There are lots of reasons to want to live a better life. Maybe you’re successful on paper, but you feel like something is missing. Perhaps you’re always looking for ways to improve what’s going on in your life. Maybe there’s something you’d like to pursue to realize a dream finally.
Whatever the reason, there are proven strategies for living a better life in a variety of areas. You might hack just one area of your life or consider something bigger in pursuit of the most meaningful life you can manage. Whatever you decide, there’s a method that can help.
Let’s take a look at ways you can improve areas of your life. These little steps can add up quickly, and sometimes taking a huge leap can bring you to the next level of your existence. It’s all within reach.
How to Live a Better Life: The Power of Steps
It can be hard to change all at once, so this article will divide these habits into micro, small, medium, and large steps.
- Micro steps – tiny changes in your daily life that may seem insignificant, but that can change your life when added up over the course of a year.
- Small steps – the next tier. You may have to set an alarm to develop the habit, but they should fit into your day without too much fuss.
- Medium steps – These may require developing a new habit and blocking out more time to make sure that pattern happens. You may or may not be able to work them easily into your existing schedule, requiring more planning.
- Large steps – These are the Hail Marys. You’ll need to reconsider how you plan and organize your day or week to make sure you get these in. You’ll need a variety of coping mechanisms to build the habit, but they could build on your smaller practices.
Health is often the first area people begin to work in when they’re in pursuit of a better life. Our moods and well-being often stem from connections to our physical health, so improving that area could have a profound impact on our overall life quality.
Often, little changes can shift our overall outlook and provide a jumping-off point for more significant changes. Here’s a micro step you can incorporate right now.
- Stand up – This is for everyone who works in a traditional desk job. If you find yourself sitting for hours on end, set an alarm once an hour to stand up and move around for five minutes. Even if you stand at your desk and stretch, get out of your chair.
If you’re considering small steps, you might want to consider these foundational health steps.
- Drink more water – A profound number of people are mildly dehydrated, and that dehydration can manifest in the form of fatigue, fogginess, irritability, and even physical aches and pains. Aim to drink at least half your body weight in pure water per day. Get started by investing in a good water bottle or setting the alarm.
- Honor your bedtime – Sleep is another massive issue in this country, but with a few small tweaks, you could find yourself sleeping better. Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time in the morning. Turn off electronics an hour before bed and stop consuming caffeine at least six hours before your bedtime.
- Get active for 30 minutes – You don’t have to shred at the gym for this one. Just a brisk 30-minute walk can take care of that requirement. You can also break it up into smaller segments by walking your dog around the block twice a day, for example. Just move.
- Track your food – Sure, you want to eat better, but we often have no idea what our diet looks like. Tracking the food you eat isn’t about calories. It’s about building a comprehensive picture of what foods, nutrients, and issues you may have on a day to day basis. It aids your decision making.
- Build an exercise habit – This is more than just a simple walk. This is joining a gym and actually going. This is investing in yoga classes or even some kind of home exercise equipment. Find out what type of health goal you’re working towards and build an exercise habit that works for you.
- Quit smoking – If you’re a smoker, it’s time to kick that habit finally. There is a ton of literature out there for how to stop smoking for good, and you can also talk to your medical professional for help in that area. It’s time.
- Cut out refined sugar – This requires a diet overhaul, but it’s not about counting calories or starving yourself. This is about building a habit of eating whole, healthy foods that don’t come from a box or takeout. There are quite a few programs that can help you kick the sugar habit, and you may have to be militant for a while.
- Make and keep your appointments – You need to be seeing the dentist twice a year, getting a yearly checkup from your general practitioner and gynecologist. Making and keeping these big appointments can give you insight into deep levels of your health. Make those appointments and advocate for yourself.
Work is a huge factor in how we approach life. In truth, we spend most of our time at work, so hacking our work-life often holds keys to satisfaction. Dissatisfaction in this area can bleed into almost all of the rest of our lives.
This is an easy one, whether you’re looking for a new job or staying with one you love.
- Update your resume – If you’re looking for a new position, a fresh resume can make that search easier. If you’re staying with your current job, it can provide bargaining power for raises, benefits, or other work perks. Don’t just put new information on it, either. Refresh the overall design, too.
Taking small steps often means working in better boundaries for work and building healthy habits throughout the day. Here are some small changes you can make.
- Pack your lunch – When you pack your lunch in the morning, you can ensure that your healthy, filling food gives you the energy to last throughout the day and saves you that $10-$20 per day eating out. Win-win.
- Leave work at work – For some of you that love your work, it’s easy to let work spill over into your personal life. Reframe those boundaries so that you have time to refresh yourself and stave off burnout.
- Address burnout – Speaking of that burnout, do you know the signs? Look them up and give yourself a long-overdue assessment. If you’re experiencing symptoms of burnout, make a plan for how to address those signs so that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
- Energy management – Instead of reaching for that coffee or candy bar to help get over the afternoon slump, consider other ways to keep your energy going. A glass of water and a quick protein snack could help. Going on a ten-minute walk (or even just going outside for fresh air) can also help. And if the office is friendly to it, a 20-minute nap can make all the difference.
Making more significant changes at work can seem scary at first because lots of people are watching, but sometimes, it’s essential to your workplace well-being. Here are some things you can do.
- Build community – Hyggae in the workplace was popular a few years back. Implementing potlucks to bring everyone together is an excellent way to build community as is after-work get-togethers. Consider who in your office may be isolated daily and strive to bring them into the fold.
- Negotiate your position – When was the last time you received a raise? Would you perform better with partly remote hours? What about shifting your schedule? Take a good, long look at your position and build your case for making it happen. Ensure you’re prepared with facts, figures, and make a reasonable request.
- Change your transportation – If you commute long hours to work, a change to public transportation may allow you to bypass that stress. You could read or begin your work. You could also consider carpooling if you’ve got friends, making the ride a lot less lonely.
Work is also the place where we tend to be most afraid of making changes. However, if things are really bad, you may need to make those drastic steps.
- Quit your job – If you know now it’s time to quit your job and it’s affecting your health, take a long look at your safety net and make that leap. Maybe you want to work for yourself, or perhaps it’s time to find a new position. Regardless, make the plan with a specific endpoint and leap.
- Go back to school – Changing fields entirely can be nerve-wracking, but if you decide to do it, be prepared. Don’t just dream. Find your school or certification, check the funding, and make a logical plan for getting it done.
Your mental health also really affects your quality of life. Looking at self-care from the perspective of remaining in balance, it’s just as important to handle the mental and emotional side of things as it is to change your diet. Here are a few things you can try.
Try this one small shift each day to ensure that you’re training your brain out of some nasty habits.
- Reframe your thoughts – How do you talk to yourself? If your thoughts are overwhelmingly critical, it’s time to reframe. Instead of “That was so stupid,” say, “What can I learn from this mistake?” This small habit is critical to developing a growth mindset.
Once you’ve noticed your negative mental chatter, there are a few follow up steps that can increase your overall well-being and build resilience.
- Start a gratitude journal – Studies how that gratitude is an essential part of well-being. A gratitude habit really solidifies when you write things down. Start small and set an alarm. Each evening (or morning or whenever works for you), stop to write down five things or even one thing you’re grateful for.
- Develop emotional intelligence – Working on your understanding of emotional intelligence goes a long way to developing relationships and understanding yourself. There are online courses you can take to introduce you to the concept, and books you can read to help make it happen.
- Separate your work life – It’s so important to recharge, even if you love the work you do. Setting clear boundaries for work, no matter what that looks like to you, is a vital part of your well-being. Maybe you need to stop checking email after work hours. Perhaps you establish two days a week where you rest. Make those boundaries and stick to them.
- Meditate – There are so many useful apps out there to help you develop a meditation practice. Even just five minutes a day to stop and bring yourself into the present moment could help you combat the effects of stress and learn resilience.
If you’re ready for more significant changes in your mental well-being, here are some bigger steps you can take.
- Take your practice further – Building a spiritual practice, whether it’s religious or more profound meditation, has a host of health benefits. If you’re currently using a meditation app, give a meditation group or center a try. If you haven’t been to church in awhile, see if you can find a church home and get involved.
- Volunteer – Using your skills to volunteer also has far-reaching benefits for your mental well-being. It connects you to your community and allows you to develop a sense of connectedness and emotional intelligence. Plus, you get to make your community stronger, and that can benefit you in a number of ways.
- Learn a new skill – The internet now gives you the chance to find just about any skill you could want and get courses for free right in your own home. Learning languages and art skills are always popular. Still, you can also expand to your community.
See if there are dance classes at your community center or find a meetup that lets you refresh those college foreign language skills. It doesn’t matter what skill it is for your brain to benefit. It’s cultivating a habit of learning.
These will require some time and effort but are worth it.
- Find a therapist – If you have unresolved trauma in your life or you’re experiencing emotions you can’t deal with, a therapist can help you deal and move on. You may even be suffering from a mental health disorder like depression, and getting help is one way to cope with your condition truly. Regardless, therapy is a highly effective strategy for mental well-being.
- Go on a trip – Traveling has a number of benefits, including opening our minds and helping us connect to who we are. If there’s a trip you’ve wanted to take, now could be the time to plan it out and make it happen. And if you don’t have the funds or time for something drastic, even a weekend trip can offer a well-needed change of scenery.
Money has so many connotations, but it can contribute to a sense of well-being. Money won’t fill the void if you’re not healthy or fulfilled in your life, but finances can cause their fair share of stress.
Before you can do anything with your finances, you have to get over your fears. There’s one critical step to getting started.
- Check your accounts – You should be checking your bank account every day. You should know how much you own on your credit cards or student loans. If you’ve gotten in the habit of ignoring your accounts, only paying the minimum payments without looking at the overall picture, you’ll never find financial peace of mind. Stop ignoring your accounts and check them.
These small steps can help you build better financial habits and stop living paycheck to paycheck.
- Build a budget – If you don’t have a budget, you’ll never figure out how to optimize your money. There are lots of theories and lots of apps that can help you if you’ve never built a budget before. However, you need to get this step down before anything else.
- Start saving – Once you’ve got your budget set up, you know how much you can begin saving. Start with what you have and understand the different kinds of savings accounts – emergency, long term, and fun savings. You’ll be better prepared.
- Plan to pay off debt – Again, you can’t change your debt in one fell swoop, but you need a plan to tackle it. Whether you use the snowball method or some other method, it’s crucial to cut down on your debt little by little until it’s gone.
These are more significant steps but can build long term wealth. Once you’ve figured out the small aspects of your finances, it’s time to make bigger decisions.
- Open a retirement account – Retirement statistics are dire, but one thing you must start doing is saving for retirement. If your employer has a retirement option, get it started. If you don’t have that choice, a simple Roth IRA could get you started. Fund it with what you’re able to and work up to the maximum as you pay off debt.
- Negotiate a raise – We mentioned this before in “work,” but it’s worth mentioning again. In many jobs, raises don’t happen without the employee asking. And women are particularly bad about not negotiating raises. Get prepared and get it done.
- Open an investment account – Investment accounts are like long term savings accounts. Once you’ve got your short term savings in place (emergency, etc.) and your retirement account is maxed, think about opening a basic investment account for long term wealth building.
- Talk to a financial planner – Getting professional help planning your wealth building is especially important if you’ve experienced any life changes recently – divorce, opening a business, having a child, and others. A certified financial planner that doesn’t earn commissions is a great place to start.
These significant steps could be just the jolt you need to get your finances in order finally.
- Start a side hustle – This falls into the large step because many of you are already working a lot. Whether you exist on contract gigs or you’re slaving away in the corporate world, a side hustle is intended to pad your pockets outside your living expenses. And it takes commitment to make it work.
- Plan to retire early – Extreme frugality. The four-hour workweek. There are plenty of methods and gurus out there who can help you realize your dream of retiring early. Make your plan for what you’re able to do and what you can live on and make it happen.
- Go mobile – People often save money by doing remote work and living in motorhomes or trailers. If this is something you’ve been dreaming about, it could finally help you realize your financial (and physical) freedom.
One of the most significant indicators of a life well-lived is being plugged into the community. Loneliness is a killer, so building the right community for yourself is essential.
This one small thing can help you build your community from something stressful to something fulfilling.
- Curate your sphere – Friendships have a natural ebb and flow. If you’re surrounded by people that don’t support you, consider taking a step back. You don’t have to drop off the planet, but sometimes a simple assessment of who you’re following online can have a considerable impact. Think about who fills you up and who doesn’t – act accordingly.
These steps can improve your concept of community and help you feel a connection to those around you.
- Curb your social media – Social media is a wonderful way to connect with people like you, but it can quickly become an unhealthy habit. If you find yourself jealous and down on yourself for not being like those you follow online, it’s time to rethink social media. Cut down on the time you spend scrolling by setting a time limit and a goal. Instead of scrolling, connect with a specific person or group.
- Read more – Readers tend to be more empathetic and have a greater connection to things outside themselves. And if you aren’t a reader at heart, try audiobooks or even going to readings in public. The most important thing is to get to the story.
- Practice saying no – Your community should understand your limits, and without the power of “no,” you may find yourself resenting others. Establish boundaries and learn how to say no when it’s necessary to preserve your sense of self and connect more healthily to your community.
- Choose kindness – David Foster Wallace’s famous speech to Kenyon College, This Is Water, outlines the practice of understanding how we are all connected — taking the time to be kind when you don’t want to help put others in perspective and reduces the stress of daily living.
These could take more considerable effort, but they’re worth it to build community.
- Join something – Maybe it’s the country club. Maybe it’s a hiking meetup. Perhaps it’s a group at your local library. Find people with like interests where you might be able to make friends. Even if you’re an introvert, a once a month meetup can help you establish connections.
- Volunteer – We’ve already mentioned this one, but it’s worth saying again. Volunteering is a vital part of your well-being and plugs you into your local community. Find a way and do it. It’s worth it.
- Try coworking – If your office is typically zoned off, start a coworking initiative. Whether it’s collaborating between offices or everyone working together for feedback and support, it can quickly add up to better relationships overall.
These may be extreme, but they will put you in contact with people.
- Open your home – Put a room on Airbnb or get a couch surfing account. You’ll bring in people from all over the country and the world. While there’s always the potential to get some duds, you may also make some lifelong friendships.
- Try co-living – In larger, urban areas, co-living is popping up. Not only does it make living more affordable, but it helps combat the loneliness of being a young professional or a retired senior and everything in between. Alternatively, look for communes in your area. They’ve gotten a bad reputation, but some are genuinely extraordinary.
Building a Better Life
All of these things can help you build a life you dream about. Whether you take 100 micro steps or you jump head-on into something more extreme, the act of taking charge of your life is meaningful.
The biggest thing to remember is to always prepare for growth and change. When we feel stuck, our quality of life suffers. Brainstorming ways to get out of a rut and keeping an open mind can go a long way to building a better life.