We are quick to say "life is short" or "live in the moment," but if we don't fundamentally change the way we look at the hours in our day, it's just talk. Here's a way of looking at your life that puts your most precious asset, time, before anything else.
First, you have to consider where your time goes. Everything you do (besides sleeping) falls into one of three areas: sustaining, living, or building.
Sustaining is just keeping life going. Mowing the lawn, brushing your teeth, paying the bills, getting your kids ready for school in the morning, and earning money are all part of sustaining.
Living is the best things in life -- the things you never want to stop doing. Maybe that's painting, walking on the beach, working for a cause, playing with your kids, or talking about a subject you're passionate about.
Building is creating things that increase the amount or quality of time you will spend living in the future. Building includes things like establishing relationships, creating passive income streams, writing a book, or starting a business. Too many people spend almost no time building.
Think of each area as a circle in a Venn Diagram. The size of the circle indicates how much time you spend in that area. Usually the sustaining circle is the largest, followed by a much smaller living circle, and an even smaller building circle. These circles don't overlap at all. This is how most people's lives look:
The living circle is too small. It's an afterthought. The sustaining circle is the biggest, and building barely exists. Living starts after the workday is over, only after all the sustaining is done. Living is relegated mostly to weekends and the sacred two weeks of paid vacation.
After an exhausting day that's been eaten up by sustaining, most people can only muster a few hours of TV on the couch before falling asleep, so they can get up and do it all over again. They're too tired to even think about building. Their circles don't overlap. Sustaining, living, and building are completely separate. They have to stop doing one to do another.
Redefine success as the amount of time you spend living. Time is finite. Once you use it, it's gone and you can't get more. Define success by how much time you spend doing what is important to you -- inside your living circle. Your circles should look like this:
Living and building are a lot bigger, and sustaining is a lot smaller. Now, the circles overlap. Large parts of building and sustaining are inside of living. It's not enough to just make the living circle bigger and the sustaining circle smaller. You have to bring building and sustaining inside the living circle. There are two ways to handle building and sustaining: (1) Move them inside the living circle; or (2) get other people to do them.
As I write this, I'm living. I'm sitting on my patio next to a fire on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon writing (one of my favorite things to do) about lifestyle (a topic to which I'm fiercely devoted) and this work builds my business and spreads my message. So, I'm building and living, which is my favorite place on the Venn Diagram to be! I've moved an activity inside the living circle!
If I had an accounting firm and was writing a newsletter to my clients, I'd hate every second of it. I don't like accounting, and I wouldn't be living. I'd be building but outside the living circle. That's why I don't have an accounting firm!
You don't just get up one day and decide to like everything you do. Building a lifestyle takes commitment. The first step is to look at every second of your day and ask yourself in which circle it lies.
The other way to deal with activities outside your living circle is to pay someone to mow your lawn; pay someone to do the laundry; pay someone to make dinner. Pay someone to do anything you can't get inside your living circle. You're not going to be able to completely outsource everything outside your living circle. I don't know how to get out of your annual dental cleaning! If you have any ideas, let me know. But make it your goal.
You might say, "But I can't afford to pay someone to do everything I don't want to do!" That's OK. Most people can't. Getting your building and sustaining circles 100 percent inside the living circle is a destination you'll probably never reach. Your happiness in life is directly determined by how much time you spend inside your living circle. Get as close as possible, and be as happy as possible.
When opportunity comes along, ask yourself if it will allow you to spend more or less time inside your living circle. Don't go outside your living circle any more than you have to. Every minute spent outside your living circle is a minute of your life that you've lost forever.
HuffPost Lifestyle is a daily newsletter that will make you happier and healthier — one email at a time. Learn more