This is not about making you happy.
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Look, your life is fine. A full-blown transformation of who you are might not be what the doctor ordered — I couldn’t offer that within a 1,000 word blog article, anyway. You are not required to undergo any changes if you choose not to. As it stands, you and I will continue to chug along the track of life, irrespective of whether we opt to take a look at ourselves or not. It’ll be fine because we’ll call it that way.
However (you knew the caveat was coming), one thing above all else is being placed within the realm of chance should we avoid these periodic mirror checks. And no, it’s not happiness — that’s white noise at this point.
Much of living a good life these days gets collapsed somewhere within the pillars of happiness, morality and love. As powerful as those are on their own volition, all three can vanish quicker than we can even realize we’re losing our grip. It’s not about just making sure you end up with a good life — it’s how effective we are in managing what causes a good life that makes all the difference. Anyone can luck into love or happiness — to create it, is a whole different story.
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With the factors of a fruitful life looking an awful lot like spinning plates, it might be prudent to install a system that keeps these treasures in existence. Virtues we can cultivate to create a stronger foundation that isn’t so easily shaken.
Being effective involves being clear. Looking at situations without the fog of emotion altering the landscape and operating with a focused intention — one that isn’t rooted in something superfluous or vain.
So what produces the clarity I speak of?
Stuff you already know, but may be underestimating the influence of.
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This is a popular one on social media right now, but not for its full capacity. Of course, forgiving others is essential to clearing the space that you encompass. House too much monotonous and trivial shit inside and it will quickly, yet imperceptibly, gain more significance than the things that really matter in life — like legacy, love, and honor.
But letting go is easier said than done. For many of us, this is all conceptual — it doesn’t work when we try to implement. We struggle to fully surrender our guard or resentment. I’m probably overstepping by saying this, but a lot of us just simply don’t practice.
We’re so hard on ourselves these days — downright ruthless at times. The demand you see everywhere to be better, healthier, prettier and so on quickly becomes the context for how we see others, at which point our compassion disappears. The abusive things we say to ourselves when we screw up are said aloud to those we wish to hold accountable for their mistakes, and the vicious circle continues.
Cultivating an ability to authentically forgive is best produced through practicing on yourself. You’re with yourself all day, every day — there’s no way in hell you know anyone firsthand that screws up more than you. Be honest with yourself — you make a lot of mistakes (I’ve made like fifty since I sat down to write this). The moment you give up pretending to be perfect, is the moment you start to free up.
A friend of mine once told me, “Go easy on yourself, so you can therefore make life easier for others.”
Practice makes perfect.
(Well, not really.)
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Nothing is inherently fun or enjoyable without your enthusiasm added to it. In a world where memes stand alone in terms of things we’re actually enthused about, we’re currently sleeping on all our power.
In Rolf Dobelli’s The Art of Thinking Clearly, he references the “swimmer’s body illusion” — confusing selection factors with results. Many people believe that swimmers’ lean and limber physiques are a product of their intense aquatic training regimens. However, it is because they are built this way that makes them good swimmers. Their bodies are an element for selection and not the result of the activity.
Consider your enthusiasm to be the same way: your enthusiasm is not a result of your activities. Your activities are more enjoyable and easier to bear because you are enthusiastic about them.
Outside of their children, prized possessions, and points of view, people don’t care about much these days. Displaying a distinct enthusiasm for all that life has to offer would be both weird and noble. You can honor what it means to be a human being simply by giving a fuck.
Take on the challenge of doing everything in your life with a deliberate enthusiasm — something very much within your control.
Things may still suck, but they’re bound to suck a little less.
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Last but certainly not least,
Slow. The fuck. Down.
We need a serious re-evaluation of what has us so rushed to get everywhere all the time. Most people can’t even stand in line at the ATM for 30 seconds without getting pissed off.
If you’re late, it’s exactly that — you’re late. Five minutes or thirty minutes makes no difference — you didn’t do what you said you were going to do. Accept the consequences of your actions and do better next time. Driving like your hair is on fire or huffing and puffing at a family member for not operating at your insane pace has a far greater impact than the repurcussions of your mild tardiness.
The same is true with your life goals. Yes, some people have a breadth of material possessions and wealth built up by their mid-30’s — perhaps even younger. Don’t fret — there’s plenty of pie to go around.
Yes, time is a scary concept — one that quietly murders our altruism if we let it. Let’s explore why:
Operating as if you don’t have enough time for something creates a context of lack — of “not enough” as the noise in the background — making it very difficult to be fulfilled or happy with anything. And because we’re of the general consensus that more equals better, we’ll continue to bombard ourselves with void-fillers until we finally give up — one way or another.
Paying mind to our time is nonsensical. Life is too fragile to keep tabs like that — you have time, until you don’t. End of story. You can’t get it back, so save the groaning and embrace life’s brief stoppages. Be thankful that it’s not a whirlwind every fucking second.
And finally, consider that when you’re called to a halt — either by a person or circumstance — that it was for a reason. Use the breather to take inventory on how the situation is affecting you, and let someone else have their moment.
You never know how desperate a moment it may be for them.
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In closing, your life is fine. You don’t need any of this. And I’m no expert, either. Do whatever you want.
But before you treat your personal effectiveness like a game of roulette, consider the connection between the three virtues and Reinhold Niebuhr’s ever-popular Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Forgiveness leads to acceptance. Enthusiasm is necessary for courage. And patience is damn sure a pre-requisite to wisdom.
If it’s good enough for a bracelet, it must have some value.
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