We all know that no one’s life can ever be perfect, but it can’t hurt to dream. And what better time than now, with the New Year approaching. Reassessing and re-envisioning your life can happen any time at all, but there is something about starting a fresh new year that seems to welcome that reflection even more.
There are so many potential components of an ideal life that you might like to consider. Here are a few.
Who are the people you would like to have in your life? Do you wish you had more friends? Fewer friends? More family members? Fewer? Do you wish you were closer to your neighbors or coworkers or do you wish you could maintain a greater distance? Do you wish you had more kids in your life or are there already too many (as, for example, if you teach kids or have friends or family who want you to take more interest in their kids than you already do)? Do you wish you had more people to mentor, or do you have too many already? More casual acquaintances or fewer?
Or are you already totally happy with the people you have in your life?
It can be challenging to change the mix of people in our lives to get closer to our ideal. What I hope these questions do, though, is to open your mind to possibilities other than the ones that get the most attention. In a society that is still enamored of extraverts, for example, it can seem unthinkable that having fewer friends or family members in your life would be desirable, but for introverts (and some others, too), that’s a real possibility. Maybe you noticed that I didn’t mention a spouse or romantic partners. That was on purpose, too. Lots of people want such a person in their lives, but plenty of others (such as people who are single at heart) are not interested, and they get almost no acknowledgement of their life preferences in popular culture or even in scholarly discussions.
Feeding Your Social Soul and Your Personal One
Regardless of whether you have the ideal mix of particular people in your life, what about the time you spend with them? Do you have your ideal amount of time with other people? Do you wish you had more interpersonal time in your life or do you have too many social commitments? Is your time with other people quality time? Or maybe I should ask if it has the quality you want it to, which could be anything from deep, intimate connections to casual socializing when things are refreshingly light?
And what about your time alone? Do you have enough solitude in your life – time that you can devote to your creativity, productivity, contemplation, spirituality, relaxing, recharging, or whatever else you like to do when you are on your own? Or do you have too much time to yourself?
Does your job fulfill you or pay the bills – or, lucky you, both? If you could work at any kind of employment at all, what would it be? Do you wish you never had to work at all? If so, what do you imagine your days would look like? If you are not already retired, are you looking forward to it?
Are your financial resources sufficient, so that you are not always worrying about getting by?
Your Interests and Passions and Values
What would you like to do with your time if you had the opportunity to fill it any way you wanted? Do you already have a passion? If not, do you wish you did?
What are the values that define who you are? Are you living up to those values?
Your Living Arrangement
How are you living now? Are you living alone? With one other person? (Is it a friend or family member or a spouse/partner or a roommate you don’t know very well?) With more than one person, under the same roof? With extended family members or several generations of your family, all under the same roof? In a place of your own, even though you are in a committed romantic relationship or a marriage? In a nuclear family household? In a place of your own, but within an intentional community, such as a cohousing community?
Where do you want to live? In what country? Do you want to live in or near the place where you grew up? Do you like urban environments? Suburban? Rural? Small towns? Do you like to be near mountains? Lakes? Wide open skies? Cold weather or warm or changing seasons?
Do you wish you had more space or more stuff in your place or are you longing for a simpler life?
Regardless of how you are living now, how do you wish you were living? When I was researching How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century, I interviewed people living in all of the different kinds of arrangements and kinds of places I just described, plus many more. Most of them had tried different ways of living and different places to live before they found the one that suited them best, the one that matched who they really are and made it possible for them to live their best life.
I think our “lifespaces” are more important to our emotional well-being than we realize. The different ways we live (alone, with others, in a place of our own but within a community, etc.) can have a lot to do with the people we end up having in our lives, whether we get the right mix of time alone and time together, and whether we can pursue our passions and live according to our values.
We have more opportunities now than we ever did before to live however we want, or to create the way of living that suits us best if it does not already exist. In researching How We Live Now, I found that there are many possibilities, even for people who do not have a lot of money. So in 2016, go for it!
Mom and daughter photo available from Shutterstock