteem, if you look back at the last ten years of life, what do you remember most? Most likely, you will recall a handful of challenges, but many of the vivid memories will be accomplishments and achievements. So how to does one make sure this happens daily? Rather than wake up, roll over, and check your emails, texts, or social media, take a minute to jot down one significant thing you want to accomplish that day—then, do it!
Be present with others
While phones are important in communication and organization, I cannot recall any fond experience between just my phone and me. In fact, I struggle to remember any specific instances of using my phone. According to research by Business Insider, the average American spends over two-and-a-half hours on their phone a day. If the relationship with a phone provides no real value, yet the average person spends a tenth of their days using them, doesn’t it make sense to use them less?
Rather than spending precious time engrossed on a phone, invest more time in building relationships with others. If you are with someone, put away the phone and focus on developing the relationship. If alone, rather than mindlessly browsing on a phone, make a phone call to an old friend and catch up. Invest time in relationships that will offer future memories and current happiness.
Do something you love daily
While not every obligation in life will be “peachy,” life will be happier when doing something we enjoy every day. This may be in the form of reading recreationally, playing some tennis, or learning how to cook something new. Ultimately, among the many time commitments and responsibilities of your life, carve out time to do something that you love.
My wife and I stay busy running the businesses we own and trying to keep up with our teenage daughters. While both are lofty time commitments, my wife still takes time (almost) daily to get herself onto a golf course. This time invested in something she loves brings increased satisfaction with life, improved performance in other facets of her life, and supports the continuation of her skills.
The benefits of expressing gratitude are nearly endless, and each benefit ties closely with making fond memories and promoting happiness. Some of the benefits include improved relationships, increased mental health, and elevated self-esteem, to name a few. When expressing gratitude, both the giver and recipient benefit. I can still recall specific moments where someone I respected expressed their appreciation for me.
Expressing gratitude also facilitates new relationships. Multiple studies have shown that expressing gratitude during the initial moments of interaction can catalyze a strong and healthy relationship. Whether this is applied in a personal or business setting, developing meaningful relationships is one of the critical parts of creating memories.
Get out in nature
In advocating for getting out in nature, I am not suggesting the need to take up fishing or remote backpacking. Instead, I am suggesting taking time regularly to enjoy the feeling of sunshine and fresh air in your lungs. Deeply rooted in human nature is a connection with the outdoors. A study done in Sweden showed that people begin to feel “psychologically restored” in only fifteen minutes of being outside. The benefits are not just psychological, however; the study also showed that humans are more empathetic, creative, and engaged when reconnecting with nature. So, whether you scale the nearest peak or take a walk around your neighborhood, the simple connection with nature will provide rejuvenation and fond memories.
Life is to be enjoyed. While death can be tragic, challenging, and scary, the time between now and that unknown and unavoidable should be taken advantage of. At the day where others speak about my death, I hope for an open conversation that celebrates the memories, relationships, and accomplishments of my life. Through the simple actions of accomplishing goals daily, being present with others, doing what one loves, expressing gratitude, and getting out in nature, I’m confident I’m securing the most memories for my future.