How To Live A Life Full of Joy

Pay attention to what it is that you want. If your decisions come from a good place, from a healthy mindset (take care of yourself, do no harm), then there is no right or wrong way to live. Right and wrong is subjective anyway, filtered through all of the experiences you’ve ever had. The lens of your Life if you will.

Instead of judging someone based on their lifestyle, or anything else for that matter, ask yourself what decisions you would have made, what you would do if you had the same life experiences as the person in front of you.

By experiences, I don’t just mean the things that they’ve gone through either. I mean their genetics, their upbringing, even their body. The people they have in their life, things they were taught, even the place where they grew up and the choices their family made; all of that contributes to who we are. And how we choose to live is a product of that.

Remember a phrase that is designed to engender compassion: “There but for the grace of God go I”. Go read The Egg by Andy Weir. Now Imagine we’re all just different versions of the same person. Now what if you were just nice to yourself as often as you can be?

I’ve talked before about the fact that there is no “American Dream”. It was partially born out of the country’s response to the end of World War II. The 50′s (even with McCarthy-ism) were a time of the growth of suburbs, of a prosperity available to a country that had been through a World War, preceded by a Great Depression, with another World War before that. People wanted a sense of security.

Homes, cars, material possessions and a sense of ownership, all contributed to a feeling of stability. They still do, right up until you find out (for me, the hard way) that stability and control are a myth.

It’s not what you have that creates stability, it’s who you are. The Who at your core that can’t be taken away from you, not like things and jobs and even people.

There is no American Dream, there is only an American Life. You don’t have to strive for that, to envision a far off goal that once you reach, you’ll be happy. You already have it, you have your life, right now. How you choose to create yours, the path that you choose to follow, is up to you.

We assign values to people in this country, often based on their occupation, income, how much “stuff” they have. I know, because I used to do it constantly. My biggest goal was to “make more money”, and I did it too, comparing my status to others based on it. I’m not saying I’m immune to judgements now, but I’m vastly improved and aware of it, so that I can continue to improve.

Those judgements we make all seem to have one thing in common: they take into account WHAT the person has or does for a living rather than WHO they are. You may have a highly paid doctor, driving a high end car, living in a beautiful home, with a family: the American Dream, right? But he’s an asshole. He’s selfish and rude and his family is miserable being around him, co-workers hate him, and he’s shallow, even hollow inside. Is that how you want to live?

Then there’s a street busker, a musician who doesn’t make much money but loves what he does every day. He takes the time to appreciate little joys over giant TV’s; the smiles of a couple holding hands, the butterfly that keeps landing on his guitar.

He’s kind to those he encounters, patient with the brash passerby, tolerant and even-tempered. He lives in a modest apartment and you can keep creating whatever visual that you want from there, but the point is that I know who I would want to spend time with. Not the one with the “American Dream”, but the one with the life that they love.

Because taking the time to appreciate what you DO have in your life instead of always wanting more, and coming to understand and appreciate who you are will bring joy into your life each day. More than you can imagine. And that’s how you’re supposed to live your life, from the heart, from within. Follow what feels right to you, not what you think you’re supposed to do. Love your life. Don’t love it? Then make it better, for you and the world around you.

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Jeff Hicks

Mental health advocate, public speaker, speech-writer, performance artist, a good human.