1. Think in terms of positive — not negative
Probably apparent by my use of a negative in that sentence, this is something I am working on.
Up until now, I framed most everything by “the negative.” I actually consider myself an optimist, but I’m an “optimist” in the sense that I’m an idealist — and this makes me a critic. I have a rich inner picture of how I think things should be or, in the least, could be better, and my knee-jerk reaction is to cull everything around me in a continual loop of deductive reasoning and elimination — “ no… no… no… not good enough… not that… not yet.” I think it’s because I’m pursuing or defending some “better” ideal, but in reality I’m just filling up my headspace with a series of “no’s” like shipping popcorn.
I know others out there do this, too.
But life loathes a void. Life needs something else to fill the void, otherwise the same shit will just rush back in.
2. Be self-aware
Enough to know when something is right for you.
Base your decisions on internal rather external markers — intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation. (And most of our markers — like money, looks, etc. — are external. So this takes some rework to actually figure out what we want.)
You have to be able to discern when something is right. You have to be ready to step up to bat for your life right now — not later, when it’s convenient or ideal. You have to take opportunities as they arise, not some “someday” timeframe, and you have to trust yourself enough so that you can go with them.
3. Be active.
I don’t mean working out — though that’s good, too. I mean actually take action. Too often we get stuck in theory loops — “someday,” “we should,” “what if?” etc. — that never actually come to fruition.
To the extent that the thought process itself feels cathartic (even though it’s often self-sabotaging to our happiness in the long-run, but that’s another post), then keep on trucking.
But to the extent that we want something more, we have to actually take action.
4. Be committed — be “checked-in”
Be present — in time and space.
Heidi Priebe wrote,
“You have to commit yourself entirely. You can’t love people half way. You can’t leave important business unfinished. You can’t deliberately half ass your job or your relationship or any other area of your life because you feel more comfortable when you have one foot out the door. You have to decide what you’re in for and then go all the way with it. You have to realize the freedom and possibility that exists within commitment.”
Live your life inside it, in the room in which you are rather than wandering around out back or upstairs or wherever you tend to drift off to. Sit with yourself. Sit in the room. Be there in time and space — in mind as well as body.
5. Be braver than you feel
Achievement doesn’t come with ease or comfort.
“You have to be willing to size up uncomfortable situations, recognize that you’re going to feel a bit out of your league while engaging in them, and then make the conscious choice to engage in them anyway. You have to learn to disconnect from that part of yourself that tells you, ‘No, stop, retreat.’ You have to barrel ondespite it. You have to act in a way that is in conscious and deliberate defiance of your fears.”
And being able to do that is really about developing the confidence that comes from cycling through steps 1–4 enough times that it feels more natural over time.
A good life is from seeing it as a series of constructive — not reductive — thoughts. It’s about being self aware enough to know what we want. It’s about taking action, every day, to get there. And it’s about doing all of this even though we’re scared, trusting that there’s good shit on the other side.