All About Life and How We Live It
Some important information and suggestions
that we hope will be helpful as you think about,
make plans for, and carry out the rest of your life.
There are three major aspects of our existence here on earth:
- Our Mind -- What we think about things, including our attitudes about ourself and about others
- Our Body -- Our physical being, including how we feel about it and how well we take care of it
- Our Life -- Everything we experience and do, from the time we were born until right now, and from right now until the end of our life span
We will discuss each of these in turn.
There are two kinds of thinking that go on in our mind on a daily basis:
- Logical or fact-based thinking -- This is the kind of thinking we use, for example, to decide when we need to leave the house to get to the bus stop on time. This involves thinking about such things as the bus schedule, how far away the bus stop is, how fast we can comfortably walk, and so forth.
In exactly the same way as in the bus stop example, we succeed in our many other life activities by getting as much factual information as we can to help us make the best possible decision.
Exercise: Within the past month or so, did you make a decision about something and later realize you didn't have enough factual information to make a good decision? What was the decision and what additional information do you wish you had at the time?
- Attitude-based thinking -- This refers to what we think ABOUT something or someone—in other words, the kind of attitude we have about a particular matter or a particular person.
Our attitudes come from an accumulation of life experiences and how we react to them. Over a period of months or years, we subconsciously develop attitudes about ourselves, about others, and about life in general.
Our attitudes about ourselves might range from:
I’m lower than dirt.” TO “I’m a highly valuable person, and others value me as well.”
Our attitudes about others might range from:
“These are people I can use (or even abuse) to help me get to the top.” TO “These are fellow humans just like me, and I very much appreciate what they're trying to do to help me."
Our attitudes about life in general might range from:
“It sucks big-time and always will.” TO “I’m constantly thankful for the gift of life and the for the growth and enjoyment opportunities that every new day offers me."
How we consciously choose to think—including how we handle our attitudes—will have a major bearing on how we deal with ourselves, with others, and with our lives.
Exercise: Describe one attitude--about yourself, about others, or about life in general--that you would like to change. What ways can you think of to help change it?
There is, of course, no “life” without both mind and body. How well we take care of our body will greatly affect the kind of life we are able to lead.
We can look at our body from three points of view:
- the body we were born with
- how we want to treat it from now on
There is not much to say about the body we were born with. It’s just a fact of life that people come in different shapes and sizes, with different physical characteristics, different health issues, and many other individual features.
Whatever may have happened to our body in the past is all "water over the dam," and we can't go back in time to change it.
We can, however, decide to take the best possible care of our body from this point on. To do this, we need to:
- get regular check-ups to make sure everything is OK
- make sure we are “living healthy” on a day-to-day basis. This includes making good choices about what we eat, how much sleep we get, how much we exercise, and what variety we put in our day.
If we can follow these and other healthy-living habits on an ongoing basis, we will have excellent prospects for living a good, long life and being able to do the things we would like to do for as long as possible.
Exercise: On average, how many hours of sleep a night do you get? Do you think this is enough? How much exercise do you get, and what kind? Do you think this is enough?
We read and hear a lot about life, and about how to “lead it,” “spend it,” “cope with it,” “improve it,” “make it meaningful,” and so forth. But none of these expressions actually pins down what life itself really is.
Here is a definition of life that seems to cover the entire matter:
Life is time passing while we are still breathing.
So when we are “leading,” “spending,” “coping with,” “improving,” etc. our life, we are simply—no more nor less—doing certain things while the clock is ticking.
If we want to change our life in some positive way, the only way to do this is to intentionally change what we do during the time available to us. This holds true in the present (today), the near future (tomorrow, next week) and, on an accumulating basis, over our remaining years.
The Weather and Climate of Our Life
As any weather announcer will tell you, the term weather refers to the air temperature, humidity, wind speed, rainfall, and so forth that a particular area is experiencing right now or will experience tomorrow or perhaps for the rest of the week.
The term climate, on the other hand, refers to a general pattern of rain, temperature, wind conditions, etc. that has been the case in a particular area over many years, and that people have come to expect for that area.
In the same way, it is possible to make a distinction between the weather of our life and the climate of our life. The weather of our life is determined by what particular things we do or experience today, tomorrow, or perhaps by the end of the week. The climate of our life, on the other hand, is determined by the accumulation of the things we have been doing over months or even years of our individual “weather” days.
Two important points:
- The climate of our life involves an accumulation of events that can’t be changed overnight or in a week or two. However, over longer a period of time, we CAN turn it into a climate we would much prefer to have. The only way to do this is by intentionally changing out life's weather, in other words, by changing what we actually do, day-by-day, with our available time.
- The short-term weather of our life is not always perfect, and we will sometimes have days when we don’t quite manage to do what we set out to do. This should not be a problem, provided we keep working on making our own “good weather” from one day to the next.
Exercise: Think of a behavior or other aspect of your life you would like to change but by now has become part of your life's "climate." What kinds of things could you start doing on a day-to-day "weather" basis that would help your "climate" change for the better over time?
We need to talk a bit about planning and how this relates to what we want to do now and on into the future.
There are hundreds of "how-to" books, video series, sponsored workshops, and other ways in which self-proclaimed experts tell us how to best “plan” our lives. Their recommendations usually involve complicated schemes and systems that are hard to understand and even harder to follow.
A much simpler approach involves just three straightforward steps:
- decide what we want to accomplish (that is, describe our goal)
- determine what we need to do (and in what order) to reach the goal
- actually do each of these things, in the proper order
Goals that are much too broad (for example, “lead a happy and meaningful life”) are not really useful. They don’t allow us to clearly figure out the specific things we need to do to reach them.
Instead of trying to deal with goals that are too big and vague, it is much better to set a few smaller, shorter-term goals. You should spell these out in detail, including the specific actions you need to take to reach them. Over time, continued success on these smaller goals will result in major life accomplishments overall.
Exercise: Describe one small, do-able goal you would like to accomplish within the next week or two. What specific steps will you need to take to accomplish it?