How to Live Well

How to Live Well

Living well means different things to different people. To a refugee, it means safety and security. To a corporate executive, it might mean a penthouse in the city, a beach house, and perhaps a lodge at Vail and a bunch of other things I don’t even know to mention. The American dream varies from family to family. But we all have it.

Recently in Ethiopia, I heard about a conversation with a typical Ethiopian mother. She lives in a slum with her children, whom she feeds on alternating days. When asked why Ethiopian women have so many kids, she responded,

“If I have eight, one will survive to take care of me.”

Living well in most of the world is just living.

That perspective alone should help all of us. But in addition to this nugget of Eastern wisdom, I’ll add a little Western advice, for those of us surviving the American rat-race with a weak smile and sheer will power.

We should all live well. And we can do that just fine without the beach house or the Vail lodge. Living well is more than just living at a certain desired standard. It’s thriving at whichever standard you find yourself living.

Living well isn’t happiness, at least not all the time. Happiness comes and goes, and you certainly can’t depend on it. So over the course of many years and many trials and tragedies, living well is a mindset that takes root, regardless of how happy you feel every day.

Surviving will suck the light right out of you. Just go to a third world country, and that’s what you’ll see. Lifelessness. Darkness. Hopelessness. Survival.

Merely existing goes against human nature. We were designed to thrive and be productive. We all have a desire to live well. Here are 3 quick things you can do to make your life more enjoyable and meaningful (with a little help from my fave Brené Brown):

Invest, don’t accumulate

“Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money, or order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you really need to do, in order to have what you want.” (Margaret Young, in The Gifts of Imperfection, 49)

  • Cut: what drains you (delegate, get help, say no, etc.)
  • Create: do things that energize you (probably something you loved as a kid!)
  • Care: invest in someone or something that needs you (and can’t pay you back)

Hope, don’t expect

“Comparison is the thief of happiness.” (Laura Williams, in Daring Greatly, 95)

  • Look behind: what can you be thankful for?
  • Look within: what do you feel entitled to? What makes you frustrated?
  • Look ahead: how can you grow through this experience

Be authentic, don’t perform

“If the goal is authenticity and they don’t like me, I’m okay. If the goal is being liked and they don’t like me, I’m in trouble.” (Brené Brown, Daring Greatly, 54)

  • Analyze: how am I affected by others’ approval or disapproval?
  • Admit: whom or what do you avoid? What scares you?
  • Address: how can you address this issue? Where can you get help?

If you invest in things that last, if you hope for things that matter, and if you’re true to yourself, you will live well.

I’ll bet you’ll even be happy most of the time.

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