A Real Life Report Card: Making Changes for the Better

Photo courtesy of Hannah Swithinbank

As December is getting ready to melt into January, I’ve started taking note of the good habits I’ve formed in 2012.  In the past year, I’ve become mindfully aware of the power I have over my own life. The last thing I want to do is slow or halt the progress I’ve made in areas that are very important to me. Since I started making a conscious effort to break a bunch of bad habits and replace them with new ones, I’ve experienced some extremely positive changes in my life.

Being aware of your progression toward the kind of life you really want is crucial to your success, but being immersed in your day-to-day life can sometimes blur your perception of the big picture. And with that line of thinking, I had an a-ha moment.

In your school years, you always knew how well you were doing in a multitude of subjects all at once because you were given tangible evidence of your success every marking period.  Now you’re trying to master a much more complex subject: Life. Here in the real world, you’re the only one who can determine how close you are to achieving your goals. As both the student and the teacher, you’re pretty much left to your own devices when it comes to assessment. While most people have a pretty good idea of what it means to ‘Fail at Life’, it seems much more difficult to ascertain exactly when you’ve passed with flying colors.

What we could all use is a real life report card – a tangible way to measure the progress we’re making toward our goals. Succeeding at life isn’t something that’s easy to measure, though. And since we’re all improving in a wide array of different ways, I’ve compiled a few suggestions you can use to create an assessment that’s appropriate for your life.

  1. Put it in a jar.  Start each year (or other predetermined length of time) with an empty jar or other container of your choice. Whenever you reach an important milestone in your Happiness Journey, write a short note about it and place it folded in the jar. At the end of the year (or the real life ‘marking period’ of your choosing), read all of the notes aloud to give yourself recognition for making positive changes. Another possibility is to make a second jar for any setbacks you’ve experienced.
  2. Cross it off. Before implementing the above idea, write the small changes you hope to make in a notebook. List style works best for this assessment tool. When you empty your jar, cross off all of the accomplishments as you read them aloud. If you incorporate two jars, make notes under each item that still needs work.
  3. Blog it. Whether you prefer electronic posts or the kind you make with pen and paper, start a Journey Journal. This acts as a running record of your self-improvement, and can replace both #1 and #2.
  4. Reflect. Mentally assess where you are now versus where you were last year, or six months ago.  How do you feel?  Ask yourself if you are coming closer to ultimate happiness or veering off the path.
  5. Snap it.  Get into the habit of taking pictures of happy/momentous occasions so that you can refer to them later as you self-assess. Pictures can really jar the mind, and they will remind you of everything you’ve accomplished.  Conversely, photos can also help you remember moments that were low, giving you a reality check about how far you’ve really come.

Pick and choose some (or use all) of the above methods, but make sure you stop to take inventory of your satisfaction with life every now and again.  There’s a reason we had report cards in school, and although we shouldn’t spend too much time assessing ourselves (that would be too time consuming and detract from living mindfully) - if we don’t check in, we’ll be much more likely to check out, ending up right back where we started.

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