How to get your life together: 20 no b*llshit tips

Life can be really, really hard. 

Sometimes, it feels like you’re treading water in a huge ocean, and each kick barely keeps your head above the surface.

And those waves just keep coming, don’t they? 

Why can’t life just give you a simple PAUSE? 

While I can’t offer you a remote to pause your life, I can help you with 20 ways to get your life together.

The key is to regain some control. 

Let’s figure out how. 

How to get your life together

You need to be a partner with your life. You need to change from being reactive to active. This means not just responding to things that happen to you, but actually making things happen for yourself. 

1. Organize your life

You gotta start with some life organization. 

You may be asking: “why is life organization so important?” Well, here’s the truth: if you want to make your life a happier one, then you need to be able to envision it. And once you envision your life, you need to make a plan to make that life a reality. 

Organization is basically getting that plan in place, and then staying on top of it. That’s why it’s so critical. 

It’s the skeleton of self-improvement. It doesn’t matter if you want to finally land that next big promotion, run that marathon, finally write that screenplay, or even take up sculpting.

Whatever it is, you need to get your dreams organized. 

Find a system of organization that works for you, and then stick with it! It doesn’t have to look like what you “imagine” organization to look like (we all don’t need files and binders to keep on top of things), but it has to be a system that makes sense for you! 

2. Be honest

If you’re gonna get your life together, you need to be honest with yourself and your family. 

Quit bottling things up inside yourself. You need to allow yourself to say “this is enough,” or “I don’t want this.” 

Or, on the flipside, you need to publicly identify things you do want. When you feel something in your life that is going great, give yourself permission to voice that. 

“I want this.” “I like this.” “This is the life for me.” 

When you start giving yourself permission to be truthful with your own feelings, you get more in touch with yourself. When you’re more in touch with yourself, you start to learn what you want. Once you know what you want, it’s only a matter of making that a reality. 

3. But don’t ruminate

It’s one thing to be honest about things you don’t like. It’s another thing entirely to let negativity overwhelm you. 

You can’t let yourself become bogged down in negative energy — be it about your own life, about things happening to you, or about things you’ve run across. 

Stewing on negative thoughts is called ruminating, and it’s very damaging for self-growth. Why? Because you’re focused on the past hurt, not the future solution. A bad thing happened! That’s ok! The real question is: what do you do about it? 

4. Set some goals!

You’ve got your vision for your life, right? Now, you need to figure out how to make that a reality. The best way to do that is to set a series of short, medium, and long term goals that will help you achieve your dream. 

Why short, medium, and long term? 

Long term goals are great, because they keep your vision for your life front-and-center. Maybe your long term goal is to write a novel — that’s amazing. 

The problem is, sometimes the long-term goal is too daunting unless you chunk it up into smaller goals. That’s where your short and medium-term goals come into play. 

A medium term goal for writing a novel might be “I’ll have the first 40 pages in two months.” That’s a pretty attainable goal. Plus, once you achieve it, you’ll have a huge hunk of text completed. 

Short term goals take that step even farther. “I’ll write a chapter this week.” Those are super attainable. They basically serve as mini check-ins for your long term goal. If you complete 30 weeks of that short term goal, you’ll have a book written in less than a year! 

Look at you go! 

5. Take care of your body

You only have one body. It’s a gift. You can only live through that one body. 

So, you need to treat it right. 

Maybe your goal is to be VP of the company you work for. Maybe that goal requires doing a lot of extra work and staying late at the office. That’s ok, but you still need to give your body the sleep, food, and exercise it needs to function. Otherwise, you won’t be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor. 

Additionally, diet and proper exercise can be valuable mood boosters. If you’re not feeling very motivated or unsure of where to go in life, get up and get moving! You’ll feel better and will have newfound creativity to tackle your problems. 

6. Take care of your mind

Taking care of your mind is just as important as taking care of your body. Your mental health is critical for keeping your life on track. 

Be in tune with yourself: is your lack of motivation perhaps a symptom of depression or anxiety? If you’re perhaps suffering from mental issues, seeking help can be a great way to help get your life back on track. 

7. Get rid of toxic friends. 

You want to know something crazy? You can trap dozens of crabs in a single, open bucket. No lid, no slippery walls, no nothing. 

Why? 

Because when one crab tries to climb out of the bucket, the others will pull it back down. 

This is the same with toxic friends and family members. They’ll try and pull you back down. They prevent you from reaching your potential. 

If you’re trying to get your life together, you need to closely examine all of the relationships in your life. Which ones are boosting you up? Which ones are pulling you down? Figure out which ones are inhibiting you, and take steps to reduce their pull. 

8. Get into a routine

Building a routine (and sticking to it) is great because it helps you build habits. 

The question is: are these habits working for you or against you? 

If your routine consists of getting up at 3:00pm, watching YouTube tutorials while getting high, and laying on the couch until sleep takes you — then you’ve built in some habits which are working against you getting your life together (unless that’s your dream and you can make that happen, in that case: all power to you). 

So if you’re looking to make a change, a good place to start is with your daily routine. Get into daily habits that will push your goals forward. If your goal is to be a world-class musician, then starting with 30 minutes a day of guitar practice is probably a good place to start. 

When you have a consistent routine, you complete your critical to-do tasks each day without thinking about it. 

You brush your teeth twice a day, right? You just do. You don’t even think about skipping a day. It’s your routine. 

When you repeat actions and tasks consistently (at the same time daily), they become second nature, meaning that you don’t have to fret about “will I get that done?” You will get it done, because you get it done everyday. 

The trick, of course, is being disciplined enough to repeat these actions enough that they become your routine. 

You need to be disciplined enough to create long lasting, positive habits. 

It’s not an easy task. It’s not that hard to skip a few workout days early into your new exercise routine. Next thing you know, that gym membership has gone to waste. 

There’s no magic trick to ensure that your routine sticks. Instead, you have to keep at it, and try your hardest to get back into your routine — even after you’ve fallen off of it. 

9. Stop searching for happiness

I’m not saying “be sad.” I’m saying that you should stop chasing after happiness like it’s some sort of drug. 

You’re not “broken” simply because you’re not feeling euphoric all of the time. Instead, you’re human. Humans are meant to feel a complex range of emotions. You need to embrace who you are, and the entirety of your emotional spectrum. 

And you need to practice gratitude and self-appreciation. Whenever you feel happy, be grateful that you feel that way! 

Why? Because happiness isn’t necessarily a default state. It’s both a gift and a perspective that we cultivate. As such, we need to take the time to be grateful for when our lives and our perspectives are aligned enough to give us these moments of bliss. 

Check out Ideapod founder Justin Brown’s video on living an unconventional life by giving up on the pursuit of happiness.

10. Increase your willpower

There’s a famous experiment where researchers sat young children in a room with a marshmallow. It’s called the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment (good name, right?).

In the test, a child was offered one treat immediately, but two treats if they could wait 15 minutes. 

The children who were able to hold out for the better treat ended up having better SAT scores, BMI scores, and education attainment years later. 

Point being: it pays to hold out a little. Instead of giving in to your I want it now voice, hold out for the better treat. 

Instead of buying that awesome, but very expensive TV you want right now, wait a couple weeks until Cyber Monday, and get that TV 25% off. Save some money! 

When you resist giving in to your immediate desires, you can become an active planner in your own future. Which brings me to…

11. Be active, not reactive

I mentioned this earlier, but it bears repeating: you need to be an active participant in your life. 

You can’t simply respond to things that happen to you, just saying “yes” or “no” whenever life hands you a choice. No! 

You need to be making those choices. You need to be getting yourself the outcomes you desire, instead of choosing between outcomes that someone else grants you. 

This, ultimately, is a scary change to make, as it requires you to take responsibility for yourself and for your future. 

It also removes the excuse of “it’s not my fault — I just went along with it.” No, when you’re active, you own your failures, and your successes. 

But it makes the successes so much sweeter — and so much more attainable! 

12. Get to know yourself

This can be an entire journey on its own. Getting to know yourself is a key way to get your life together. 

So what do I mean by “get to know yourself?” I mean become conscious of your own desires, wants, strengths, weaknesses, idiosyncrasies, thoughts, and passions to discover who you truly are. 

It may not always be the happiest and most pleasant of journeys, but I promise you that true self-discovery will help you live your life for yourself as opposed to living it for others. 

Life is a gift, and it is given to each of us, for us. Your life isn’t someone else’s. It’s yours. Take the time to discover who you are, and you’ll then figure out how to live it for yourself.

13. Set boundaries 

Just like it’s important to cut toxic people out of your life, it’s also critical to put some boundaries up for those who you love (and those who you can’t stand). 

You’re not a doormat. You’re a person. You have needs, wants, fears, and desires — like everyone else. As such, it’s important that you treat yourself the way you’d treat anyone else. This means setting boundaries for yourself. 

I have a colleague who refuses to do any work on Sundays. To her, Sundays are for three things: church, family, and the Buffalo Bills. She’s set boundaries. 

Since she’s set these boundaries, she can enjoy her Sundays undisturbed. She’s happier for it. Additionally, her coworkers and clients respect her boundaries. They know not to bother her on a Sunday, with the understanding that she’s available to speak the next day. 

Figure out what days, times, locations, and activities are sacred. Then, take some steps to ensure that these are not disturbed. You’ll be happier, and will strengthen your values, as well as get insight into what things motivate you — helping you get your life together in the process. 

14. Identify what things you can and cannot control

There’s an old prayer by Reinhold Niebur that says “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” 

Getting your life together definitely involves internalizing this lesson. There are things that are outside of your control, as well as plenty of things that are surprisingly within your power to change. 

Growth and maturity is being able to identify which one is which. 

For instance, you probably can’t control the score of the football game by cheering more loudly from your living room (probably — I can’t make any guarantees). You can, however, control your reaction when your team loses. 

You don’t control others, you control yourself. Learning this lesson is an incredibly important step in getting your life together. 

15. Keep it together when things fall apart

Life is going to deal you a bad hand. Life might deal you several bad hands. That’s ok. I mean, it sucks, but it’s ok. What’s important is how you respond when life hands you lemons. 

You can be angry. Anger is healthy. But it’s not healthy to stew on that anger. You have to accept that negative things have happened, and then figure out how to use that setback as a teaching tool for the future. 

After all, that event is in the past. You’re not living in the past. You’re living in the here and now, and living it for the future. 

Don’t allow yourself to be consumed by the past. Embrace its lessons, and apply them to the next chapter of your life. 

16. Ask for assistance

There’s no shame in getting help. No one can go it alone. There’ll be times when a task that you need to complete requires skills that you don’t have. 

Or, it simply can’t be completed by a single person. 

Maybe you’ve lost someone dear to you, and you’ve realized that you don’t want to be alone while you’re grieving. Maybe you’ve found your passion as a videogame designer, but you’re not the greatest storyteller. 

Both of those are ok. Ask for help. Bring in a writer to help flesh out your idea for your videogame. Call up a friend or a loved one and let them know you’re hurting. 

Humans are pack creatures. We thrive and prosper in groups. Tap into that deeply ingrained pack instinct when you feel overwhelmed. You’ll gain a stronger sense of community, understand how you function within your friends + family, and end up stronger for it.  

17. Get feedback

Imagine that you owned a restaurant. You are a chef, and you crank out meals constantly. But, you refuse to ask anyone what they think of your food. You won’t read reviews, you won’t even look at the diners as they eat. 

That would be crazy, right? How would you know what to improve if you don’t find out what your customers think? 

This is the power of feedback. No matter what you’re doing (be it working as an accountant, learning how to clean the house for the first time, or trying your hand at brewing homemade beer), you need to get honest feedback. 

Why? Because it will make you better! It might be scary (and hey, no one likes being told something is bad), but it’ll make your efforts stronger the next time around. Honest feedback is one of the most powerful tools for improvement, and self-improvement is a key element of getting your life together. 

18. Continue to improve

Even if you don’t really know what the “trajectory of your life” will be, and even if you’re not sure exactly what “your purpose is,” you can still choose to work on improving areas of your life. 

Maybe you enjoy painting, even though you’re unsure if you’ll ever be a professional painter. That’s ok — you enjoy painting. Work on improving your skills. Take a painting class — see if you have a weak area, and push yourself to improve. 

Improving yourself will give you a confidence boost, allowing you to see how powerful you truly are. 

19. Face your fears 

Fear can be healthy — it prevents you from doing things that are dangerous. 

I’m not talking about that kind of fear — I’m talking about the type of fear that prevents you from becoming the truest version of yourself. 

I’m talking about the fear that keeps you boxed in to a life you’re unsatisfied with.

If you’re trying to figure out how to get your life together, figure out what scares you. Figure out what you’re afraid of. 

Are you afraid of failing? Are you afraid of rejection? 

Whatever it is, figure it out, and then face it head on. 

Because at the end of the day, not facing your fear is causing you to have the same result as failure. 

What do I mean? 

Think of it like this: you want to ask for a new promotion, but you’re afraid of your boss saying no. So instead of asking, you simply stay silent. 

Did you get that promotion? No. 

You got the same result as failure — without even trying. 

When you face your fears, you actually have the chance of succeeding. Facing your fears is about betting on yourself. And even if you fail, you’ll at least know that you tried your hardest and you rose and fell on your own talents.

20. Celebrate victory

Life is hard! When you are victorious, you need to celebrate your successes! Congratulate yourself. Take yourself out to dinner! Buy yourself a chocolate cake. 

You have to recognize that your hard work paid dividends. You need to recognize that you are valid and an achiever. 

Celebrating your victories allows you to see yourself for who you really are — a tenacious person who has succeeded in spite of the odds. Be proud of yourself. 

Conclusion: Getting your life together is a process

There’s no magic bullet for how to get your life together. Instead, it’s a continual process that has to be done by methodically improving your life, step by step. You aren’t going to magically wake up one day having gotten your life together. Instead, you need to focus on changing your perspective, setting positive habits, and setting yourself up for success. Empower yourself. Once you have reframed your life and set yourself up for success, you’ll be amazed at how much positivity you’ll see in your life. 

It’s just a matter of getting started. 

Nathan Dennis

Nathan Dennis

Nathan Dennis is a Manhattan based playwright and poet of Floridian extraction. A graduate of NYU Tisch Department of Dramatic Writing, he served as a Rita and Burton Goldberg Fellow, and was awarded Outstanding Writing for the Stage in Spring of 2015. His most recent play, Lord of Florida, was workshopped by PrismHouse Theatre Company in the Fall of 2017.

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