There are so many forces in your life focused on what’s “wrong” about you, that much of your very being is spent trying to become the person you believe will deserve a good life. But no one deserves a good life. Some people create one, some people don’t, and children’s hospitals, war zones and famines are filled with people who didn’t even get a real chance at much of a life. So the point isn’t to build a good life. It’s to live one if given the chance.
You will not become someone who never gets angry. You won’t become someone who never worries. You will not always remember to be grateful, you will sometimes be dishonest, and other times you will be extraordinarily cruel. Because without anger there is no calm, without worry there is no peace, without ingratitude there is no gratitude, without lies there is no honesty, and without cruelty there is no kindness. This is the Yin and Yang of life.
Your job is not to be a good and deserving human being. Your job is to be your part of the universe. There’s no rules, no judgment, no prize. It’s just an opportunity. Your life is a chance, a blank canvass, unwritten pages. The point isn’t to live in some way that’s been predetermined to be good—that’s just following orders. Nazis did that. The true way, is all about feel.
You don’t want to live in a state of love because it’s good for other people. You don’t want to live in a state of love because some religion or leader told you to. You want to live in a state of love as much as possible because that represents the most enjoyable life for you.
You are responsible for your portion of the universe. You must be selfish about doing what is necessary for a good life. And the good life is largely a happy life. That does not mean that if you are good you will be happy—it means that if you are happy you will be good. So you must be more selfish about your happiness, and less critical of when you’re unhappy.
You don’t have to go the rest of your life without losing your temper. The Dalai Lama loses his temper. You haven’t failed in your spirituality if you yell at your kids. That’s just the world happening. You were never supposed to find some magical way to always sail calm seas. You were only supposed to notice that the calmer seas are often easier to enjoy. But the calm ones are also absent of wind, so you don’t get very far. So it is with life. The nice feelings are nice, but they don’t take us much distance. The less pleasant feelings are where we gain the most, but we also don’t want to live just collecting skills and never applying them.
Just live the moment you’re in. Don’t worry about what Rebecca or Francois or Gurveer or your mom or your boss think of your behaviour. Choose love because it feels better for you. And when you don’t choose it, that’s fine. Just start choosing it again as soon as you’re able. Because no one’s judging but, at the same time, the best way to have a good life is to intentionally do the things that cause one to exist. And the best bet there is always love. Love others, love yourself too.
Remember: no beating yourself up for when you’re not happy. That’s just more unhappiness. Just make your choices regarding the moment you’re in. Don’t waste this moment thinking about moments passed, or moments not-yet-arrived. You cannot act in the past or future. The present is your only opportunity. And you cannot fail in the present. You will only choose your future. But you can’t fail there either, because by then your future is your present.
Understanding the nature of the present moment is the key to the most peaceful and loving sort of existence. Only focus on what you do there. Because the present moment is the only place where you can join the rest of us in creating a beautiful life. I look forward to seeing you there.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.