The notion that discovering the meaning of life is the key to living well has sparked debate, discussion, philosophizing, and endless soul searching. Many of the greatest minds in history have tried to tackle the issue. In the end, though, even the best philosophers, poets, authors, clerics, and other great thinkers have been unable to come up a consensus answer. Maybe this is because living well means different things to different people. We all have different personalities that shape our view of the world around us, so it makes sense that our views of living well would reflect that diversity. A couple of concepts do seem to repeat among the different theories presented over the ages.
Most agree that the first step toward a life well lived lies in being true to ourselves. A true sense of self can free our minds and hearts, allowing us to better deal with and appreciate the world around us. Keeping our feelings to ourselves or trying too hard to conform to the standards set by those around us robs us of the peace that comes from being true to our natures and can keep us from leaving our own unique imprint on the world. This self denial can become so ingrained that we miss out on the opportunity to seek out and find others like us. If we want to live up to our full potential, whatever that means to us, we have to feel free to follow our own path. If we allow others to determine our path, we will become a product of their creation rather than our own.
Another great factor in determining how well we live life lies in how we handle adversities of all kinds. Quite often, being happy is as much as about choice as it is about circumstance. We all face negative people, bad luck, and difficult situations. We can choose to use the light within us to highlight every dark cloud’s silver lining, or we can let the darkness in. Granted, some situations are grave enough that no one can logically turn them into happy occasions. We can grieve over or be devastated by a tragedy or setback in our lives, but we can still choose how to move on from that tragedy. Those most able to move on and recover from tragedies or setbacks are not the ones who care the least. Instead, they are the ones who understand that the past cannot be changed and should not be allowed to dictate our future.
Another choice we make is the choice to live in the present. We know we can’t change the past, so giving up present or future happiness to mourn the past is a waste of the short time we’ve been given in the world. Spending too much time worrying about the future can be as crippling as spending too much time mourning or regretting the past. We should all have an eye on the future, but spending too much time planning for the future can keep us from fully appreciating the present, which, in turn, can make our “perfect” future an ideal we never obtain.
Choosing happiness also extends to respecting the fact that your idea of life well lived may differ from another’s. Following the Golden Rule and treating others with the same respect you’d like in return is another way to choose happiness. Giving in to another’s negativity only brings you down and prevents them from ever learning the power of positivity.
While the ultimate “Meaning of Life” is something that will never be condensed into one universal truth, we can probably all agree that living well is certainly key, even though living well is another concept that is not one size fits all. We will never all agree on what true happiness is. That’s okay. If we all remember to be true to ourselves and choose our responses to our environment, we can all find our own ways to live well.