It’s something I hear often, and something I don’t remember often enough – the irony of human life is that we go about our daily life as though we are going to live forever. So anything we want to do, is something that can be done later – my life is full of the daily tasks of living. It’s as though I’ve got a project manager sitting in my head – who is incentivised on creating more tasks and more dross – for me to fill my daily hour, so I can run further every day – without reaching anywhere.
The second part to this – while we act as though we are going to live forever, we also lose sight of the real significance of our lives. In that context – how important are all those events from my past, or the fears that I am holding on to and dragging around with me? It’s said better by Chaim Potok.
“Human beings do not live forever, Reuven. We live less than the time it takes to blink an eye, if we measure our lives against eternity. So it may be asked what value is there to a human life. There is so much pain in the world. What does it mean to have to suffer so much if our lives are nothing more than the blink of an eye? I learned a long time ago, Reuven, that a blink of an eye in itself is nothing. But the eye that blinks, that is something. A span of life is nothing. But the man who lives that span, he is something. He can fill that tiny span with meaning, so its quality is immeasurable though its quantity may be insignificant. Do you understand what I am saying? A man must fill his life with meaning, meaning is not automatically given to life. It is hard work to fill one’s life with meaning. That I do not think you understand yet. A life filled with meaning is worthy of rest. I want to be worthy of rest when I am no longer here.”
— Chaim Potok (The Chosen)
We are a bunch of organisms, on a small rock in aeons of space – living a brief flash, not even a mote of dust compared to the age of the universe.
How often do we consider what’s important? And how often do we consider what really matters in our lives? And even if we know what really matters – am I doing the best I can right now, every day to create what I want – not just what brings me pleasure, but what makes me truly completely deeply satisfied. Irrespective of momentary pain, never mind short lived discomfort. In the words every movie hero/athlete in a nike ad – the hurt is short, but the glory is forever.
Our understanding of what it means to be a human being, of what’s really going on in our head – grows every day. We have a better understanding of the default evolutionary wiring in our brain that can sometimes run us – and we are learning to overcome this – whether it’s from economic experiments which tell us about how we are wired, our from hardcore scientific research into neural connections in the brain.
Which brings me back to what I started with – all this learning is hopefully bringing us closer to identifying what it takes to be happy.
What can we do to make ourselves happier? – you might use the prioritisation matrix or you could just set down a list of goals (remembering that setting goals works powerfully to focus your brain and resources on being effective and accomplishing what matters to you) – it helps to be clear about what really matters, and what’s most important (and money is rarely the answer)
And then you could start visualising your goals – either with a deck of dreams, or a simple list or a pinterest gallery, whatever rocks your boat.
I started with what really mattered, what I wanted my life to be about – Love, Laughter, Learning and Making a Difference/Contributing to make the world a better place – then added a list and then added elements for visualisation, it’s a list of 26 so far, with about 15 on the pinterest gallery.
For I am not going to live forever, so I’m going to stay with what really matters – and for that I had today.