As I have been setting up my foundation for 2017, I keep coming back to the question “HOW will I make my life optimal?” I already know WHY I want to make it the best it can be, but what does that actually look like?
There are some people who cannot wait to ditch their 9-5 job and enjoy life through alternative sources of income. There are some people who cannot wait to climb the corporate ladder at their company and enter into the top-level executive world. There are some people who can’t wait until they have their first child so they can leave the working world behind for good.
It all comes down to one simple truth: everyone’s optimal life is unique to them.
When I first started thinking about the Optimization Operation, I felt pressured to emulate the dreams of those around me. Frantic thoughts of which business I should start or how I could climb the schoolyard ladder at my site ran through my head, but didn’t end fruitfully. After much contemplation, I made peace with the fact that I do not have to imitate anyone else’s plan for success, but instead concentrate on formulating my own.
Therefore, these are the building blocks I will focus on to contribute to the optimization of my life:
- A steady source of income. This is currently being fulfilled with my job as a teacher. I am lucky because I actually like my career, and I don’t feel the need to escape it by formulating some other source of life funds. I have recently batted other ideas around including tutoring, consulting, and product invention, but I have come to the conclusion that I am perfectly happy with where I’m at for now.
- Small life experiences. Our life is a patchwork of big, memorable occasions that are stitched together with the small, everyday moments that make up the entire fabric of our existence. These are instants that may not be remembered a week or a year later, but they contribute so much to our overall happiness. Things like taking a walk and deeply breathing in the fresh air, pausing to look deep into our partner’s eyes while saying nothing, or caressing our baby’s tiny fingers as she sleeps. I want to concentrate on filling my life with an abundance of small, forgettable, yet oh so important day-to-day moments that will provide an unshakeable foundation for the bigger milestones I will steadily experience.
- Big life experiences. Equally or more important than the mundane is the extraordinary. These are the moments that you will recount to friends and family throughout the years, the moments that you are proud of, and the moments that define you. Some will be negative, and some will be positive. I have had my fair share of big life experiences thus far: marriage, divorce, moving across the country on my own, and working my way up from a temporary hire to a tenured teacher. Each leg of my journey has taught me something new. Going forward, I want to expand my opportunities for life stimulation through travel, seizing and creating opportunities for adventure, and putting myself out there in every way possible.
- A small circle of friends. As I have matured throughout the years, I have come to realize the value of true friendship. When I was younger, I dreamed about having scads of girlfriends who would always want to go on adventures and have sleepovers and show off our tight-knit group to the world. I never managed to attain such a crew, but I have something much better: two extremely close friends that I would do anything for and vice versa. True friendship does not consist of empty conversations and dime a dozen parties. It does not consist of taking selfies together to throw on social media. It does not consist of helping that person only when it is convenient for you. True friendship is discussing your boring day and actually caring to hear about theirs in return. True friendship is building each other up when it’s just too hard to do it on your own. True friendship is knowing that no matter how much distance or time separates you, you’ve got each others’ back when it counts. This year, I want to focus on optimizing the relationships that I have, building our already strong bond into an unbreakable chain of support and love.
- Tight family bonds. Family is something that I have come to value more and more the older that I get. I am the only person from my immediate family who has moved out of my home state of Minnesota, and I have no extended family here in California. Even though I absolutely love the life I have created for myself, having some distance from my family has made me appreciate them in a way that I simply did not when I was living at home. You cannot choose your family, and I am so different than my parents and siblings in more ways that I can even count. Yet, even with differing viewpoints and lifestyles, I know that I would drop everything and fly home in a heartbeat if there was a situation in which I was needed. Family is not always convenient, but they are yours.
- A life partner. I was recently accused by someone of wanting a relationship ‘just to have a relationship.’ In the moment, I disagreed with him, and now after several days of contemplation, I still strongly disagree. Yes, my optimal life includes finding a partner: one who shares my joy and laughter, who makes me a better person, and one who is a solid rock and outstanding example for our future children. But for me, finding someone to build a life with is not about finding any random peg just to fit into the hole. I have had too many relationships that tore me down rather than built me up, and I would rather live my life happily alone than to have the ‘security’ of a relationship that is wrong for me. This year I want to focus on becoming the best version of myself so that if when I meet someone who adds value to my life, I can give them that same value right back.
Optimization is not something that happens overnight. It takes focus, dedication, and a lot of soul-searching. Take the time right now to jot down what an ideal life looks like for you. What are the building blocks of your Optimization Operation? Once it is down on paper, you can formulate a plan to make it happen. If nothing else, the act of truly trying will do more for you than all of your nights sitting on the sidelines combined.