“The proper response to life is applause” –William Carlos Williams
As I write, I find myself in an unfamiliar spot. All of the elements in my life that I really care about? They’re behaving beautifully. Work is going great, my social life is (almost) too much fun, I’m building a relationship with a woman I adore, and I’m in the best mental and physical shape of my life.
It felt like just yesterday I was trying to keep my head above water. I wasn’t sure if I could make a living as a writer and consultant. My social life was uninspired, and my sense of self was rapidly evolving (more on that in a future article). While coping, I made a list of 10 reminders to myself. These reminders acted like the eye of a storm, by creating the emotional and mental space I needed to stay on track.
Today, I find myself in need of a new set of reminders. As before, I share these to cement my own understanding and in hope that they may also serve you. These new reminders revolve around time, impermanence, surrender, and the inner child.
1) Loosen your grip. While I certainly appreciate the joy and abundance that defines this phase of life, I know that everything ebbs and flows.
My instinct is to hold onto it all with a tight grip, lest it slip through my fingers.
I consider taking on as many clients as possible and staying neurotically organized so that I don’t a drop a ball. I’m tempted to say yes to every ski trip, party, and brunch I’m invited to. I think about saving as much money as possible and being extra disciplined with my diet and exercise.
But seriously, who am fooling? Trying to hold onto all of this will only prevent me from fully engaging with the amazing things happening right now.
Besides, a tight grip is an act of scarcity and paranoia. It’s a vote against my own ability to build a life I love and a denial of the flow that defines the human experience.
I’ll trust that when I drop a ball or say the wrong thing, it probably wasn’t that important to begin with. I’ll trust that the important stuff will resurface when I miss it the first time.
The real skill is learning to be ok with everything you love slipping through your fingers. Because whether you like it or not, all of this will eventually end. It’s important to enjoy it while you can. So right now, while I’m in the pocket of my own life, I’ll loosen my grip and use the extra energy to revel in it all.
2) Widen your lens. Loosening your grip allows you to celebrate the impermanence of everything that life offers. Widening your lens allows you to access and influence the entire arc of life.
If you actively shape your future from a moment when your life is already amazing, you gain access to a creativity, clarity, and confidence that’s otherwise elusive. (And if the present isn’t amazing, you can always do something small to improve the quality of this moment. Doing so will improve the quality of the next.)
When you work to shape your future, approach it with a bit of assumed power and playful humility. Your aim is to build something beautiful for yourself and the world.
3) Let love in. Countless people – possibly even most – struggle to feel the love that already exists in their lives. They’ve been trained to bat it away. I certainly have. We tell ourselves that we will be more lovable in the future than we are right now.
We behave as though we need to cross some invisible line before we can truly surrender to the joy already in our lives. We act like we need to make enough money, accumulate influence, start a business, travel the world, be more disciplined, or hit a target weight before we’re really worth giving a shit about. But that’s just not true. Doing so reinforces the delusion that you’re not ok as you are. It trains you to reject the love and respect that already exists in your life.
In reality, you’re surrounded by love, joy, charm, and whimsy. You just have to let it in.
Doing so is strangely vulnerable. It requires trusting people and letting them see you, rough edges and all. It requires opening up. You have to let the compliments, praise, and smiles affect you. You have to remember what someone is really saying when they kiss you, hug you, text you, or give you a gift.
4) Spend some time playing with your inner child. Your inner child has been yearning to come out for years. It seems cruel to keep him caged up, pretending that you’re more mature, sophisticated, confident, and enlightened than you actually are.
Let the kid play a prank. Or have a Nerf war. Or stay in bed. Or delight in a dinosaur toy. Or drink too much caffeine. Or run wild, barefoot in the park. He’ll love you for it, and as far as I can tell, the more your inner child loves you, the better everything goes. Besides, I’m pretty sure he’s the cause of your current success anyways…