Throughout our lives we endlessly learn how to make a living. We learn to embrace fundamental education to glean necessary life skills. We learn to pursue gainful employment to support ourselves. We learn to seek out relationships to bolster our–and society’s–well-being. We learn many things and discover many more. Unfortunately, we also tend to take our lives for granted and we forget how to enjoy the living we make.
Life is an amazing thing. It empowers us to see, to hear, to smell, to taste, and to touch–among others–and each of our senses are amazing gifts. Yet most of us take them entirely for granted. We wake in the morning and “life” begins. We rise and inevitably ready ourselves for the day. We tackle our daily jobs, tasks, and chores; ingest food and drink; interact with people, places, and things; and ready ourselves for sleep. This is what most of us call life, yet these activities only represent a semblance of life. Life can be used to describe these activities, but more importantly it’s what makes all of them possible. It’s the spark that ignites everything we do, and are, and will be.
Just as most of us have limited our appreciation of life, so too do we confuse how we’ve learned to make a living with living itself. We’ve confused “necessary” schooling, jobs, relationships, and similar things with their more desirable and fulfilling counterparts. Our learned need for these things has overwhelmed our understanding of choice. Many of us settle for less than we deserve and desire simply to have what we’re taught we must. K-12 (kindergarten through 12th grade) schooling was chosen for us, but further schooling, as well as jobs, relationships, and similar things are largely chosen by us. How many of us can truly say we chose each of these things to support enjoyment of living versus making a living? To support what’s in our (subjective) best interest instead of what’s in our (objective) learned interest?
If the distinction is still unclear, consider this: What we choose based on our best interest is often found to be personally, if not professionally, rewarding. It meaningfully inspires, engages, motivates, comforts, and satisfies us on multiple levels. It’s the education that stimulates and excites us. It’s the job we look forward to doing and adore having. It’s the relationships we love and are fulfilled by. What we choose based on our learned interest is often found to be personally, if not professionally, unrewarding. It is not meaningfully inspiring, engaging, motivating, comforting, or rewarding. It’s the education that is a tiresome means to a lackluster end. It’s the job we don’t look forward to and dream of leaving. It’s the relationships we disdain, but feel we must be in to prove our worth.
If you stop, in this moment, and consider what you define as life or living, are you pleased with your definitions? Does your definition of life consider, appreciate, and involve caring for the living being that you are? Does your definition of living consider education, occupation, and relationships as ends in themselves (e.g. sources of inspiration, satisfaction, enjoyment, etc.)? Perhaps more simply, are you pleased with your life and the way you’re living it? Are you happy? If you answer no to any or all of these questions, you’re likely holding yourself back from enjoying your best life.
So, how do we start to make the most of our lives with these things in mind? Well, we must first recognize our choices. Everything from our post K-12 schools, jobs, relationships to our clothing, foodstuffs, and entertainment are examples of things we chose. When we identify our choices, we must then consider why we choose the things we do. Did (or do) we choose based on our needs, desires, or wants? Based on someone else’s–to include society’s–needs, desires, or wants? Or did (or do) we choose based on some intermingling of the two? When we discover what and why we choose we begin to uncover ways in which we can change our choices. With a little practice, we can also uncover ways in which we can improve our choices and our enjoyment of life.
We must also realize that we always have choices. This may seem like a simple or stupid thing to say, but many of us don’t allow ourselves to see or act upon the choices that surround us everyday. We see previous choice as final choice without considering the validity of our thinking. The reality is that very few things are set in stone. Regardless of the many choices we’ve made to arrive in this moment, we can choose to make different, if not better, choices to move beyond it. When previous choices don’t serve us, we must reevaluate them and choose differently. When we enable ourselves to see other choices and empower ourselves to move beyond previous ones, we open up a whole new world of choices–if not a whole new world of possibility and enjoyment–to ourselves.
Only we can know if we are truly living. Look beyond the teaching of others to know your own heart. What does it tell you about your desires and wants? What does it tell you about your happiness? Certainly we can learn from others, but we should choose to learn things that empower us, others, and our world. We should make choices that underscore the enjoyment of living. Life is a wondrous thing. It endows us with five senses (six, if you include kinesthetics) and underlies everything we do. Living is what we make of the life we’re given. It entails much more than a functional existence that results from “what should be.” It’s all about choosing an exceptional existence that results from “what could be.”
We can choose differently if our choices don’t serve us. We can choose better when better choices exist. We can choose enjoyment to embrace life and fullness of living. Don’t take life for granted and don’t forget to make living enjoyable. Be thankful for all that you have. Be open and pursue your own best interest while supporting the best interests of others. Be happy knowing that your best self, your best life, and your best world empowers others to have theirs.