1. Say “no”
Learn to turn down invitations to socialise, to events, commitments, etc. Most of us receive many more invitations than we can actually enjoy. Personally, I choose certain nights in the week as at-home nights. You can always say you have plans if you need time to yourself. And you do have plans – with yourself! That should be just as legitimate as anything else.
2. Surrender ambitions
You can only have a very short list of goals. This is very hard to accept in an age of overachieving and over-commitment. If we try to be a novelist and a marathon runner and everyone’s best friend and an entrepreneur, we won’t do any of it very well. Choose just two or three things that really matter most and do them well, alongside reasonable care for your health and the people you love. And release the other ambitions.
3. Throw out other people’s opinions
Remember: most people don’t much care about you either way. Some of us let the opinions of others have a lot of influence over what we do and think; we may, in particular, find our mind cluttered with what people will think of us if we don’t hit x or y milestone in our career, if we aren’t in a relationship, if we do something socially awkward. But, as we put it at The School of Life, “only some hate, a very few love – and almost all just don’t care.”
4. Give your worries a bit of time – and then put them aside
It’s not that we should never think about our anxieties – very often our anxieties are telling us something important and we can learn a good deal from them if we work them through carefully or with a friend. At The School of Life, we recommend our Philosophical Meditation (http://thephilosophersmail.com/PhilosophicalMeditation.pdf), an exercise that helps us to unpick our thoughts of anxiety, hurt and excitement in intelligent ways.
5. Read intentionally
This applies to emails, social media, news and books. Life is so short, and yet many of us are a bit like a diner on autopilot, eating whatever is put on our plate, reading (and watching and listening to) whatever comes our way. Far better to go on what some call an ‘information diet’. Unsubscribe and unfollow all but the essential and what actually enriches your life. Use social media less or not at all, delete emails, and choose which news stories to follow and which not to. This isn’t a plea for ignorance but, instead, that you carefully give the things that matter most full attention and intentionally ignore the rest.