Everyone dies, but not everyone truly lives.
Last week, at my dear friend Alison’s celebration of life, her husband stood up to deliver a eulogy and said, “Life is the leading cause of death, and Alison truly lived her life, passionately. She died doing what she loved. If she never did what she loved, she may not have died, but she wouldn’t have truly lived either.”
His words immediately reminded me of the opening lines to one of my favorite entries in Marc’s grandmother’s journal:
“I have seen and touched and danced and sung and climbed and loved and meditated on a lifetime spent living honestly. Should it all end tomorrow, I can positively say there would be no regrets. I feel fortunate to have walked in my shoes. I am truly lucky. I really have lived 1,000 times over.”
What does it mean to truly live? What does it mean to live 1,000 times over?
Perhaps to follow in Alison’s footsteps, and rest in peace someday, with zero regrets of how you have lived.
Which means, according to the beautifully and truthfully spoken eulogy Alison’s husband delivered…
1. You are committed to being who you truly are, unapologetically.
Where’s your will to be weird? Where’s your resolution to be real?
Truth be told, it’s not weird to be weird. Everybody is weird in some way. You must celebrate your individuality and not be embarrassed of it. If you’re lucky enough to have something that makes you different, don’t be ashamed and don’t change. Uniqueness is priceless. In this crazy world that’s trying to make you like everyone else, find the courage to be your remarkable self.
One of the most influential sources of both peace and happiness is simply being comfortable with who you really are. Not trading your reality for a role, or your truth for an act. Not giving up your freedom of thought. Not putting on a mask. There simply cannot be peace and happiness in your external life until you are at peace within yourself, being yourself. It won’t always be easy, but no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning your inner truth.
Being unapologetically YOU is worth it!
2. You are walking a path that makes you feel alive.
Today, work to create a life that feels right to YOU, not one that looks right to everyone else. Your worst inner battle will always be between what you know and what you feel. And one of the hardest decisions you will ever have to make is when to stay put and try harder, or when to just take your memories and move on. Sometimes you have to step outside of the person you’ve been, and remember the person you were meant to be, the person you are capable of being, and the person you truly are.
Your life is your message to the world; make sure it’s personally meaningful. Allow yourself more moments of awe and wonder and passion and grace. Don’t let anyone’s ignorance, hate, drama or negativity stop you. And don’t let them dim your light simply because it’s shining in their eyes.
If you desire to make a difference in the world, you must be different from the world. Dare to walk alone, and don’t be scared to like it. Remind yourself that you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. You’ve got to do what’s right for you, even if some people disagree. (Marc and I discuss this in more detail in the Motivation chapter of our New York Times bestseller, Getting Back to Happy: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Reality, and Turn Your Trials into Triumphs.)
3. You are sincerely doing your very best.
The saddest summary of a life is just five words long: “Could have and should have.” Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it. Decide the work is worth the end result. Yes, sometimes life seems hard, but we often make it harder than it is. All you ever have to decide is what to do next.
Say it out loud: “I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday. I will be who I am tomorrow because of the choices I make today.” Instead of complaining about your circumstances, get busy creating new ones. You either suffer the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.
4. You are fully embracing reality (even when it hurts).
It’s better to be hurt by the truth than comforted by a lie. The truth will always set you free in the end, but it may drive you mad for a while before then. Breathe deeply. Give yourself the space you need to think clearly. Take it one day at a time.
Live simply. Love generously. Speak truthfully. Work diligently. Then let go and let what’s meant to be, BE.
Letting go is often a step forward. Sometimes you have to walk away from what you thought you wanted to find what you truly need and deserve. Sometimes you just have to forget what’s gone, appreciate what remains, do the best you can, and look forward to what’s coming next.
Remember, faith isn’t the belief that life will always give you what you want. It’s the belief that life will gradually reveal what’s right.
5. You are working through your fears.
Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be lived and learned. Now is the time to live and learn more. Have a little faith that the universe has a plan for you, and it’s all being revealed in the right time frame. Something you will eventually learn through all your ups and downs is that there are really no wrong decisions in life, just choices that will take your life down different paths. Sometimes you must get hurt in order to grow, or lose in order to gain. Sometimes the lesson you need most can only be learned through a little pain.
Running from fear is a race you’ll never win. In fact, what you’re afraid of dealing with is what will set you free. So don’t let your fear decide for you. Don’t let it shut you down; let it wake you up. Take chances, follow your intuition, and get excited. Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is often worse than the suffering itself.
Everything you want is on the other side of fear. Don’t ever hesitate to give yourself a chance to be everything you are capable of being. (Read Start: Punch Fear in the Face….)
6. You are rolling with life, instead of against it.
Stop focusing on how stressed you are and remember how blessed you are. We often forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but of deeply appreciating what we do have. So stop looking for reasons to be upset. Focus on the things you do have and the reasons you should be happy. Positivity changes everything. A happy person is not a person who’s always in a good situation, but rather a person who always has a good attitude in every situation.
Someday you will realize that life is like an ocean. It can be calm and serene or rough and wild, but in the end it’s always beautiful to those willing to ride the waves.
7. You are lifting others up with your kindness.
Three things define you: Your patience when you have nothing, your attitude when you have everything, and who you help whenever you’re able.
Yes, it takes a great deal of strength to be gentle and kind, but you are much stronger than you think. Even when times are tough, be positive and go above and beyond for those who need you most. In a world full of people who couldn’t care less, be someone who couldn’t care more. Be someone who makes someone else look forward to tomorrow. Act like what you do today makes a difference. It does.
To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, the purpose of life is not just to be happy, but also to be helpful, to be honorable, to be kind and compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well. (Read The Four Agreements.)
8. You are making plenty of time for the people you love most.
When we pay attention to each other we breathe new life into each other. With frequent attention and affection our relationships flourish, and we as individuals grow stronger. This is the side effect of great relationships—we help heal each other’s wounds and support each other’s strengths. So stay in close touch with those you care about—communicate openly on a regular basis. Not because it’s convenient, but because these people are worth the extra effort.
In the end, the best investment of your limited time on Earth will be to spend it with people you love. Although it’s perhaps conceivable that you may lie on your deathbed someday regretting that you didn’t work harder and check every little thing off your to-do list, it’s doubtful that your work will be your biggest concern. What’s more likely, however, is that you will wish you could have one more romantic night with your spouse, another long, heartfelt talk with your sister, and one last good hard laugh with your best friend.
Life is too short to be too busy for the people you love.
9. You are in the habit of pausing at least once a day to appreciate what you have.
We are born in one moment. We die in one moment. Life changes every moment. Anything can happen in the blink of an eye. Make your life count by noticing it. Pay attention. Live today with your eyes wide open. Wisdom is not just knowing when to stand up and make moves, but when to sit still and be present. It’s knowing your full presence is never a waste of time.
We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our attention and gratitude. How often do you pause to appreciate your life and everyone and everything in it? How often do you stop dead in your tracks, just to take a deep breath and smile?
Look around, and be thankful right now. For your health, your family, your friends, and your home.
Nothing lasts forever.
Now, it’s your turn…
With Alison in mind, I sincerely hope the points and principles above have inspired you to LIVE your life TODAY…
Don’t ignore death, but don’t be afraid of it either. Be afraid of a life you never lived because you were too afraid to take action on what matters most. Truth be told, death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside you while you’re still alive and breathing.
Alison absolutely lived her life far beyond her years. Challenge yourself to do the same.
Every. Single. Day.
(Note: Marc and I take a much deeper dive into the process of doing these hard but necessary things in life in the Getting Back to Happy Course & Coaching.)
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And before you go, I’d love to hear from YOU in the comments section below.
Which point above do you resonate with most? What does it mean to truly live every day of your life?
Please share your thoughts.
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Photo by: iko