If you’re like me, the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day can be a blur. Even if you spent the first three-day weekend of the summer planning for a long, relaxing and life-changing vacation, before you know it, school is back in session and you don’t have much to show for it all.

With a bit more attention to how you’d really like to feel come early September, this year can be different.

Do Something You’ve Been Putting Off

Is there something fun, scary, tedious, adventurous, or overwhelming that you want or need to do but never had the time or opportunity? If you make it a priority this summer, it will be easier to break it into pieces and get it done.

Maybe you’ve always wanted to take a trip by yourself, but you’re not quite sure how to get started. Take a week to research it, be realistic and make a plan.

The same is true with cleaning out the garage. Spend some time surveying the situation, divide it into sections, schedule one section per week, and it will be done in no time.

Whatever you decide to focus on this summer, be mindful of what would feel good to accomplish. The reverse is also true when you consider activities that no longer bring you pleasure or satisfaction.

Give Up Something You Don’t Really Want to Do Anymore

Maybe you want to move into a smaller house, quit the book club that no longer reads books you enjoy, stop that volunteer job that feels useless, or even put an end to a friendship that is no longer satisfying. Setting a limit for yourself in some area of your life can be empowering and gratifying.

It’s easy to fall into the habit of doing things simply because they’re on our to-do lists. But giving up an activity or a relationship that is more obligatory than rewarding can feel as good as cleaning out your closet.

Suddenly, you have more space in your life and more freedom. And, since you’ll have a little more free time, why not try something altogether out of the ordinary this summer?

Do Something That Scares You

It may frighten me, for example, to zip-line in the forest, while that may mean nothing to you. For you, sending your novel to potential agents may be the scariest task ever. The point is, think about something you would gladly do if fear were something you could just stow away in your drawer.

As Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg wrote in her well-known book Lean In, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Remember that this isn’t a suggestion to do something crazy or life-threatening. Just consider that bucket list of activities you dream about, but immediately censor because you don’t have the nerve to begin. Isn’t this summer the perfect time to prove you’re braver than you think?

Give Up Something That Bores You

Conversely, it’s probably also high time for you to give up something that bores you. If you’re still reading that mystery author whose books you can figure out two chapters in, give them up. If you find yourself less than stimulated by the location and company of the annual family reunion, don’t go this year.

Make a more interesting plan for yourself this summer and drop that dreary activity from your list. It may be as small as dropping an old standard from your weekly menu planning or as big as ending your participation in the monthly gathering of your friends from college.

We all change, and there’s nothing wrong with letting go of things that no longer please you.

Define Who You Are

This is also the perfect summer to pay more attention to yourself. Make a point of defining exactly who you are and then loving that person beyond measure. The goal here is to separate who you are from your friends and family, and from other people’s impressions of you. Who are you when it’s just you?

Spend some time journaling or making a list so you have something visual to rely on. Maybe even look at a photograph of yourself to give you a more objective view of who you really are.

Once you know where you end and the rest of your world begins, you’re ready to make self-love a vital goal for the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

The overall objective here is easy. We’re using the summer to clean, clarify, and simplify. By summer’s end, you want to feel stronger, more focused, and happier with your life.

But “be happy” isn’t the best goal because it’s much too nebulous. If you concentrate on some of these steps, you’ll learn more about yourself and you’ll feel as if you made good choices this summer on your own behalf.

What are three things you’ve been putting off? What would you do if you weren’t scared to do it? What would it take for you to feel better about yourself by the end of the summer? Please share your list of activities that scare/thrill/bore/excite you.

Ginny McReynolds is a longtime writer. She holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College, and writes about communication, retirement, reinvention, self-concept and creativity in The Washington Post, Curve magazine, and Together.guide. Please visit her blog called Finally Time for This: A Beginner’s Guide to the Second Act of Life.

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