How to Increase Your Love of Life
I meet many people on my travels through life who tell me they hope to be happy someday, when their work is done and they can take life a little easier.
We have all said such things at one time or another; indeed, the myth that we will be happy when we retire is likely the largest and most repeated cultural myth in the developed world.
Being happy is no more linked to working or not working than being lethargic can only be linked to lack of sleep.
We have symptoms and we look for causes. We are unhappy, so we look for a reason. If we are working a lot of our days, that must be the reason. If we are not working at all, that must be the reason.
Happiness is an elusive quest, as we are reminded by the great essayist Albert Camus in his work called “Love of Life,” part of the collection Lyrical and Critical Essays (https://www.amazon.com/Lyrical-Critical-Essays-Albert-Camus/dp/0394708520) published after his death.
In that essay, he talks about the vast number of people who refuse to be happy outside of the conditions that they have attached to their happiness.
One of those conditions is our work; even though we like to complain about it.
Camus claimed that he always wanted to write a novel in which the hero would say “what would I do without the office?” Or he might say: “My wife has died, but fortunately I have all these orders to fill for tomorrow.”
Rather than being a source of unhappiness for many people, work is their refuge or the shield they hide behind which keeps them from having to deal with whatever is in their lives that makes them so unhappy.
Camus called intense workloads “the trance of productivity” and warned us that it robs us of the presence necessary for happiness.
Because my own work often causes me to extend my work day long after normal hours and involves flights and trying times in airports, taxis and car rides, I understand the longing for time for myself and the promise that life would be a little easier if I had it.
But as I engaged more fully and consciously with my life, another scenario took the place of this idea that I had to give up something to gain the elusive goal of happiness.
What if I became fully aware of all the good parts of long days? What if travel became my partner of self-exploration, instead of a thorn in my side?
What I ultimately discovered is that happiness isn’t so much the desired goal as awareness of each moment.
None of us want to live our lives in such a blur of activity that when we are done we have no recollections of where we went, the lives we touched, and the feelings we experienced.
We want to remember laughter and accomplishment, good times and good work, and neither one is either a villain or a champion.
We can be happy both at work and at rest if we allow ourselves. We don’t need to put off happiness for another phase of our lives or another time and place. Everything we need is within ourselves and the world around us.
A moment of sunshine touching my face as I move down a busy street is as warm and nourishing as if I were sitting on a beach. It is still my moment to savor.
A genuine laugh with a colleague or friend lightens my spirits, and an unexpected act of kindness, given or received, adds richness to my day.
Accepting what is, not longing only for what can be, can make a huge difference and enlarge our love of life to a dimension we could not have imagined.
I often think of a story a dear friend of mine who has since passed away told me. He said after his diagnosis of a terminal illness he began to live differently, more intensely, because he knew he was dying, and his final months were actually some of the happiest of his life.
Whenever the stress mounts, I remember the “life as if…” story and know that it is not necessary to have a threat of a few months hanging over me to appreciate what is going on at this moment.
Find awareness in this day, and don’t postpone your happiness just because you are busy. One does not negate the other.
Paula Morand, CSP is a leadership building, revenue boosting, strategy expanding keynote speaker, author and visionary. This dreaming big and being bold leadership expert and brand strategist brings her vibrant energy, humor and wisdom to ignite individuals, organizations and communities to lead change, growth and bold impact. 23 years, 25,000 clients, 19 countries, 13 books, former radio personality, 11x award winning entrepreneur and humorous emcee.
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