Have you ever asked yourself, “For f*cksake, why am I trying to do all the things?”
Many of us are on a furious journey to attain joy, happiness, success, and fulfillment. They’re thought of as final destinations we’re fighting tooth and nail to arrive at, sacrificing sanity as if it were less important. And arrival at these “destinations” signifies what exactly? Living in a meticulously designed, Brabbu-clad home where we can lay down in our luxurious 1,000 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets and finally (finally!) rest? Do life’s wrinkles all but fade away, leaving us grinning like the Chesire cat because we’ve made it?
We’re pursuing a mystical destination. And in our frantic quest, we pick up a few unsightly companions like stress, anger, depression, disappointment, frustration, overwhelm, obesity, unhappiness, loneliness… how the list goes on.
I’m caught up in the storm racing as well, trying to eke out a happy existence by trying to be and do all. the. things.
Things like trying to be a playful and fun mom, who never yells but somehow manages to have wildly well-mannered children with just a touch of socially-acceptable spunk; a supportive, loving, ready to jump in the sack at any time wife; a writer who writes every day, and a wellness coach, and entrepreneur; to maintain the perfect house; wear the right clothes; make friends with the moms and partake in circuitous conversations about the future of our children’s schooling. I’m in thick.
And none of it makes me particularly happy. So what am I doing? I’m so caught up in my quest that I often forget to slow down, be in the moment. In. The. Moment. And it feels so good when you’re in it because all of a sudden, the buzzing stops and things get quiet. Ever notice?
Life is too short to be this caught up in it all. Each day that passes is one less day we get. One. Less. Day. Think about that.
Every day we have the opportunity to do something simple: to be present so we can see the little joys. (They’re so small sometimes, but they’re there.) We don’t have to be living in the past or hyperventilate over the future. We can make it a good day if we just stop trying so hard.
Basic human principles, before they become frayed with age, are too often overlooked as the key to providing a lifetime of fulfillment.
You don’t have to dig deep into the trenches to understand that simplicity in life — that which you materially possess, along with what you mentally carry around — can be achieved by having less of both.
Striping life down to its basic fundamental principles and living there, as many of our philosophical forefathers have, is how we get more out of life. And while these scribes could ponder over thoughts of life and existential existence for days on end, we can incorporate their findings without enduring the company of toga-clad men pontificating on all of life’s minutia. We get to enjoy the good bits and let the other stuff go. Let their teachings be our beacon of light that keeps us from going under from all the pressure.
7 Philosophical Truths to Live By
1. Complain less (or nix it all together).
Complaining is a waste of useful time. (This is why Facebook and I are no longer on speaking terms.)
I can’t say that I remember a time in life when I complained so much that it improved a situation. And let’s not confuse complaining with venting — it’s criticizing and faultfinding. It’s denial and finger-pointing and people tire quickly of it if you do it often in their presence. (It’s even in my son’s book “How to Lose Friends”. And yes, I made him read that — he doesn’t like to lose or share, but he loves complaining and negotiating.)
As Jocko Willink said in Tim Ferriss’s book, Tools of Titans — when something bad happens or it doesn’t go your way, respond by saying “Good”, because it’s an opportunity to do better, be creative, or focus on the good.
It’s a far superior approach than using complaining as your crutch.
2. That thing you’re avoiding is the thing you need to face.
There is nothing else you can do. You’ve tried avoiding it, but it’s still there isn’t it?
What stands in your way becomes the way. It’s your lighthouse signifying that you are indeed on the correct path, even though you’d rather choose another.
For example, I want to write every day but the thing standing between me and achieving that goal is my lack of time. But lack of time is just a handy excuse that many of us use as a brick wall we keep running into.
There is no other way to hurdle the obstacle but to take it head-on. If I can make the time, I’m on a path to achieve my goal.
3. As soon as you realize your path, you’ll need to battle The Resistance.
“You suffer justly because you choose to be good tomorrow rather than today.” — Marcus Aurelius
I expect a lot from my future self, and what that inevitably does to my present self is it burdens it with too many “tomorrow I will…” comments.
Turns out more than half the time, I won’t do it tomorrow, but sure as the sun rises, I’ll stress about it all day and feel like shit by evening when I’ve still done nothing. There are too many things I want to do that I don’t ever get around to doing.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m trying to do and be all the things, and if you want to excel in any one area, you can’t take on all the areas at once. It’s a recipe for overwhelm and burnout — not by doing all the things, but by simply being overwhelmed with the nagging and pressure you put on yourself followed by the inevitable delaying that comes from the invisible yet mighty force of the resistance.
Instead of maintaining a list that’s the length of Rapunzel’s hair, cut it down to a manageable bob cut. And then, this is the most important part, devote a piece of your day to tackling one thing. That’s all you have to do. If it’s important, you’ll find the time for it. If it’s not, the resistance will always win out.
4. Your interpretation of life’s events shape your world.
We all view and interpret life differently. Some people come out seeing life through rose-colored glasses, while others are the human form of Eyore — nothing good ever happens to them.
Life can be a struggle, or it can be a beautiful adventure, it’s all in how you frame it. Lean too far to one bias and life will unfold naturally — as if by gravitational force — in that direction.
Focus is your saving grace. Focus on the good in every situation and follow your good feelings — I know it’s cliched, but it’s as spot-on as hitting a bullseye. When bad things happen, or things don’t pan out the way you had hoped they would, finding one single shred of positivity can turn the entire experience on its head and leave you feeling hopeful instead of with a heavy sense of dread.
5. Do your best to be in the moment, and take conscious action.
When you begin to fret and fear and get carried away either by past events or projections into the future, you’re giving up your power and subjecting yourself to unnecessary stress. Oftentimes we do this without realizing. We’re on auto-pilot and we simply go along for the ride, dazed and confused by the state of our circumstances yet paralyzed by some invisible force to sheepishly oblige.
I do this often and it’s an utter waste of time and mental energy. I’m either ruminating over a past event or freaking out about the future (and rarely does my overly creative imagination come up with a fantastical view of the future these days).
A simple way to snap out of it is to ask yourself often — very often and best done when you least expect it to catch your brain red-handed — is Who am I giving life to with these thoughts? Am I ruminating over things that already happened and I cannot change and that’s why I feel lousy, insecure, or depressed? Or am I imagining a very vivid future in which we have a tyrant for President and a pandemic engulfing the globe?!
Ok, some projections into the future are valid, but these big world problems are so immense that we can’t possibly solve them before bedtime, so instead we have to learn to act deliberately rather than Chicken Little-like.
And we do that by paying close attention to what we’re having our mind attend to. We zero in on the micro-decisions we’re making that create the life experiences we’re having. The details of our lives create our experiences, and constantly living on auto-pilot numbs us to those details.
Are you falling down the social media rabbit hole and getting caught up in someone else’s complaining, and it’s giving you anxiety? Stop! Even lingering too long in your internal world can ruin any potential of happiness that a sunny day may offer.
6. Love yourself first and stop concerning yourself with the opinion of others.
You don’t have to be everything to everyone and not everyone is going to like you — just as you are not going to like everyone. Pandering to others is not loving yourself fully. It’s cheating yourself out of getting the most out of life — which you are entitled to. Others and their opinions about your attire, clothing, schooling, that belongs to them and it’s not your concern.
If you’re a good person and you’re kind and compassionate because that’s simply who you are, then you’re doing better than half the human race. What others think of you should not get under your skin, especially if it goes against your true nature.
You are here to be you and no one else. If you’re not following your heart, you’re doing yourself a disservice. And don’t hold yourself up against almighty standards and perfectionism, for you will surely be disappointed. No one is perfect. You’re going to fall and bruise your ego but if you love yourself, you’re going to get back up and continue forward.
Be afraid of wasting any more time obsessing about how you look and how people see you. — Anne Lamott
7. Express Gratitude.
Ah, the most overused sentiment when it comes to living a better life. This one I’ve always had trouble with — it used to feel so tiresome to be thankful for all the same things, kids, spouse, health, warm home, friends, family… I always felt like because I kept repeating the same things I was missing something. It felt very thin.
But then I listened to a guided meditation and this woman was expressing gratitude for everything. Everything. For the big dipper, the moon, the ability to understand, comprehend and read, to feel emotions, to glide your hands seamlessly across a keyboard, to sit for hours without any limb going numb, to remembering things after they happened, years later even, to be able to get up from sitting without a crutch, to cells regenerating, to your mitochondria powering your cells and giving you the energy to ride your bike, or go for a run. The list is infinite.
That’s when it clicked for me. It was an a-ha, so THAT’s how you do it!
Expressing gratitude is an endless opportunity to find what’s right in this world and we have that ability to engage in it at any time — which could be another thing to be grateful for.
Keep it simple
We’re here for a very short time. Very short. Find what truly makes you happy, and go for it. Don’t focus on what you don’t have, but all that you do have. Open up your mind, fill your heart with goodness, and allow yourself to live a more simplified life. It’s possible! We just need to slow down long enough to let that thought sink in.
AM Costanzo (@am_costanzo) is a personal trainer and wellness coach, a motivational junkie, loves a-ha moments, and loves to help women feel strong, powerful, and downright fabulous in body and mind!