This is a novel of a post but even if I say it myself, there are some legit points, so take it in little pieces if time is scarce ;)
The last question of my 10-question-challenge is a real doozy: What does living a good life mean to me?
Now, that’s easy! This is the moment where I reveal what the meaning of life is! Get yourselves ready, peeps!
Perhaps not. Who am I to tell you how to live your life? Good life differs from one individual to the next, we all value different things in life – religion, success, happiness, etc. – and what we consider a life worth living depends largely on these values. But I do have a sort of road-map about this matter, which I will happily share.
I’m not a religious person, but I do believe that some things in each of our lives are destined to happen. And depending on how we get through and recover from those inevitable points in our lives determines our ultimate course: do you venture towards happiness or towards misery.
The word ‘path’, in regards to our life journey, is a thing that for some reason got seriously stuck in my head from the Disney animation, Pocahontas; I didn’t understand the meaning as a child and it really bothered me. But I sure do understand it now!
What I have also understood is that we, every single one us, make our own path. It’s never laid out for us, but instead we all go through stages and changes in our lives, which are points where we have the ability to basically choose how to continue. Putting it bluntly, we literally reap what we sow.
I have dealt out what a good life, in my opinion, consists of into 7 categories. The simple explanation behind such a categorization is that when you’ve got all these 7 aspects of life (even partly) covered you should be pretty well off.
Happiness is an attitude, not a goal
I come from the “happiest country in the world” (where most people answer “No” when asked ‘Are you happy?’), and having lived in so many countries, and among so many people from all over the planet, I have had a first-row seat on witnessing how happiness is perceived in different income brackets, social situations and cultures.
And what I have noticed is that happiness does not look to your wealth, health or social circle. Happiness is not something that comes from the outside, even though a lot of people everywhere think so. Happiness starts, evolves and thrives within you. It is something that a lot of people spend a shed-load of money and time on to find but never do. It is also something that all of us want to find.
Happiness is a bloody big emotion that consists of a group of feelings caused by different things depending on each and everyone’s own likes and preferences. When you realize that “Oh shit, I’m actually happy”, it’s like finding a bloody big key that sort of opens up your life in front of you on a whole new level. And then you realize that “Oh double-shit, it’s all about the little things!”
The little everyday things and happenings, smells and tastes, faces and feelings that make up your individual experience of happiness.
But here’s the hook; being such a big emotion, happiness is not necessarily easy to “find”. I believe that it always requires some sort of sacrifice, going through some tough times or surviving odds that you never thought you could. Because happiness is all about appreciation; appreciating the little everyday things and the fact that you are doing as well as you are (even if we all probably think that there’s always space for improvement). And I do not know if appreciation is a feeling you can attain without first seeing the flip side of the coin.
I was about 25 when I came to the realization that I’m happy. I still actually remember the moment because it was sort of like someone giving me a gentle slap across my face, like “C’mon gal, get the grip!” I was in Slovakia walking in the gorgeous sunshine (I can feel it even now just thinking about it…), I had a great job and the most amazing colleagues anyone could ever hope for, and I felt like I was seriously, properly accepted precisely as I am. That was a first. And POW! Welcome to happiness.
Since that day I have made some bad decisions and ended up in more miserable circumstances than I would prefer but still I’m happy. Because despite all those things that I curse every single day I have seen worse(!!) and those traumas ensure that I do not take every single day that I live in good health and relative wealth for granted.
But once you get there you need to hold on to it! Happiness needs nurturing and that nurturing is all about positive thinking and concentrating on the pros always rather than cons. Sometimes it’s hard but things always calm down and that’s when you should remember that you’re just fine.
OK, the happiness chapter became a bit longer than I anticipated but it’s probably the most important category so may it be. The rest of these categories are actually included in and contribute to happiness, so it’s all good anyway.
Success is 30% super hard work and 70% dreaming and going after those dreams
Wise words from blogger Benjamin P. Hardy. Success is not, as many tend to believe, measured according to your bank account balance or your social status. Instead success is all about evolving and learning, and what’s the best way to learn? Challenging yourself!
It has been stated that people tend to lose their ability to dream when adolescence turns to adulthood. The reality of everyday life crushes us under its challenges and society dictates (for some of us) what we should achieve by that and that age; 9-5 job, marriage, 2 kids, a dog and a big house with 2 shiny cars in the yard. Trying to reach those “norms” takes a lot of time and energy.
Time and energy, which you could rather use on dreaming about things that you actually want to do and achieve. Do keep in mind that we only have this one life!
I have always been a dreamer. Unfortunately it seems that I did not dream hard enough of becoming a princess, whereas Meghan Markle did. But I have had other (some would say more realistic) dreams, like getting a job in London. This was a dream I had since the age of 10 and so, when I started High School I began to really work on that dream. Every decision I made from then on profession-wise had something to do with me needing to end up in London.
And guess what. I did it! I achieved my first ever huge dream at the age of 21. Now that’s a success!
Since then I have dreamed of all sorts of things and those dreams have guided me thus far. There came a point where I couldn’t think of another goal to dream about, though, but situations changed and I find myself dreaming again. And I’m already working on that dream! So far, so successful.
Pleasure is necessary but too much of the good thing has been proven to be harmful
Chocolate, sex, sports, alcohol, we all have some things that bring us immense joy.
But what happens when you can get that good thing as much as you like whenever you like? Well, you suddenly find yourself enjoying it a bit less. People working in chocolate factories don’t tend to prefer chocolate when browsing the sweets section in the super market, and a person who is obsessed with getting into a certain weight and a certain shape does not much enjoy the process anymore.
Obsession is the complete opposite of pleasure, but pleasure is dangerously easy to get obsessed with. It takes self discipline and decisiveness to keep your hand out of the biscuit jar or leaving that Friday bottle on the shelf every other week. But if you manage to break the habit that is spoiling your enjoyment of something you will see improvements surprisingly quickly.
Always treat other people as you wish to be treated
This is the only thing that really has stuck to me about religion at primary school: Luke 6:31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” As a youngster already it struck a chord. And through experience it has been proven to be an excellent line of life-affirming advice or a motto.
Fact is (oh yes, it is a fact!) that Karma exists and oh boy, isn’t it a bitch! So, always consider your actions and words because they can affect your life for surprisingly long to come. Couple great examples:
Don’t bully anyone at school or talk shit about everyone just because. Chances are that you will find yourself in a job interview where the person you had bullied is the interviewer.
If someone asks you for help, never say no. There will come a day when you will need help.
Never criticize anyone without a legit reason and a justification for your criticism! There are very few of us who can actually afford to criticize anyone at all.
Take failures and unfortunate events as learning experiences
We all have to go through certain inevitable and terrible things in our lives, like losing loved ones, sometimes untimely and unfairly. But we all must also get through those moments. Sometimes it feels impossible and that’s OK, give yourself time to recover enough to be able to pick up the pieces and build yourself up again. But make sure you don’t “get too comfortable” with wallowing in misery. That will not lead to a life worth living, for sure.
Smaller stumbles are all about dusting yourself off and continuing with your head held high. Some would say you should continue like it never happened, but no, this is not the way to go. Instead you should later on go back to the failure, blunder, mistake and find the cause of it.
Was it your own actions that caused the stumble; was it perhaps a misunderstanding, lack of judgement or a snap decision that caused the misfortune? Or was it just an unfortunate coincidence, which you couldn’t have avoided even if you wanted to?
If the former, congratulations! Here is your perfect chance of becoming more successful and learn from the mistake/unfortunate event so that next time, in a similar situation, you will know better.
Shake off all the useless worries and criticism before they start to get poisonous
I like to quote the great thinker, Taylor Swift, whenever I encounter unnecessary and useless criticism or worries, and put on some energetic music to literally shake off all the bs.
Sometimes shaking it off is really hard, though, especially when the criticism is unfair and directed at something that you have made and that you are really proud of. I think I need to make a separate post about this subject because lord knows I’ve got a shed-load to say!
My ultimate advice for shaking off all the mean words and unnecessary worries that you may encounter is to consider it all like this:
- Is this worry really worthy of my time and energy?
- Can the person, who is criticizing me, really afford to criticize me like that?
99% of the cases the answer to both questions is “Hell to the No!” Because most shit-talkers don’t realize that the crap they are spreading about other people actually reflects more onto themselves. And most worries that we tend to have are related to how we are perceived, seen or judged by other people. But the fact is that those “other people” actually don’t give a damn about whatever it is you worry about.
So, repeat after me:
‘Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off !!
Appreciate and be thankful of your liberty!
And last but not least, a good life comes from appreciation. It really does.
Through appreciation you can become more motivated, feel gratitude, see and understand the good qualities of everything, and increase your quality of life overall. So never underestimate someone, your colleague for example, who comes to you shouting how wonderful the grass smells this morning. Because you are at that moment in the presence of someone who appreciates the little things and thus is probably living the good life.
So, here you have them, my 7 factors which, I think, form a great base for a good life. The ultimate goal for everyone everywhere is happiness, right? In that case mastering the other 6 categories would in theory mean that you are happy. If not, then there is an issue with which I cannot help.
OK, let’s not kid ourselves, being able to always evolve, be appreciative and ignore all the negativity surrounding us takes a good self-esteem. If that is not in place, then it will be particularly difficult to, for example, try and shake off all the worries and mean words one might come across.
But self-esteem like happiness depends a lot on you. You are the only one who can decide that you are good enough to be happy. And then you have to believe it.
I can reveal that I wasn’t always as confident as I am nowadays, nowhere near. My teenage years went the same way as every other girls’ teenage years; in self-hatred comparing myself to everybody else, when the fact is that I wasn’t any worse than the rest of them. But I got over that and so can you! :)