We live in a time when more and more people realize that life is not just about existing but absolutely be about living to the fullest. Most of us perceive ourselves to be stuck in whatever rut that we cannot possibly get out of at the moment, for whatever reasons. I’d like to think otherwise. Quality of life is something that I experience, pursue and maintain at all costs because I believe that if we don’t love, enjoy and LIVE life, than our short time on earth will be sadly wasted.
So, what drives me? These are 10 contributors to what I especially love about my life, in no particular order. I’m working on all of them. Doesn’t mean I don’t fall off the wagon. But as with all things, we need to pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, and jump on again. Enjoy!
1. Discovering and Rediscovering Passions
When I was 14, all I wanted to do was to study abroad, get a degree in something wildlife or environmental related, and save the world. I did that (not the save the world bit, but I’m still in the wildlife conservation industry). I’m 36 and I’ve realized it’s time for me to discover, rediscover and pursue other passions in my life. I’m in the process of doing this, and I’m excited about it. I thrive on the process of discovery. I have a lot of things I can be passionate about. I just haven’t found one I want to pursue just yet.
2. Exercise and Keeping Healthy
I don’t look super fit. I’m not in great physical shape and I certainly am not drop-dead gorgeous Miss Athlete. But I tell ya, I looove working out, I loooove getting out in the jungle and trekking around, I loooove swimming, and I loooove sharing these activities with my friends. Exercise and activity keep me focused; eating well (as much as possible, anyway) makes me feel good about myself. I come to a place of quiet and inner reflection during a trek in the forest, on the treadmill, with every stroke of my swim. My focus is always on the exercise and fitness. Whether I lose weight or anything else is never the goal. I believe that’s the key philosophy on exercise.
3. Being Anchored in Who I Am
A good friend of mine whacked into my head the need for me to love myself. I’m not talking about narcissistic, look-at-me, it’s-all-about-me neurosis. I’m talking about taking care of myself so I’m in shape to take care of other stuff and people in my life. This meant my health, self-respect, and knowing myself. It’s important for me to get well-acquainted with who I am, recognize the things that make me me, the trash I need to chuck out the window and then move on to love the world. I can’t do that without first being anchored in who I am. This is an ongoing process. There’s always new things to learn and know. “Ogres are like onions,” says Shrek. Well, so are people. It’s a long process, this anchoring, and painful. The journe is hard and neverending, but I can’t see how I can grow without it.
4. Having An Uncluttered Lifestyle
This is something new that I’m trying out. I’ve just bought a house. There’s almost nothing in it. That was by default. But I know I like having almost nothing in it. Physical clutter is a reflection of a cluttered mind. Multi-tasking is often not as great as people would like to think. Keeping things minimalist gives me clarity of mind. There is no satisfaction in getting many things done haphazardly. I prefer to get a few things done but done with mindfulness, thoughtfulness and thoroughness.
I am a Christian and I am not ashamed to say it. Faith is important to the human psyche, whatever faith you subscribe to. We are built to believe. But it is important for me to practise my faith with eyes wide open. Forget the Christian guilt, the obey-or-burn-in-hell theologies. My faith in God is anchored in what I know of my God, from a droplet of water to giant fig trees that have lived for 100 years; in what I believe at the very core of my being. Not in blind following. What do you believe in?
6. Family, Friends and Dogs
You love’em, you argue with “˜em, you hurt “˜em, they hurt you, you need “˜em. We are the sum of the people we spend the most time with. Family and friends keep me where I am. They are important to me. I hope my friends stay with me to the end of my days. My family and friends are my conscience, my sounding board, the devil’s advocates, my comfort and my strength. Quality of life is not about calm seas and eternal sunshine. It’s about how we derive the best out of the stuff th life throws at us.
I have had dogs for as long as I can remember. There’s no other way to describe it; dogs soothe my soul. What soothes my soul is definitely has to go into my quality of life list.
7. Being Present
I used to go through life in a humdrum monotonous blur. It was like nothing mattered, everything dragged along until I could find something to entertain me for a few minutes, and then the monotony continued. There was no mindfulness or presence. It made me look slow, felt none-too-bright; and generally life felt meaningless. These days, I like to be mindful of what I do, present in whatever activity I’m doing at that moment. If I’m on the road, I like to be completely present of the feel of the steering wheel, the sights and sounds of traffic. If I’m writing, I want to be completely immersed in it. If I’m taking talking to someone, I want to be completely present and attentive. People notice presence of mind. They know they have my full attention, that I mean what I say and say what I mean; there’s a satisfaction in completing something in that state of mind. It improves my self-esteem, keeps me focussed and mentally agile.
8. Getting Away for a Breather
Holidays are great. Everybody needs them. Everyone should have one at least once a year. Wherever I live, I need to get away from there once in a while. It’s like pressing the refresh button. If I can afford to, I get out of town. Otherwise, I go camping, or park myself near a beach for the weekend. Routine is great, but then so is a change of scenery. Getting away gives me a chance to observe life in a different setting. It never disappoints. I’ve been blessed with opportunities to refresh myself in Australia, China, Java, Sulawesi, Singapore, Thailand, London and New York. Some of those trips were for work. It doesn’t matter. Short intermittent changes are great for me to reset, refocus and regroup.
9. Being Excited About Living
Life is really short. Why do we spend so much time worrying about insanely insignificant things? Like what sort of car to buy, or what to wear, buying things, or pleasing the boss? For that matter, why do we spend our adult lives trapped in tiny spaces doing work that we don’t like? The fact that you are reading this and that I have written this piece means we are both blessed with computers and the wuhwuhwuh (www). Over three billion people in the world are hardcore poor (according to the World Bank). I will wager that many of that three billion are excited about being alive. I don’t have an excuse not to be excited about life. I’m excited about exuding positive energy to all and sundry, as much as I can (yes, it’s a learning process!). I’m excited about giving the best I can during this short sojourn on earth. Seriously, what’s not to be excited about? Life throws a lot of stuff at us. What we make of that stuff, whether we whine about it or celebrate it, is entirely up to us. If I’m having a bad day ““ and yes, I do have those ““ I’d like to make it a great bad day. By default, that often takes away the “˜bad’ and leaves me with a great day.
10. Written Words
I love the written word, whether I find it in a book or if I’ve written it myself. Reading expands my mind. It takes me to places and times no modern invention can. Writing forces me to get in touch with my own thoughts. It pulls and moulds them into a shape that I can work with. I’ve been writing one thing or another since I was seven. I’m not a great writer, but do I care? I’m not competing to be the greatest writer the world has ever seen. Writing is part of who I am, as much as reading is.
Why is money and financial security not in there? Don’t they matter? Yes, of course. I wouldn’t be able to travel or get away, buy the home that I keep at a minimalist stage, have the car that brings me to the gym, the pool or the nearest natural area. I subscribe to the idea that finances follow when a person is at balance with him/herself. The list is part of my balancing act.
So there you go. Things that contribute to my quality of life. Essentially, what drives me. What about you?