Stop reading listicles and get to living.
That Won’t Happen to Me
There is a commonality among modern humans in that we hear others’ Stories of miraculous moments in their life, or horrific tragedies they have endured, or anything in between, really, and we think That won’t/can’t happen to me.
This is likely a defense mechanism — who can really spend their entire life worrying about the woes that have befallen others? The jobs lost, the diseases acquired, the trauma endured? And who can waste all day dreaming of the riches people we know have acquired? Dream careers, new cars, bigger houses.
We have our own lives to live.
But perhaps this invincibility is also the root of something deeper:
If we knew we could actually be diagnosed with a terminal illness, we might radically change our lives. If we knew that our life goals could actually be accomplished if we set out to accomplish them, we might work a little smarter. We might, dare I say it, actually chase them.
If we knew we could either 1. Die soon, or 2. Make Our Dreams Come True, we might work to experience life.
The reality, of course, is that we are not immortal. There’s also the chance that our biggest desires could come to fruition.
The frightening part of living is that we may reach the end of our mortality not having accomplished our goals, and having spent 80+ years going through the mundanity of life (note: This “mundane” will look very different to each person).
Will we reach our death bed and think how happy we are that we played it safe our entire lives? That we complained about the weather anytime it rained? Proud that we didn’t get in the rain? That we spent more time at work than with our children? That we didn’t ask for that raise, didn’t climb that (literal or figurative) mountain?
I can’t tell you a single thing with any certainty about your life except this:
One day, you will die.
So will I.
Here are 10 ways to remember to experience life each and every day.
- Stop complaining. I’m so guilty of this. I could find 101 ways to complain about any and everything. It seems to be an acceptable thing to do nowadays; it’s a weird way of bonding with fellow humans. But next time you get the urge to moan about the weather, think of something positive you could replace that complaint with instead. Or find a solution to your complaint — if it’s raining, grab an umbrella ;)
- Experience happiness NOW. Here’s what I mean by that: We often think things like, “When I weigh X amount, then I’ll be happy.” or “When I’m a size X, then I’ll wear a bikini to the beach.” or “When I make X dollars/year, then we can do what we really want to do.” The unfortunate fact is not only are none of these things true, but they’re also excuses to not feeling contentment now. Put on your bikini, enjoy the possessions you have now, and while you’re working on your dreams, really enjoy the ride.
- Let go of the past. Many people live in anger or grief over past relationships — romantic or otherwise, past failures or mistakes. They agonize over the path they “should have” taken. Says who? You’re on the path you’re on and until someone invents a time machine, you’re stuck there. Make the most of it. Let go of past trauma, forgive people who have hurt you (you’re doing yourself a favour when you do, not them). Don’t blame someone in your past for how you live out your future.
- Live authentically. The world expects certain things of us: That we act a certain way, say a certain thing, dress in certain clothes, etc. But if those expectations don’t align with who you really are, don’t do them. Don’t say things to make people happy if you don’t mean them; you’ll only disappoint the both of you in the long run. Don’t live to please people who’s opinions have zero value in your life. Be true to yourself.
- Get out of your comfort zone. Comfort zones are fun. There’s nothing wrong with staying in them some of the time. But if you can’t remember the last time you did something new or challenged yourself, now is the time. How will you ever pick up new hobbies if you always stick to your old ones? How will you ever find out what you like in life if you never experience what life has to offer?
- Travel. You probably hear this a lot, but travelling really does open an entirely new window in your mind and your soul. It forces you to think outside of your own box and listen to stories of people who didn’t grow up like you. This doesn’t have to be elaborate — taking a day trip to a new city counts, too! Just because you can’t spend a week in Paris doesn’t mean you can’t afford to travel.
- Be open to new ways of thinking. Everyone does not look like you, think like you, or believe like you. Instead of shutting people down by being close minded, because you believe your way is the “right” way, be open to other’s stories and experiences. It could change your life.
- Talk more to people that matter. In this day and age, a lot of us don’t live geographically close to our family and friends. We can let time slip away and before we know it, it’s been months since we’ve checked in with them. Pick up the phone and actually talk to the people you love. Listen to their stories, genuinely tune in to what they’re saying. Don’t text and scroll through Instagram and think you’re having a genuine connection.
- Find joy in everyday. Whether it’s a pint of Ben & Jerry’s enjoyed with your partner, or a stroll through the park by yourself, find joy in every single day. Much like #2, don’t wait for joy to come to you. Find it in the small stuff, like the hug of your sleepy child or the feeling of the cool side of the pillow in your bed.
- Be present. Put down your phone. Live outside of your screen. Instagram, Twitter, Medium — these things do not equal your life. One day you will wish you had looked up more, and scrolled through your iPhone less. Never will you wish the opposite.
10 Ways to Experience Life was originally published in The Ascent on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.