A few things I’ve started to realise in the past 25 years of living in a world which is far from perfect but has so much to offer… 🙂
1) Gratitude over Desire
It’s great to want things, and have dreams and ambitions. These are what help provide our lives with direction and purpose. If there is nothing you wish to achieve, chances are you won’t ever maximise your potential. We all have the potential to do so much with our lives but whether or not we do so depends entirely on the strength of our individual ambitions and desires and how much effort we’re prepared to put in to achieving them. However, it’s also important to know where the limitations should be. We live in a society which focuses mainly on the end-product. Consumerism operates under the belief that people want more – a better body, a bigger home, another car and most commonly, a bigger bank balance with which to provide all of that. So what do we do? We work harder and we involve ourselves in more activities – we are constantly thinking about how to improve ourselves, but sometimes we sacrifice a bit of our personal pleasure in order to do this. Do I really want to run around in a cold, muddy field once a week? I can’t say it’s a thought that thrills me, but I’ve signed up to my new fitness class because I hope that it will make me healthier and slimmer. It’s good to push and challenge ourselves, so I’m pleased that I’ve done this, but we must not overdo it. We should not let our wants and wishes take precedence over the appreciation we should have for that which we already possess. Maybe whilst running around in the mud, I should think less about how much I hate my fat tummy, and think more about how grateful I am for my long legs… and if the classes don’t work out and I find myself starting to dread them, I’ll stop going, because life is too short for that.
Sometimes I feel that we spend a disproportionate amount of time pining for the things we don’t have yet, that we forget to appreciate the things we already have. Sometimes we’re so busy thinking about what we want to achieve in the future, that we forget about what we may have achieved in the past. It is so easy to feel nullified by a particular failure or disappointment but when we can let’s see if we can transform that feeling into an appreciation of what we do have instead.
Gratitude is a much more pleasant feeling than desire. Gratitude breeds satisfaction whereas desire can breed dissatisfaction if we don’t attain the things we want. It is therefore important that we find a healthy balance between the two so that we don’t end up spending our whole lives ‘wanting’ and making waste of all the good things around us; and that which we have already achieved.
2) Accept and Believe in Yourself
Get to know yourself. Befriend yourself. Work alongside yourself. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you make or have made in the past. Accept your imperfections – physical and emotional – none of us are perfect and we don’t even have to believe that we are, in order to believe in ourselves. Develop a degree of confidence in yourself – know that you can do it, or at the very least – that you can try to do it. Try your hardest and stay true to yourself because that’s the only way you will develop faith in yourself. Don’t try and be the person people expect you to be, be who you are! As long as you adhere to a basic moral conduct and look after the people around you, then you should feel like you can be yourself always, no matter who that is.
Remember that the only person who determines how much you enjoy life is yourself, so get talking to him or her and try and understand each other better if you don’t already. Teamwork.
3) Having a clear direction
When it is not the subject of a disproportionate focus (see point 1), having a direction or purpose in life keeps us feeling motivated and forward facing. It is important to have a long-term vision and something to work for. Work out what it is you want to achieve, and start working towards it – now! By doing this, we enable ourselves to feel a sense of fulfillment, as though we are making the most of the opportunities available to us. Direction also keeps our dreams in reach, and increases the likelihood of us attaining them. This is most particularly true of our career pursuits. If we don’t strive to get where we want to be, we’ll end up where we’re told to be. Just remember that should things not work out in the way we plan….we can revert back to point 1 😉
“Begin with the end in mind” ~ Stephen R. Covey
When I was younger, in my teenage years, I didn’t really know much about the world beyond Europe. I had never experienced other cultures but what is worst about this is that I had no particular desire to either. I was the kind of girl who would never consider living anywhere other than England else where would I get my weekly fix of gravy and Monster Munch? It feels embarrassing to say this now, but back then, that was all I’d ever known of the world, I knew of very few people who lived outside London and I rarely ventured beyond it either, apart from annual family holidays.
In the past couple of years I have had the fortune to travel and experience new cultures and I have loved every moment, and it has left me wanting to discover more. However, I know I will not always be able to make such trips. Money is finite, flights are expensive, and careers can also get in the way. Instead, I’ve realised that you don’t need to physically go to places in order to be able to appreciate the big, wide world in which we live. Look at a map! Read a travel-guide. Look up a random country on Wikipedia and read all about it’s cultural traditions. Research for yourself about the national dish of Guetamala or the native flower of Cambodia. Spend an afternoon walking around downtown Los Angeles from your own bedside using Google Streetview or listen to some traditional West African kora music. Once you’ve learnt the names and capital cities of all the 200 countries in the world, read up on space and the solar system. We live in a DAMN big Universe and there is so much left to learn and appreciate about it.
Everyday I make the same walk along the Old Dover Road into town, over the railway line and past the pub. It is boring and repetitive but it always makes me happier when I remember that this street isn’t all there is to the world, and that a routine of working 9-5 daily followed by weekend drinks isn’t the only way in which people live. Diversity – of people, culture, religion, landscape and lifestyle. This planet is full of it. Embrace it, and feel the freedom that this new knowledge brings to you.
5) Get Real!
A little similar to the above, but not completely.
Simply put, society is being swallowed by information technology, most specifically, social networking sites. People have been working behind computer screens for decades, but these days the purpose of computers far transcends their original word-processing function – nowadays, they seem to be able to do EVERYTHING. Central to all of this, is the internet.
We have gone crazy for internet communications and ‘putting ourselves online’ with the rest of the world, to the point where it seems there’s less and less that we can’t find an application for. And whilst in many senses this is incredibly useful, it will never replace reality, no matter how hard it tries to.
So, we must ensure that we still have legible handwriting, and know how to express our feelings to somebody face to face, with real facial expressions – not just mere emoticons. We should also maintain our relationship with nature and take time to be at one with it; to feel the sea breeze against our necks or to hear the crackle of twigs against our feet as we walk through dense woodland. We need to be able to leave our phones switched off occasionally so that we can enjoy a bike-ride without there being the possibility of receiving a difficult call just as we reach the pretty cornfields which bask in the amber glow of an Autumnal sunset. We need to stop living our lives through social networking sites and we need to make life romantic again before we start turning into The Sims characters which we designed and observed all those years ago!
I have not meant to disparage technology too much, as I myself am often the one who needs to be told to get off the computer whilst I check my three e-mail accounts, my Facebook, and update my blog, but as the trend grows more and more every day, showing no sign of an end, I am merely stressing the importance of finding a balance between the two.
6) Maintaining an Open-Mind
When we think about that space in between our ears we should be envisaging a wide, open plain – not a confined prison cell in which there is only one window to look out from.
I know that personally, in the past, I have sometimes been too quick to judge people and things. I have, on a number of occasions, been made to eat humble pie when realising that I got it wrong, sometimes very wrong. I have learnt that being too quick to judge means that we are, in effect, only limiting ourselves. Judge a person too quickly, and that could have been a great friendship you’ve just ruled yourself out of. If the first episode of The Simpsons I’d ever watched had been the one where Marge buys a new car, I would probably not have watched it ever again, whereas in reality I actually own 13 seasons of the thing on DVD! The example may sound trivial but the point is – it is far more beneficial to leave the door open than to slam it shut. It’s good to have an opinion and its not bad to be strong in your beliefs as those are what will define you as a person- but it is also important to be flexible in your feelings and allow them to be adapted if they need to.
7) Make the most of every moment
I originally touched on this point here. I firmly believe that it is now, that is far more important than then. We are only ever living in the now. Tomorrow will always be tomorrow, and yesterday will always be yesterday, so it would be silly to allocate our most significant movements to these times when it is only ever the today – the present -which lends itself to us as a big, open workspace. In addition, we must try and make the most of each moment we have – through leisurely enjoyment if nothing else – seeing the positives in as many situations as possible.
It’s time to stop calling it a bad day just because we missed the bus or got stuck in a rainstorm, or because somebody said something we didn’t like. I have learnt to try and see the good in even the days which have annoyed or upset me. I have adopted a belief that states that unless somebody close to me dies or is put at severe risk health-wise, or my house burns down, or somebody robs my entire bank account, then I ought not complain too much about having a bad day, because when such real tragedy hits me those days of missing the bus will be the ones I long for.
8 ) Watch somebody doing something they love to do
There’s nothing quite as inspirational as watching somebody doing the thing they enjoy, and doing it well. You could earn a six-figure salary each year, own a house on every continent and take annual vacations to the Moon – but if you don’t love or enjoy doing the labour that provides you with that wealth – you will not inspire.
There are a lot of people in the world who see money as the main symbol of success, and thankfully, a lot of people who don’t. An enriched and positive lifestyle is about much, much more than money. I see far more inspiration in the knuckles of a pianist as his hands gently manoeuvre across the piano keys whilst he plays out the tune his heart is singing, than I do in the tinted car windows of the million-pound a year employee who hates their job.
The more you enjoy something, the better you will be at it. Embrace your hobby but if you can’t do that yet, look to the people who have turned their hobby into a living – musicians, artists, chefs!
Live your life through your passion!
9) Don’t compare yourself to others
Scientific law revolves around the concept of a fair test. It is impossible to make conclusions over whether or not salt-water boils faster than fresh-water unless they have both been heated at the same temperature in the same size saucepan. We are not being fair to ourselves when we congratulate or demerit ourselves for our achievements purely in regards to how they stack up against those of another human being – simply because we are all too different from each other for the surficial suggestions to mean anything. In today’s society, I think there is too much emphasis on comparison. Who got the better mark in the exam? Who looks the best? Who earns the most money? NO, NO, NO! This is a terrible way to think. Terrible, and unhealthy. If you must compare yourself to anyone, make it yourself at an earlier age. How much have you achieved since then? What have you learnt? By your own standards, do you think you are a better person now than you were then?
Whether we like it or not, comparison is all around us. Sometimes, we cannot avoid it – like in job interviews, “We liked your approach, but we preferred that of the other candidate”. It is important that we don’t read too much into it. Just be you, try your hardest and do your best. There is only one you in the Universe, after all, and you’re pretty much the best at being that person!
10) Relentless Love
Identify the people who mean the most to you, and stick by them throughout. Relationships – on any level – aren’t always perfect. Sometimes our loved ones disappoint us, but sometimes we disappoint them too! People snap when they don’t mean to sometimes. Friends and lovers fall out with one another sometimes. It is important not to over-react to this. This is not to say that you should allow people to walk over you, just that sometimes it is far more liberating to forgive than it is to hold grudges until things turn nasty. It saddens me when I hear or see people bitching about the people who are meant to be the closest ones to them. I’m confused by people who are so quick to drop their friends over minor disagreements, particularly when there has been no intention to offend in the first place, it is infantile and lazy because our loved ones are our team-mates, we support one another!
Love is the best feeling of all, not necessarily ‘being in love’, just feeling love: Love for a partner, love for your family, love for your friends. You’re not expected to feel this way for everybody, just appreciate those who you do feel it for, smile about it, and keep it burning no matter what.