How many times have you heard one of these before?
“You haven’t lived until you’ve…!”
“Happiness is the key to life.”
“Live up to your full potential.”
While these are often said with the best intentions to inspire, encourage and uplift, they judge reality and place unrealistic expectations on people.
What if I told you there was another way to find the “key” to living a full life?
I’ll be honest—I bought these “truths” hook, line and sinker for many years. Then I became familiar with a different perspective—all we have is this moment. And, by doing my best to live in each moment fully, I no longer need to chase after these falsities to live a full life.
So, what’s the “key”?
Be present in each moment and dispel the myths we keep telling ourselves.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these myths and explore another perspective that is less harmful and more empowering.
For starters, this statement insinuates that someone currently alive is somehow not “living.” How can that be? Each time we take a breath we are living, right?
It also seems to insinuate that my living isn’t as “worthy” as someone else’s simply because I have not done something. And, well, that’s just plain silly.
I prefer to accept the life experience I have than to compare myself to others or think that somehow my life isn’t worthwhile because I haven’t climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.
How about a new phrase? “You haven’t lived until you’ve become aware of and accepted each and every moment as it is.”
Ok. Still a little dictatorial—and a little wordy, I know—but hopefully you get the point.
2. Happiness is the key to life.
While I have nothing against happiness and creating more of it, an over emphasis on any one emotion can set us up for disappointment.
Happiness—like sadness and anger—is a part of being alive. And while it’s great to cultivate more moments of happiness in life, at the end of the day—no matter how hard we try—we won’t rid ourselves of the other emotions.
I prefer to be at peace with whatever emotion or situation presents itself in the moment—by observing, accepting and expanding what is—than strive to always be happy (which is impossible).
New phrase? “Peace is the key to life.”
3. Live up to your full potential.
Again, not intentionally negative, but potentially depression-inducing to believe that if I don’t get that promotion or become the next Oprah or have two kids and a white-picket fence then I’m not living up to my full potential.
How in the world are we to measure our full potential anyway? “Potential” is something yet to occur so we will never know just how big—or small—it can be. To strive in the present moment to fulfill our capacity to become or develop into something in the future is, well, not present-focused.
I’d much prefer to live up to my “full potential” in each moment by being 100% present in whatever I am doing whether that is listening to a friend, doing the dishes, giving a presentation, reading a book or saving a life.
Strive to do this each day of your life and you can confidently say that you are “living up to your full potential in this moment.”
Okay, so you might be thinking, “Can’t this chick just relax and not take everything so seriously?!”
Well, no. I can’t.
It is getting clearer and clearer to me how much unnecessary suffering we cause on a daily basis. And much of this comes from our beliefs that our lives aren’t “good enough,” that we aren’t “happy enough” or we haven’t achieved everything we “should have.”
So what’s the silver lining?
We can all live full, peaceful lives by dispelling these myths and replacing them with living in the moment and accepting what is.
What other myths can you think of that might be harming our experience of life? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editorial Apprentice: Richard May / Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Laughlin Elkind at Flickr