A lot of times we catch ourselves thinking about how our lives could be different and about all of the ways we are trying to improve it to reflect our own self-expression. We can sometimes get carried away with all of the potentiality that we may cause ourselves to be unhappy with our current lives. It can be easy to fall into the mindset of asking ourselves, “When will it be my turn?” or “Am I there yet?”.
I’ll tell you a secret: You’re never there. There will always be something to yearn for, to keep you reaching. There’s no end point, until it all ends. It’s human nature.
To prevent this reality from burning me out, it’s crucial to take experience your beautiful life day by day. It’s certainly exciting to see your beautiful life unfold before you in big, dramatic ways, but most days aren’t filled with highly compelling events (despite what social media may depict). But this doesn’t mean that each day doesn’t bring its own little opportunities for joy and excitement.
For example, I can’t wait for the day when I can finally work from home without commuting to work for three hours a day. But until that day comes I use this time to listen to my favorite podcasts and audio books and boost my mood by singing in the car. I would also love to go back to living in France one day so I find ways to bring France to me. I listen to French songs, read French books, watch French movies, drink my morning café just like how I remember it was and enjoy French treats from a local shop that imports them. Doing these actions makes me feel as if I am living the life I truly want which puts me in a mindset of gratitude and positivity.
The life you envision for yourself will certainly be different, but it’s all about moving closer to the sensations that we wish to experience by finding ways to experience the same delight within the lives we have now. Doing so not only makes our lives shift faster in the direction we want, but makes the process feel easy and fun.
If you find that thinking about your dream life is making you feel overwhelmed and discouraged, then try to incorporate one new action into your day that will make you feel as if you’re already there. Like I said, there’s no destination so you may as well find a way to enjoy the ride one day at a time.
This book discusses the science behind what make us content and feel that living life is worthwhile. What drew me to this book was its genuine, no-frills approach to achieving true happiness regardless of your material conditions. Anyone who knows anything about contentment knows that material conditions are secondary to our quality of life and in this book Csikszentmihalyi describes how we can enjoy more of our life, more often regardless of our current material advantages or disadvantages.
Throughout the book he shares that the key to our enjoyment is in increasing the amount of “optimal experience” or “flow” we cultivate in our lives. We’ve all experienced it in those moments when we are fully engrossed in an activity that demands our full attention to completing the task at hand. During these situations we remove ourselves from the any worrying, boredom, anxiety or any other “entropy that brings disorder to consciousness” and we enter into the world of flow where we experience psychological growth and the feeling that perfection is attainable.
He deduces that the “autotelic personality”, the person who can enjoy themselves in a multitude of situations by blocking out distractions and focusing their energies on what is relevant for the moment will describe their lives on the whole as enriching, meaningful and challenging. This experience is the polar opposite of what many people feel their lives are which is a life that “passes in a sequence of boring and anxious experiences over which a person has little control”. This is most striking in our era where we are surrounded by a staggering amount of entertainment choices that despite their novelty and cleverness, leave us unsatisfied and intangibly frustrated. The reason for this boredom and emptiness despite the explosion of leisure activities that have been invented is that when they are only engaged in vicariously and for external reasons, they absorb our psychic energy instead of strengthening it, leaving us emotionally spent and more jaded than before.
Csikszentmihalyi goes into much more detail that what I have written here about how to experience “flow” in all aspects of life from work, to relationships, to simply thinking, and the science behind it. But if this subject has intrigued you at all, I recommend that you read this work. Its made me reevaluate what I see has truly enhancing my enjoyment and utilizing my psychic energy and what is inducing psychic entropy and disorder.