American playwright, George Bernard Shaw, wrote one of my favorite quotes. In it he pens, “I want to be thoroughly used up when I die for life is no brief candle to me, it is a sort of splendid torch I’ve got hold of, and I want to make it burn as brightly as I can before passing it on to future generations.”
That sentiment, of being thoroughly used up when I die inspires me. We all know somewhere in the recesses of our minds how short our lives are. We watch our kids fly through the years, moving from school children to teens and into adulthood in what seems like the blink of an eye. (I know this all too well as my son just entered his teen years turning 13 this month!).
Despite our best knowledge that life is short – and then we die – too few of us are living our lives in such a way that we are “thoroughly used up!”
Let me ask you, do you feel like you are getting the most from life? And are you giving the most that you can to life? These two questions go hand in hand as getting the most from life often hinges on what we are bringing and giving to life.
1. Know your purpose, mission and vision for your life. I know this is a big order, but it is easier than you might think. As Thoreau wrote at Walden Pond, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and die with their song still in them.” What this means to me is that when you don’t have any clear sense of who you are and what you want out of life, it is all too easy to go with the numbing pace and flow of life, tossed about or moving from one career or relationship to the next without ever deepening your connection to who you are and what you are doing. I have a firm belief about life purpose that I will share with you and invite you to try on. Your purpose in life (and the purpose of all humanity, for that matter) is simply to grow and maximize your potential. You are here to grow into a person who is more peaceful, loving, generous, connected and giving rather than stressed out, worried and disillusioned with life itself. You are here to grow! From that place, you can start to explore what you love, how you want to express yourself in the most authentic and passionate ways possible.
2. Be a life-long learner. It is stunning to be alive during the information age, isn’t it? There is so much knowledge and information at our fingertips every second of our days. So there is a difference between being obsessively engaged in the knowledge economy and truly learning. What skill are you taking on this year? What area of personal growth are you committing to? I am learning how to move my teaching platform to an online business, and also starting to set up face-to-face retreats since I thrive on the personal interaction with my students when I teach. You can take online courses, engage in personal development programs, or learn a new skill at an adult education center (there are so many great classes on everything from languages to cooking to finance and more!). In keeping with your purpose in life to grow, commit to learning something new every quarter or every year!
3. Keep your word. Your integrity matters. Knowing that you can count on yourself to do what you say you will do to yourself and to others is an irreplaceable quality that will elevate your life in innumerable ways. When you can rely on yourself to complete tasks, try new things and show up for the people in your life (including yourself!) you develop a certain energy that others are drawn to. You will find that new opportunities come your way because you are seen as someone who follows through, engages and can be trusted. In today’s “post-truth culture” developing as a person of integrity is simply priceless.
4. Spend time doing what matters most to you. One of the most prominent causes of stress is spending inordinate amounts of time engaged with things that have very little meaning to you! I know we are living in a demanding, fast-paced time in history, but according to Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, it is often not that we don’t have the time to do the things we want to do, it is often that we have developed poor self-management habits about how we spend our downtime. A recent study by the University of Southern California at Annenberg shows that the average American adult spends 20 hours a week engaged in online activity – and that does not include television watching! 20 hours a week online, and that includes 17.3 of those hours at home after work hours! That is a lot of online activity! If you even spent half of that time doing the things you long to do – whether if that is reading, going out with old friends, taking a yoga class or getting more exercise, the quality of your life would rise exponentially.
5. Play full out! “I am so glad I did a half-baked job at that,” said no person ever! Part of what has life feel like you are not getting enough out of life is that you are just not putting enough into it! This is not a loud cry for perfectionism, but you do need to think about the quality of engagement you have with your life activities. Do you go to family gatherings and hang out in the den playing on your phone or are you the one in the middle of the discussions? Are you giving your best at work or just skimming the surface and just getting by? Are you taking on new projects and initiatives in your life or letting the months and years pass by without your conscious direction?
Life is so beautiful and magical – even with all the struggle and challenges – yet too often we only feel the depth of the magic when things come to an end; relationships that we lose or at a major life transition such as retirement or loss of health or even the loss of life itself. You will never feel like you are getting all you want in life until you are happy with whom you are and until you are proud of the way you are living life. The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your engagement with life. Bring more, feel more, care more, give more, and I promise you, you will be getting more out of your one precious life!
If you want to talk with me about how to get more out of your life, to live more consciously each and every day, pop me an email and we can set up a time to talk! (Jackie@JackieWoodside.com) I love hearing from you.