In Part I we covered making a dream list, while in Part II we looked at how your spending your leisure time. Today we are going to take a lesson from young kids. Yes that’s right, kids. Why? Watch a young kid at a park or anywhere for that matter and you will notice they seem happy most of the time. So how do they do it? Simple the just live in the now.
They don’t worry about what’s happening tomorrow, next week or even the next 10 minutes. They simply just enjoy what they are doing right now. So how can do the same thing? Concentrate on your what your doing during your leisure time and shut out those thoughts about everything else such as: “What should I make for dinner tonight? Did I pay that bill? I should look at the tire on the car. Did I forward that email to my boss about that project I’m working on?”
I know this sounds a bit strange, but it really does work. Think back about the last time you were really enjoying something. Chances are you were thinking about much of anything else at the time. You might also notice that when you are really enjoying an activity how quickly the time passes, which is also a good indicator that you were concentrating.
So how do you improve your concentration? That is a entire book on itself, so I’m not going to get into too many details here. I’ll describe a method that works well for me. When I’m doing something that I want to concentrate and I get a stray thought. I merely note that it happened and then gently push the thought to the side. Keep doing that for every stray thought and after a while you will notice the number of stray thoughts will keep dropping when you doing things. This does take a while, but it is worth it in the end.
PS: You might have noticed the site is a little bit messed up at the moment. I’m trying some modifications to my template which has had a few unexpected changes which I’m trying to resolve this week. Don’t worry I have a back up of the original template so is I can’t get this one working right I will switch back by next week. – CD
Alright, you’ve started your dream list from Part I. Good job. Now it’s time to look at your present life and see how you are spending your non-work time. Think back about the last twenty four hours. What did you do when you were not at your job?
In this exercise you are trying to isolate your leisure time, so make broad categories for everything else and try to track everything to the nearest half an hour. With you leisure time, stop and replay that time in your mind. Did you enjoy it? How much: a little, some what or for not being sex that was really good? Next try to define if it was passive or active. Passive leisure time takes no input from you (for example, TV or a movie). Active requires you to do something like reading, writing, talking to someone, or building something. Basically most activities outside of TV or a movie are active.
In the end you will have a list like this:
5:00pm to 5:30 Go for a walk with family (really good, active)
5:30 to 5:45 Prepare dinner
5:45 to 6:00 Eat dinner
6:00 to 6:45 Watch news (some what good, passive)
6:45 to 7:30 Read Blogs (some what good, active)
7:30 to 8:00 Put kid into bed
8:00 to 9:00 Play computer game (a little, active)
Now isolate out how much time you spent on passive activities. How much did you enjoy it? If it only ranked ‘a little’, this is good area to look at. Otherwise, some passive leisure time is good for you, but just make sure your actually enjoying what your watching. If you only like it ‘a little’, you might want to consider cutting back on the passive and dropping in more time on some you did enjoy a lot. Then you do the same analysis of your active leisure time and start to drop out those items you didn’t enjoy that much. Depending how much time you free up you might be able to start working on your dream list.
The above exercise is just to show you where your time goes. We have time management training for our work, but why don’t we use that to improve our happiness with our leisure time?
In retirement planning there seems to be an abnormal amount of time being spent on figuring out how much you need to retire and not nearly enough on a much more important question: why do you want to retire?
For everyone the answer varies: I want more time to spend with the kids, or more time to travel, or write a book or even just to do nothing. In the end all the answers come down to the same thing: we are looking for more to our lives than just our jobs. We are basically looking to have a happier life.
Yet I keep hearing stories about people who work hard and get the gold plated pension only to find one year into retirement that they hate it! So what happened? They planned their money to no end and complete ignored the question of what are you doing one month after you have retired. If you don’t know the answer to that question you better go back and rework that retire plan of yours to include some happiness.
But how do you generate happiness? Ah, that is a good question. Perhaps a better question to ask right now is how can I generate more happiness right now. Why should I even wait until I’m retired to be more happy?
The first step to happiness is rather simple. You have to remember how to dream. Not your typically night time dream, but rather day dream. It’s playing that ‘what if’ game. What if I didn’t have to got to work today? What would I do? Let your mind wander, trend down memory lane and recall your childhood dreams. What if you had unlimited time and money? What would you do? Then start to write it down. Your goal is to have a list going of things you want to do: travel, learn a language, learn a new skill or hobby. You don’t have to be able to do them right away, the list is only to help you plot your dreams.
Although this seems like a simple exercise some people find it hard to do. A soul crushing job and other responsibilities can suck the life out of you and leave you empty of dreams. It’s time to remember how to day dream again. I’ll see you tomorrow as we keep looking for happiness.