Leonardo DaVinci once wrote, “Life well spent is long.” Socrates wrote some 2,000 years earlier, “Not life, but good life, is to be chiefly valued.” To be sure, a life well lived is ideal, but optional.
While I typically prefer to consider the positive attributes of any subject in order to provide stepping stones for progress, sometimes it is valuable to enumerate the most common obstacles that prevent forward movement, to the same end. This list, while in no particular order, should help you to navigate several of the trickiest areas of human consciousness:
The Top 7 Ways to Ruin a Perfectly Good Life
- Maintaining the belief that life is out to get you or that your world is conspiring to ruin your day or worse, your life. As Mark Twain poignantly suggested, “Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.” Life’s compulsion is growth, continual expansion. Motivated by the power of life, you can flourish like the flower that finds its way through a crack in the asphalt.
- Dwelling obsessively in the past. Robert Frost, the great American poet, penned: “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.” Don’t let the past rob you of the beauty, the wonder and the opportunities of the present.
- Living in constant fear of the future. Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American essayist, philosopher and poet who led the Transcendentalist wisely remarked: “With the past I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.” If you live in fear of the unknown, of what is to come, you will likely be paralyzed or at best distracted relative to the right course of action to be taken now.
- Failing to appreciate your resources, as they are presently configured. Henry Ward Beecher, a clergyman and social reformer in the 19th century, stated: “The unthankful heart…discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!” Epictetus, a Stoic philosopher who walked the earth some 1,900 years ago voiced this gem: “He is a wise man who does not grieve for things he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” Make full use of your present resources – your friends, your things, your skills, your understanding and so on – and your world will expand.
- Cruising through your day on ‘autopilot.‘ Pulitzer Prize winning author Thornton Wilder declared: “We can only said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” Good living requires a conscious, active and alert mind; existing does not.
- Refusing to forgive. George Herbert, a Welsh poet born in the late 1500s wrote: “He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass.” Forgiveness lightens the present and enlarges the future.
- Seeking company in misery. W. E. B. DuBois, the tireless civil rights activist, issued the challenge: “A little less complaint and whining, and a little more dogged work and manly striving, would do us more credit than a thousand civil rights bills.” Commiseration varnishes over a wound that could otherwise heal. Helen Keller added: “As selfishness and complaint pervert the mind, so love with its joy clears and sharpens the vision.”
As I mentioned above, a successful and fulfilling life is optional. Either you make decisions and develop habits that allow you to harness the inexhaustible power of life or you move awkwardly and painfully down the slippery slope called “existence.” The choice is yours.