A life worth living.
That’s the kind of life we all want. That’s the kind of life we all wish for. That’s the kind of life we all want to create for ourselves.
What does a life worth living look like?
Your version of the life you’d like to live would be different than mine. But it’s almost always some sort of combination of good money, meaningful work, healthy relationships, a fit body and time to have fun or do other things that are important to us.
And we’re all working towards that, aren’t we?
Or, are we?
If you do a satisfaction survey among your friends and family, what do you think you are more likely to hear? Would most of them say they’re having a great time or would most of them complain how things suck?
It’s amazing that without actually doing that survey, you can pretty much tell it’s going to be the latter with most people.
(If not, then you’re around awesome people, so “Yay, you!”)
And if you ask them why their lives suck, you’ll notice the pattern: they wish they could be doing something else, or living somewhere else and so on.
They are wishing because of the regret that they didn’t do enough when they still had the time.
Our journey through life takes a lots of turns, both good and bad, and we love to say how destiny had this mapped out for us. If we are generally optimistic, we might say there’s something better in store for us. Or we’ll just say life’s going to suck going forward too.
If destiny has such a huge — or complete — role to play though, why do we have regrets? Why are we dissatisfied? Why do we hope things were better?
Because we’re waiting. Because we don’t want to own up. Because we know it’s our decisions that shape that destiny we so like to put the blame on for everything good and bad — especially the bad.
The life worth living is forever out of reach, and we are making it so with every passing day, in every passing hour, in every passing moment.
The more time we take to see this and not do what we want to be doing, the harder it becomes and the bigger the regret.
How are you missing out on your version of the perfect life?
We Let Our Past Define Who We Are
Sometime in the past, you chose one subject over the other. Sometime in the past, you chose to get a steady salary by getting a job. Sometime in the past, you chose not to travel to save up for something. Sometime in the past, you chose something you hated (or, didn’t really like) over something you actually enjoyed doing.
When people meet you today, your conversations aren’t awkward or weird — they’re plain boring. The usual greet-and-meet is always the same, and ends because it doesn’t go anywhere. You have nothing to add, they have nothing to add and that conversation over coffee becomes less conversation, more coffee.
Your decisions helped you get here. This is your present and you are choosing for your future to be just like today — one where you don’t really like where life is headed — by letting those past choices define you. There is nothing wrong with those choices — they were right when they were made.
But, if those choices are still haunting you, and you raise your hands in frustration, you’re choosing to let that past still define you.
You’re choosing to miss out on a life worth living.
We Let Others Define Who We Are
Parents, siblings, families, friends, classmates, co-workers — all the people around you have an image of you.
Maybe you’re that hard working girl or that lazy dude or that comic book nerd who plays video games or that doctor – like you’ve always been (or are going to be).
Your past choices got you this role, and people in your present will help you stay in in it. It’s like a movie where you can break character after the director says cut. And the damned director never says cut.
You keep looking for the director, wishing you could have some rest, some time to yourself, some pause from all the madness.
It’s not because the director hates you. It’s because you are the director, and refuse to play that role.
The movie of your life is being ad-libbed, and everyone except you is in the director’s chair.
They keep reinforcing how they see you, how they want to see you, how you need to be and you’re happy to oblige.
Most of the time, it’s because you don’t know better. Nobody told us we could say cut, or that we could play the role we’re expected to for some time, go off the set to change and do something we like, and then come back to play that role again.
Our parents, our teachers and the world at large want us to get an education, get a job, pay our own bills and so on. All of that is reasonable, but without meaning to, they also set a path for our lives we may not really want to be on — without telling us we could do that and something else if we chose to too.
You don’t hate the role, you just hate you don’t have a role that gives meaning to everything you do. Until you create that role yourself, you’re missing out on a life worth living.
We Wait For Opportunities To Show Up First
You get a call. It’s not from someone you recognize, but they are super excited to be talking to you. They know your name, they think you’ll be the life of the party they are hosting right now and you’re needed right away — why aren’t you here already?
It’s 2:30AM at night and you are in your bed in your PJs. You have no party clothes since you haven’t partied in a long time.
You realize you’re actually in the wrong town too — the party’s about 1000 miles away in that other city. You are cursing yourself for not being in that city, and even more for not having any party clothes. People want you out there and you are stuck here in your bed in your PJs.
You aren’t prepared. You’re never prepared, because you think you can just dress up super quick at the last minute and take a quick flight out to the party of your life.
Where has that gotten you so far? A life without parties.
We wait for things to work out before we work ourselves out. We wait for an opportunity to show up so we can take advantage of it the minute it arrives. But, if you’re not ready, if you’re not doing the leg work, if you’re not working on your craft day in and day out, the opportunities aren’t coming — they’re passing you by. Right now, at this very moment.
If you’re choosing to let opportunities knock on your door so you can open it, instead of keeping the door flung wide open — you’re missing out on a life worth living.
We Give Up On Something We Loved To Do
All of that comes down to simply this.
There was (or is) a time in our lives when we used to say, “I want to…” or “one day, I will”.
Life happens, bills and expectations take our attention for a long time and when we finally get some breathing room, we find we are only left with, “I could have, I should have, I would have.”
At first, we are surprised, then we are sad and then we spend our lives trying to be ok with it. That hobby, that passion, that art, those dreams are all gone because we choose not to pick them up ever again.
We blame people, we blame situations, we blame the economy, but none of that blaming helps us to not have this regret at the end of the day.
You’ll run into someone out of the blue — an old classmate, some family member — and they’ll ask you what happened to that thing you used to do. You were so good at it, are you still doing it. And you’ll have nothing to say, except that you got busy.
Deep down you’ll know you should have had a better answer, and they’d recognize your regret but won’t say a word.
You may have given up what you used to love somewhere way back, but you’re also giving up on it right now as you read this. And you’re giving up on the source of joy and meaning in that life worth living you want to have.
Picking it up will be hard. It always has been. Maybe you’ll find out you absolutely suck at it. When that friend asks you if you still do it though, the bittersweet pride when you say “Oh, I do but I suck at it” jokingly will always be better than the regret when you wonder, “What If?” after that friend leaves you alone.
Giving up on your dreams, on your passion, on what you love to do is a choice. And it’s a choice that directs how you’ll look back on your life and if you’ll be able to say it’s a life worth living — I won’t have it any other way.
Play the role you must be playing in your life. Be the director, because we all have very limited run-time at the box office.