4 Keys to a Better Life This Year

January 6, 2015

Do you have a good life? Maybe compared to some, yes. Perhaps compared to others, no.

A lot of it depends on your perspective and how you measure your life.

Last year I had a good life but sadly didn’t realize it until I was abducted by a UFO and held prisoner in an alien dungeon. Okay, there were no UFO’s or aliens involved in my life catalyst, just a health scare.

But it did open my eyes to how I was measuring my life and the things I was taking for granted.

So whether you think your life is awesome or whether it seems to suck there are a few things I wish for you next year.

Note: I know you may feel too busy getting ready to “crush it” in the new year to listen to my wishes. What I’m going to share won’t make you the most productive you’ve ever been. However, I believe it will help you enjoy what you do produce.

In addition I think it can help you focus on the journey of earning a living and building a legacy rather than just focusing on the dollars and cents of your bank account and retirement plan.

Your life struggles won’t get any easier. The decisions and choices you make won’t change, it’s how you approach them that can make you happier.

So here are four things I hope you can do next year.

1) Enjoy Life More

Many of the simple things I had taken for granted before last year have regained some of their wonder. I always get jealous when I watch one of our young kids experience something for the first time. They can be amazed by the seemingly simplest of things. I find myself wishing I could see the world through that lens again.

Thanks to my new appreciation for life, it’s much easier for me to enjoy the small things and not get so hung up on trying to “manage life”. It’s much easier to enjoy your day when you put things in perspective and just be thankful that you’re alive.

As Willie Nelson puts it, “blue skies smiling at me, nothing but blue skies do I see. Blue days all of them gone, nothing but blue skies from now on!”

I think part of this is giving up some of the absolutes and rigidness to how I approached the different compartments of life. Just because things don’t go as planned today doesn’t mean they can’t eventually end up heading in the right direction.

So if you’re on a diet and want to eat a cookie, then eat the tasty treat. Don’t eat the whole box and don’t do it every day, just eat one and take the stairs at work.

Or if you’re on a tight budget and you want to buy a latte, then drink the frothy caffeine. Spend on what you want and cut something else you don’t need. Or find a way to earn more money.

2) Be Content

It’s tough to be present in your life and content with what you do have when you’re constantly thinking about what you’re trying to acheive in the future.

It used to be that I was so caught up thinking about the future that I would miss things in the present. For example, on a Saturday at the start of last year I would spend time with my kids in between work times. The work was the main thing, the family time was just squeezed in the gaps.

Now I can spend a Saturday with my family and not feel guilty and stressed that I should be working.

Part of being content is not feeling your chest tighten with jealousy when you hear about the success of others. I feel blessed to be alive and thankful for the chances and opportunities that I have. So now when I hear about the success of others it doesn’t make me feel inadequate or jealous. I can genuinely feel happy for them and inspired by their progress.

3) Take Health Seriously

For years my family would tell me that I needed to get more sleep and more exercise. I waved them off thinking that when things slowed down I would be healthier. Now I realize that I was being quite foolish. As you probably know, life doesn’t really tend to slow down.

So if you put off exercising until you have time, then you’ll never do it. Eating healthier, exercising more, and getting more sleep has had it’s benefits. It’s not just that I weigh less and have better scores on my annual checkups.

I feel better in general. I have more patience with my co-workers, family, strangers, and just life itself.

That’s not to say I don’t have stretches where I work out less and get too little sleep. But when that happens it’s only for a period of time and then I get back to the healthy habits again. I’ve realized that I’m not invincible and that if I don’t take care of myself then I won’t be around as long to enjoy life.

4) Think of Your Legacy

This sounds crazy on a personal finance site but I’ve come to realize that people don’t care about money. We only care about what we can do with that money.

What doors the money opens for your family and the people around you. What difference you can make in the world with that money.

So money still matters to me, a great deal. But it’s not for the sake of having money, it’s about the experience that the money can offer.

The things you create and experience in life, and the people you create them with, are what builds your legacy. Those things add up over time, they define how people remember you and what mark you leave on the world.

You’ve probably heard someone says “you can’t take it with you”, referring to the money you make in life. The logic is sound but most of us probably don’t think we’re going to die in the near future.

So we shrug it off.

We work hard to make money and don’t think about what it would be like if we weren’t around.

You may know the story of people who wait until they’re 60 to start saving for the challenges of getting older. They say, “if only I’d known to save sooner, things would be different now”. There are still things they can do but they missed out on 3 decades of investing time they can never get back.

The same thing happens to people who miss out on life because they’re so busy with “planes to catch and bills to pay” as Harry Chapin sings about in “Cats in the Cradle”.

Nobody wants to look back and regret the things they missed out on or didn’t do. The problem is that we often don’t realize it until it’s too late.

You’ve probably had the experience where you hesitated to say or do something and then the moment passed and it was too late. In those cases the time is short, so we feel the pressure to act and we feel regret when we don’t.

The difference with our life legacy is that we believe that our life will go on for decades. So that urgency to act often isn’t there. When we’re so busy that we miss things that are important to us in life (our kids events, a date with our spouse, drinks with friends, the weekly workout, the trip we’ve been wanting to take, coffee with a business mentor, our monthly volunteer event, etc) we tell ourselves that we’ll do it “next time”.

Weeks, months, years pass by and that “next time” materializes never or infrequently.

Often times it takes a major life catalyst to open our eyes to what we’ve been missing out on or taking for granted. Sadly we may not experience that catalyst until decades in the future, at which point we look back with hearts full of regret and wish we’d realized sooner the things we’d been neglecting.

I don’t want this to happen to you. I went through a life catalyst just last year and it transformed my life. I want you to have the same chance. That’s why I put together a checklist of 5 ways you can start building your legacy today and why I’m working on a project to take that much further.

Enter your email below to get the checklist and for early access as more tools are ready. Here’s to a great year!


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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4 Responses to 4 Keys to a Better Life This Year

  • Mrs. Frugalwoods

    I think finding contentedness with life is a true key to happiness. I used to endlessly strive to achieve the next thing or another goal, and while I’m still very focused on my goals, I’m also much more at peace with the way my life is in the present.

    • Ben Edwards

      that’s awesome! It’s really something I struggled with for years. Finding balance between the drive to achieve and being content with where you are in life. For a long time I didn’t have a lot of that balance and I didn’t realize it but I was always unsettled.

      Now that I have a different perspective on life I’m able to enjoy a lot of the things I was missing before. I still have a lot I want to accomplish but I have a lot better balance now.

      I’m glad you’re more at peace as well!

  • Jeremy Brenn

    Great article, Ben. Couldn’t agree more with taking one’s health seriously and making it a priority. So many other things in life are determined by whether you’re healthy or not.

    Keep up the good work.

    • Ben Edwards

      Thanks Jeremy. It’s easy to forget the value of a healthy body because we’re just used to everything working like it should. Sadly good health is one of those things that we sometimes don’t appreciate until it’s gone.