18 Ways To Start Living, Not Just Existing

I once had a conversation with someone in which I admitted to them that I spent an hour meditating on the floor to get ready for work in the context of, “yeah, I know, I’m crazy.” Their response? “You know what’s crazy? Sitting at a desk 9-5 for your entire life. That’s crazy.”

1. Stop living within proximity. Travel to another state to see your favorite author speak, don’t let distance stop you from buying tickets to seeing the band you love, don’t write off relationships because they may have to be long-distance for a bit and research the natural wonders of the parts of your city and state that you don’t frequent, and make it a point to go see them.

2. Stop being okay with unanswered questions. Seek what you want to find. Question until you understand. Dig until you find your purpose. Experiment until you find your passion. Reach out for the relationship you want. There’s nothing we cannot have the answers to — we may not understand them, or unearth them easily, but they’re there nonetheless.

3. Do what you want and say no to what you don’t. There is something so liberating in the simple act of stepping off the conveyor belt. You don’t have to be rude, but you have to be honest. You either spend your every hour at the whim of other people’s expectations or you start living how you really want to.

4. Stop half-assing out of fear of being misunderstood. Stop depreciating your intelligence or toning down your quirks because other people may scoff and judge out of their own insecurities or close-mindedness.

5. Eat what you freaking want.

6. Stop “vacationing” and start exploring.

7. Rekindle the art of joy in simplicity for multi-course meals that you prepared and the simple companionship of friends to share them with. See these aspects of your life as more than just routine for survival, but rather as celebrating the act of sharing.

8. Find joy in things that aren’t just extrinsically rewarding. Your boss’ nod of approval isn’t the only thing worth living for. Find the things that you would give your own nod of approval for. Pursue them. The more you do this, the less anxiety you’ll have about going out and being a person, not just an employee.

9. Make an obligation to yourself to start scheduling your “you” time just as essentially as you do everything else. Set aside time to do nothing, to do anything, to do whatever it is you most want to but otherwise don’t prioritize like you should.

10. Understand that your life unfolds as your mind perceives it. Cultivate an internal locus of control. Stop existing at the whim of other people, of tragedy, of uncertainty. Develop your personal dogma and embrace it, let it guide you.

11. Tie your loose ends and seek help if you need it. Don’t undervalue the importance of taking time to heal, to grieve, to find closure. This isn’t about wallowing some more, this is about acknowledging that your brokenness is not a defect, it’s an element of being human, and it deserves your attention, not your judgment.

12. Logistically and responsibly craft a game plan if you realize there’s no finding even a semblance of joy or contentment with whatever it is you’re doing. Throw away the idea of “success” you adopted from whatever mindset you were predisposed to. A 9-5 isn’t the only route to success — far from it, in fact.

13. Be honest with people. Be brutally, openly, wildly honest. There’s an unprecedented kind of connectedness you get when you turn to someone and admit that you’re struggling just like they are — the human condition is far less of a burden when you finally realize you’re not alone.

14. Switch from auto-assuming you’re in the wrong and are imposing your incorrect will on others to believing that you deserve to have and do what you want.

15. Meditate on the temporary nature of things. The second you take things a little less seriously, the second you stop refraining out of fear. This is just a ride, and nothing will matter at the end of the day other than what you got from it and how much of that you brought to others.

16. Get out of your own head. Learn to compartmentalize your thoughts. It may not happen naturally at first, but realize that there have to be shifts from work-mode to life-mode to love-mode to sister-mode to whatever-mode-you-fall-into-that-day. Stop trying to squeeze yourself into one truth at a time.

17. Take your lunch hour. It seems like an obvious, simple task, but as anybody can tell you: few people actually take the whole hour to relax and recoup and enjoy themselves. So take it, starting today. Take the whole damn thing. Leave the building. When it gets warmer, walk to a park and lay on the grass for 20 minutes. Treat a co-worker, have a drink (if your office culture allows this).

18. Cut your hair. Delete the digital presence and drift from the physical presence of those who do not serve you. Stop letting the assumptions you have about other people’s judgments of you control your life. Stop believing you’re only as good as someone else believes you are, and start having reckless, blind faith in the fact that most things unfold just exactly as we know they will, the only parts of life that shock us are the things we thought we weren’t good enough to receive.

About the author

Brianna is the author of 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think, The Mountain Is You, Ceremony, and When You’re Ready, This Is How You Heal.

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