“Our lives are a sum total of the choices we have made.”
Defining our purpose in life with how we earn a living sometimes seems like the best way to live life. Many of us go to work without any enthusiasm, so we get especially annoyed when we listen to those who say, “I love my job because I never feel like I’m actually working. I would even pay money to do this job.” Most of us wouldn’t spend even a minute at work if we weren’t paid for it. For many of us, our work lives aren’t that bad, yet they still fail to provide us with the deep meaning and satisfaction we crave in life. Worst of all, our jobs take a huge chunk out of our lives, both physically and mentally, as well as in terms of time and energy. We are left with just a little time to deal with our basic daily needs before sleeping and starting it all again. In a world like this, we might easily be put off from making the necessary changes and taking steps to create a more meaningful lifestyle, because it seems an unlikely goal to achieve. After all, you should make do with what you already have at hand. In other words, nobody wants to lose everything in the quest for something else. As a result, although we complain about our situations, we somehow accept our circumstances and choose to live our lives by finding temporary sources of happiness.
Does this sound familiar to you?
Like many of you, I wanted a profession within my capacity that would look cool and bring me good money, so I became an electrical engineer. For 11 years, I worked at one of the leading companies in this field, but once I understood that coolness and money wasn’t going to be enough in life, I started searching for a new lifestyle. This search led me to becoming a professional breathing coach. Looking back over the last four years, I can safely say there is a huge difference between my previous and current lifestyles.
Some of you may regard it as a courageous success story, the story of someone who managed to escape the rat race. This person is one of the lucky few…
However, we should also bear in mind that every story has its own obstacles, dead ends, and traps, before you reach the pleasures, victories, and prizes. The rewards cannot exist without the challenge. It’s just like Yin and Yang, night and day, birth and death, and so on. They can only survive with the existence of their opposites. When we reset one half of the equation, the other also resets. In the medium term, therefore, trying to fill our lives with just pleasurable activities gives us a less satisfactory life, because we end up not enjoying anything. When the pursuit of pleasure is the main goal in life, it leads to an increasingly intense search for pleasure and eventually more disappointment. Therefore, joy and pleasure can only be a result rather than an aim, so what should we aim for to reach this result?
Take this sentence: “I am certain that the secret of getting satisfaction from life is not about ‘what things we do’.” When we replace the word “what things we do” with “how we do things” in this sentence, the answer reveals itself. Yes, I’m sure that the secret of getting satisfaction from life is all about how we do things.
So, who decides about how best to do things? I can think of two possible answers: yourself and others. If we look at the others, we then need to ask, “Who put others at the center of your life?” There is surely only one answer to this question: You did!
How we do things is more important than what we do. By this, I mean we should improve our understanding about how we choose everything with our own free will, whether directly or indirectly, whatever it might be.
Sometimes it feels easy to make a choice, and sometimes it’s hard. When making easy choices, we are under the illusion that we stand at the center of our lives. However, it is the hard choices that determine who stands at the center of our lives. These choices determine who we are, because none of the hard choices is better than any other one. Each of them has its own risks and benefits. That’s why they’re hard choices. Sometimes not making a choice can also be considered a choice, but this doesn’t change the result. Whatever choice we make, it will have a consequence, whether we take responsibility or not, which again is another difficult choice to make…
At the end of the day, whether we like it or not, we decide how to do things. Gaining satisfaction in life needs a consciousness that understands our freedom to choose, as well as taking responsibility for the results.
I would like to add Ruth Chang’s TED Talk to the end of my article*, as she describes in a very rational and convincing way that a hard choice is not a curse but a blessing. We should always remember that when our point of view changes, our perception about that thing also changes completely. When our perception changes, our choices change first, followed by our lives, and eventually we change as well…
“For instance, from here, that looks like a bucket of water. But from an ant’s point of view, it’s a vast ocean, from an elephant’s, just a cool drink, and to a fish, of course, it’s home.”
—The Phantom Tollbooth