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Did You Enjoy Your Life?

Did You enjoy your life?

A question From my final moments

February 25, 2021

 

It was another day in paradise and I was lucky enough to be spending it with my family. We were all surfing together and I was sitting in the lineup, drinking in the sunshine. Everything seemed perfect — great waves, great weather, and great company. And yet I was feeling completely miserable.

I realized that even if I had been on a yacht off the Amalfi coast hanging out with Beyoncé, I still would have been unhappy. I felt completely unable to enjoy the present moment I was experiencing because I was so anxious about the rest of my life. It was at this moment that I truly understood the importance of our inner landscape.

It was a Monday morning, and instead of enjoying this beautiful opportunity to spend time with my family, I was thinking about how I wasn’t working. As I sat there in the ocean, I was silently beating myself up for choosing enjoyment over productivity on a weekday. And then a realization dawned on me that rocked me to my core.

I had completely forgotten how to enjoy my life.

Houston, we have a problem

It wasn’t a very fun experience when I realized that I had lost the ability to enjoy my life. I immediately felt guilty, regretful, sad, and downright stupid. Here I was, supposedly living the dream, and yet I couldn’t figure out how to enjoy a surf session with my amazing family.

The good news is that the guilt and self-pity were soon replaced by a strong feeling of hope. I knew that since I got myself into this mess, I could get myself out of it. It’s been said that rock bottom is a great place to rebuild from because there’s a solid foundation under you. And so I started putting myself back together by getting back to the basics.

Whenever I feel like I am floundering, I always think about my own death. Not in a suicidal sort of way, but in the framework of the stoic philosophy and Memento MoriThis Latin phrase means “remember you must die” and has been a huge contributor to helping me find clarify what is most important to me.

So on the car ride home after surfing, I started thinking about my own death. I imagined myself lying on my deathbed and I asked myself what are the only things I would care about in my final minutes? Two questions immediately sprang forth in my mind.

First, I would want to know that I had lived a meaningful life. That my life had mattered, and that I was able to positively impact the lives of everyone I met.

The second question that flashed across my mind surprised me. It was spoken simply and lovingly, and the image that came with it was that of a smiling Buddha figure. As he sat in my mind’s eye, he gently asked me:

“did you enjoy your life?”

Getting back to the basics

I have found that asking big questions has helped me figure out what’s truly important in my life. Instead of trying to escape the negative feelings that unavoidably surface, I choose to face them head-on.

Like a person cleaning up a board game, I slowly examine each piece as I put it back in the box. As more and more of the clutter is cleared away, I can see the big picture landscape that all my pieces have been placed upon. This process allows me to remove everything that’s not helping me win the game and it also brings forth an even bigger question. Am I playing the correct game?

Breaking down to break through

I’ve come to appreciate these mini-existential crises where my entire life seems to implode in the matter of minutes. While they are not very fun in the moment, I always come out the other side with a renewed sense of confidence in knowing who I am and who I want to be.

It seems, at least for me, that I often need to experience a breakdown to make space for a breakthrough. The old structures need to be demolished and cleared away to make room for something new and wonderful. And what I gained from this last implosion was two guiding questions to filter my life through.

Whenever I am faced with a decision, I now ask myself if doing this thing will a.) allow me to positively impact the lives of those around me or b.) help me enjoy my life more. If the answer is yes, I wholeheartedly commit and don’t look back. If the answer is no, I can eliminate that option because I know that it doesn’t fit into the two categories that I am going to be thinking about in my final minutes.

Getting clear on what is most important to me has allowed me simplify my life and feel more confident about my decisions. It gave me the surprise realization that enjoying my life is something I value as highly as living a life of meaning, and therefore removed the guilt I was feeling when choosing enjoyment over work.

I cannot emphasize enough how freeing this has been for me. I still have the part of me that cries out in anguish when I’m not being productive, but now I have this whole new side of me that knows enjoying myself is 50% of my personal recipe for living my best life.

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