First things first. This is not a blog to brag. This is not a blog where I talk about how amazing my life is. Rather, it is a reminder to myself about what makes me happy.
This last week Caitlin and I watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Have you seen it yet? You should. It is a great movie. One of my new favorites. Basically it is about a guy who daydreams a lot, but doesn't live a very fulfilling life. He kind of blames the death of his father for why his life isn't how he would like, and his daydreams are always fantasies about what he wish could happen. But then one day he changes it - and that is what I love. So many times we watch movies and love the stories, but don't really apply them to ourselves - but I think movies can always be applied to our lives.
Here are a few examples, and then I'll get into the good stuff.
The Croods is a story about a cave family that refuses to live because they are afraid of what might be lurking outside of the cave. But then their cave is destroyed and they have to leave to find a new place to live. Along the way, they discover what it is like to actually live - and enjoy life. How often are we afraid of what could potentially happen, so instead we don't even take a risk? I'm afraid it happens all too often.
Then there is We Bought a Zoo. Such a great movie about a single dad who is still mourning the death of his wife. He isn't happy, and doesn't know how to make his kids happy. So he takes a risk and buys a new house/zoo and takes on the task of revitalizing the zoo. My favorite quote from the movie is, "Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it." Think about all of the opportunities we would miss out on if we didn't have courage.
Then one of my all time favorite movies, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. All the Harry Potter movies follow 3 wizard friends during their school years, but in this last movie Harry, Ron, and Hermione are working to overthrow the dark wizard, Voldemort. This movie is all about standing up for what is right, being a fiercely loyal friend, and working hard, even when things don't seem worth it, even if you think you may fail in the end.
Now, this post was not to talk about my favorite movies (although it's a great outlet, since I think I'm driving Caitlin insane). Rather it is to talk about How to Live an Amazing Life. So here are my suggestions:
1. Serve other people.
It is such a simple concept, and everyone can do it. In service there are always two beneficiaries, those who receive service, and those giving service. Service really makes you happy. When I was in high school, my friend Tess shared this inspirational quote with me, "Service is like peeing your pants, everyone can see the results, but only you can feel the warmth." Since then, I've always tried to feel the warmth that service can bring, and it really does make you happy. And it doesn't have to be big, or organized. Opening the door for others, letting a car onto a busy freeway lane, cooking dinner for a loved one. Service does not have to be a huge ordeal, but really can be simple and anonymous.
2. Overcome your fears.
In case you didn't notice the common theme of the movies listed above, a big part of the life changing elements in those movies is that the main characters had to overcome fears. This is super hard to do. Trust me - it is a battle I face every day. Before we moved to Mexico I was terrified, but rather than letting the fear control me, I used the fear to propel me forward. Use those obstacles and fears as something that can motivate you, rather than hinder you.
3. Be a fiercely loyal friend.
Just as I mentioned about Harry Potter, and as I referred to all my friends as Harry Potter characters in a past blog, I love those stories because of the friendships they have. Friends are a rare commodity, and I have been extremely blessed by the friends that I have - but one thing that I have learned through my friendships is that they take a lot of work. You have to be loyal to your friends, care for them in the good times and in the bad. You cannot be a flakey friend and expect loyalty in return. I haven't talked to some of my best friends from high school, college, my mission, etc. in years. But I know that I could count on them if I needed, just as they can come to me if they need something. When you are loyal to your friends your life becomes easier.
4. Give your heart to something and work toward it.
I don't care what it is. It can be quilting, medicine, religion, whatever. Seriously, it doesn't matter what it is. But set your sights on something you really want and work toward it. When you admire other people's accomplishments, you are really admiring all the hard work it took them to earn the accomplishment - not just the final product. Things of worth take work, and I believe that everyone should have something they work toward that they truly care about.
5. Do things you've always wanted to try.
This one seems very similar to number 4, but it is not. Trying something that you've always wanted to try is about putting yourself out there, outside of your comfort zone to see if you would enjoy something new. For me, this was moving to Mexico. I've always wanted to live (not just travel) outside of the US. But it always seemed so difficult, and I didn't know if it was going to be possible, but I knew that I had to try it. But what if I hated it? Oh well! That is the great part about just trying something out is that the learning comes through the experience, bad or good.
6. Cherish your family.
You don't get to choose your family. But you can choose to love and cherish your family. Even if they have done things to hurt you, or to offend you. It is your choice to love them, and it makes you happy. Believe me. When I was in high school I went through a rough patch with my mom. I was so angry at her, but I had to almost force myself to be angry at her, and it was ruining my happiness. By choosing to love her and forgive her made me a happier person, and I can promise you that by cherishing your family you will be happier as well.
7. Focus on the now.
Stop stressing out. Has stress ever brought you happiness? Seriously. Ask yourself that question right now. Stress doesn't do anything for us. Instead, focus on what is happening in the moment. No sense in stressing about the unknown. What if you died tomorrow (please don't stress about this). Do you want your last moments to be occupied with stresses of days to come? Enjoy the moments you have. Things that have happened, happened. Move past them, grow from them, learn from them, remember them (or not), and live for today. The tagline for the musical RENT is No Day But Today. I try to live by this. You cannot dwell in the past, there really is no day but today. Thomas S. Monson said, "Find Joy in the Journey." Focus on the now and you will be happy - guaranteed.
8. Change that thing you hate about yourself.
I'm just going to say it like it is - we all hate one thing about ourselves. It could be the way your arm keeps waving long after you have finished waving goodbye, or it could be that you hate that you say the word "like" every 7 words. Whatever it is - change it! I struggled for a long time about my body image. I was always chubby growing up - and I got almost to 250 pounds. I was a big kid - and I hated it. I was so self conscious, and I limited my activities based off my size. But I also love to eat treats. So what did I do? I learned to have self control, and discovered exercise - and it's really hard. But I can't let my weight hold me back. Instead, I use my dreams (not being skinny dreams) to motivate me to lose weight. You can do it to - no matter what it is you want to change. It will be difficult, and you may need to refer to number 2 over and over again in order to finally reach your goal - but I don't think anyone should hate who they are.
9. Don't let others define you.
Why do we care so much what other people think about us? I spent way too much time worrying about pleasing other people. I wasn't super popular in high school, and yet I tried so hard to fit it. I don't really understand it now - and I don't care about 90% of the people I went to high school with. I've actually forgotten most of their names. And I had to get out of my hometown, because I didn't want to continue being the same person I was. But if I didn't leave, they would keep defining me. Raven Simone said, "I always say to people, 'If you have a problem with me, text me. If you don't have my number, than that means you don't know me well enough to have a problem with me anyways.'" I don't think I could say it any better than that.
10. Love with all your heart.
Today just so happens to be my two year anniversary to the most amazing woman in the world. No she is not perfect, and neither am I. But one thing I am learning is that rather than bicker about the little things, I can just fill my heart with love. Filling your heart with love brings gratitude and joy. Whether it is another person, a dog, a car, whatever - learn to love with all your heart (and I would recommend a living object rather than a car - but to each his own). When you love others you receive love in return. Sometimes your heart gets broken, but its worth it. Put yourself out there and love.
I hope you enjoyed these little ways to live an amazing life. I'm no expert, but I am happy - and these are a few of the ways I have found to be happy. Your amazing life can start today. It is all just a matter of choices.