Planning the Best Year of Your Life

Tired of hearing the “LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE” maxims … yelling at you in all caps? Yeah, me too. (We spoke about it here when I seemingly-irresponsibly encouraged us to get in touch with our worst lives.)

LYBL MugBut today I’m going to contradict myself, as I’m wont to do.

I’m going to get us all jacked up to actually live the best year of our lives—not just nod at the idea of it or buy the “LYBL” mug and call it a day (er, year).

Allow me to tell you a story about how I arranged, and then lived, the very best year of my life (up until that point). Fill up your beverage and gather ‘round the flame, friend.

The backstory of the best year of my life

I have always been the superstitious sort, and so with three as my favorite number, I knew the year I turned 33 was going to be epic. I wasn’t super clear on the details when I was eight, for example, but 33 loomed large in my future. I was going to make it extraordinary—and not just the auspicious birthday itself—THE. ENTIRE. YEAR.

Nice idea, right? Neurotic girl dreams of a special year. Yawn.

But here is where my action plan is useful, and where you can follow it step-by-step to live the best year of your life, too. Why reinvent the wheel when it’s available right here, on a blog post, to rip off?

My step-by-step approach to “The Year of 33” (a.k.a.: best year ever):

Step 1: I planned for it to be great.

Step 2: 👈 There is no step two.

I’m not trying to be cute &/or annoying.

Here’s how this works: you re-read step one, and then you sit down and make a list of what would make the next 365 days of your ticking-time-bomb-of-a-life feel fabulous. And then you do as many of those things as you can.

The only reason my Year of 33 was so exceptional was because I set out to make it so. I put effort into it being exponentially better than the other 32 years I had lived at that point in my life (which were suitably fine! Just not profoundly phenomenal). I had an intention to make it full of “fun + experience” (I was deliberate about that as the theme), and I mapped out ways to have inordinate amounts of fun (buying mojito glasses helped with that) while engaging in experiences that made me feel like I was someone who participated in life with gusto … rather than being a work-work-work robot (a role I all-too-easily fit into).

Three important notes about having one’s best year ever:

Point 1: We can have a remarkable year without wiping out our retirement savings. It’s true that my Year of 33 had some eyebrow-raising expenses (you might intimate that when you read the list below … we were footloose and fancy-free back in our 30s), but it didn’t have to cost a pretty penny. We can have a first-class year without paying for first-class flights. High five to the cheap and cheerful lifestyle!

Point 2: Having a Best Year Ever requires a “Best Year Ever Mindset.” I looked at life that year through the lens of, “will this feel like fun? Will this make for a cool experience?” … and I made decisions that led to a bunch of yesses, all year long. I made a “Year of 33” list that captured 33 moments/ experiences/ adventures/ accomplishments/ celebrations … and they weren’t all pre-determined before the year began. Many were (per Step 1 above, to pre-plan with intention), but some were born out of the attitude of “heck yeah!” along the way. I didn’t set out to make homemade pad thai, for example, but with the spirit of “let’s try something new,” it happened in the year and then made its way onto the peak memory “List of 33.” I had my antennae up for opportunities to have fun and novel (Sriracha-flavored) experiences, all year long.

Point 3: It helps to have co-conspirators. The Husband knew that the Year of 33 was supposed to be/ going to be/ DAMNED WELL BETTER BE a majestic year, and he earned oodles of marriage credits for a) going along with things that felt like mild torture to him—like going a picnic, and b) planning Year of 33-Worthy surprises (like celebrating New Year’s in Paris—gahhh!). Why not tell your friends and family about your plan to make this next year marvelous? If they are in on it, and planning their own stunning years themselves, you’ll ride the wave with them (because they’ll be planning cool things like road trips to Nashville that you’ll get to weasel in on). Help them help you make it special. (Or screw them and leave ’em in your best year ever dust!)

My “Year of 33” list, in no particular order whatsoever …

  1. Take Archery Lessons
  2. Celebrate New Year’s in Paris
  3. Stay at the Hazelton Hotel in Toronto
  4. Attend the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
  5. Eat at L2O Restaurant
  6. Celebrate The Husband’s 33rd Birthday Weekend in New York
  7. Go on a Picnic
  8. Visit a Comedy Club
  9. Celebrate our Anniversary in San Francisco + Napa
  10. Make Homemade Pad Thai
  11. Host Sister + Family
  12. Start a Photo Book with The Husband
  13. Celebrate the Longest Day of the Year
  14. Give Dad the Detroit Tigers Fantasy Camp Gift
  15. Buy (and Use) Mojito Glasses
  16. Celebrate the 333rd Day of Year
  17. Get Sloppy Drunk with The Husband
  18. “Get Healthy” with a Personal Trainer and Nutritionist
  19. Get a “33” tattoo
  20. Drink a Wine from the Year I Was Born
  21. Buy a Seriously Fabulous Red Wine to Enjoy in 33 Years
  22. Have Christmas Dinner at El Presidente 24-Hour Mexican Restaurant
  23. Eat Chicago’s #1, #2, and #3 Top Burgers
  24. Host Niece + Nephew
  25. Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride in Napa
  26. Go to Paris for a Random Long Weekend
  27. Go to a Gun Range
  28. Do Ten Men’s Pushups
  29. Execute a Memorable Random Act of Kindness
  30. Make Artichokes at Home
  31. Become a Morning Person
  32. Start a Bigtime Creative Project
  33. Have a Commemorative “33” Necklace Made

You know what strikes me about my list? Well-being scientists could have a field day dissecting my Year of 33, because it covers the hedonic joy-on-a-stick stuff (hot air ballooning! Comedy clubs! Excessive inebriation! Etc.!), and also delivers on the eudaimonic dimension of well-being (spending meaningful time with family and friends, accomplishing goals [why are pushups so hard?], learning new things, etc.). So here’s a hot tip: try to diversify your Best Year Ever with life widening and life deepening moments. (But who am I to stop you if you want 2023 to just be one big ‘ole bender full ‘o fun? I’ll still respect you in the morning.)

What’s next?

Best Year Ever!This is about giving two shits about the next year of your life (you read that right— not “giving A shit”— giving TWO shits).

I hate to get morbid (that’s a lie, it’s what I live for), but what if this next year is the last year of your life? What if you get to the end of the year (bizarrely but perfectly coinciding with the end of your life), and feel like you missed your chance to go out in style, to drop the proverbial mic as you walk off the stage of life?

Let’s not have a run ‘o the mill year … partly because we might die and regret squandering our time, and mostly because we are alive now and it’s high time we started acting like it. It’s time we started living like we knew we had something to lose. Write out how you’re going to drink from the firehose of life over this next year. Challenge yourself to live boldly, oozing with intention … whatever that means to you. Visit friends in far-flung places. Make an exotic meal. Try the deep-fried Twinkie at the fall fair (and please tell me how it is). Go to Paris (and if you can’t afford the France-Eiffel-Tower-Paris, what about one of the 47 other Paris’s on the planet?). We get one go at being alive … so cheers to a memorable and astonishing next 365 days of being here.

Jodi Wellman

P.S.: You, me, Instagram. Let’s do it.

P.P.S.: Oh and just in case you missed it… I’d love you forever if you took 16 minutes out of your life to watch my TEDx talk!

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