Do you feel this urge to experience life to the fullest? Do you feel like you need to do more in life?
A lot of people have a bucket list with a lot of great things on that list. And they chase those things desperately. “I don’t need to buy a new car or have a fancy job, I want to have great experiences.”
When I stopped my habit of consumerism and got out of the rat race, that was my mentality. I was reading philosophy and personal development books, which gave me the inspiration to live differently.
I’m not alone. Millions of people all over the world are saying goodbye to traditional beliefs and prefer to live differently. They want to travel the world, enjoy the company of others, hike in the Andes, watch air balloons in Turkey, go surfing, you name it.
We’re chasing experiences. But we’re missing out on the real experience of life.
Experiences are desires
When you’re trying hard to experience something special in life, you’re actually chasing your desires without being aware of them. This is something I realized when I started meditating more.
I noticed that many of my thoughts were about certain things I wanted to do. I thought that was the purpose of living in the present—to enjoy things more deeply. So I thought about activities I could do together with the people in my life or alone.
For example, I wanted to move to Spain. I thought I’d have a lot of different experiences over there. But that’s just a desire. Michael Singer talks about this concept in The Untethered Soul:
“You have to understand that it is your attempt to get special experiences from life that makes you miss the actual experience of life. Life is not something you get; it’s something you experience.”
The funny thing is when you try hard to get special experiences from life, you miss whatever is right in front of you.
Life is not about the things you get to experience, it’s something you experience regardless of what you do. That means every experience is worth it. Whether it’s something you desired or not.
Practice the “last time” meditation
William Irvine, the author of A Guide to the Good Life, created an audio series on Stoic meditations for The Waking Up app. In one of the sessions, he talks about how the Stoics practiced a “last time” meditation to get the most out of their experiences.
The goal of that type of meditation is not to chase better experiences, it’s to enjoy your experiences more—no matter what they are. It goes like this.
On small occasions during the day, pretend it’s the last time you’ll experience that thing you’re doing.
- When you’re drinking a cup of coffee, pretend this is the last time in your life you will drink coffee. After your last cup, coffee beans will vanish from the planet.
- When you’re having dinner with your parents, imagine this is your last dinner together. After dinner, your parents will no longer be here.
You can do this for almost everything. I was in the sauna yesterday and for a moment, I asked myself, “What if this was the last time in my life in a sauna?” That instantly made me more appreciative of the sauna and got to enjoy it on another level.
It was like the first time I took a sauna. All of the things I was thinking about vanished from my mind and I just experienced the heat and what it felt like. It was an amazing feeling… From something as simple as a sauna.
Change is optional
Another thing standing in the way of a happy life is our pursuit of change. We often want to change our surroundings because we don’t like them. There’s nothing wrong with trying to change your life.
It only becomes a problem if that’s the only thing you want. If you’re constantly thinking about changing your job, house, partner, friends, car, and so forth; you become anxious.
Instead, view change as optional. Adopt a mindset of, “I’m good with the way my life is right now. And if I can change some things, that’s great. But if it doesn’t work out, that’s fine too.”
That way you’re good with any experience in life. It’s a beautiful way to live because no matter what happens, you will be happy and content.