Most of us want to "live the examined life" to some extent. Who wants to go through life as a commute-driving, work-doing, food-scarfing, TV binge-watching zombie?
I've found that the key to being happier is creating rituals and initiating systems to reflect on what I'm learning, who I'm becoming, and celebrating little victories. That's why at the end of the day I ask myself the following five questions. They are useful because they reinforce my values, they help me appreciate what I have and who I am, and they teach me what I need to work on and that I have much to learn
1. Did I make my daughter laugh?
There's nothing better than hearing my baby daughter laugh. She's a generous laugher, and all I need to do to evoke her throaty giggle is tickle her face with my bangs or blow raspberries on her toes. If ever I'm having a pity party for myself, I think about that little laugh and instantly feel like a happier, worthy, more useful individual.
2. Did I make my partner feel loved?
We ran out of eggs.
Home by 8 pm.
Do we have plans Sunday morning?
There's nothing glamorous about communicating with your significant other solely about logistics. All too often you probably find yourself in the same position: texting back and forth about the contents of the fridge, bills, and plans, whittling away the hours talking about ... whittling away the hours.
When I noticed this happening I vowed to be more vocal in my appreciation for my partner. At the end of the day I ask, "Did I make him feel loved?" Usually I get a "yes" through simple gestures: thanking him for being the Baby Nap Whisperer, making time for affection even while I'm working or multitasking, or staying up a few minutes later than usual to goof around and laugh each other's jokes.
3. What went well today?
I find it helpful to write this and the next two questions down. I jot them down as quick one-line notes, nothing elaborate. Then I can look back and see progress in my life, thoughts, and habits. You can focus on any area of your life with this one: work, relationships, your own emotions, how you reacted to or handled a situation, and so on.
4. What wasn't great?
Did you make a choice that could have been better? Did you treat someone crappy? Did you experience a conflict you wish you could have resolved better? Examining your choices shouldn't be a way to second-guess or doubt yourself, but a way for you to acknowledge your actions and improve in the future.
5. What was the silver lining?
This is where the learning happens. What opportunity did today's shitshow provide? Your silver lining doesn't necessarily have to be something profound. Sometimes my silver lining is "I remembered that I am truly a work in progress." Don't strive for some big message. An authentic silver lining will be the one that resonates with you and helps you lead a better life.