The big goals in life—buying a house, starting a family, saving for retirement—are the ones that get the most attention, the most focus. It's easy to lose sight of what makes you happy today when you've got your eye on tomorrow. But investing in your happiness now doesn't mean sacrificing your long-term goals or draining your savings. It means taking a little more time to slow down, breathe… and enjoy the moment. Here are five easy steps to make sure you don't miss out on what matters most:
List three activities that bring you happiness but don't cost money
Too often people are sidetracked by the latest and greatest (and the stresses that come with constantly trying to keep up), but the things you enjoy don't have to be costly. Whatever they are, write them down. A morning yoga routine? An occasional evening walk in the park? Reading a great book from the library? Since you're bound to have more than three, pick those that mean the most.
Imagine a year from now you're doing things that are important to you—list three of them
Maybe you want to go on a rock climbing adventure or remodel your kitchen; either way, don't put limits on yourself. Nip defeatist thoughts in the bud, and assume everything is feasible. The point is to get your goals onto a list—to put them in perspective and make a plan of action.
Compare the items in the two lists to see if there are any similarities or gaps
If your lists have some crossover, good news! You are closer to reaching that goal than you might have thought. If the things that bring you happiness and your goals don't overlap, don't sweat it. Gaps are to be expected, and you can address those in the next step.
Identify one thing you can work on that'll get you to your goal and bring you happiness
For those items on your lists that don't intersect, why not use one to get to the other? For example, if your goal requires some savings, then consider doing your favorite free activity more often. (Take a stroll in the park instead of going to a movie, for example.) Then put the money you'd have otherwise spent during that time into a dedicated account toward that goal.
Do one thing this week that is within your means, brings you happiness and moves you toward that goal
You know the place where you want to be, and you know what brings you happiness on a day-to-day basis. While happiness may be free, reaching a goal may not be. Don't wait any longer: Rein in some unnecessary spending and feel good that you are moving closer to your goal.
* "Americans take half of their paid vacation, but Chinese take less," Sep. 11, 2015, MarketWatch