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As children and young adults, and possibly even as adults, we hear from innumerable persons the axioms of living a happy life: marry your best friend, live like today is your last, or life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. Okay, seriously? Didn’t Diane von Furstenberg tell us to be our own best friend, so how would that work? And if I live like today is my last, I will have no money in my bank account, and if I am making other plans, that is my life. Period. While the intent behind each of these is to help and to provide constructive guidance, they lack further explanation.
There is a reason some pearls of wisdom continue to be shared, and sometimes, as is the case for the three above, it is simply because they are far too simple to memorize and repeat, not because they are entirely true. However, there are many words of wisdom that are true, but initially when we hear them, we think it cannot be possible. And for us doubtful, such words share an impossibility because we haven’t had the opportunity to experience them for ourselves. Which is why sometimes it isn’t until we experience them for ourselves that we finally come to understand and see the truth behind the statement.
1. Savoring sweet memories is as wonderful as creating them
“Live a good, honourable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.” —Dalai Lama
For nearly every year of my life, I would look at this quote and dismiss its validity. But now I dismiss it no more. When we fully allow ourselves to be present, vulnerable and engaged with a moment that is free of expectations, free of resistance and free of limitations, amazing moments can be experienced. And while we do not know in that moment if they will happen again, knowing we let go and stepped in the moment, allows us each to reflect in the days, weeks, months and years to follow with a smile and complete joy as we savor what had occurred.
2. When you love your life, you don’t rush through it
It used to be a default in my twenties that upon meeting someone romantically I was interested in, I couldn’t wait until the next date. So much so, the rest of my life would be unconsciously put on hold or take a back seat. Upon reflection, I now know that I wasn’t in love with my life ten years ago. I was still in the process of building, learning and seeking out what type of life I wanted whether I was single or coupled, and that meant I wasn’t at peace.
Currently, as I shared a few weeks ago in the weekly newsletter, if we love the life we have cultivated for ourselves: the routines, the rituals, and we are the curator instead of depending on others for our contentment, we don’t want to rush over our daily routines. We do not want to rush to the next date because we want to savor what has taken place as well as step back into our daily routines to regain our balance, knowing while we do indeed want to love, we also are thankful that it is the icing on the cake. A cake that is scrumptious and flavorful all on its own.
3. Eating well and taking care of your body feels amazing
The moment we eat too much or the wrong item that doesn’t feed us, fuel us or enhance our abilities, we are reminded of how powerful eating well and taking care of our bodies can be. The foundation of all happiness is physical and mental well-being, so we can partake in the life we love and have built for ourselves. In the moment when we are hungry or weak, we may gravitate toward what won’t truly feed our hunger, but if we can catch ourselves and be reminded of the simple gift we can give our bodies and minds, the decision becomes easier to eat well and stay active.
4. Giving just because brings an abundance of peace
As a child, this was a hard truth to even attempt to entertain. Much like the character of Huck Finn, it seems unfathomable to imagine feeling joyful when we give without expectation or recognition. But it is. Thinking of others and knowing what would help them or express our love for them is to be loving, truly loving. Love doesn’t ask for reciprocity, it simply gives to enliven and bring comfort to the recipient.
5. Worry is the bandit of contentment
Ninety percent of what we worry about does not materialize, so why then do we worry? Biologically we may be conditioned to protect ourselves, but that is a weak excuse for individuals who are intelligent, analytical and self-sufficient. To worry robs our days of joy waiting to be experienced. When we worry about outcomes, others’ opinions, the future, we cause ourselves to stumble and miss an opportunity to connect more deeply, laugh more fully and grow into our fullest potential.
6. The power of nature is profound
After a long absence from experiencing nature on a regular basis in my youth to now have it at my backdoor every day of the week, the past twenty months have revealed to me the power of Mother Nature. The sun in the morning as I walk the dogs, the engagement with snow after it refuses to stop. Regular time in nature reduces stress, puts our worries into perspective and offers time to let our minds wander, discovering creative ideas we may never have grasped.
7. Kindness married with courage to let go of the outcome = true contentment
Helping others prompted by the intuitive sense that they could use what we may be able to offer or enjoy what we may be able to give, the courage to speak up, reach out or make ourselves vulnerable and let go of how it will be received moves us across the line of “wanting happiness and contentment” to “attaining true contentment”.
8. Live with hope, let go of expectations
Letting go is the crucial piece to attaining happiness. In fact, economists Rakesh Sarin and Manel Baucells, revealed the equation to attaining happiness in their book Engineering Happiness. Happiness equals reality minus expectations. So often we have a vision of how it will all work out, and in doing so, the rigidity zaps other beautiful possibilities from maturing or even being considered.
All we have control over is ourselves and our own development to reach our fullest potential. We cannot know how people and the world at large will respond to what we put on display. But when we let go of the expectations, we enable an entire world of possibilities to unfold.
9. Remaining curious continually opens the doors to amazement
Curiosity is the vitamin for remaining youthful our entire lives. Curiosity is the key to journeying toward what we are meant to do in this world, who we are meant to meet and how the world will forever continue to excite and amaze us.
10. Writing thoughts, worries, wonders in a journal each day alleviates the angst
The easiest and cheapest counseling session you can give yourself is simply writing in your journal for 10-30 minutes each night. Often, even when thoughts and ideas are bouncing around in our heads, we can’t fully know what we are thinking, what we are fearful of and what we are hopeful for. But when we demand that the ideas, fears and wonders go onto a piece of paper, the truth spilleth out and often we calm down as we realize how blown-out of proportion the worry we had had become in our minds.
11. Taking risks opens the doors to the unexpected
Not all the risks you take will pan out the way you had hoped (but remember, no expectations). However, even from unfilled hopes we build courage, we build tenacity and we build ourselves into someone stronger, more confident and resilient with the lessons we acquire. Taking risks is a must if we are going to live a life that we enjoy living each day. We must figure out what we want, figure out what isn’t working and why and then have the courage to make a change.
Each of these eleven life truths were hard, at least for me, to accept as true until we experience them for ourselves. While there are many lessons we can learn through observation of others without even stepping foot into the arena, sometimes we just have to get our hands dirty and see what it feels like to, following #11’s advice, leap and trust that no matter what happens we will be just fine. Because after all, we have become more clear about what we want and have begun to build a life that we enjoy living each day.
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