As the course of evolution spirals upward and downward, collective humanity witnesses glorious times, and horrific ones. The need to go to extremes, and then to course-correct in order to restore balance, seems an integral function of the human psyche. While what we see around us globally on a daily basis may turn our stomach and make us sick with anxiety, sadness, and fear, we can do something about it. Perhaps, everything that is falling apart around us is doing so for good reason; it simply has to go.

In this crazy world we live in where so much seems to change minute-to-minute and so much seems out of our control, one thing remains within our immediate control—taking back ownership of and responsibility for ourselves. When we do that, we can be more effective in our response to change in a way that moves us forward and upward in the evolutionary spiral, both personally and collectively.

If life has gotten away from you, if the demands upon you are making you feel overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, and/or deeply  concerned about the future, if your work-life balance is unfairly skewed away from quality time with yourself, your family, your interests and hobbies, and/or your community, then it’s time to stop and refocus on what’s most important to you and find a way back to all that really matters. The idea is to evaluate what you’re actually doing with and for yourself every day, determine how essential it is to you, and make the necessary changes that best accommodate your needs, interests, and desires.

Of course, the practical matters of life, such as career and finances must be carefully considered in order to allow for a balanced view. For example, you have to understand if it’s practical and feasible for you to cut back on your hours at work, or if you can work closer to home or even from home, or what it would take for you to change careers by going back to school to retrain, or if you can split your job/career to include opportunities to not only make money but to put your interests and passions to work for you, or if you can cut or consolidate your expenses in exchange for having more hours that are not work related or to pursue other more important interests.

Here are some essential things to consider when you decide to refocus your attention in order to determine what is most important in your life, and how to get there.

1. Determine what things you value the most about your life. Choose five of these as a starting point, a basic model around which to structure the life you are trying to create. When you consciously make these choices you remind yourself what things in your life you can’t and won’t do without. These represent the backbone of your life. All too often we forget what people and events have shaped and continue to shape our lives. They mold us into the people we are and the people we want to become. They support and encourage us in every possible way.

2. Decide what commitments are most important to you. Evaluate which commitments are in keeping  with the five things you value the most about your life. Commitments are obligations that you enter into and represent your promise to steadfastly see a relationship/project/contract to its conclusion. Keep your essential commitments, renegotiate them if necessary, but consider completing the existing commitments you’re obligated to complete and refuse to take on any new ones. That way you focus on those commitments that are most essential to you and your life.

3. Assess the way you use your time. Most of us have a daily routine, with many fixed activities and chores. Evaluate which things are absolutely necessary and important for the five areas you identified as having the most value for your life.

How much time do you spend communicating? Assess the amount of time spent online, emailing, texting, and on your cell phone. How can you cut back on the amount of time you spend doing these activities?

Assess how much time you spend on a daily basis watching TV, listening to the radio, on the internet, reading newspapers, and magazines. Consider decreasing your consumption and instead,  receive basic information from a worthy source(s) only ONCE a day. So much that is presented in the media is repetitive and redundant. People have become afraid that they will miss out on something if they aren’t constantly in touch.

What would you do with all the time you’d have available if much of these activities were radically decreased or curtailed?

4. Get rid of clutter in every area of your life. Do you really need everything you have? Give anything away you have not used in the last two years. Certainly, someone else can use what you no longer need. You can even sell items, furniture, clothing, etc. you no longer need.

Likewise, periodically get rid of emotional and psychological clutter, those ways of being that no longer serve you. Too often, we continue to do things routinely, often in a way that has little to do with how we have evolved over the course of time. We need to let old things go in order to make room for the new things and ways of being that truly reflect who we are and where we are.

5. Spend more time with the people that matter to you. Assess how much quality time you actually spend with family and close friends. (For many of you, this will probably be one of the five things you identified as most important to you.) As life evolves more people may enter our sphere. These people may fall into various categories of importance—acquaintances, colleagues, friends, partners. It’s necessary to sort out how we interact with these various people and to assess the meaning of each of these relationships. Time is precious—we need to use this time wisely and with those that matter most.

6. Make time to be alone. How much time do you regularly make for yourself. When was the last time you did what you love, what you feel passionately about? Give yourself more time  (and the permission) to express your creativity. Take care of your body, mind, and spirit which allows you to really feel alive and present in your life. Remember, that before there was so much information at our finger tips we weren’t staring down at screens on devices that represent so much of our “connection” these days. Take a walk and reacquaint yourself with the sheer beauty around you. Make each breath count.

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