How to live your life, not your lifestyleMay 10, 2022
Life and lifestyle are not the same, yet we often use the words interchangeably. Sometimes, we allow our lifestyle to replace our life.
My sister, at age 60, quit her successful job, sold her house, and donated or sold all her worldly goods. Then she paid off her debt, invested what was left, and moved to the Virgin Islands. Why? She was slaving at a stressful job to live a life she didn’t even like.
Not everyone has the resources for this, or is quite that dramatic, but we can allow our lifestyle to overpower the inner essence of who we are and then wonder why we feel so dissatisfied. We become restless and discontent.
We forget that we can choose a lifestyle that supports our life instead of controlling it.
Lifestyle is how we live
How many people work all day to afford a house that sits empty? Or make payments on a car that sits parked most of the time? Or perhaps they’re working three jobs to survive, or spending every evening in front of the TV.
These are all markers of lifestyle.
Our lifestyle creeps into existence. It forms layers around us like an oyster smoothing a grain of sand. Often, it’s born of our circumstances; it’s how our parents lived and how we are expected to carry on. Even when we are rebellious and choose the exact opposite, it is still an unconscious choice.
We let outside forces bully us to live the life we believe we are supposed to live. Our automatic responses and habits run our life and our lifestyle is the result.
Until, like my sister, it doesn’t work anymore.
Our life is why we live
There comes a time in everyone’s life when the deeper questions surface: Why am I here? What is my purpose? How does my existence make a difference?
Make no mistake, how we respond to that vague feeling is possibly the most important decision we can make. This is our point of growth. We can pause and reflect, or we can busy ourselves with our favorite proven distractions.
It’s a choice - always.
When we do choose to seek answers to the bigger questions, they won’t be “figured out” like a complex math problem. The answers are not in our brains; they’re in our hearts.
We let them out.
Pay attention - When we are numb and operating on automatic pilot, the first step toward self-realization is to observe. Look around, smell the air, feel the earth (or the sofa where we rest) and simply notice. Judgment is our brain’s way of retaking control and is not useful. This is the time to engage curiosity. What’s really here?
Breathe - If we are alive, there are two things with us in every moment: our heartbeat and our breath. When we pay close attention to our breath and notice how the air feels in our nostrils, how our belly pulls more air than our chest, and how soothing the rhythm becomes, we are in the present moment. Our breath opens a pathway between our heart and our brain.
Savor - Our sense of wonder ignites our heart. When we pause at any moment and really take in our surroundings, we are connecting to a bigger picture. When we fill our heart with awe, we are blessed with spiritual rejuvenation. We can finally begin to imagine our place amongst the stars.
Be grateful - Remember all the good that is already present and practice expressing thankfulness. When we pause to write it down, it expands. Gratitude magnifies love. What we love is where our deepest truth resides.
The thing is, we have many opportunities in our lifetime to discover our true nature and our calling. Crisis can be an urgent motivator, but why wait?
When these practices become our habits and automatic responses, circumstances will change. Insights will happen. Serendipity will lead us to our truth. Opportunities we never noticed will cross our path.
This is how we live a life. The lifestyle will take care of itself.