I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what’s important to me, assessing what things I still feel I need to accomplish in this life, and trying to figure out if I’m living a life that moves me toward realizing those dreams. This has all been spurred by a few things, including the fact that my husband and I are in the process of turning a major dream into a reality, and in the last week we have taken some big steps where we can finally see how it’s all going to (hopefully) fall into place.
Sometimes I do these little self-checks, where I think about:
- What’s important to me?
- What do I really want to do?
- Am I doing that, or at least moving in that direction?
- Am I realizing my dreams, or is my life becoming stagnant?
I really think it’s so easy to get complacent, keep living your regular day-to-day life, and just get by on “it’s fine” rather than “This is what I really want!”
Are you doing what you need to do to get to what you really want? If you aren’t entirely sure what those things might be, you can start by making a list of what’s important to you.
It might be more time with your kids or more time to yourself or more flexibility in your schedule. Or it might be something that feeds your soul in a different way, like learning to play a musical instrument, or spending time doing volunteer work. Or maybe even something bigger like completely changing your career or moving to another country.
If you haven’t made a bucket list, that can help a lot with your self-assessment. Meanwhile, here are some questions you can ask yourself to try to get in touch with what really matters to you:
- What did you used to love to do as a kid?
- What have you always wanted to be really good at? A sport? Fluency in a foreign language? Something else?
- When have you been happiest? Who were you with, and what were you doing?
- When you daydream, what do you usually think about?
- What’s the best (and most reliable) way you know to recharge your batteries?
- What do you hope is different in your life in one year? What about in five years?
Like me, you probably sometimes get little reminders about how short life is. Try to “check in” with yourself on a regular basis and ask yourself if you are doing the things that will get you to your dreams and bring you the most joy. It’s easy to get stuck in the day-to-day, but it’s also so important to always keep an eye on the big picture.
Absolutely everyone has the capacity to change, learn, evolve, and grow. And there are so many reasons you should nurture your intellectual development – to make new connections with other people and ideas, get a better understanding of yourself (what you believe and why), renew your mind and spirit, and even escape conformity – just to name a few. Getting to know yourself and others better can then help you to redefine your own creativity, passions, and purpose.
Committing to lifetime growth by creating and satisfying your curiosity about life means you won’t get stagnated in the status quo, you will never be on the downward trajectory of your life, and you just might fulfill your destiny. When you are open to learning, are receptive to new ideas and change, and you allow your mind and heart to grow, you will keep you and your journey relevant, interesting, challenging and forever young. So where do you start? Here are five areas to explore that can help you continue to evolve:
1. Grow – Do you have a skill you learned earlier in your life that you would like to build on? Maybe something you started learning, but you stopped earlier than you wanted to because other things took up your time? Building on previously-learned skills are a good starting point to help you grow more now. I studied piano when I was in grade school, and I always loved it, but now I haven’t played in years. About 10 years ago, a friend taught me to crochet, and I still have an unfinished scarf in the back of my closet. And I’d really like to finish it, if I could just remember how to do it! If you think back (even far back) over the course of your life, what are some things you have learned that you would like to pick up again? Something you already know gives you pleasure is a great starting point for your foray into intellectual growth.
2. Learn – What is something you have always been curious about but never had time to explore? Building websites? Learning Spanish? Brewing your own beer? When you want to learn something completely new to you, it is easy to put it on the back burner in your already busy life. So start small. Look into a class you can take, dig around on the internet for online classes, or just go to a bookstore and look at the books on your topic. My guess is that once you take the first small step in something you have always wanted to learn, it won’t be long until you get excited and energized by the possibility of exploring your interest even further.
3. Pursue – What’s your big dream that seems so crazy that you wouldn’t even know where to start? Opening your own restaurant? Traveling around the world? Moving to a new city? Pursuing a dream is a great way to experience intellectual growth. I have a friend who is an educator and is now getting very close to taking a bold step to leave her job and go into business for herself (you can read her blog here). I have another friend who is pursuing her dream to make a film. Although she didn’t know a tremendous amount about filmmaking at the start, she is learning a lot along the way! If you don’t think you can drop everything to pursue your dream, that’s okay – just start small. Begin with the research, planning, or budgeting of your dream. Talk to others who have pursued similar dreams. Outline the steps that would get you from where you are today to actually seeing that dream realized. Your small steps can take you far, and with the momentum that builds, your ultimate dream might not be as far away as you thought!
4. Contribute – Another path to intellectual growth is contribution to society. If you’ve never volunteered in your community before, now is a great time to start! Think about your interests, concerns, and values to try to determine where you would like to volunteer. Aspiring actors can volunteer to be ushers at the theater, animal lovers can walk dogs at the local shelter, and political buffs can work for local campaigns. Or, use your volunteer work to learn about something completely new. If you are interested in home maintenance projects, you might be able to pick up some skills by volunteering at Habitat for Humanity. If you want to learn about the environment, look for volunteer opportunities at your local nature center. Not sure where to start? VolunteerMatch will help you find opportunities based on your location and the type of work you would like to do.
5. Enjoy – What activities give you pure pleasure, but also afford the opportunity to keep learning? Think about your favorite pastimes, and you might find some answers. Books, travel, documentaries, the internet, museums – each offer endless ways to learn, grow, and see new things. Activities that give you pure pleasure are hobbies that you absolutely must indulge. If time is your obstacle, try scheduling it into your calendar. If money is tight, you can visit a library for movies, swap books with a friend, or explore a free local museum. Be careful not to let day-to-day responsibilities keep you from your favorite sources of “self-evolution.”
Lifetime growth means you are always learning and evolving. It keeps you from getting stuck, and it helps you better understand your inner self and uncover your passions. Make the commitment to keep learning, and you’ll know fulfillment like never before.
“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden.” – Goethe
What are your interests, and what are you excited to pursue? I’d love to hear from you in the comments, and please share this article if you know someone who might enjoy it!