People talk about making a living all the time but we rarely talk about making a life.
People may think that making a life is just what happens as you live. This might be true if you are a passive-reactive type. The ‘passive fallacy’ is thinking that life is something that ‘happens to you’. However, plenty of people want to make a life on their own terms. These people are ‘active agents’ who believe that life is something ‘I make happen’.
“Lead your life otherwise life will lead you.” – Michael Lockhart, Econation Founder
Making a living
Making a living is what you do to support your life, it is a subordinate to many of the other aspects of making a life that I will discuss below. Instead of fitting yourself to your work you should fit work to yourself. In other words, choose the life you want first and then make a living to support it, as a young Hunter S. Thompson said to an even younger friend.
The point is making a living is useless if you are:
- not engaged with your work
- not achieving your potential
- living unconsciously
- being exploited by others
- ruining the planet, your health or your relationships
- miserable and hating life
It is better to choose to fulfil your potential as opposed to paying the bills or getting rich for no reason.
Making a life
There are many aspects to making a life. What follows are a few important aspects that will contribute to your well-being whilst being naturally sustainable.
This is about being true to yourself. One of the most common regrets that people have on their deathbed is they wished they had lived a life more true to themselves and not what other people expected. Modern societies put heavy demands on people and the resultant rat race is not something anyone would consciously choose for themselves. By making a choice to get off the treadmill, we can be our true self.
Active agency, or living deliberately, is about living life on purpose, with a purpose. It is the opposite of being passive-reactive, in the way of animals. Scientists believe that humans, like all animals, are stimulus-and-response ‘machines’. This is not how active agents experience life, though. With a will and with self-control, humans can act according to a vision they have for themselves and not one that is controlled by either fate or pre-determination.
Essential living is about doing what really matters to you and not doing things that don’t matter. In other words is maximising the vital and minimising the trivial. What matters is different to different people, but just thinking about what is most important to you is a start in the right direction.
Making a life is about personal growth and not the passiveness of the fixed mindset. It is about getting out of your comfort zone on a regular basis and pushing yourself with new challenges. No-one is ever perfect; as a species and as individuals we are always evolving, we are never finished. Learning and personal development are life-long pursuits. As Ernest Hemingway said: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow men. True nobility lies in being superior to your former self.”
Read more about the growth mindset and personal development
Relationships are one of the most important aspects of any person’s life. The quality of your relationships can literally make you or break you. It is about building and maintaining positive relationships especially with family and friends. Good relationships are built on giving rather than taking – and this is the essence of loving.
Physical well-being is important for a good life. Being fit and healthy is an important aspect of self-care and it makes you feel good. Also, prevention is always better than cures and physical well-being is about prevention of illness through good nutrition, exercise, hygiene, sleep and good habits.
Humans are very clever. We create artificial and abstract environments that can be, and often are, devitalising. Natural living on the other hand is about getting out into nature, getting sunlight and fresh air. Being in tune with your bodies, and not spending too much time in the artificially created world.
Humans are highly social animals. Whilst we have close relationships with family, friends, neighbours and colleagues there are all the other people we relate with in our communities and further afield. Morality is about maximising pro-social behaviour and minimising anti-social behaviour. Pro-social behaviours include:
- being kind, not mean
- being generous, not greedy and selfish
- being humble, not arrogant
- being tolerant,
- being fair, not biased
- being considerate, not heedless
- being reasonable, not senseless
Creativity is defined as the ability to make or otherwise bring into existence something new, whether a new solution to a problem, a new method or device, or a new artistic object or form. People are creative in all sorts of ways, but unfortunately we are also often destructive – doing harm to ourselves, to each other and to nature. Being creative is about minimising harm and maximising creation.
According to a Gallop Poll, astonishingly over 75% of workers are not engaged in their jobs. Good work is work that you are fully engaged with and that provides a holistic mix of benefits that add to a person’s social, emotional, financial, intellectual and inner well-being. People don’t work just to pay the bills. Other features of good work include personal development and honing skills; meaningful and useful service to others; collaboration and collegiality; and, making a difference.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi advises us that: “…if we don’t take charge of its direction, our life will be controlled by the outside to serve the purpose of some other agency. Biologically programmed instincts will use it to replicate the genetic material we carry; the culture will make sure that we use it to propagate its values and institutions; and other people will try to take as much of our energy as possible to further their own agenda.”
In summary, you need to lead your life or your life will lead you.