Connecting the Dots


Do you think about how much you actually enjoy the things you do? Do you actively try to figure out how to do more of the things you want in life? For many people, the answer is no. It’s easy to get caught up in work and family commitments, in day-to-day schedules and to-do lists. You might even feel like you’re on autopilot, doing things without thinking much about how they make you feel. But by paying more attention to what’s going on and how you feel about it, you can connect the dots. You’ll be able to figure out what you really want and start making changes to get more of it in your life.
Making Observations
Before you can start making changes, you need to be able to identify what you really want. These exercises will give you the information to figure it out.
Analyze your day.
For a few days or even a week, record everything you do during each day. Work, chores, hobbies, everything. Then assign each item a rating between 1 and 5, based on how it made you feel. (1 for terrible, 3 for neutral, 5 for great.)
Analyze your spending.
Commit to using a credit card for every purchase you make over a week or two. At the end of that time, sit down and go over your credit card statement. Rate each expenditure on the same scale of 1 to 5.
Record your best moment each day.
Every night for a week or more, take a minute every night to reflect back on the day. Identify your best moment from the day – the moment when you felt the most joyful, fulfilled, or at peace. Jot it down.
Connecting the Dots
Once you’ve completed these exercises, set aside some time to go through the notes you’ve made. This is where you’ll really connect the dots. As you look at what types of activities and expenditures you rated highly, and what kinds of moments stuck out to you each day, a pattern will start to emerge. These are the things you love. You’ll also find patterns in the items you rated poorly. Those are the kinds of experiences that are sucking joy and fulfillment out of your life.
Making Changes
Once you’ve connected the dots to figure out what you really want, it’s time to start taking action. Start saying “no.” The most important thing you can do is start saying no to things that don’t make you feel good. This might mean taking on fewer extra tasks at work, turning down invitations, or quitting a workout you loathe. It’s the only way to rid your life of things that are dragging you down.
Commit to the things you love.
Then, start adding more of the things that give you life. Schedule time for these activities the same way you’d schedule an appointment. Write it in your calendar, sign up in advance, make plans with a friend – whatever helps you commit. Every once in awhile, consider doing the exercises again. You might realize some things you hate have crept back in, or you may find that your preferences have shifted.
About the Author
Jennifer Ambrose Jen is a freelance writer, blogger, and yoga teacher who left her office job in Boston to travel the world with her husband. She previously worked in international development and academic research, and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Rwanda. Some of her biggest passions include promoting responsible and mindful travel and helping her students develop their personal yoga practice.