I finally figured out the only reason to be alive is to enjoy it.― Rita Mae Brown
In 1999 I was the most cynical, negative, and pessimistic person you could ever hope to meet. My ‘life motto’ was life sucks and then you die. I was fed up with life, had a job I hated, no money, and I constantly said to myself “there must be more to life than this”. I was 26. Luckily, at this point, I started actively looking for a better way to live.
I found coaches and writers and mentors who showed me that there was indeed ‘more to life’. One recurring theme they shared was the idea of falling in love with my life. I thought they were crazy. Had they seen my life? It was a shambles – I was a mess; falling apart physically, mentally, and emotionally…and spiritually I was bouncing off the walls of my life.
But the idea stuck, and I couldn’t get rid of it. Fall in love with life. So began a long journey of discovery that led to me becoming optimistic, cheerful, and annoyingly positive. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not happy-clappy, cheerful, and sunny all day every day – I am still not a morning person (don’t get me started on being rudely awoken by offensive alarm clock noises), and I can still feel down, negative, angry and fed up…but it’s temporary, not a permanent way of life.
I figured it out – I figured out ‘how’ to fall in love with life, even when it’s messy and imperfect and you don’t have all you want…in fact, I finally realized that it will always be messy and imperfect and I will always want more, so I may as well enjoy the journey…having tried the cynical, pessimistic route, I can tell you with certainty that loving life is way more fun.
Here are 7 ideas to help you fall in love with your one and only messy, imperfect life:
1. Feel the joy
This is the biggest lesson I’ve learned in the last 15 years: Feel the joy. There’s so much joy in the world, so much to enjoy…and we miss so much of it because we’re so busy and fed up. I know I did. Don’t get me wrong, I had some great times in my twenties – I did a lot of fun stuff…but I also missed a lot of the joy in my life at the time because I was so convinced it was awful.
Even when life sucks, there are small joys to be found, glorious moments to be enjoyed – find enough of them and you’ll find yourself falling naturally in love with life, no matter how messy it is.
2. Connect with your inner wisdom
In my twenties, I had this unsettled feeling, a constant niggle that there must be more to life than what I was experiencing. It was my soul whispering to me that there was a different direction for me to go. At the time, it felt like a raging dissatisfaction, but now I recognize it for what it was: my inner wisdom.
It’s hard to fall in love with a life where you are disconnected from your highest self, so find ways to tune into your guidance, your intuition and listen to the whispers of your heart and soul. They’re always talking to you, and all it takes is the time, the effort (and maybe some peace and quiet in a busy, noisy life) to hear that inner wisdom.
3. Take charge of your life
The time that I enjoyed life least was when I was doing what I thought was expected of me – the job, the saving for a mortgage, the seeking the perfect husband. When I decided to do what I wanted to do with my one and only life, I started to enjoy it far more. It didn’t involve a job (I’m self-employed); I spent the mortgage savings on a trip to Australia; and…well, I’m still open to meeting a great guy, but he no longer has to fit some awful stereotype of “Perfect Husband”; and I shall love life whether he’s around or not.
This is your life, you need to take charge of it and take it where you want to go, not where you think you should go, where someone else wants you to go or where you ended up because you didn’t know where to go. I had no idea what I would do with the rest of my life…then I figured out the thing I wanted to do next, which led me to another idea…and now I’m in love with my work (something I never thought possible). Take charge, and start moving in the direction of what you want (even if it’s not clear what that is yet you can start to investigate possibilities).
4. Be your own best friend and biggest cheerleader
The one constant you can count on in life is you. Wherever you go, you’ll take you with you, whether you like you or not. I never used to really like myself. I was very critical of myself, I was disappointed in myself, and I thought I was making a massive mess of life. Then I realized I was doing my best…and that even the critical voice in my head was trying to get the best out of me.
The inner critic’s methods were not working at all, but at least she had a positive intention. Once I understood that, I could retrain the inner critic to cheerlead instead (it’s much more likely to get the best from me, I don’t respond well to criticism) and I could start to like myself, support myself and really treat myself well…which leads me to…
5. Take excellent care of you
Most of us take better care of our cars than we do ourselves, until we break down. It’s what I did. I pushed myself into adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue…and ultimately MS. Looking back, it’s no surprise at all that I ended up needing to sleep for 16+ hours a day. I acted as if I was indestructible, and completely ignored my body’s screams for rest until I was forced to listen.
And it’s what I see so many people do – we fail to heed the subtle messages of our body, mind, heart, and soul, all of which need to be taken care of, until we absolutely have to pay attention to the message that we’re running on empty. Your body, your mind, your heart, and your soul are all more important than your car (and I speak as someone who loves my car) – take care of yourself.
6. Work on feeling good
I had a friend who was painfully positive, naively optimistic, endlessly cheerful (this was my negative, cynical and miserable assessment). I thought she was just ‘like that’…and I wasn’t. But once I started to make changes, and studied lots of self-help books, I realized that feeling good is a learnable skill. It’s a habit, not a characteristic.
It has taken practice, determination, and effort to become positive, optimistic, and cheerful…but it’s so worth the effort. For a start, positive people are way less annoying when you are one. It’s not just ‘who you are’, it’s who you’ve become. As children we are positive, naïve believers; life sometimes squeezes it out of us – but we can remember to squeeze it back in again and work on feeling good…or at least, feeling better every day.
7. Don’t expect other people to submit to your will
Ah, those pesky other people. If the partner, the boss, the neighbor, the government, the world at large would just do what we want them to, falling in love with life would be easy, right? Hmmm…perhaps not – I suspect it would just be weird and slightly creepy if everyone suddenly did exactly what we thought they should do.
And the reality is that they won’t submit to your will. All the time and effort you put into making others do what you want (or complaining when they don’t) is utterly wasted, and could be better spent on loving your life undeterred by those darn other people. They’re going to keep doing what they do…and so are you, even if they think you should do something else; so forget about trying to control the known universe and just enjoy your life…even with its brilliant imperfections, shining flaws, and dazzling flaws.
So there you have it, my seven top tips for falling in love with life. I’d love to know what your top fall in love with life tip would be? And if you’re not loving your life right now, what is getting in the way of you falling in love with life?
Photo by Lucy Maude Ellis