A Bucket List for a Well-Rounded Life
I’m sure we’d all love to swim with dolphins and see the Pyramids. Ride a hot-air balloon, and feel anti-gravity. But one important idea missing from the whole Bucket List process is how to live your Normal Life.
You know, the one where you have to drive the kids to school each morning while you’re half-awake. Or where you have to sit through six meetings every five days, concentrating on someone’s tie so that you don’t die of boredom, or worse, almost fall asleep, but jerk yourself awake. Terribly embarrassing, isn’t it?
What if you made a list that was about things you want to do in this life, where you don’t have to save up thousands of pounds for a holiday to the South Seas or make a reservation a year in advance for something extremely rare. What if there was a recipe for making your regular life magical?
Here are some questions to ask yourself before you start on that list:
- How’s your love meter?
Do you feel surrounded by love? If you had a love bank, would you have a fat savings account there, or would it constantly be overdrawn, satisfying others’ needs with a balance you don’t have? On a scale of 1 to 10, how loved do you feel right now?
- How’s your energy meter?
Do you wake up in the morning energized from your sleep, ready to meet the eye of anyone who passes by? Or do you have to drag yourself out of bed and really just feel like making a blanket fort and hiding from the world? On a scale of 1 to 10, what would you say is your average energy level?
- How’s your creativity meter?
Everyone has a creative muscle in their body. It gets stronger with use, but many may have been told it didn’t exist, and so neglect exercising it. Do you feel you’re able to express yourself creatively? Or do you feel like you’re a black-and-white, stay-in-the-lines kind of person? On a scale of 1 to 10, how creatively fulfilled would you say you are?
Now, on to the list! Let’s see what we can do if we are feeling low in any of the above measures.
Low on love
If you are feeling low on love, you should focus on connection. This could be connecting meaningfully with others, such as family or friends, or connecting with yourself by turning off all the distractions present in modern life.
For example, keeping in touch with loved ones who are far away is a great way to feel love. I am of the handwritten-letter-does-it-better camp, but you can also pick up a phone or dial someone’s Skype account. Putting out love in that way often encourages responses that make you feel loved in return: the surprise pink envelope in the post, the goofy message on the answering machine.
Connecting with yourself requires a very different type of activity. Maybe this is scheduling a massage. Maybe it is putting a Do Not Disturb sign on the bathroom door and taking a long, hot bath. Maybe it is reserving a week for a meditation retreat, or an early Sunday morning to hike that hill outside town.
Whatever enables you to feel connected with your fellow creatures (human or not!), is part of the process that triggers dopamine transmitters in your system. Allow yourself to do these activities. Work it into your day.
Low on Energy
If you’re feeling low on energy, whether it be at noon or at night, it is something blocking your normal physical processes. I mean, I assume you’re eating, right? So if you have the calories, where are they going? Getting dribbled away on worry and anxiety? Getting burned up by social engagements that take you out of your introvert self? Or if you’re an extrovert, perhaps it’s a lack of social activity that has you feeling mopey and sleep-eyed. Either way, there are ways to counteract this that you can work into your normal life.
Try getting back into your physical body. Most of us have jobs that require a lot of sitting and clicking, watching and writing, with hardly any movement at all. Our brains get tired before our bodies do, or at least the way bodies should get tired.
It may seem counter-intuitive to expend energy to get energy, but as in love, sometimes the act of giving in the right way can be enough to change the routine that has got you in a rut. So what’s the right way for you?
Don’t feel the need to rejoin the ranks of the obvious. Try the hula hoop. Try that hike. Try a dance/guitar solo in your living room. Pick five stretches to do at your computer desk. Anything that gets you moving can recalibrate that flow of energy so that you feel it pulsing in your veins!
Perhaps that sounds like too much effort though. What’s another alternative? Well, I’m glad you asked. As with love, which signals a need for connection, we can use consumption as a tool for regaining our energy when the wind’s been knocked out of our sail.
What kind of consumption? Not Jaffa cakes in front of the telly, no. And not a shopping spree on maxed credit cards either. No, this is a quiet kind: consuming information. Would you like to be able to read a newspaper once in a while? Are you dying to bury yourself in a book for several hours at a time? Have you been yearning to find out more about those TED talks everyone has been buzzing about? Quiet, considered consumption. It can give us the time to digest information in a way we appreciate, instead of the insane way it is screaming at us from computer screens, billboards, bus stop shelters, and pretty much everywhere.
Low on Creativity
If you’re feeling low on creativity, it may in fact be one of the two shortages already discussed. However, if you’re feeling super-loved and super-energized, but creatively blocked, there are a couple places to start your search for a solution.
First, separate two types of creativity: what we normally think of as creative pursuits–painting, writing, choreographing–and productive pursuits, which include such things as:
- finding elegant solutions to resource constraints
- approaching a problem with a new attitude to reframe it
- managing to get everyone something they wanted to eat for dinner, even though they all wanted different things
Do you see where this is headed? Our brains use a lot of creativity when we cook for others, when we lead team meetings, and when we economize with alternatives to business-as-usual. Maybe you are being so productive that all your creative juice is spent in that way, but it’s not being recognized!
If that is the case, give yourself a pat on the back for your ingenuity. If you are looking for more of an outlet for your art, though, you may be in need of inspiration. This is the second solution, and there are loads of ways to find inspiration.
- give yourself time: set aside 5-10 minutes to write up a list of things that might make good subjects for your art, whether that be photography, dance, or poetry.
- show yourself the world: go on an outing where you can people-watch–maybe at a recital or in a museum cafe–and observe the motions and emotions of people around you. Stories about them may pop up into your head, or a single motion may inspire a piece of pottery.
- visit your local library: browse a section you’re not familiar with, and what you learn may surprise you!
So now you’ve assessed your love, energy, and creativity meters. You’ve seen where your energies should go in order to make your Normal Life the one you’ve always dreamed of. Don’t let the grass grow under your feet!