How Do You Live a Good Life?

Note: The title of this post is obviously rhetorical and there are probably as many answers as there are individuals in this world. Bottom line? I think it is a matter of choice. Enjoy! As always, you can find all my blog posts from 2013 to the present on my website at http://stevemarshallassociates.com/steves-blog/.

How not to live a good life?
Sometimes it is easier to determine what you don't want before you decide what you do want. I believe that is the way most of us find our way in the world of work anyway; a process of elimination through successive jobs doing work we don't like until we land on something we do like. In fact, in retrospect, I have known less than a handful of people in my life that knew from an early age what their passion was and ended up doing just that.

However, I think there has to be a better way! Maybe technology or psychology hold answers for us? There are assessments and professionals in both of those two areas that are available, but how effective is that as a substitution for real experience?

My feeling is that many of us settle for some sort of work that we do that just "sucks less" than the last job we had before the current one. In a previous post from December 21, 2014, I quoted some statistics from the Gallup Corporation's survey of the American workplace over a 15 year period. It shows that 70% of workers in America are disengaged from their work and only 30% really like or find purpose in what they do every day.

Here's a concept! Start living your life intentionally instead of just shuffling along and bumping into life from time to time. This is not easy; we are raised from birth with the notion that conformity is an admirable quality. From early childhood to adolescence and beyond, we are pushed toward molds that show us how success is measured by our family, peers, work, and our society. Unfortunately, it seems to me that most of those societal molds are designed to create conformity and don't allow for much deviation before you are labeled "strange." Add to that the daily bombardment of messaging that comes our way through the mediums we all employ - smartphones, TV, radio, and social media - and it can overwhelm the senses into going on autopilot.

Where and How Do We Begin?
It is not easy and it takes courage. You may find encouragement from your current social or work circles, but you may also find people shunning or even attacking you as you start to live your life purposefully. Let's imagine society as a human body and all of the parts of it are "us." When one of "us" does not conform to traditional physiology, what happens? The rest of the parts attack the piece that is not conforming - just like cancer, you become the rogue type of cell that just does not fit in and the body tries to reject the cancer cell by activating the immune system which normally removes abnormal or damaged cells from the body.

Find your True North
What's that? The encyclopedia states: True North (geodetic north) is the direction along the earth's surface towards the geographic North Pole. This is different than Magnetic North, which is what we use to navigate; such as with a compass.

I say that it is this: Our "True North" is an internal metaphorical map that consists of our values and authentic self. Another way of looking at this is setting out on life's journey and arriving exactly where you want to go. 

Just like actual navigation, we, as people, also have to align ourselves with our inner True North vs. Magnetic North to get where want to go. If we look at our life and our most meaningful relationships, we are often pulled by forces not in line with our "True North." We can become reactionary, a pleaser, or an appeaser. Following our magnetic north causes us to operate for others, react instead of act, avoid perceived conflict and generally behave in a way that soothes the emotions of the moment — pain, anxiety, loss of control and so on.

Understanding the difference between Magnetic North and True North allows us to truly chart the course we want to take. However, sometimes the difficulty lies not in the destination, but in the route. The key to taking the path right for you comes from a concept we often overlook — knowing.

Knowing Your Values
You may think you have the answer, like a well-versed boy scout, but what do you truly value? Time? Relationships? Money? Security? Really getting honest with yourself about what you value can give you your foundational platform on which to stand and protect. If you know you value your relationship, yet social events continually get in the way of spending time with your spouse, acting in line with your values regarding your relationship puts you in your "True North" state.


Knowing your boundaries
Any map — even the metaphorical map to your true north — has boundaries. When we find we are frustrated, resentful, angry, or depressed, that can be an indication that our boundaries are not intact, and our emotional well-being pays the price. When we know our boundaries, we start saying "yes" when we mean yes, saying "no" and being OK and operating from our center — our True North.

Remember Those Rogue Cancer Cells?
Lastly, if you have been living a magnetic north, others have gotten used to your approach to life and relationships. If your preferences have always defaulted to your partner’s and if you’ve only acted on things you don’t value, when you start giving yourself permission to have healthy boundaries, inevitably the people around you will feel that adjustment, as well. Understanding that people may react poorly as you start living more in line with yourself will free you from taking it personally and taking it upon yourself to fix it, so they feel better.
 

Next week: Show them your bellybutton!