Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
My BFF’s and I replaced our in-person weekend gatherings with weekly Zoom check-ins. It’s the best we’ve got until the plague passes over our houses. On Thursday nights we grab a glass of wine and spend time laughing, sharing and missing one another.
During last week’s call we semi-joked about imposed isolation forcing us to redefine what is important. Are new things important because we can’t do the old things? Have we discovered a love for solitude and simplicity because we’re stuck at home?
Our conversation led us to question what it means to live your best life, which prompted us to ask if anyone really knows what that means. The answer is — it’s a blog, waiting to be written.
Defining The Life You Live
It’s the deep end of the pool, but I’m willing to wade in and weigh in. A Google search of the phrase “Live Your Best Life” offers up 9 billion results. Articles, books, and websites dedicate themselves to helping us figure this out. On the Internet, everybody knows everything.
For those who think they are already in the zone, Instagram confirms that #liveyourbestlife is nearing 900,000 posts. Y’all are either doing something right or spending a lot of time staging your life for social media.
Whose Idea Is This?
Well, as it turns out, the phrase connects with a 2005 Oprah Winfrey book of the same name. In it, she shares reflections from many of her contemporaries on relationships, cultivating joy, finding inspiration and making the world a better place.
There is a broad range of encouragement and wisdom, offered by people with a lot of financial and personal freedom. It’s a collection of triumphs and successes, kind of like short stories with happy endings.
It wasn’t what quite what I was looking for. It’s not up to others to define the meaning of our best lives, only we can do that. The most important word in the phrase Live your Best Life” is the word your.
The Social Media Mirror
Social media isn’t a true representation of our lives. It is strategically positioned to highlight what we want others to see. Everyone does it, and its only bad if you allow it to become a defining standard. That’s not your best life, it’s you living someone else’s idea of it.
Visual platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are social tools that invite us to compare our lives to others. Too much comparing develops an unrealistic image of happiness based on shares an likes. Nobody’s best life is online.
The Choices We Make
Life is a summary of choices and our decisions define us. They establish both a foundation and future for how we live our lives. I am the sum total of all the choices I have made, over all the years of my life. Not all of them are good ones, but all of them are teachable moments.
Choice affects us and those around us.They are a point of reflection, offering pride in a wise choice and learning from a poor one. My “best life” is a summary of choices and the law of unintended consequences.
Some choices are trivial: what to wear, what to order, how to spend an afternoon. Others are significant and will shape your life: education, relationships, career paths and wellness.
Each day is a series of choices, spinning the story of you. Existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre understood the importance of daily decisions when he said, “We are our choices.”
The Road Not Taken
Robert Frost’s poem is about hindsight. When I think of what living my best life means, a big part of that is finding peace with my choices.
Frost is writing about a choice made long ago, knowing he will not return to try the road he did not choose. He would have us believe his best life resulted from the road not taken. I interpret that to mean he was at peace with the choice he did make.
I relate to this concept all too well. The rear view mirror tells us where we’ve been, not where we are going. If we want to find joy in each day it serves us well to begin from a place of peace and contentment, without regret for the road not taken.
Live Your Personal Best Life
Living your best life is truly subjective. Happiness should not be based on what we think impresses others. Instead, it should be grounded in delivering our personal best.
The term is most often related to sports, reflecting a player’s highest score or fastest time. But it can also mean reaching your full potential. I’ve fallen out with phrase living my best life. It feels more real to say I will strive to do my personal best each day. Personal best is measurable.
One thing I do know; in the midst of isolation I found appreciation for the ordinary. Moments that might have escaped me in a more hectic life become praiseworthy. Successful sour dough starter after two failures, the joy of reading, resting and staying connected with friends I can’t see right now. Friendship validates personal happiness, and happiness motivates us towards our personal best.
Everyone’s “best life” is filled with highs and lows and successes and failures. Our journey towards discovering our personal best highlights the value of genuine happiness versus the need to have others affirm our happiness.
Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen, (whose 1997 book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma” is one The Economist calls one of the six most important business books ever written), offers us this challenge:
“Think about the metric by which your life will be judged and make a resolution to live every day so that in the end, your life will be judged a success.”