“The marvellous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse.” – Helen Keller
I recently finished reading David Bach’s book Start Late and Finish Rich where he discussed the key principles for achieving financial independence at any age. What was surprising about the book though, was the last few chapters on richer living that talks not about money, but about finding meaning and purpose in your day-to-day life.
Bach rightly states that so many people put off joy and fun to retirement; telling themselves that when they retire, they will have time to have fun or to experience joy and to do the things they want to do. The reality is that most retirees experience retirement as a shock. In fact, most executives die within the first five years of retirement. Why?
Suddenly, they are no longer working, which means they are no longer connecting with people and often no-one is interested in their opinions anymore. At work, they mattered. They were important. They had purpose. At home, not so much; especially if they neglected their families while working. They probably awaken to the reality that they don’t know much about the people they claim to love so much. And years of neglect, leads to their family members also not taking much interest in them.
Now, I realise this is an extreme example and might not apply to everyone. But most of us can relate to putting off joy or fun or doing what we really want; telling ourselves that one day when we have enough money, or when we get a raise, or when we finish studying or when we buy a house or when we get married etc., then we will be happy. Only to arrive there and realise that we are not happy.
Happiness is not a destination. Happiness is a choice we make every day to pay attention to our life as it unfolds. Happiness is found in those quiet moments in between the rush of activities or errands or chores. Happiness is found in the stillness when our incessant thinking stops long enough for us to notice the beauty around us.
I agree with David Bach when he says don’t put off your joy. Ask yourself seriously when last you experienced deep joy and then consider what you were doing, where you were, whom you were with. What was it about that moment that brought you so much joy? And how can you recreate that joy in your life right now?
In The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo, he talks about the privilege of consciousness we receive as human beings. “… of all the endless species of plants and animals and minerals that make up the earth, a very small portion of life has the wakefulness of spirit that we call ‘being human’”.
Have you ever considered how amazing it is that I am able to express myself to you in this written form and that you have enough consciousness to receive and interpret it? This ability is something that is part of the unique experience of being human. As Nepo says, “You could have been an ant. I could have been an anteater. You could have been rain. I could have been a lick of salt. But we are blessed in this time and place to be human beings; alive in rare ways that we often take for granted.”
So, what are you taking for granted today? How are you not fully expressing your humanness today? What will you do today, knowing that you are one of the rarest forms of life to have the privilege to walk this earth? How can you be more grateful and more aware as you move through life today?
Bach urges us not to wait to find joy in life; to go out and pursue what makes us happy and what gives us meaning. In Bach’s words, “don’t major in the minor things”. So, I want to challenge you to keep this awareness of your unique humanness in mind, and really go find the major things that matter. Find the things that make your heart race faster; that pulls you out of complacency; the things that scare you, but that you know will grow you into the person you are meant to become. Walk upon this earth as if your life is a precious gift, because dear friend, it is the most precious and rarest of gifts.
- Bach, D. (2007). Start Late, Finish Rich: A No-Fail Plan for Achieving Financial Freedom At Any Age. Canada: Doubleday.
- Nepo, M. (2000). The Book of Awakening: Having the life you want by being present to the life you have. London: Conari Press.