“How to pursue the art of living has become the great quandary of our age… The future of the art of living can be found by gazing into the past.”
As a Christian, the answer to how to live life was clear; dedicate it to God’s mission aka: make other people Christians. Live your life according to His principals as closely as you could. If you got those two things right, you could *’tick!*’ say that you lived a successful life.
What makes a good or a bad life when it turns out there’s no big super-being with a mission just for you? Is there even such a thing as a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ life? There are so many different versions of ‘success’ – Mother Theresa, Richard Branson, Elizabeth Gilbert, The Guy Who Is An Awesome Dad, The Surfer Who Loves Every Second Of Life…
Roman Kznaric just released a new book drawing on three thousand years of philosophy in attempt to answer this question. I’ll post a review after reading it but wanted to share some of my own thoughts on this question after a year or so pondering it on the shores of Europe.
Embrace your reality for what it is. This may be painful at first but you’ll come out the other side stronger and more in love with life than ever. One reality I had to go through accepting is that at the end of this life I will cease to exist and be no more. Embracing mortality is like standing at the edge of a mountain, breathing in freezing air. That realisation that this is it; it burns your throat but sets your whole body tingling.
Embrace your situation in life, the decisions you made, who you are and what life is. Knock yourself around before life does. Waking up at 50 to realise you were chasing a dream ain’t pretty.
I don’t agree with this bullshit philosophy that you can ‘be whatever you want to be’. I actually believe it’s sending an entire generation into the depths of depression. If Happiness equals Perception minus Expectation, this sort of talk is making Expectation an infinite number.
Following on from embracing reality, acknowledging the role of chance in how your life turns out is quite freeing. I happened to be born to parents who were involved in an intense religious sect. I also happened to be born in one of the wealthiest countries on the planet. Both of those circumstances dictate far more about my life direction than how many TedX videos I manage to watch every day. Hard work is important yes, but it’s only one part of the equation.
This sort of thinking, talked about in more detail in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Outliers, will get rid of a lot of the pressure we put on ourselves and diminish the power of jealousy and petty competition at the same time. And life is just SUPER SWELL without that stuff.
I’m ambitious. Deep down I want to be the most popular, the richest, the coolest, the most influential kid on the block. But like love and happiness, these sorts of things are only good when they come as byproducts. So make your end goal whatever you are passionate about, whether that makes you successful or not. For those us with life circumstances that allow us to ‘choose our own path’, a successful life is to have lived what you love.
Speak your mind and change it equally as much. We tend to do neither. We stay silent on subjects that are important to us if someone disagrees with us. We stay silent on subjects that are important to other people’s lives like gay rights or environmental issues. If you’re a functioning human, choose a couple of things that are important to you and Speak Up. Understand It. Do something about it.
This silence and apathy also keeps us from changing our mind on important issues. Have the conversation. Don’t be afraid to let your ideas be questioned. Be prepared to change your mind.
Be Passionately Wrong. It’s refreshing.
This list could be about a hundred-long but four is enough. Over to you – what’s your advice on How To Live Life?