There is no shortage of advice on how to live a meaningful life. Finding a rule of life that works for you, however, is a uniquely personal pursuit. And how you approach the process is just as important as the practices you undertake to reach your goals.
Start Where You Are
It's common for people who see the need for a rule of life to jump in with both feet and try all the things they can think of to embrace it. While the excitement is certainly understandable, this path often leads quickly to frustration, disappointment and burnout. The first step is being honest with yourself about where you are so that you can make reasonable, gradual adjustments.
Take a look at your current schedule. Is every minute of each weekday booked solid? Are your weekends generally free, or do you find yourself jumping from one activity to the next every week? If you would have a difficult time scheduling a lunch date with a friend in the next couple of weeks, it's probably not practical to expect to find time for a monthly nature retreat, especially if you factor in the needs of your children or other family members.
Instead, choose one or two small changes that fit into the life you already have. Stick to those changes as long as they are effective, and don't add anything else until you can actually make time for it. This is especially true if you are trying to make room for a whole new pursuit, such as learning a new instrument or other creative practice.
Incorporate Useful Practices
There are many ways to grow, but balance is the key to lasting change. For a well-rounded rule of life, you should consider three factors of connection:
- Connection to a higher power
- Connection to others
- Connection to yourself
Try to incorporate regular practices that allow you to connect on all three levels. Pray or meditate to strengthen your connection with God. Make a weekly or monthly habit of having dinner with close friends and family, and attend services or get involved in activities at your chosen place of worship. Schedule time alone to journal, make art or enjoy nature to center yourself. Start small and build your practice from there.
You can do all the things you've been told you should want and still feel unfulfilled. Cultivating a life of abundance and purpose doesn't look the same for everyone. It doesn't hurt to try new ways to connect with a higher power, others and yourself, but you are not obligated to continue with practices that don't seem to work for you. For example, you may want to spend an hour each morning meditating and journaling alone in your garden. If you can't adjust your sleep schedule to make room for it, though, dogmatically insisting on the practice is more likely to leave you tired and cranky rather than energized and inspired.
Additionally, you may find that things that work really well in some seasons grow stale or stop being productive over time. Change is inevitable, and any rule of life that will help you grow and thrive will be flexible enough to allow you to do so. Tap into the resources that help you navigate this journey. You may benefit from workbooks or other written guides, or taking classes may fit your learning style better. A spiritual director, therapist or life coach may also be able to help guide the process.
Regardless of the advice you receive, you are the ultimate expert on what works for you. You will know you're on the right track when your rule of life produces abundance and joy.