Whatever awaits us beyond this life, we know one thing for certain: we have the here and now. So, why do people spend their lives so miserable and angry? I have no idea, but I do want to give you some ways to make life better, richer, and more meaningful, i.e. explain how to enjoy life!
This is the number one tip, and it governs all other tips, so pay attention. Enjoying life really boils down to having a perspective on it that is helpful for you. If your life is miserable, or even just “blah” and neutral, you can improve your existence by changing your perspective.
Events and people don’t determine how you feel. It is your reaction to those events. Everyone has a “map of the world” that determines his outlook. It is how you perceive things. This is why a kid in grade school can look out the window at snow and feel elation while a trucker hauling a load through a snowstorm will likely feel frustration. Each has a different map of the world.
The beauty is that you control your map of the world. Some people see the world as a horrible and oppressive place, where everybody (including “they” and “God”) is out to get them. Others see it as a place full of opportunity and learning, despite setbacks. Guess who is likely going to enjoy life more?
Getting perspective isn’t always easy. But you have to change your map of reality. The tips below will help you gain some perspective on life, and I hope, enjoy it more.
Find Humor In (Nearly) Everything…Immediately
Richard Bandler has given us some great advice, which is that if you are going to eventually look back on something and laugh, why not start immediately? I am not suggesting death, violence, oppression, etc, are funny, and can ever be humorous, but 99% of what most Americans and other Westerners experience is pretty damn funny when looked back on.
I have mentioned before that events or people (or any reality “out there”) don’t cause us to feel anything. Our reactions to things occur internally, in our brains. This is why some people can laugh off most everything (and live longer), while others love dying young by taking everything angrily to heart. Humor puts things in perspective. Who is going to get high blood pressure, someone who falls on his butt and laughs, or someone who gets angry and lets it ruin his day?
Science tells us that laughter is a way we deal with things that make us uncomfortable. This is why we laugh when we see someone get scared, even though while we are in it, we wouldn’t find it particularly funny. So, nature has given us laughter as a way to deal with life…so use it!
I find humor in just about everything, even myself.
Laugh at yourself
I have a little litmus test to see if someone is a confident and well-adjusted person. It is simple. Can they laugh at themselves? People that lack confidence cannot laugh at themselves. They love laughing at others, almost in a pathological way, yet when they do something worthy of American’s Funniest Home Videos, they get angry and defensive.
Personally I love poking fun at myself. It has a couple of benefits. First, it shows people you are confident. If you can acknowledge a fault or mistake, and show that you truly don’t care, that shows confidence. A friend of mine has a touch of cerebral palsy. He jokes about it a lot. I guarantee nobody ever makes fun of him because of it, and if they do, he joins in. This immediately disarms potential jerks, and even wins them over as friends. Second, it puts your existence in the proper perspective. Jesus said that worrying about things never made anybody taller. If you do something dumb, you can’t undo it. At that point, you have two choices. You either stress over it, and make your life a mess, or you laugh about it and move on to better things. I choose the latter.
Live in The Present
Most people seem to give their attention and awareness to states of reality that don’t even exist. Let me explain. Think of how many people make decisions based on fear of the past or anxiety about the future. Their attention is literally stuck in the past or the (potential) future. Yet, we can’t even live in those states! We can only live in the present. This is akin to owning a mansion and not stepping inside it.
Do you want an example? I was out at a Networking event with a friend, at 7:00 PM. His girlfriend was mad at him, and expressed this at 4:00 PM, so he was thinking about that. He was dreading going to work the next day at 7:30 AM because of an audit. Sure, he was physically present at the event, but his attention was directed toward the past and future.
The concept of giving your attention to the present is called mindfulness. It is a Buddhist concept, but applicable even to those like me that aren’t Buddhist. Mindfulness is not “not caring about” the future or past. It is simply paying attention to the present moment without judgment. In other words, being in the present moment, without evaluating it based on the past or future. True mindfulness can be difficult to sustain for long periods. Start by trying to just be aware for thirty seconds. Just pause and observe your breathing. Feel the air entering your nostrils and the rising of your chest. Have you ever stopped to feel the breath entering your nose?? You will find that when you are mindful, even for a few moments, the world comes alive. Colors come alive. Foods taste better. Life becomes an adventure.
Do Random Fun Things That Make People Happy
I have a habit of beeping at people I don’t know. It is fun to see their reactions when a total stranger beeps and waves. Sometimes they wave; sometimes I get confused looks. I have never had anybody get angry at me. Yet, when I am driving with people that don’t know me too well, they often get a little nervous when I beep at people. It is strange that engaging people in a fun way can seem so “daring” and “forbidden.” After a while, they want to join in. And why not? Fun? Check. Random? Check. Making others happy? Check.
Most people’s days are either neutral or bad. Think of the deepest human desires, for meaning, joy, love, etc, and how few people probably feel any of these things on a daily basis.
Most children are energetic and fun. They are imaginative and creative. Somewhere along the line, we get all that sucked out of us. It could be our parents, society, etc. I am not saying we should be immature, but rather, youthful.
Isn’t it sad that most people in their mid-20s and beyond think that “living” is giving 60 hours a week to a job that they hate, so they can buy crap they don’t need and won’t have time to enjoy, only to hope and pray that they can retire before they die from the stress of their chosen lives. Yep, basically it means people hate their lives for forty years so they can maybe enjoy two to three years of their life when they are too old to do much anyway.
A kid would look at such a plan and shudder. No kid that I know of ever dreamed of growing up to this. I am not saying you quit your job, but it is important to determine what matters in life…
Evaluate What You Want In Life
Most of us buy into someone else’s plan for us. We “jump into” a reality that we haven’t even thought about. A few days ago, I was chatting with a college student I am friends with. She talked about her future plans. They didn’t sound like her dreams; they sounded like a corporate PR rep’s sound bites. I get being realistic, but surrendering to the corporate ladder so soon struck me as insanity.
I am not saying you can’t be happy working sixty hours a week. I work more than that when all of my jobs are combined, and I am very happy. Most of that time is working for myself, so I enjoy it. Nonetheless, I evaluate my life a lot. Is this really what I want? About three years ago I did an evaluation, and I determined that I couldn’t reach my full potential as a teacher, even though I love teaching. I knew that I wouldn’t make the kind of money I wanted without working a bunch of side jobs, so I decided I would start my own business doing something I enjoy. Granted, I have been finding my path for a few years, while working at a teaching job I really enjoy, but nonetheless I am making extra money and forging ahead.
Maybe what you really want is to be poorer but have more time with your family. Dig deep in your brain and figure out what it is that makes you happy and fulfilled. If you spend thirty to forty years doing anything but that, you are pretty much crazy.
It’s All About Friends
Life is not necessarily a game of popularity, but studies show people that have plenty of close friends are happier and live longer. On your deathbed, will your sales report be with you? Will you look back fondly on that moment you worked over for a company that laid you off a few years later? I am not trying to trash working or business. I love working and value free-market capitalism, trust me. People have just forgotten the place of work, and made it the center of life, to the exclusion of other things.
Why are people so miserable? I think a lot of it could be that in the name of job security and financial gain, people will gladly move far away from family and friends. I did it when I went to graduate school ten hours from my family and friends. Looking back, it was unhelpful. I gave up solid friendships for a program of study, that in the long run wasn’t any better than a school that was a few hours away.