We might check our personal finances from time to time, or find out if we're still getting the best deal on car insurance or spend loads of time surfing the net for a good bargain. But how often do we actually bother to audit our own lives?
I ask that question because doing a life audit could literally save your life and sanity. It can be the difference between living life by default or living the rest of your life by design. Yes, that's right, you do have choices and you can design your life the way you want it to be. The first steps are being honest and aware of what's not working in your life right now and knowing how you'd prefer things to be. So read on if you want to learn how to live by design or stop right here if you're happy living by default.
And to be honest, I really wouldn't blame you if go for default. Why? Because modern life has become totally geared up to living by default.
In her warm, humorous and inspiring keynote on the Third Metric in London, Arianna Huffington drove home the need to redefine success. Why? Because in this day and age being "successful," good enough or accepted now equals something like this: being chained to your desk and monitor until the cleaners arrive (and sometimes after they leave), waking up feeling tired and drugged even though you've had 7 hours' sleep, feeling so stressed out and 'busy' you've barely got time for family and friends let alone yourself, answering work emails when you're on holiday, reaching out for yet another cup of coffee, glass of wine, painkiller, or all three!
Sadly, for many of us, this has become our default way of living. As we slowly become less "present" in our default, almost robotic lives, it's no surprise some of us go into depression. Without us knowing it, life has suddenly been stripped of meaning.
When we get that sometimes dull, sometimes niggly or downright painful sense our lives have gone into default, it's time to pause and take stock.
Doing a "life audit" is a simple process but it does require you to be dead honest with yourself. Chances are though, that if something in you has said enough and you're willing to listen, you're ready for some home truths.
Here are some practical steps you need to take to do your own, personal life audit:
1. Be dead honest with yourself
If your energy levels are shot, your health's suffering, your diet's plummeting, your patience is short, your nerves are on edge and your relationships are taking a plunge, chances are you've gone into default living. This is the point where you can either ignore the signs and fall deeper into default or face the facts, realise there's a serious problem and do something about it.
Being dead honest with yourself also means taking responsibility - you recognise and admit there's a problem and you begin to accept it's down to you and no one else to fix it.
2. Ask yourself: am I really living life to my full potential?
OK, this can be a mean and ugly question to ask after you've made the effort to be dead honest with yourself because let's face it, when you're experiencing the symptoms above, the only answer can be: .....no.
A few years ago I asked myself that very same question and it led to a big audit and overhaul of my entire life. And even though I'm now mostly living the life I chose and designed back then, I still do make a point of stopping myself from time to time (especially when I'm beginning to feel flat or uneasy) to ask myself - am I really living life to my full potential?
Recently after asking myself that question, I realised I'd fallen into a bit of a predictable and boring routine so no, I certainly wasn't living life to my full potential. So what did I do? I made an effort to reconnect with friends and to spend time with them, I made a list of shows my partner and I wanted to see and we went to them, I made an effort to read more fiction instead of my research books alone and I committed to breaking up my working day with an afternoon walk. All of these things, although simple, helped me feel I was living a fuller life once again.
3. Ask yourself: how truly present am I in my life?
This question goes hand in hand with the one above. And again you need to be dead honest with yourself.
So tell me, when you're with your partner and/or kids, are you really present for them or is your mind going through all the things you've still not ticked off on your to-do list? When you're at work, are you really present or are you already planning the evening ahead or better still, your next holiday? And what's life really like when you're not fully present in it? How fulfilled, connected and happy do you really feel?
To help you answer this question, try filling in this wheel of life:
Take a look at the different areas of your life above and start scoring them according to how satisfied you are with them. If the centre of the wheel is 0 and the outer edge 10, draw a line across each segment that shows your satisfaction with this area of your life at this moment in time.
4. Do your audit
As you may have guessed, the wheel of life is a great way of identifying which areas of your life are out of synch. Once you've completed it, hone in on the areas that have scored low (let's say, below 5). Now ask yourself: why are the scores low? What's going on in each of these areas now for me to feel so dissatisfied?
Then for each of the areas where you scored low, ask: what do I actually want in each of these areas? What would my ideal score be? And what would I need to do to feel more satisfied in each area?
5. Create your action plan
You now have a basis for your own unique action plan. Make a note of all the things you can do to feel more satisfied and fulfilled in each area. And remember, this is about step-by-step changes. Be gentle on yourself and allow yourself to go at a pace that's comfortable for you. If you have a number of areas to focus on, try choosing the two most important ones to work on first. Remember, creating a plan is the important bit - how many other people do you know who have a plan of action for being more present in their lives?
Once you've got your action plan, you want to commit to it, but remember to pace yourself. Instead of telling yourself you'll complete all your action points the day after tomorrow, set yourself a realistic time-frame that fits with your own unique pace. This is a process and one worth experiencing fully. Besides, if you do pace yourself, you're more likely to make the changes you want.
How confident are you about doing a life audit now? Leave me a comment below or visit here to share your thoughts and experiences now.