Probably the most ordinary way to live your life: “Build a career. Marry your love. Buy a house. Get children!” Millions and millions of people walked this path. It is like Elton Johns ‘Circle of life’. It is the common dogma. It is a logic you don’t question but you just follow up on. This is the way for us human beings to live a meaningful life. Or isn’t it?
I have mixed feelings with respect to the sequence described above. I can see that the career – marriage – house – children path makes sense. It is a secure path and serves the existential desires. In the end you work and live for your offspring. I see and understand the meaning. At the same time there is always a little voice in my head seducing me by telling there are alternative ways to live a meaningful life.
In this blog I want to share some personal insights about how I live a meaningful life. They are lessons I learned during my 30+ years around the sun. This is an interesting blog for me to write. Because I don’t want to be too cynical but I also want to criticize current dogma’s. I don’t want to preach but I do want to provoke slightly as well.
The only intention I have with this blog is that I would be very pleased and grateful if you ask yourself the following questing after reading this blog:
‘Is the life I live also the meaningful life I want to live.’
Be stubborn, brave and keep searching for what you want
The day I started to work was the day I became aware of my restlessness. I was 24 years old, full of ideals and ambitious. Time had come that I would change the world. The opposite was true. Every day I questioned again what I did and why I did it. And why the ‘rules’ of my employers were normal rules. Rules you obey and don’t question. Swapping employers didn’t change anything. I still felt restless. I saw what the purpose was but I couldn’t identify with it. So I moved on. Every time again I moved on. But I didn’t know what I was looking for. It was hard and difficult to find my place and a meaning. The environments I worked in made me question my own beliefs. Was I really wrong in what I believed?
It took me a while to comprehend a few essentials in living a meaningful life. Let me share them with you:
- If I don’t follow my dream I will be hired to fulfill someone else’s dream.
- I am not a tree!
- Always think twice in giving away your time.
- I don’t own stuff, they own me.
- I am responsible for my own happiness.
Meaningful life essential #1 – If I don’t follow my dream I will be hired to fulfill someone else’s dream.
You might have seen this quote on Facebook, Instagram or Linkedin. I think I saw it for the first time 5 years ago. It always made me laugh. Because in all it’s simplicity it is so true. But that doesn’t mean it is easy to take action on. For me this is a perfect metaphor for the difference between knowing things and knowing things. With all my brain power I understood what the quote said, but I couldn’t internalize the meaning.
I fully feel the meaning of the quote now. A couple of things have changed. I don’t work for a boss anymore for the past 2,5 years. My lifestyle is financed with my savings. I gave myself time to develop into an online entrepreneur. Gradually I transformed in a digital nomad. I travel slow and I live slow with a bare minimum of stuff. Call it minimalism. I feel good within the concept of minimalism. And I am a House sitter. What? Yes, a house sitter (or pet sitter). Which is awesome.. We live a life as free as possible. And now I understand what the quote implies.
My personal interpretation of it is: find out what you like to do as fast as possible because life is too short. Cut the bullshit and start asking yourself the difficult questions for your own meaningful life
- What implies a meaningful life to me?
- Why is this meaningful to me?
- How do I want to live my meaningful life?
- And why do I want to live my meaningful life like this?
→ If the answers don’t match with what you do now, change as fast as possible!
Meaningful life essential #2 – I am not a tree!
Too long I stuck where I was. Yes, in the end I moved on but I always took off with the wrong motivation. It was not a proactive choice. But more an escape because I tried too hard being something I didn’t was. I tried to please everybody. I fought to be the best at something just to be acknowledged.
My loyalty and my need to be seen kept me where I was. I acted as a tree. I was stuck and I couldn’t move. Marleen always said to me “you are not a tree”. So this became our running gag. If I struggled with something the only thing I needed was Marleen’s teasing smile and immediately I heard the words: ‘I am not a tree.’
Loyalty is a beautiful thing but don’t let loyalty blur your sight on what really matters to you. It can be hard to look into this, but believe me the struggle is worth it 🙂
Meaningful life essential #3 – Always think twice in giving away your time
How aware are you that your time is the most precious thing you have? This looks like a simple question. But are you really aware how precious time is? I made many wrong choices in exchanging my time. Because I didn’t have a clue how I wanted to spend my time. And at this moment in my life I really comprehend that time is a serious variable in living a meaningful life. Let me explain.
The most common exchange is time for an amount of money. That is your salary. It is not only 40 hours you exchange. It implies a lot more. You can do a lot of things with your time. So you better be sure how you want to spend it. Choosing one thing often means you cannot do the other.
I not only exchanged my time for a salary. I gave away my time to help someone else to build his dream. That can be a good thing if that dream would resonate with my dream. Most jobs I had weren’t close to my ideals and values. The job was only a necessity to pay the bills. And I needed to have clothes. A lot of clothes. And expensive wines. That too. That was very important to me. I exchanged my time in order to buy stuff of which I thought made me more of a man. A real man. One who could take care of himself. This resulted in a burn out at the age of 29. I learned a valuable lesson; don’t spend time on things that are totally not important to me.
Focus on value. Cut the bullshit for a meaningful life.
To work more and more equals you give your time more and more away. If you feel great and comfortable in trading your time for money to realize someone else’s dream, that is okay. Does it make you happy? Continue and don’t be bothered with my rhetoric. But in case it doesn’t feel right, you might need to rethink some choices you made. Your time is your most valuable belonging. To help you get started, I suggest you think about your answer to this question below:
If you would have all the time you want, what would you do with it? – And is what you do also meaningful to you.
I think it is your main goal in life to accomplish to find your answer to this question. Once you know the answer, you can build your life meaningful around this answer.
To figure this out you need time. Which perhaps means you need to work less than you do right now or skip some other daily activity. It implies making choices and dealing with the consequences. It took me 3 years to find enough reason to start working four days per week instead of five days. So I know how hard it is to make the choices you want to make, but somehow you can’t and you don’t know why you can’t.
If you are interested in the concept of time and how you can look at time in a different way, I recommend ‘the 4 hour workweek’, written by Tim Ferriss. It was a big inspiration for me to change my view on how I spend my time and how I want to spend my time in the future. That’s actually one of the reasons this blog is alive.
Meaningful life essential #4 – I don’t own stuff, they own me.
I bought a house when I was 27 years old. It was an appartment. Not too big, not too small. It satisfied my wishes.
In 2008 the financial market crashed. Banks fell down in the USA and the housing market revealed its bubble. My appartement dropped in value with almost 20%. That was the moment I understood that I don’t own products but products own me. For most of the people this is the simple truth.
I didn’t own anything. I was at the path of paying off debt for 20 or 25 years. Which implied I needed a steady income to be able to pay off this debt. The irony was – I was responsible for creating this trap for myself. I gave up flexibility and freedom. And for what? For the idea of having a house of my own?
With this brand new insight I decided I would never put myself in a position again in which products own me instead of the other way around.
Meaningful life essential #5 – I am responsible for my own happiness
Did you know I practice Yoga. I don’t do this alone. This is something Marleen and I do together.
I started to do yoga in front of my laptop. I go to youtube and start a ‘Yogacamp’ by Adriene.
One of the things that stuck with me not long ago was something Adriene said during a yoga practice. “You are responsible for your own happiness”. It sounds corny. But I started to think about it. I already know this for a long time but I realized I never felt it.
I am responsible for my own happiness! Nothing is more true. My conditioned reflex was to seek happiness outside myself. When I felt like shit I needed to do something else. I needed change. Adventure? Perhaps a new love. A new pair of shoes. Yes, I could be quiet a drama queen. I escaped from reality by spending money on stuff I didn’t need. I drank alcohol to feel relaxed. Now and than I smoked pot or I took a stronger medicine to feel creative and alive. I searched for my higher grounds everywhere out there. Opened many doors but the most important one remained closed. I didn’t look into myself.
You could say I was restless because I didn’t know what to do with myself. Because I didn’t know what to do with my time. Who knows the truth?
Things have changed. Gradually I am living the life I want. All the ingredients and wisdom seeds start to blossom at this moment. This is actually one of the best moments in my life and I am grateful for it.
I created my own meaningful life
It even feels more comfortable to build a career, marry my love, buy my house and get my children. For now it is not my destiny but I can imagine it could be a next chapter in my life at some point in the future. In search for a meaningful life.