Over recent years, as I have taken my nose off of the grindstone to witness the beauty of the world around me, the realization that ‘there must be more to life’ became my foothold. Working at a mainstream job 60, 70 or even 80 hours a week barely gave me the time to breathe, much less enjoy my life. Unfortunately, such is the norm in American society. We have become a society so fixated on the accumulation of wealth as a measure of our security that we have sacrificed our own lives in pursuit of it.
For years I spent most of my waking hours in a state of unconscious busyness. Long days and chore-filled weekends did not give me much time to really think about my life. Don’t get me wrong, I was far from miserable, but my career was neither stimulating nor fulfilling. In short, my life had become the quintessential Groundhog Day.
The part of it all that was hardest to swallow was that as the years ticked by, I had the ever expanding sense that my life had no existential purpose. As I embarked on the journey of looking within and without to find what really fluttered my heart, I realized that remaining in my current situation was no longer tenable.
The highest form of gratitude that you can show to your Creator is living your purpose.
Making the conscious decision to love my life was not difficult. The challenge, however, was how to implement that decision. So I started reading. A lot. Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Pema Chodron, Eckhart Tolle to name a few. Dr. Dyer’s Your Sacred Self was my springboard, and I never looked back.
Now, years later, I have learned that there are some key things that must be done in order to get on the path of loving your life:
You must learn to love yourself. True self love is not conceit. Conceit is usually borne of fear, not love. Healthy, authentic self-love, however, is true love and compassion for who you are at this very moment, warts and all. After all, you are with you every moment of every day, if you don’t love yourself, life can be pretty miserable, right?
A great way to get started on the path of self love is self care. When was the last time that you truly took time for yourself, with no distractions to do something (or nothing!) that floated your boat? Self care can take many different forms, but some of my favorites are meditation, yoga, reading, taking a drive to no particular destination or fixing myself a delicious meal. These moments of doing things that recharge my mind, body and soul have been invaluable in terms of my well being.
Committing time and energy on pursuits that bring you joy activates those “feel good” hormones–oxytocin, dopamine and seratonin–which, lo and behold, are the same hormones that are produced when you are in love. How cool is that?
The great thing is you don’t have to abandon all responsibility to do what you love. Start slowly, but decisively. Make a date with yourself to read for an hour, or get a mani/pedi, or go for a walk. Put it on the calendar and stick with it. Above all, do NOT feel guilty for taking this time for yourself, because as the saying goes, “you cannot pour from an empty cup.” As you allow yourself to love yourself unconditionally, those happiness hormones will kick in and add a measure of joy to your life that will spill over to those around you.
Live authentically. What does it mean to live authentically? It means knowing your truth, and living that truth audaciously and unapologetically. Finding your truth involves conscious introspection into what makes you tick, what gives you joy, what lights your soul. Finding your truth involves being comfortable in solitude, without the distractions of the world telling you how you should be living life. The type of solitude to which I am referring does not mean sitting on the couch, scrolling through emails or social media. It involves embracing quiet solitude and spending quality time with YOU.
The importance of solitude cannot be overemphasized. We have been programmed from an early age to live a life dictated by “normalcy” and “success;” on working toward the proverbial ‘house in the suburbs with a white picket fence.’ I lived that way for many years, denying my authentic self in order to feel accepted into life as I knew it.
But let me tell you, once you start exploring your authentic self–your truth–the world opens up and is brighter and shinier than you could have ever imagined. Sure, some of the clearing away of your limiting beliefs can be painful, but that pain is temporary and so very worth it.
Gratitude. You must (and this is non-negotiable) be grateful for where you are at the present moment. Gratitude should in no way be equated with complacency. You can be grateful for where you are now while still striving to reach your goals. Don’t have anything to be grateful for you say? What about the fact that you woke up this morning, or that you had a bed to sleep in, or a roof over your head? Even when you feel that there is nothing to be grateful for, especially when that is the case, you must find something. You will find that gratitude is like a muscle–the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes.
Remind yourself to express gratitude. Keep a journal, set a reminder on your phone, do anything to make gratitude an essential part of your day and see your life change right before your eyes!
Be Kind. There is a saying by none other than Wayne Dyer, that “if given a choice between being right and being kind, be kind.” There is so much acrimony in the world today, and if you fight back with acrimony, you are only going to attract more of it back to yourself. Have you ever noticed how people respond to you when you are kind? Nine times out of 10, people will respond to you in kindness.
“Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.”~Bob Kerrey
Life is not a spectator sport. Your personal evolution is a journey, not a destination. Living unconsciously and allowing life to happen TO you is not conducive to a joyful life. Once you get in the habit of living a life of love, gratitude and kindness, your life will become much sweeter, much easier and more purposeful. Don’t get me wrong, you will still experience occasional conflict or heartache, but such tribulations become easier to bear. The more you experience life’s sweetness, the more that sweetness will be returned to you, a thousand fold.