How to Enjoy Your Life Even When You Can't Slow Down

11/28/2011 06:27 pm ET | Updated Jan 28, 2012

Running a busy life sounds good in theory. But more often than not, it can feel your life is running you.

A high-impact life, with lots of work and personal responsibilities, is challenging because you care passionately about every single aspect of it.

The problem is that when you make everything important, nothing is important. You don't have a clear sense of priorities, and you wind up feeling like a gerbil in a cage frantically running on a little wheel going nowhere.

People often suggest slowing down or taking it easy. But for many of us, that isn't a viable option. The truth is that I don't want to have a low-stress, quiet, orderly life. I want to have a big life, a meaningful life, one that has an impact on other people. I don't want to do less; I just want to enjoy it more.

Here are four things to help you enjoy a fast-paced life.

1. Breathe.

When you're feeling stressed, take two or three deep breaths. Oxygen to your brain and bloodstream will clear your head, give you energy and calm you down.

2. Focus on purpose instead perfection.

When you're bent on trying to make everything perfect, you tend to elevate the importance of unimportant things, and you become that gerbil on the treadmill.

This is why you need to be clear on your real purpose. When you have a clarity of purpose, whether it's helping your clients be more successful or making a difference to your family, that purpose acts as a filter to help you decide what's important and what's not.

3. Follow the 1 percent rule.

Instead of trying to be perfect at everything, pick something that's going to make a difference and make a vow to get 1 percent better at it everyday.

My mentor, consulting guru Alan Weiss, says, "If you improve by 1 percent each day, in 70 days you'll be twice as good."

If you want to drive more revenue, spend five minutes a day listening to your best customers. If you want to be a more patient parent, spend the same five minutes listening to your kid without interrupting them.

You don't have to transform yourself overnight, just get a little better every day.

4. Be grateful.

Let's be honest, a lot of our stress comes from feeling overwhelmed and feeling sorry for ourselves. We're so wrapped up in how many things we have to do that we can't see how good we really have it.

If you own a business or hold a job, and you have the freedom to go to work every day, you're one of the lucky ones. Even if you're struggling, you've still got it better than a lot of other people in the world.

Gratitude is the gateway drug to happiness. If you're feeling frazzled, think of something or someone you love, your kids, nature, your dog. Within seconds the positive thoughts will stimulate the release of feel-good chemicals in your brain.

Start counting up all the things you're grateful for, you'll feel your heart start to shift, and suddenly your life and your business seem a whole lot more manageable. As my dear friend best-selling author Mike Robbins says, "Gratitude and victimhood can't exist in the same space."

The secret of lifetime happiness isn't doing less. It's learning how to enjoy all the responsibilities that make your life worth living.

Lisa Earle McLeod helps organizations win the hearts and minds of customers and employees. She is the author of three books included the best-seller, The Triangle of Truth: The Surprisingly Simple Secret to Resolving Conflicts Large and Small, A Washington Post Top 5 Book for Leaders.

She is an international keynote speaker and consultant who has been seen on The Today show and featured in Forbes, Fortune, CEO Read and The Wall Street Journal. You can reach her at