I used to lead a pretty mediocre life—I expected very little from myself, and as a result, I was seldom happy. I had let myself believe that "surviving" was good enough. I didn't need to love my life—or maybe I didn't deserve to. I fell into a deep depression and I almost didn't make it out.
At some point, about a decade ago, I decided something had to change. I'm not sure what the trigger was, but I started wanting to challenge myself. Little by little, I began to lift myself out of the fog I'd been sleepwalking through. Over time, I adopted eight habits that challenged me every day. Since then, my confidence has grown, my curiosity has burgeoned, and I've experienced more happiness than I knew I was capable of feeling. I'm actually living my life now—and it's really fun.
Here are the eight changes I made that helped me revolutionize my life:
1. I meditate every day.
One of the biggest game-changers in my life is a Buddhist chanting practice. The daily practice has vastly improved my mood, resilience, and empathy over time. While I saw results immediately, the most profound changes from meditation have appeared over the course of several years. Your daily practice could be meditation, but it could also be yoga, Tai Chi, or reading scripture. Find something that nourishes and centers you and do it, no matter what. It will pay dividends.
2. I exercise three times a week.
There's no question at this point of the mental, physical, and emotional benefits of exercise. Even just doing 30 minutes of cardio three times a week can change your life—I'm not even exaggerating. For me, 90 minutes a week of high-intensity interval training focuses my mind and refreshes my body, making me feel ready to take on whatever life throws at me.
3. I read constantly.
Read something new and different from what you usually read. Find new authors and new topics or genres. Daily reading is how I escape from the mundane and explore a new world. It's also an incredible way to inspire creativity. Everything I read has led to amazing breakthroughs in other areas of my life.
4. I create healthy, meaningful friendships.
The benefits of deep, healthy relationships really can't be overestimated. Friendship has even been shown to extend our life span. Make a daily practice of investing in a meaningful relationship. Talk to that neighbor you always see around the block. Reach out to the quiet colleague at work. A simple "hello!" whenever I see my neighbors has led to nice friendships and a more inviting community to live in. Having deep friendships with the same people over decades has increased my happiness, stability, and fulfillment.
5. I live on less.
I often thought that I needed a certain amount of money to feel happy—that being able to purchase what I wanted was the key to joy. However, living in a modest apartment in New York City for the past decade, I've really learned the value that comes from a minimalist lifestyle. Having fewer things is actually incredibly freeing. Try it. You'll see.
6. I learn something new every day.
Curiosity generates a constant appreciation for life and its mysteries. Sign up for a daily learning email or take a continuing education course in your area. Because I stay curious and open-minded, I'm constantly aware of the beauty around me.
7. I start and end my days with intention.
Developing morning and evening routines mean that I get everything I want to do done before bed. When I’m in bed, it’s time for winding down, reflecting, or writing down goals for the next day and relaxing before I fall asleep. My morning routine means I wake up at about the same time every morning, chant, and eat a small, energy-boosting breakfast. Developing routines has freed up my mental capacity for more creative pursuits.
8. I give back.
For the past decade, I have dedicated myself to educating others about peace and deriving maximum happiness and value from life. Helping others and working toward common goals has led to a more positive existence and a happier attitude for me each day. I challenge you to find something bigger than yourself to give back to—whether it’s a spiritual practice, charity work, or simply reinvesting in your relationships. It makes all the difference in how happy you'll be.
The bottom line? Complacency is the harbinger of emptiness. It leads to stagnation and, eventually, death. If we don't choose to challenge ourselves, we will never reach our true potential.
Expect more from yourself each day. Little by little, you'll see what you're truly capable of.