This life is a party! A celebration! And what makes it so great, is our values. A life lived according to our own values is a satisfying life. And there is nothing that can take that away from us. But a life lived carelessly, or through the values of others, is a frustrating one.
Many people seek to improve their lives by pursuing happiness. Instead of orchestrating their life according to their values, they orchestrate it to pleasurable experiences. However, as the author Mark Manson pointed out, “the desire for a more positive experience is itself a negative experience”. You see, pursuing something only reinforces that you lack it in the first place.
The philosopher Alan Watts refers to this as “the backwards law”. Being open about our insecurities is scary, but it will make it easy for those around us to treat us with compassion and feel more safe.
As I am writing this, I am staying at a yoga retreat. The motto here is “what tastes like poison at first, may be nectar in the end”. It is quoted from the Bhagavad Gita. Everything worthwhile in life is achieved through some negative experience. For example, a very difficult and frustrating yoga pose might be my poison. I would much prefer to do the easy poses. But that difficult pose might be so difficult precisely because it targets my muscles where I am weakest. And when I practice it more, it might finally relieve me of that back pain that has been bothering me.
Whether we are conscious of them or not, values are what dictate our life choices. So take some time to write down your current values and try to figure out what rules you are currently holding up.
You see, we will always have problems. That’s a given of life. Even if we don’t have any problems, we will soon enough invent some new ones for ourselves.
Fulfillment is found when you find problems that you enjoy solving. Remember, when you have solved these problems, new problems will come. So ask yourself: what kind of pain do I want in my life? What kind of problems will allow me to fulfill my values by solving them? When you choose your own problems, you will feel empowered.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking: I need to solve my problems before I can be happy. Remember, this is a bad rule, because it’s not in your influence and it’s not realistic. New problems will always come.
The ultimate example of this fallacy is to wait for retirement to live. Even if you get to spend the rest of your life on a beach on the island of Ibiza, this won’t guarantee your happiness. Perhaps you will realize once on the beach that you don’t like Piña Coladas. FML, right?…
What’s more, if you spend years doing little else than working at the office, your retirement will not turn you into a different person all of a sudden. So spend your time building up to the habits that serve your values.
Don’t wait for retirement to live. Start your retirement now! I’m not asking you to quit your job. Get into that retirement mindset while you are still working! Invest yourself into different hobbies. Figure out what hobbies you have right now that fulfill deep needs of you. And figure out which hobbies do not fulfill any needs.
We might die tomorrow. So let’s live today. It’s time to live every day from now on as if we are already retired!