finding joy
Photo: Reggie Casagrande/Stone/Getty Images

1. Have a Vision

Begin basing choices on what makes you feel freer and happier, rather than how you think an ideal life should look. Start by finding images from magazines (or from books or the Internet) that depict your desired future and glue them to a large piece of butcher paper. If that makes you roll your eyes, I understand. But this strategy often works. The board itself doesn't impact reality; what changes your life is the process of selecting the images—which will stick in your subconscious and steer your choices in a direction that helps make the vision real.

2. Let Go of What Doesn't Work

Consider those things you'd like to release from your life—bad habits, toxic friends, old grudges—and as you hold them in your mind's eye, inhale while silently repeating, "Let it happen." When you exhale, think, "Let it go." Practice this consistently, and you can strip most of the trauma and drama right out of your world.

3. Don't Be Afraid to Fail

People who worry about mistakes become paralyzed by that worry, but those who are relaxed about doing badly soon learn to do well. Success is built on failure. Job burnout? It's steering you toward your perfect career. An awful relationship? It's teaching you what love means. Finding a problem's solution is what gives life its gusto.

4. Pay Attention to What Really Matters to You

If you tend to include others' priorities in your decision making, you must untangle yourself to know what's important. This can be difficult at first, but you'll soon discover that your life is waiting to help you choose what's right for you, even when other people tell you that their own code-red desires should take priority. It does this by making things taxing when they're not important, and delicious and relatively effortless when they are. Life feels good when it thrills you—and bad when it doesn't.

Martha Beck is the author of The Martha Beck Collection: Essays for Creating Your Right Life, Volume One (Martha Beck Inc.).

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