What One Thing Can You Do Today to Improve Your Life?

improve your life

Organize your desk?

Be a better listener at work?

Find someone to help you find your passion in life?

Every month or so I wake up and remember that my life can use more improvement.

I don’t want you to think that I’m unhappy. Far from it. My life is better than I ever expected. But I don’t want to stand still. I want to move forward, challenge myself, and improve my life. If I don’t, what kind of example do I set for my clients?

With coffee in hand, I begin to write down all the things that I want to improve. Eat better. Exercise five days a week. Connect with others on the internet. Write a great weekly blog. Clean our linen closet. Read a book on how to improve writing skills. Plan meals in advance. Learn to create videos. Get over my fear about being in videos. Find people to review my upcoming book. Vacuum the office monthly. Review web pages and update. Create and market a new workshop at The Center of Success. File receipts immediately. Paint the kitchen.

As I reread my list I notice that some of the same tasks seem to reappear year after year.

Clean the linen closet? It’s been on the list for 2 years.

File receipts immediately? This one pops up every April.

I’m starting to feel overwhelmed and negative. I look at the long list of incomplete tasks and feel like a sloth.

Checking my email to distract myself, the subject lines glare at me: Get More Done in Half The Time. 3 Tips to Faster Blogging. Write Your Book in 29 Days. I should be getting more done. I’m smart. I should force myself to just do what I have to do.

I feel as if I should schedule time every day so I can complete these tasks. As I hear my inner mind whisper, “You should, you should, you should!”  begin to notice a familiar feeling. Images of my grandmother ironing her sheets as soon as she pulls them from the dryer pass through my mind. You should always do this the minute the dryer finishes, she says. This way you’ll have less wrinkles.

My mind wanders to our linen closet and our un-ironed sheets and I notice a brief twinge of a feeling.  Ahh…I just figured out why I’m feeling so bad. I’ve just caught myself repeating an old family habit. I’m “SHOULD-ING” on myself.

I now know the one thing I can do to improve my life today.

I open my desk drawer, shove the list in, and stand up.  It’s beautiful outside and I imagine how nice it will be to walk to the office this afternoon.

How will you improve your life today?

Photo by Luis Hernandez

improve your life

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39 thoughts on “What One Thing Can You Do Today to Improve Your Life?”

  1. I like to ride my bike or take a walk just noticing everyone and everything around me. Usually I am filled with the joy of being alive. At these times I need nothing else.

    Dan @ ZenPresence

  2. Nice post …those shoulds and oughts are a real pain the butt.. I try to remember that everyday I need to live to tune of my own pace, needs, desires and free will and if what makes me happy is going for a surf or doing nothing but lying on my rug snuggled up to my dog, then that’s what I will do. Down with fear based judgement and up with joy, freedom and happiness ;)

  3. Today I am starting a habit of writing a thank you note to my husband every single day. This is to show him my appreciation for him in my life and to learn to have more gratitude. Today I certainly choose to improve.

  4. Joanna – I like the way you phrased this: “Down with judgement, Up with Joy! I’m imagining a few dozen cheerleaders on the sidelines with their arms up in the air lol!

    Stuart, only occasionally does my mother come visit and look into the linen closet :) Then I gotta let those judgements go!

    Lynda, what a delightful thing to do. You are going to feel great. I’m going to go email my boyfriend right now… :-)

  5. Interesting and insightful read. Looks like I’ve been SHOULD-ING myself for the past 20 years attempting to learn the guitar, being distracted and returning back to this improvement goal every year.

    If anything, your story has encouraged me to go out, walk to work and observe the wonderful things around us.

    ps: I had to double take on the word SHOULD-ING for awhile. Funny!

    1. Hi David,
      Thanks for reading my article and commenting. Thought you might like to know what I learned a few decades ago:

      “You shouldn’t should on others and you shouldn’t should on yourself!”

      When you read/hear it, yes, you are meant to do a double take :-)

  6. This has worked for me with those little nagging unwanted tasks I can’t seem to accomplish…Delegate or Ask For Help.
    There is someone in your life who would LOVE to clean and organize your linen closet. Open yourself to the possibility of finding out who they are!
    A good opportunity is to listen for the next time someone asks something of you…and ask if they would like to barter favors with you….you will do xy or z (take them to the mall, dog sit or kid sit for them, help plan a party etc) if they will: spend 1 hour organizing your linen closet!!! for you.
    Do you have a newsletter? Post: WANTED, A VIRGO WHO LOVES TO TURN CHAOS INTO ORDER! (a messy linen closet into a Martha Stewart photo ad for sheets:~))
    In exchange I will: XYor Z (something YOU excel in and gives you pleasure doing and is easy and not too time consuming for you…
    Try it and let me know how it goes!
    Aloha,
    Annie

  7. For me the best way of improving my life is starting with what’s going right and then trying to get more of it. Like playing board games with my kids, taking time to be alone and write, read inspirational books and articles, having meaningful conversations with my friends.
    The “shoulds” come to mind when we are looking for gaps, but when I look through the lenses of what I have already (abundance, gratitude), the possibilities for improvements seem exciting and more reachable. Thanks for the article!

  8. Long lists that never get done are not a great life tool. Focusing on something simple is. I’m planning just to chop some firewood this weekend. It’s outdoors, good exercise and the pleasure of a nicely stacked woodpile is fantastic.

  9. I just “should-ed” myself less than fifteen minutes ago. My husband “you should-ed” me right back. I was listing all the thing I felt I should be doing – like getting things done for work tomorrow, packing lunch, cleaning the kitchen, etc. etc. etc. My husband – ever my anchor – stopped me and said what I should be doing is ignoring the chores, putting myself in bed, getting more sleep, and taking care of myself better. He is right – the work can wait, of course. It’s funny how often the “shoulds” we give ourselves aren’t really for ourselves at all, but what we imagine someone else expects of us. Glad I stopped for a minute before following his suggestion to read your post. Good reinforcement. :)

  10. This is so good. We will never be perfect. There are some things that it’s just ok to be a little imperfect. Does it change our life to iron the sheets? I doubt it. I’m glad you are ok with the wrinkles. I have to think about what “wrinkles” I need to be ok with today. Thanks for this!

    1. Thanks Bethany! Your comment reminds me of a quote that I really like. It goes something like this:

      No one will remember you for your spotless clean house, instead they will remember you for how you made them feel.

    1. Good idea Carmen. Any way you choose to release those old self-critical thoughts is great.

      I teach my clients to open the “trap door” on the top of their head, release the old thought and QUICKLY fill it up with their new desired thought.
      Works wonders!

  11. When I speak in public, I have always invited my listeners to replace the word “should” with “could,” as in, I COULD be exercising today. It gives someone a CHOICE. It takes away the whole voice that comes with “should.”
    I should be exercising> someone’s there telling you what to do.
    I could be exercising> you have a choice between that and something else; it’s not a top down command, and if you don’t do it, you’re not a flawed person. It’s a possibility, and it’s there to entice you.

  12. Wow, I love your article. It was so beautifully put. I can see how ‘should’ing yourself does more damage than good.

    One thing I can do to improve my life is to clean up 30 min a day. instead of a few hrs on one day.

    1. I enjoyed your article Linda! I like how you handle your shoulds.

      Most of our “Should Brigades” consist of others people words that we adopted at some time in our life.

      These words will remain there unless we intentionally change them, which is quite simple.

  13. I like to investigate why am I “should-ing” myself? What is behind it? Instead of ignoring it or just trying to stop “should-ing”, I inquire as to where it is coming from. What belief, pattern or behavior? I try to get to the root of the “should”, then address it appropriately. Is this a want? Is this important? Why am I putting it off? What do I want to do about it? etc… After going through a line of questioning I can properly put the “should” in its place and move on without recurring or popping up out of the blue. The line of logic I use is Awareness, Observation, Inquiry, Choice and Action.

  14. You are an natural born writer. You could really enjoy that status! You have fun sharing all that makes your life easier and better and we all appreciate your gratitude in sharing!
    Thanks Wendy for caring about us all.

  15. I can so relate to your article, Wendy! There are things that I want to improve in my own life, but writing them down in one place can be overwhelming. One method I like is taking a yearly goal and breaking down by quarter into bite sized chunks. When I do it (notice I said “when), it really does work.
    The biggest improvement for my life is taking the opportunity to be thankful and enjoy the little pleasures in my life, like those walks.

  16. Wendy,

    Thanks for a nicely written article that helps us to dig into the connection between our thoughts and feelings. To me…Should = a Feeling of weight on the ol’ shoulders. It could be an item I’ve been meaning to get to, so it hangs and hangs over my head….OR…it could mean a change I’ve been wanting for…a pain that hasn’t been addressed. I’m glad I read over the blog post…if anything, I’ll be able to shed some of those feelings if I recognize them and stop using the language “should”

  17. Hi Wendy,

    Thanks for your post. It is even more pertinent as everyone is thinking about their resolutions for the New Year. I, like you, have many recurring things on that list and also like you a quality weekly blog is one of them but as you so succinctly express improving our lives is about change, not writing the same list year in year out.

    Best wishes for 2013. (Don’t punish yourself because you have no desire for ironed sheets……… Pay someone to do it for you and get it off the list)

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