Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Live Your Life

If you know me personally, then you already know this about me.

I love life.

I really do. I enjoy almost every day and have a good time wherever I happen to be.

I said this to someone recently and they wanted to try to balance my statement for me. "Well, why wouldn't you love your life? You're basically retired. You live on the coast in a beautiful city. You are married to a beautiful woman. You have no reason not to be happy."

Now, all of these things are true, but I don't let people dismiss me like that. I know a lot of people who have good lives and do not have a reason to be unhappy but are unhappy. Your happiness is rarely going to be dependent upon your life circumstances. Happiness is deeper than that.

I have this life philosophy that I have said and written thousands of times.

You only get to live this life once.
You might as well enjoy it.

And it's true. You get one shot at this life. ONE. Do you really want to spend it being miserable or angry?

I know there are people who deal with genuine depression and have no control over the way their brains are wired. However, there are many, many, many others who just aren't enjoying life because they have chosen (and I use that word intentionally) to feel sorry for themselves or to not let go of something from their past. They allow themselves to think about things they would like to do but never put out the effort to make it happen. They are not happy or content with a current situation but have settled and don't try to escape it.

People have more control over their lives than they realize. Yes, there are some things you have no power over and sometimes crap happens to people that is terrible. However, it is rare that it cannot be overcome. And most of the people I have these conversations with could change their circumstances by first changing their attitudes.

Here are some simple things you can do to enjoy your life more:

Let go of the past. It is absolutely true that we are a product of our past experiences. Our lives up to this point have shaped us into the people we are today. However, we are also a product of how we have chosen (there's that word again) to react to those circumstances. Did your spouse leave you? Did you have an abusive father? Do you regret something you said or did? Whatever terrible thing happened to you or terrible thing you did, it's over. Reliving it does no one any good. If it is something you can fix, go fix it. If you can't, then you have to put it behind you. Hanging on to this stuff only robs you of being a happier person. I know this is easier said than done, but that doesn't make it not true.

Stop looking for the negative side of things. I had a friend who won a brand-new $45,000 car. He sold his old car which gave him enough money to cover the taxes on the new one and he no longer had his $300/month car payment. He had a beautiful new car, but couldn't enjoy it because his insurance went up $107 for the year. No amount of explaining how much he was coming out ahead helped him to have a better attitude about it. He could only see the negative.

Here are more examples I have seen of people being unhappy because they chose (see that word?) to focus on the one bad thing instead of all the good around them.
  • A woman's long-awaited date night with her husband was ruined because the wrong salad dressing was put on her salad. She was in a foul mood for the rest of the evening.
  • A father berating his son for getting tagged out when stealing a base, but not mentioning the triple and double he accomplished earlier in the game.
  • A coworker got a promotion that came with a very substantial raise, but she wouldn't stop grumbling about the dress code for the new position.
  • I've met countless people who don't really have any friends because they are chronic complainers about everything and no one wants to hang around them.
There are good aspects and bad aspects to virtually everything. No situation is perfect and very few are completely bad. However, a large portion of your enjoyment or hatred of a situation is entirely up to you. There have been many times I have been listening to someone tell a story about a wonderful thing that happened. It might have been a great vacation or party or anything. Not long into the story, another person who was there with them cuts in to correct them and tell everyone how terrible it was. These are two people who were at the same event sharing the same experience, but were focused on different aspects of the day. Which one do you think is typically happier in life?

Go after the things you want. When I was working on my Master's Degree my neighbor told me, "Man, I wish I could go back to school." I told him that he could. He told me he couldn't because he had a daughter. I responded that I had two children and was a single father who had full custody of those kids. Having children does not exempt you from being able to go to school. I also shot down his next three excuses. For each of them, I had the same situation. I had used the same excuses for years, but one day decided to do it anyway.

I finally told him, "If you're not going to go, don't go. But do not claim that you can't. That is not true."

Take time for yourself. It is okay to relax now and then. Don't be one of those people who fills their schedule so full, they don't have any downtime. If you have kids' sporting events, PTA meetings, book club, carpool, work meetings, church group, neighborhood watch program and dozens of other things to go to, just remember you agreed to all these things. You didn't have to.

You don't have to spend your entire existence by serving other people. Learn to say NO and learn to not feel bad about it afterward. Life has responsibilities, but it has other things as well.

Eat more tacos. That's just good advice for everyone.

I know that these all seem really simplistic, but for the most part, it really is this simple. People who have a lifetime of bad mental habits cannot just change them overnight, but they can change them if they intentionally work on it.

Of course, no one has to do these things. It is their own life, but they will be unnecessarily unhappy. And it's not like you get to try it again. Enjoy life.

2 comments:

  1. You're right. You are better than most at being happy. I'm in the same situation you are, and life is truly good! But that doesn't stop my depression from rearing its ugly head. In times like that, I know "life is good" but I lose the ability to "feel" good. It's hard to describe to people who don't see through that ripply veil in the brain that stops the happy synapses from connecting.

    That said, I agree that people often choose negativity or crisis mode. The best thing I learned from yoga can be summed up in a simple sentence: "Each person is at a different point in their journey, and only they can live it." No amount of advice will redirect someone until they have reached a point where they are ready to hear it.

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  2. These were good words to read. And I will ponder on them for awhile. I agree with Red too however. And sometimes it is because we chose to not be happy!

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