The meaning of your life is something you create day after day with your own actions and thoughts. Always ask what you can learn, and how you can move forward, and stop yourself from blaming other people if things aren’t the way you would like them to be. What living life to the “fullest” looks like is up to you. Here are some steps to get you started.
Part 1 of 3:
Recognize that life is a journey, not a destination. This saying is a cliché, but it’s also true: life is as much about how you get where you’re going as where you go. Living your life to the fullest is a process that will take you your whole life to develop. Don’t get frustrated if it takes you a while to learn some things, or if you experience setbacks. This is a natural part of life.
Be honest with yourself and others. Dishonesty saps away energy and happiness. When we aren’t honest with ourselves, we hold ourselves back from learning and growth. When we aren’t honest with others, we damage trust and intimacy.
We may be dishonest for a variety of reasons. Research has shown that sometimes we lie because we’re jealous and want to hurt others. Sometimes, we lie because we’re afraid we will be hurt if we reveal the truth, or we’re afraid of a confrontation. It can be hard to be honest, especially with yourself, but doing so will help you live a fuller, richer life.
Learn to accept yourself. All too often, we spend a lot of time looking at what we don’t like about ourselves, what we’d like to change, what we think should be different. Spending all your time focused on what you don’t like or what happened in your past means that you aren’t able to focus on your future. Make a conscious decision to learn to love yourself, just as you are.
Make a list of your strengths. What are you good at? These can be lofty achievements, such as inventing a new technology, or “everyday” skills, such as being friendly to others. Paying attention to what your strengths are can help you continue to develop them without focusing on yourself as a “failure.”
Determine your values. Your core values are the beliefs that shape who you are and how you live your life. They may be spiritual beliefs or simply deeply-held beliefs that are important to you. Reflecting on your values will help you set goals for yourself that are “value-congruent,” meaning in line with your values. You are more likely to feel fulfilled and happy when you’re living in accordance with your values.
Stand up for what you believe in and don’t let others push you around. It’s possible to do this and still be open to other people’s ideas, as they may surprise you.
Challenge negative self-talk. Sometimes, society confounds self-criticism with helping yourself improve. However, much research shows that the more hostile and critical you are of yourself, the more likely you are to be the same way toward others. Negative self-talk and self-criticism don’t help you become a better person or achieve your goals. Try self-kindness and self-compassion instead.
For example, if you find yourself consistently telling yourself what is wrong with you or what you don’t like about yourself, be purposeful and challenge those thoughts with positive ones. Replace thoughts like “I’m such a loser” with “That situation didn’t go exactly the way I’d planned. I’ll go back to the drawing board and think of another way to approach it.”
Try to think logically about your self-criticisms. Criticizing ourselves can be all too easy. The next time you notice yourself being harsh, try to find a rational response to that criticism. For example, if you found yourself thinking “I’m so dumb, I don’t know anything in this class and everyone’s smarter than I am,” examine that thought logically. Is everyone really smarter than you, or are some individuals just more prepared for the material than others? Is your performance in the class related to your intellect (not likely) or is it because you may not have the preparation you needed to excel? Are you studying effectively? Would you benefit from a tutor? Breaking things down in this logical manner can help you figure out steps to take to help yourself improve without writing yourself off.
Embrace flexibility. One of the reasons we become frustrated is that we expect things to stay the same. However, life is full of change. Open yourself to the processes of change and growth, and learn to adapt to the new situations and challenges that happen.
Fostering positive emotions, such as happiness and optimism, will help you develop flexibility.
Look for patterns in how you respond to events and situations. Determine what’s helpful and what isn’t. This can help you learn to modify the responses that aren’t helpful and learn to be more adaptive. Not only will you feel better yourself, but you will also be able to better interact with others.
Learn to look at “negative” events as learning experiences instead. Looking at setbacks or situations that appear as negative as “failures” can lead you to obsess over them, rather than learn and grow from them. Rather than seeing a challenge or roadblock as a negative, see it as a positive space for learning and improvement.
For example, famous entrepreneur Steve Jobs said that “getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to someone. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” J.K. Rowling, the author of the phenomenally successful Harry Potter series, has said that she sees failure as incredibly beneficial, something to be valued rather than feared.
Care for your body. Part of living life to the fullest is taking care of your body. You only get one; make sure it’s able to carry you through your life of adventure and learning.
Eat a healthy diet. Avoid foods that are high in sugar and empty calories. Eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and lean proteins. Don’t deprive yourself, though; it’s perfectly healthy to have a slice of cake or a glass of wine from time to time.
Stay hydrated. Men should drink about 13 cups (3 liters) of fluids per day. Women should drink about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of fluids per day.
Get exercise. Studies have shown that regular exercise helps you feel healthier, happier, and more positive. Aim for about 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise every week.
Learn mindfulness. Learning mindfulness can help you live your life to the fullest by keeping your focus on what is happening in the present moment. Mindfulness is rooted in Buddhist traditions and avoids judgment of your experiences; instead, it encourages you to accept them just as they are.
You can’t live your life to the fullest if you’re constantly absorbed by what happened in the past or what might happen in the future. Learning to be mindful of what is going on right now will help you worry less about what has already happened or what may happen.
There are many ways to learn mindfulness, including mindfulness meditation and spiritual study. Exercises such as yoga and Tai Chi incorporate mindfulness into their practice.
Some of the many benefits of mindfulness include: improved physical and mental health, lower stress, better interactions with others, and a greater sense of overall well-being.
Stop “shoulding” yourself. This is a term coined by the psychologist Clayton Barbeau. It refers to humans’ tendency to tell ourselves that we “have to” do something, even if it doesn’t fit with our goals or values. “Should” statements can cause a lot of dissatisfaction and grief. Eliminating them from your life can help you live more fully.
For example, consider this “should” statement: “I should lose more weight.” Why do you feel that way? Is it because you have a fitness goal that you want to achieve for yourself? Because you’ve consulted with your doctor and agreed that you need to get healthier? Or is it because someone has told you “should” look a certain way? The same goal can be healthy and helpful or harmful, all depending on why you feel like you need to achieve it.
Deciding not to “should” yourself doesn’t mean you don’t set goals. Instead, it means that you set goals for yourself based on what is meaningful to you, not what others want for you or demand of you.
Part 2 of 3:
Following Your Path
Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Research has consistently shown that people need to push themselves beyond their comfort zones to perform at their best. This is called embracing “optimal anxiety.” It turns out that the more you’re willing to challenge yourself, the more comfortable you will become with new experiences.
It can be terrifying to take risks because we’re generally not comfortable with the idea of failure. Most people are afraid of risk in the short-term. However, people who don’t take risks and push themselves are more likely to regret not doing so later in life.
Getting out of your comfort zone occasionally can also help you develop the flexibility you need to deal with life’s unexpected roadblocks.
Start small and work your way up. Go to a restaurant without checking it out on Yelp first. Take an impromptu road trip with a loved one. Try something at work that you haven’t done before.
Be realistic. Set attainable goals according to your abilities and talents. Consider each effort to be an attainment. Achieve one step before the other towards stability and security.
Set goals that are meaningful to you, and don’t compare them to anyone else’s. If a personally meaningful goal is to learn to play your favorite song on the guitar, don’t feel bad if you don’t become a rockstar guitarist.
Keep your goals performance-based. Achieving your goals takes hard work, dedication, and motivation. However, you need to make sure that you can achieve your goals through your effort — remember, you can’t control anyone else. For example, “Become a movie star” is a goal that relies on others’ actions (casting agents have to cast you, people have to go to your movies, etc.). However, “Audition for as many movies as I can” is achievable because you control that action. Even if you never get a part, you can view your goal as a success, because you accomplished what you set out to do, which was work for what you want.
Embrace vulnerability. When you live life to the fullest, you take chances. You go after what you want. You make decisions that have consequences. And sometimes, these things don’t go the way you’d hoped. Embracing vulnerability, the possibility that things will go differently than we had planned, is crucial to experiencing life in a full, open, honest way.
Vulnerability helps you take actions in all areas of your life. If you’re afraid of being open and honest with another person because you might get hurt, you won’t be able to develop a truly intimate relationship. If you’re afraid of taking a chance because it might not work out, you may miss out on opportunities.
For example, consider the example of Myshkin Ingawale, an inventor who wanted to develop technology to help reduce the child death rate in rural India. Ingawale frequently talks about how he failed the first 32 times he tried to create this invention. Only on the 33rd time was he finally successful. That willingness to be vulnerable, to accept the possibility of risk and failure, is what allowed him to develop this technology that is now saving lives.
Look for learning opportunities. Don’t be content to let your life just happen. Be active and present in it. Always consider what you can learn from whatever situation you encounter. This will help you avoid stressing over challenges and will keep you focused on moving forward, not looking back.
Learning new things also helps keep your brain at the top of its game. When you actively ask questions and investigate experiences, you’re more likely to feel healthy mentally and emotionally.
Practice an attitude of gratitude. Gratitude isn’t just a feeling; it’s a way of life that requires active practice. Research has shown that practicing gratitude makes you feel healthier, happier, and more positive. Gratitude can help you overcome past trauma and strengthen your relationships with others.  Recognize daily the things you are grateful for. Let your family, friends, and other significant ones know how grateful you are to have them. Share and express love while you can. Your life will feel more fulfilling when you actively practice being grateful.
Savor the moment. Humans have a bad tendency to focus on the negative aspects of life and ignore all the beauty and positivity around us. Take the time to acknowledge and savor the small moments of beauty in your everyday life. Think about what this experience means to you. Be mindful of the happiness it is bringing to your life in that moment. Writing these experiences down can be helpful. Even small things, such as an unexpected text from a friend or a beautiful sunny morning, can fill us with gratitude if we let them.
Share your gratitude with others. You’re more likely to “store” positive things in your memory if you share them with other people. If you see a gorgeous flower while you’re riding the bus, text a friend to let her know about it. If your partner did the dishes as a surprise for you, tell him how much you appreciate it. Sharing your gratitude can also help others feel positive and inclined to look for ways to be grateful in their lives.
Try this to help you practice daily gratitude: Every day, spend a few minutes in the morning and before bed thinking about what you appreciate in life. Also, learn to be present, curious, and observant in life, noticing the wonders around you instead of taking things for granted. For instance, if you go for a walk, spend time looking around you instead of just putting on headphones and closing out the world.
Keep a journal. Keeping a journal can help you reflect on your goals and values. It can also help you determine what’s going well in your life and what you’d like to continue to work on. Journaling can also be a great way to practice mindfulness.
Journaling should be active, not simply a recording of your random thoughts and experiences. Rather than just recording every single thing that happened to you, use your journal to reflect on situations you experience. How did you initially react? How did that situation make you feel at first? Do you feel differently now? Would you do anything differently if you encounter a similar situation?
Laugh. Laughter really is the best medicine. Laughter lowers stress hormones and releases endorphins, your body’s natural mood elevators. It burns calories and sends oxygen to your body, helping you feel more positive and healthy.
Laughter is also contagious; when you express joy through laughter, others are likely to share it with you. Laughing together can create emotional and social bonds.
Simplify your needs. Your possessions can end up possessing you. A cluttered house full of things won’t make you happy. Make an active decision to have simple daily needs. Research has shown that often, a preoccupation with material goods is a way of covering up some deeper need.  Have what you need, and need only what you have.
Highly materialistic people are often less happy and fulfilled than others. Stuff won’t make you happy, but the relationships you cultivate with others can.
Get rid of things in your home that you don’t use or don’t like. Find a local charity to donate clothing, household goods, and other things that are just lying around your house.
Simplify your personal life, too. It’s okay to say “no” to commitments or invitations. Choose to spend time doing things that are meaningful or helpful to you.
Part 3 of 3:
Interacting With Others
Think about who surrounds you. Believe it or not, humans can “catch” emotions as easily as we catch colds. If you spend a lot of time with people who are happy and positive, you’re more likely to feel that way yourself. If you spend a lot of time with people who are focused on negativity, that will rub off on you as well. Surround yourself with people who care for you, respect you and others, and enrich your life.
Who do you spend your time with? How do they make you feel about yourself? Do you feel respected and validated by the people in your life?
This isn’t to suggest that your friends and loved ones shouldn’t offer constructive critique. In fact, sometimes we need a friend to point out when we’ve done something thoughtless or hurtful. However, you should always feel like your loved ones approach you with kindness and respect, and you should treat them the same way.
Discuss your needs with others. Learning to communicate assertively (but not aggressively) can help you feel stronger, more confident, and more fulfilled. Assertive communication acknowledges that both you and others have needs, and works to give everyone a way to be heard.
Be open and honest but don’t use judging or blaming language. If someone has hurt you, it’s healthy to share your feelings with him or her. However, don’t use language that puts blame on the other person, such as “You were so unkind to me” or “You don’t even care about my needs.”
Use “I”-statements. Using statements that focus on what you are feeling and experiencing keep you from sounding blaming or judging. For example, “I felt hurt when you forgot to pick me up from work. I felt like my needs were not important to you.”
Give constructive criticism and accept it from others. Don’t simply tell others to do or not to do something. Explain why you are asking.
Invite others to share their needs and ideas with you. Use cooperative language, such as “What would you like to do?” or “What do you think?”
Instead of automatically feeling a need to assert your own point of view, try saying something like “Tell me more” when you hear something that at first seems like something you’d normally disagree with. Try to see from his/her point of view.
Love everyone. Be selfless in your attitude towards others. One of the biggest things that holds us back in our lives is our focus on the idea that we “deserve” certain things. This feeling can result in feelings of dissatisfaction and anger. Give love without expecting it to be returned. Love others even when it’s hard.
This doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat for those who don’t treat you right. You can love and accept someone and still recognize that they aren’t good for you.
Believe it or not, love is helpful even in the workplace. Workplaces that foster a culture that includes compassion, caring, and expressions of affection are more productive and have more satisfied workers.
Forgive yourself and others. Forgiveness is good for your body and your soul. Forgiving can be incredibly difficult, but it also reduces stress, decreases your blood pressure, and lowers your heart rate. Forgiveness can help you feel fulfilled and happy even if the other person never acknowledges the wrongdoing.
Think about whatever it is you want to forgive. Notice how those thoughts make you feel. Accept those feelings; judging them or trying to repress them will only make it worse.
Transform that painful experience into a learning experience. What could you have done differently? What could the other person have done differently? What can you learn from this experience that can help you become a better person now?
Remember that you can only control your actions, not others’. One of the reasons forgiveness is so hard is because it’s entirely dependent on you. The other person may never acknowledge the wrongdoing. S/he may never face consequences or learn from the experience. However, holding on to your anger about the situation ultimately only hurts you. Learning to forgive, regardless of whether the other person takes any action or experiences any result, will help you heal.
Forgiving yourself is as important as forgiving others. When we dwell on things about our past lives or behavior that we regret, we can end up falling into an unproductive cycle of self-blame, rather than using those experiences as tools to help us focus on becoming better people in the present. Use the techniques in this article, such as challenging negative self-talk and practicing mindfulness, to help you forgive yourself and show yourself the same compassion you show others.
While forgiving remember we need to forget certain situations in life which brought us negative emotions.
Give back. Be selfless in service to others. Begin with your neighbor. Do charitable service outside of your immediate community as well. Giving back will not only make you better as a person, but it will also help others.
Helping others not only benefits them, but it also has physical health benefits for you. Being charitable may cause what’s known as a “helper’s high,” an endorphin rush that we experience when we do something good for others.
You don’t have to start a soup kitchen or found a non-profit to help others. Even small acts of everyday kindness can have a huge effect. Research has found that the “pay it forward” effect really does exist: your kindness can inspire others to show generosity and kindness in turn, which then inspires more and more people to do the same.
Accept everyone. Be kind and courteous. Enjoy the company of others. Treat others as you would like to be treated.
It may feel uncomfortable at first to talk with someone whom you see as “different” than you. Remember that you can learn something from every person you encounter. And the more diversity you embrace in your daily life, the more you’ll realize that we’re all human.
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