Wasting your life is one of our biggest fears.
“You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your fucking khakis.” That’s one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite books: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk.
I’ve read Fight Club probably five or six times. But when I reread it again recently, that line really hit me. Are you wasting your life if you try to chase all those things?
In the midst of our pursuit of whatever we’re after, it’s easy to get so distracted that we lose sight of what matters—and before we know it, we waste our time chasing the wrong things.
It’s fine to set goals and pursue things in life. However, you don’t need whatever you’re pursuing to live a meaningful life. Here’s why.
You are not your bucket list
Don’t trick yourself into believing you have to do crazy shit just make it count. It’s all useless if you keep going from one thing to the other so that you can cross things off your list, and can talk about it at parties.
We buy things, we party, we jump off cliffs, we go on holidays, we move to different cities, we switch jobs — but nothing changes inwardly after we’ve done those things.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a bucket list. But we should realize that we can live a meaningful life without one. Don’t put pressure on yourself just to do things. Who cares? Your life is not a Nike slogan.
You can live with very little and be happy. With that realization, you can go and do the things that you truly want and not just because some article says: 10 Things You Should Do Before You Die.
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”
– Marcus Aurelius
You are not your social status
College degree, job title, number of friends and followers, are all means to measure ourselves. Somehow, we need to determine where we stand in society.
Are you a winner or are you a loser? That’s what we’re after. We do things just to fill our resumes and increase our network. We want to say, “I went to X university.” Or, “I work at X.”
No matter what your social status is, you’re not better than any other human being. We don’t live in the 18th century anymore. No one cares about your social status. People care about your character and skills.
“People who hold important positions in society are commonly labelled “somebodies,” and their inverse “nobodies”-both of which are, of course, nonsensical descriptors, for we are all, by necessity, individuals with distinct identities and comparable claims on existence.”
― Alain de Botton
You are not your bank account
Money is awesome. Let’s be honest, without it, you can’t do much. If you want to get away and live in the woods and be self-sufficient like Thoreau, feel free to do so — no one is stopping you.
But if you want to be a part of society, you need money to survive. However, we give money more power than we should. We let money rule our life’s decisions, and that is too much.
The truth is that money comes and goes. I’ve lost a lot of money in my life, so what? Money is a commodity — don’t let it rule you.
“I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive.”
– Henry Miller
Stop chasing with your eyes closed
If you’re always chasing things that you believe will make you happy, your life will be over in a blink of an eye.
Life is, in contrast to what many of us believe, long enough. As Seneca put it: “Life, if well lived, is long enough.”
But we need to learn how to slow downtime, and be in the moment if we want to live well.
Have you ever had a day that you felt like time didn’t exist? When you’re fully immersed at the moment, time moves slowly. It doesn’t matter what you do, if you do it with 100% of your attention, you are not wasting your life.
On the other hand, have you ever thought: “I can’t believe a year has passed.” We often think that around December 31st of each year, or when it’s our birthday.
Call it presence, focus, mindfulness, or whatever you wish. The point is this: You have the power to slow down time — so use it.
All you have to do is live in the moment — free of worry, pressure, and daydreams. When you do that, life is long and time will no longer pass in a blink of an eye.
You’re only wasting your life if you’re too distracted to experience it.
I believe that, deep down, we all know that we don’t have infinite time on our hands. We know that life is not just about earning money, posting your holiday pictures on social media, or the job you have.
It’s things like connection, experience, love, relationships, sharing, caring, what we value the most. We all know it, right? But it’s not about what you know, it’s about what you do.
“What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Work on your character, realize that life is a gift, and enjoy every moment of it — good and bad.