02/04/2013 06:00 pm ET Updated Apr 06, 2013

3 Paths to Lasting Well-Being

Times are tough right now, and they have been for some time. But the good news is that the harder things get, the better the chances for learning our biggest lessons. Bumps in the road can be a blessing in disguise. So this could be the perfect moment to begin to create more lasting well-being in your life.

In my last blog post, I shared about "3 Paths to Instant Well-Being" -- some of the best ways I've found to shift things quickly. One of them -- "stop, get out of my head, and be present" -- has stuck with me all week, pulling me out of my head, time and again. For example,

  • Feeding the dog as fast as I could, in a tizzy about all there is to do before we leave for 10 days, became a quiet moment of talking to our little guy and giving his ears a scratch.
  • Rushing from the gym to the car to get home to prepare for my next meeting became looking up at the beautiful blue sky and taking a deep breath.

Moments such as these are the most memorable. What if I just worked on this one instruction for as long as it took to shift it from being a surefire way to instant well-being to a life of lasting well-being? What would my life be like if I could truly master living in the present?

Creating lasting well-being requires shattering those habitual tendencies that lead to stress, frustration and heartbreak. Here are three paths I've been working on for years, and while I'm many miles from mastery, the more I practice, the more peace and happiness I find.

Three Paths to Lasting Well-Being

1. Let go.

Learning to let go has been one of my toughest lessons because you see I'm right, and I know what I'm talking about. If only you do as I say, your life would be filled with bliss. Yuck, right? You know this stuff as well as I do. Letting go of my arrogance is essential.

Although letting go of unnecessary possessions, toxic situations, and negative behaviors is vital, the real gold comes in letting go of thoughts that don't lead us where we want to go. For years I would judge Tim for what he was doing, what he wasn't doing, and all manner of crimes. Too smart to say these things out loud, I kept my mouth shut. At last, a few years ago, I woke up to the effect it had on him. Since the,n I've worked hard to become aware of these thoughts and let them go as soon as I see them coming. Magically, my issues with him have dissolved.

Becoming better and better at letting go of thoughts, feelings, attitudes and points of view that are leading us in the wrong direction is the master's path to lasting well-being.

Here's a trick I've used to help let go of useless thoughts. Imagine your head is a birdcage with an entrance on one side and an exit on the other. Think of your thoughts as birds that are constantly flying in the entrance. If they are limiting thoughts and don't lead where you want to go, make sure the exit is open and imagine these thoughts disappearing into thin air.

Do your best to avoid the temptation of inviting this type of "bird" to stay for dinner, agreeing with what it says, and thus feeding it until it gets so fat it can't get out -- in which case you start to believe that the bird's limiting message is the truth and you're hooked.

2. Remember -- it's not about me.

For the most part I've always thought of myself as a good and kind person, my life devoted to others. But then a number of years ago a family member started saying to me, "You know, it's not about you!" The first time it happened I felt as if an arrow had struck me through the heart.

After months of seething about this unwarranted accusation, I realized just how self-centered I can be, and that for as long as I live I'll need to work on shifting my attention from myself to others. You've probably heard that we teach best what we most need to learn.

The heart of the matter is to shift from worrying about whether we're good enough to a pursuit focused on using our gifts for the benefit of others -- a lesson I shared about several years ago in an early blog post.

As Mercedes Lackey puts it: "I'm not a legend or a hero, I don't slay dragons, I don't do any of the things that a real hero can. But I can make things better, one day at a time, for most of the kingdom."

3. Make a plan

About 15 years ago, a New York taxi driver was telling me about his kids and how proud he was of them. The secret? "I've told them over and over again that if they don't have a plan and goals that they'll be no better than a used newspaper blowing down the street, going nowhere."

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, gives us another reason for giving direction to our lives: "The days are long, but the years are short."

For the past 34 years, I've been making a one-page Best Year Yet plan, including my top 10 priorities for the coming year, the lessons I need to learn, my new paradigm, and the role in which I want a breakthrough. The entire plan is focused on what really matters to me at this point in my life. Believe me, in all these years I have never achieved all my priorities. But having a plan to guide me through the year and seeing the little win's along the way brings me an immense sense of well-being that has grown over the years.

As Henry David Thoreau said about his treasured time alone in the woods:

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one

advances confidently in the direction of his dreams,

and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined,

he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

In response to the post about what really matters, I heard from a friend in Aspen who is one of the more efficient and effective people I know. She shared tons of ideas about how she organizes her life in order to be sure she's set to do what matters most. I found it impossible to decide which parts would be most useful to you, so here's her entire system.

Your Path to Greater Well-Being

Here are all six of the paths. The first three are for instant well-being, and the next three are for lasting well-being. Choose just one, write down the instruction, memorize it and follow its lead every time it occurs to you.

  1. Express my love and kindness.
  2. Stop, get out of my head, and be present.
  3. Keep my promises.
  4. Let go.
  5. Remember -- it's not about me.
  6. Make a plan.

As I've said, please do this exercise -- just reading about well-being makes little difference compared to taking action.

I'd love to hear from you about what happens and/or your thoughts about creating more well-being in your life. Enter your comments and answers below this article, or write to me directly at

With much love,

For more about Best Year Yet, click here.

For more by Jinny Ditzler, click here.

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