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On Living a Great Life; An Exercise to Get There

On Living a Great Life; An Exercise to Get There

Reflection is typically done on an annual basis, maybe quarterly, and we look back on the time period to find things we're grateful for, but to also grade who we've been.

It's great to do, but there's a better way to reflect, one that makes the present more important and makes your future more bright, which ought to be the goal of reflection.

We're essentially grading ourselves, being real with who we've been in comparison to who we're trying to become or how we're trying to live. That's the key, though, 'how we're trying to live'. How we live is the most important thing we do.

It sounds obvious, but that's not how we think.

We think that what we accomplish is the most important thing we do. It isn't. We can accomplish everything we set out to accomplish, and still die with regret. We can chase the wrong things, and get them. We can become the wrong person in trying to get them. 

It's how we live that matters, and that can be broken down further.

  • How we think.
  • What we do.
  • What we don't do.
  • What we pursue.

How we think.

Thinking clearly is a rarity. We're swayed by so much, our perception of what's actually going on is flawed. Even within our pursuits, we focus on results, not habits, the moment. Our down moments are dominated by past regrets or worries about the future, rather than grounded in all that exists, the present.

To live well, we have to think well. It's a fundamental part of life. If we're comparing our race to that of another or others, we're thinking incorrectly, which we'll one day regret. If we think 'getting something' will make us happy, be it wealth or a literal thing like a car or a house, again, we're thinking incorrectly, and we'll one day regret it.

What we do.

We can think clearly and know what matters, but doing what matters is a must. We can know what habits are bad and which are good, but unless we have the discipline to do the good, clear thinking is useless.

In a given moment there's typically a right and wrong thing to do. One lines up with what we want to achieve and who we want to be, how we want to live, and the other opposes it. By simply doing the right thing over and over again over a long enough period of time, we're essentially ensuring success in every area of life.

That, of course, is never done, but it ought to be the goal.

What we don't do.

Avoiding or opting out of things that are not good for us is paramount. It's great to work hard, but if you're coupling that with addictions and other bad behaviours, your downfall is inevitable. 

What we don't do, then, is as important as what we do.

What we pursue.

Having a north star, or a guiding direction is important. It points us somewhere. And humans need to be moving forward to feel as though we're living well. We need to feel as though we're improving to feel that we're here for a reason, and a good one.

There's a dichotomy in this. What we pursue won't give us the happiness or meaning we think it will. It's actually the pursuit that brings meaning. And it's how we pursue that gets us that thing we're chasing. Thus, you need balance.

You need to have your north star, and then release it, stop worrying about whether or not you'll get it. 'It' changes. The key is that you're moving forward toward something and you're focused on the movement, not on the end, the achievement.

The Exercise

One day we will look back on our lives either with pride - in a good sense - or regret. Likely a mixture of both. I'd much rather have pride and meaning outweigh the regret, and this reflection exercise helps with that.

Rather than starting a reflection by looking back at a certain period, like a year, or your life up to this point, dig deep and look at how you want to look back at your life at its end.

I'll get a little naked here and give some examples from my own exercise.

Part 1

How do I want to look back on my life?

Achievements matter, I won't lie about that. But it's how I lived that will matter most.

I want to know I gave it my all in what I was pursuing.

I want to be proud of how I led my family, with a calm head, by example, stoically. 

I want to have won personal battles, having fully defeated them. Those things we 'ought not do', I want to not do them, ever. Be it laziness, unwarranted stress, pleasure-seeking in all of its forms, victimhood in any form, and so forth. I want those battles to be a long afterthought as I near my end.

I want to provide for everyone I care about, allowing them to be free from fear or worry that I will have to deal with throughout my life, without ever showing them. I want them to be at peace, calm, to enjoy life as I handle the struggles.

There's more, but I want to do the right things, avoid the wrong things, think clearly about what I pursue, what I want, and what I do, and do the good, always.

Part 2

If I were to die tomorrow, would I look back on my life with a sense of peace, accomplishment, and pride, or regret? Am I living up to those standards I will want filled?

Now reflect. In detail. 

My answer, is no. If I die tomorrow, I'll have regrets. I have battles that are not won. 

Go into detail about these battles. Laziness? Stress? Fear? In what ways in the last quarter or year have you failed? In what ways have you succeeded?

Those things we're trying to achieve are dependent on how well we live and how well we work. Which is dependent on our habits and our thoughts.

Are you thinking clearly? Are you thinking strongly? Or are you fearful, worried, stressed, wanting the wrong things because someone else has them? 

Are you clear about what you're doing and why you're doing it?


What habits are you going to change?

What thought patterns are you going to break?

For us men, stress is a big one. But we don't have to stress. It's not only useless, it degrades who we are in the present. We can opt out of it.

Part of opting out of stress is being great in the moment. Being disciplined. Working hard. Doing the right things, even the simple things. You'll have less regret and stress if you don't drink so much, don't eat the wrong foods, take too many days off, and so forth.


We spend our lives living, rarely in the moment. And yet, we don't take the time to spend time in those future moments, really thinking about how we want to live, and what living well actually looks like. 

We just move through time without reflecting on how well we're moving. 

Stop. Sit for a while. Make the time. Reflect on who you're being in comparison to who you want to be.

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