“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde
That probably isn’t too astounding to believe. It’s been drilled into our heads to not trust what we read on the internet, right? A little embellishment is okay, isn’t it? We expect that, don’t we?
What about this: according to the Society of Human Resource Managers, 53% of resumes have a falsification. Mix into this the fact that worldwide twice as many hate their jobs compared to those who like what they are doing.
How about this: GlobalWebIndex reported that 42% of those using Tinder (an online dating site) were married.
There’s so much more. There is a study or survey on everything. A lot of it isn’t promising.
Why not? Why aren’t we loving the lives we lead?
Generally speaking we all have something in our lives that is satisfying. Some more than others. And life satisfaction isn’t really tied to money. Granted, having enough than not enough contributes to overall satisfaction, but only fractionally (Gallup reported that of those making $125,000 or more only 60% were satisfied). In employee surveys financial compensation is typically way down on the list of why someone is happy in their jobs.
Early in my career I had worked hard in creating a merger between the organization I led and another local entity. It took over a year to navigate the deal – but once it was consummated, I was named the executive director for the new organization, doubling my salary. And the moment it happened I could feel the emptiness in the pit of my stomach. I knew this wasn’t going to be the right fit. I endured for two years, finally resigning. I began living a life meant for someone else – I was bored, dissatisfied, and cranky.
Thoreau said that most men live lives of quiet desperation. That’s the thing, isn’t it? All too often adversity happens. We make choices in response to that adversity. Suddenly, 20 years later, we’ve lived that life of quiet desperation. Maybe we’re satisfied with certain things – but overall there is a lot of things we would change.
We don’t get do-overs, though, do we? Or…do we?
In doing research I have scanned many many prescriptions for living a life we love. Common themes emerged – some obvious, some surprising. Shockingly, there were a few no-brainers that didn’t make anybody’s list. Maybe I was shocked because the omitted items were things my grandmother, Babe, taught me.
The most basic thing we need to grasp is that loving the life we live is proportional to the positivity of our attitude about life. To that end, here are the pillar concepts:
Live for today, in the moment. Some call this “being present”, Life is lived in a never-ending state of NOW. Life happens NOW, in the moment. Jesus said don’t worry about yesterday or tomorrow – there is enough to think about today. Grandma Babe said to take time to smell the flowers (and you may as well pick a few while you’re standing in her garden).
Be grateful. Cultivate in your heart a feeling of generalized gratitude by daily considering those specific things in your life for which you can give thanks. In fact, do this: when you wake up in the morning, immediately give thanks that you are alive and breathing. Give thanks for having shelter, food and the other stuff inside your walls. Give thanks for all the people who love you – and whom you love. Do that daily. The gratitude mind-set will seep in. Babe would say, “Be happy you were born in America and not (fill in the fascist country of your choice)”.
Be true to yourself. Sometimes it is hard to drill down through all the ideas about life you’ve adopted based upon reactive choices, or by being influenced by people close to you. But, the treasures are there. You can hear them whispering at the edges of your consciousness. Sometimes they shout at us. Either way, you know. The truth – your truth – is there, in your heart. I’ve written an entire section on this subject in my book, Blazing into the Creative Wilderness. The basic is something my grandmother told me, “Follow your heart. The rest isn’t really worth your time.”
Give. Human beings, at our core, tend to be selfish. We’re focused on our survival. But, there is also this little bit of magic in us that let’s us see others, too. We begin by giving to those around us, the people we love. For most of us, we receive love in return. As we grow and gain experience, we learn that the more we give, the more we receive. It isn’t always reciprocal with everyone, but the scales balance eventually. There is an ebb and flow. Babe was a giver. More than anything else, she gave love. Even now, many years after she passed away, she’s still giving to me, and her memory continues to wrap me in her warmth.
Love. It’s simple to say and hard to do. Love isn’t an emotion – it is a choice. It encompasses giving, forgiving, listening, receiving, and so many other things. Grandma was married to my grandfather, Herb, for 55 years. It wasn’t always easy. They survived the depression, world wars, and so many other adversities. But, they had love. Love for each other, for their children, for their community.
Laugh. As Babe told me, it was the secret to being married to the same human being for 55 years.
Love God. Jesus gave two great commandments to His disciples that sum it all up: Love God with all your mind and your heart, and love others as you love yourself. Pretty simple. Despite the secular humanism and relativism that pervades modern culture, by and large the most successful and happiest people believe in God, or at least a universal power that was far greater than themselves. What’s interesting to me is that each of the pillar concepts in this list describe some aspect of our limited understanding of God.
Obviously there are many other things to consider, nuances, things specific to your situation. But, by focusing on these pillars you’ll be well on your way to loving the life you live. Don’t take my word for it – trust Grandma Babe.