Buckle up for a wee bit of positive mental time travel, friends.
Reflect back on the years you’ve been alive so far. (For some of you this’ll take just a jiffy, and for the rest of us we’ll exhaust ourselves scanning through multiple decades. It’s okay; take a break if you need to, Myrtle.) So here’s the big question:
When was your best year of life — the year you felt most alive?
We live in a world that our questions create, so let’s ask questions about why that year was so wondiferous, rather than dwelling on why your life’s maybe not-so-wonderful/a bit shit today.
Get specific about your best year on record:
How old were you?
What was going on in that year?
Who was there? What cast of characters contributed to the amazingness of the year? Were they in prominent roles or just cameos?
Who wasn’t there? Was your new boss (a.k.a. Satan) not in the picture at that time? Had you not met your now-ex-husband yet? Was the year great because you were traveling abroad, and therefore away from your dysfunctional family?
What actions were you taking to like your life so much? It’s possible that your life happened to you that year, although not likely. What role did you play in this fabulous year? Were you working hard at something meaningful? Were you taking risks? Were you fabricating fun? Were you going for the big jobs at the office, even in the face of possible rejection? Were you rampant on the dating scene? Were you a meditating maven? Were you super social, or maybe the opposite — happily embracing your inner hermit? Were you self-caring all over yourself? Were you a creative machine that year? Were you on the wagon?
What was your work situation like in this year? Maybe you weren’t working at all in this Best Year Ever (oh, the luxury!). Maybe you were accomplishing things left, right, and center and that’s why you remember this year so glowingly. Were you a learning + growing rookie, or a wise owl, imparting your knowledge to the newbies? Were you supported by a great boss and team? Were you left to your own devices to Make Things Happen and you reveled in all that autonomy? Think about what made work work for you in this year.
What mattered? Of all the great things in this year, what stood out as meaningful to you? Was it that you fell in love? Made a family? Made money and felt that intoxicating sense of achievement? Felt fit and energetic? Experienced adventure? Maybe your best year ever was in high school and all that mattered was cheerleading and keg parties? Try to identify the values that made this year matter so much to you.
What to do with your hard-earned insights:
What does your best year say about you as a person? I don’t mean this in a Judgey Judgerson kind of way — just in a neutral observation kind of way (some might judge you for valuing keg parties but just ignore them). Maybe your best year reveals that you’re the “come alive when you reach a tough goal” type, or a “family-first” type, or a “less is more” kind of guy, or a “more is better” kind of gal. To what extent have you been living life according to your values as of late?
How long ago was your best year? Was your heyday waaaaaaay back in your youth? (Research shows we think “youth ends” somewhere between 31 – 40). Are you still yearning to go streaking in the quad?
What meaning can you create in your life now and moving forward, so you don’t emit that “my best days were behind me” vibe?
If your best year was more recent — let that not-so-faded memory motivate you to get back on the horse and make more memorable years.
When do you want your prime of life to be? Other than Millennials who think life’s downhill after 36, most adults perceive the prime of life to be between 47 – 52. “Prime of life” has a malleable definition though, doesn’t it? We can have multiple, successive “peak” years if we’re living wider with vitality, forging ahead towards whatever potential we long to reach, and making plans to live it up. Our prime of live can be in the retirement home if we let it be.
What can you do about recreating another Best Year Ever/ Best Years Ever? How did you answer the question above about the actions you took to make your great year great? What about doing more of that, now? We’re all about not reinventing the wheel. If you were winning at work in your best year ever — specifically because you were going to conferences and putting your neck out for new roles, maybe you need to start doing more of that again? If you felt vibrantly alive because you had a personal trainer and you were getting ready for that half-marathon, maybe commit to an 8-pack of training again? If you felt like your spiritual health was off the charts in your favorite year of all time, maybe start going back to Sunday service again? You get the drift. What do you need to bring back from the Best Year of All Time?
Plan your life, then live your plan. Check out last week’s post about the simple yet powerful step of making a list to create the best summer/ year/ whatever ever. Planning isn’t glamorous for most of us, but excellent lives don’t land in our laps. We kind of need to make our dreams come true. My favorite number is 3, so I always knew when I turned 33 I’d make it my best year to that point. I made The List of 33 with (guess how many) memorable things to make the year feel epic. (Some things were colossal, like New Year’s in Paris and getting a 33 tattoo in my favorite font, and others were cheap and cheerful, like making artichokes at home.) The theme was “Fun + Experience” which I even had engraved onto a necklace. What do you want on your list for your next great year? What do you want your next best year’s theme to be?
Adopt the attitude that the best is yet to come. If we’re certain our best days are in the rearview mirror (like how Bryan Adams seems sure his were in the summer of ’69), there’s an undeniable energy of resignation mixed with washed-up-manship and a dash of pity. If we assume that our best years haven’t happened yet, and that we’re in complete control to Make Life Happen (cue Self-Determination Theory 101, psychology buffs), then we have a fighting chance for heyday after heyday on our horizons.
Remember that you are going to die. It’s my constant refrain, I know, I know. But really: if you knew you had a limited amount of years left to live, would that inspire you to make your next 365 days on the planet in some way remarkable? To not take your seasons for granted? To feel like there was a discernable difference between being 45 and 46, for example, because each year of your life was punctuated by something memorable (other than a global pandemic)? Your time is ticking. There is no better year than this one to live as though you were alive.
There is a curve of life. Like the narrative structure of a story, our lives are peppered by inciting events, rising + falling actions, climaxes, and even some resolutions. Within the giant arc of live, we can have countless curves — and that’s where things get exciting, because we are the authors of our own stories. We get to create storylines with our decisions (like to go back to school/ to try a new career/ to finally get on Match.com/ to move to Seattle/ to take tennis lessons/ to get bangs/ to make the next 365 days magnanimously meaningful). We’re not in complete control of our stories or the endings (as discussed, we really do know how our stories end though), but we are definitely co-authors with a voice.
This Best Year Ever idea isn’t a “lightening doesn’t hit twice” kind of thing. Your heyday doesn’t have to be a sepia-toned memory from yesteryears; our years can keep getting better and better. We just have to give a shit — which is hard when we’re winded from work and lacking in creativity, but oh-so-very possible. Start tonight by figuring out why your favorite year made the cut, how you can repeat the essence of it (hopefully not in your cheerleading outfit), and plan to live another cracking year. Hot tip: skip the homemade artichokes. They aren’t worth the hassle.
P.S.: My online course called “How to Live Like You Mean It” is launching in four weeks (9/13), and I’m thinking you might be interested? Check it out and see if it attracts or repels you. If it attracts you, add your name to the waitlist for more details + freebies! If it repels you, well then jeez, I’m deeply sorry.
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