There are lots of lists out there describing what people consider to be the most important things to do in life. And these lists have lovely sentiments. Find love. Appreciate your family. Do something you are passionate about.
I don’t disagree with any of that advice. Those are important things. But all those lists avoid what I consider to be the most basic things that you need to do to have a good life.
Unless you are the recipient of a trust fund, or you are Oprah and have unlimited funds, much of your life is focused on very practical issues. Food, clothing and shelter are the things that concern most folks. Add to that mental and physical health. For most of us, our concerns are very mundane.
Most people aren’t trying to find the “meaning of life.” That is a luxury of the ultra-rich. Most folks are typically trying to just make ends meet and be mentally and physically healthy.
The list below are the four very basic things that you need to do in order to have a good life. Focus on achieving them, and see your happiness and peace of mind increase!
Create A Life That is Safe
Safety may sound like silly thing to pursue in life. After all, shouldn’t safety be something that we all just have? Well, yes. Yet so many people don’t live in safety.
When I refer to safety, I mean both physical and emotional safety. Your first order of business in life is to find a home and community where you can be safe from physical harm, and in which people consistently treat you with kindness.
Realize that many people don’t live safe lives. Many people live with spouses who are either physically or emotionally abusive. Lots of children live with parents who either abuse them, or who just have bad judgment. Cruel and irresponsible behavior abounds in our world, from the poorest homes to the wealthiest and most educated households.
So, creating a life in which you are safe is a top priority. You cannot be truly happy until you live in safety. You can’t relax and feel good if you live under stress or in fear. So, the first practical thing you want to accomplish in life is to find a way to live with kind people in a safe community.
Become Financially Secure
Achieving financial security is no small matter. Making enough money to pay your bills and support your children is a real undertaking. You have to be careful with how you spend. And you need to learn to live under you means in order to save for a rainy day.
The good news is that becoming financially secure is one of the most rewarding things that you can accomplish. It is the key to having a relaxed, easy-going life. It is much easier to be relaxed and happy when you can pay your bills with ease.
So, don’t underestimate the importance of earning money. And don’t rely on anyone to create financial security for you. For example, if you are a young person, realize that your parents won’t always be able take care of you. Learn to be responsible because someday they won’t be around to bail you out of your financial debacles.
And the hard truth is that you can’t rely on your spouse for financial security either. 50% of marriages end in divorce, which means that your spouse cannot be your lifetime financial plan. Moreover, sadly, people can lose their jobs or even die. For instance, this week one of our church members died unexpectedly. He was the family’s only source of income. His death leaves his wife and their children in an extremely vulnerable financial situation.
Admittedly, working and earning money isn’t always fun. And working while raising kids is tough. But when you work hard and spend carefully, you can rest easy, knowing that you have the money to pay your bills, with a little left over for any unexpected life events.
Develop Good Habits
We all know what good habits are. Make your bed every morning. Exercise daily. Arrive to work and appointments early. Pay your bills on time. None of that is rocket science.
And we all know that good habits can make our lives so much easier. When we regularly tidy up our homes, they look so much better. Paying our bills on time, leads us to have a better credit rating. Exercising regularly results in our having fewer health problems.
In fact, good habits can transform your life into something you can be proud of. People with good habits have pleasant homes. They are financially stable. And other people view them as being competent and reliable.
Admittedly, developing good habits takes discipline. In fact, I would suggest adopting no more than one or two new, good habits a month. That will give you the time to let the new habit become ingrained on your brain before tackling a new one.
The time and effort put in to developing good habits will never be wasted. It always will pay off with a life that is far superior to one without discipline. (To read about developing great habits, click here.)
Develop A Spiritual Practice
I know a lot of people who don’t have a spiritual practice. They view religion as being silly or unscientific. And they fancy themselves as being too intellectual to have a religious belief which is based purely on faith.
The problem is that folks who don’t have a spiritual or religious practice tend to fall apart when life is difficult. I’ve known non-religious people who simply could not handle the normal disappointments of life. For example, I’ve seen folks fall apart from mid-life crises, as if turning a certain age was an actual problem. When confronted with typical life events, these folks have turned to alcohol, poor behavior and other vices.
Having a religious belief will provide you with some perspective on life’s challenges. When you have a religious practice, you realize that your life is so much bigger than your immediate, perceived problem.
Moreover, a solid spiritual practice offers hope in the midst of real trials. We all will experience difficulties in life, whether they be a job loss, a divorce, an illness or the death of a loved one. No one goes through life unscathed. A spiritual practice can offer hope that even in the face of those challenges, things ultimately will get better.
Most importantly, if you have a solid religious belief system, your life choices become far easier. You will choose to be kind, no matter what the circumstances. Helping the poor will be something that you will do without question. And with a meaningful spiritual practice, you will choose to serve others, rather than solely serving yourself.
It matters little which spiritual practice you choose. Just choose one that has stood the test of time. Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism have all been tried and tested over the centuries. You will not go wrong by following the tenets of a major world religion.
Consider making the above goals a priority for your life. These are the basic things that you need to do to create a good life. If you achieve them, I promise you, your life will be markedly better.
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