Category Archives: Happiness

In Praise of Quiet Moments

by Jessica Dang

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by Jessica Dang

We tend to measure life by our memories. The most joyful or devastating, exciting or stressful, interesting or hard fought for milestones, from one to the next, they stand out the most in our minds.

These are the things we go out of our way to do, to plan for, to work for, to pay for. Advertising encourages us to fit as many ‘experiences’ as we can cram into our lives. When the big moment arrives, we take photos on our smartphones, upload to social media, even journal or tell our friends and children about it.

We remember these events for years, but everything else in between is forgotten.

What did you do on an typical Tuesday afternoon? Or a quiet Thursday evening? Or a routine Sunday morning? It may seem unimportant, but what if the ordinary in-between moments are just as powerful as the extraordinary ones?

Who knew that a regular day sitting on the sofa with my grandmother, half watching TV while sharing some fruit would be the last time I saw her alive? Nothing lasts forever, not even the mundane. Everything will pass, whether you notice it or not.

Indeed, it is a practice to be as grateful for the journey as the destination. It’s not easy to give our limited attention to the unremarkable moments, but they probably make up about 90% of our daily lives. If we live a good life with multiple journeys to multiple destinations, what kind of fulfilment would we have if we only appreciated 10% of it?

So maybe in a month’s time I won’t remember this moment—sipping my coffee as I write this, the smell of it waking me up to the sound of the city going by outside my window on this sunny July morning—but I can enjoy it right now, thoroughly and gratefully, for everything it’s worth.

On Maturity — What would I tell myself if I could go back 10 years?

by Jessica Dang

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It was my 27th birthday this month. Although I don’t feel that old yet, almost every day I’m reminded of memes I don’t understand, trends I haven’t heard of, or technology I didn’t know existed. I feel a big difference between myself and ‘kids these days’. In fact, I have a brother who is 11 years younger than me, but it often feels like he’s from a different generation.

Amongst all of this change in the world, I realise there has been a lot of change within myself too. I wasn’t always so comfortable with not being up-to-date on the latest fashions and gadgets. Like most teenagers, I overcompensated for my self-confidence issues by trying in my own way to be as cool as possible. For me that meant having cool stuff like the latest iPhone or laptop to show off with. People would gather around me and it would make me feel better about myself, but only for a while. Obviously buying stuff wasn’t a long term fix for my insecurities. Those times sowed the seeds for the minimalist lifestyle I developed soon after.

As a teenager I dreaded getting older, but a decade later I’m in a much, much better place. The biggest lesson I learned is to not give a f*ck. Who cares where I live, what job I do, or whether I have the latest iPhone? No one! Or at least, no one cares nearly as much as I thought.

Realising that and being okay with it has been huge. Once I let go of other people’s expectations of me, I was free to do whatever I want—it’s unlikely people care enough to judge me for it, and even if they did, who cares! Certainly not me.

Hence living minimally to avoid debt and save up enough to be able to quit my job in my mid-twenties to start my own business. Could I have done that if I was concerned about what people thought of me? Probably not. I would have felt too self conscious to say no to spending $100 on a night out, worrying about what outfit I was wearing, or which car I was driving, or staying in a luxury hotel so that I could instagram it, instead of saving up the start up capital I needed to be free of those kinds of traps.

Two years on, I only work a couple of hours a week but earn twice as much as I did in my soul-sucking job. I have the freedom to pursue anything I want to. I can sleep/read/travel whenever I want, and thanks to not being tied to a desk all day, my health is better than ever. On top of that, I can give more to people and causes I care about, because I have more to give.

It wasn’t easy getting here, but neither was it that hard to be honest. It was a series of small sacrifices and good decisions that paid off. I only wish I started started sooner. That is, if I could go back ten years and give advice to my 17 year old self, or indeed to my younger brother now, I would say, “Hey, you. Stop worrying so much about what other people think, they don’t know all the answers themselves. Breathe. If you do what you feel is the right thing, you’re going to find happiness. I promise.

‘On Maturity’ was originally published via Minimalist Meditations.

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On Vanity — how valuable things can actually be worthless

by Jessica Dang

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Why do we buy stuff? Not everything we buy is useful, so there must be other reasons why we work so hard to buy things.

Maybe it’s because we find a sense of happiness or satisfaction when we buy something new, but we all know that that feeling soon fades (even though we almost never remember this every time we buy something new).

Why we buy stuff has less to do with the object itself than with ourselves. When we buy expensive clothes, the newest gadgets or a flashy car, it’s because we believe it will give us recognition from the people around us—we’ll ‘show’ them how successful we are so that they’ll accept us, or even love us.

Humans crave recognition. To be part of a group, or at least not be in some else’s shadow. Most people are more influenced by what other people think of them than what they actually want ourselves.

Think about it—if everyone in the world disappeared tomorrow and you were the only one left (apart from the upset you would have from losing your friends and loved ones) what would you do now that you could have anything you desired?

You could just walk into someone’s mansion, even the most beautiful castle, and have it all to yourself. You could pick and choose anyone’s finest clothing and jewellery, even put on the crown if you wanted to! Drive a Ferrari, swim in bank notes, have hundreds of iPhones. But after a while, what would happen? With no one to impress, the chances are that you’ll find somewhere more convenient and easier to maintain than a huge house, you’ll wear clothes that are more comfortable, you’ll drive something more practical and you’ll get bored of the latest gadget.

Things you thought were worth a lot won’t matter as much any more. You’re the last person on earth, there’s nothing left but to find something worthwhile to do, something that makes you happy, not anyone else.

If no one was around to validate our existence, as society has defined by how much stuff we have, we would wouldn’t actually care about it. Hardly anyone would actually choose to have their life’s purpose revolve around buying things, but so many people do exactly that every day, without stopping to question it.

We don’t have to go as far as erasing every other person on Earth. If we just cared a little less about what other people think, we’d care a little more about what we want, and what really matters to us.

‘On Vanity’ was originally published via Minimalist Meditations.

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Minimal Student is graduating

by Jessica Dang
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I started this blog seven years ago at the beginning of my minimalist journey.

It was 2009. I discovered a lifestyle movement that talked about the joy of having less. I learned about how being obsessed with buying and owning material possessions is a recipe for an unhappy life, and it resonated with me. I began to write about it.

At first, I was mainly concerned with stuff and how to get rid of it. I wrote about decluttering and one bag living. It suited my nomadic lifestyle at the time when I was living, working, and exploring several different cities and countries.

Eventually I returned to the UK. I was approaching my mid-20’s, and everyone around me was settling down. I moved into my own apartment with the single suitcase I had been living out of.

I got a corporate job and it was everything I ever wanted—or at least, I thought I wanted. I was paid well and got promoted, but the environment was so tough I began to change as a person. I struggled to find balance. I started buying more things to make up for the creeping unhappiness I felt doing a job which I realised, deep down, was ultimately meaningless. It took a long time, but in the end I found the courage to quit. I ended up starting my own business which gave me the freedom to do what I wanted. I took back control of my own life.

At every stage of my life, my perspective on things shifted. The more I experienced, the more convinced I was that many of the conventional ideas we’re supposed to follow—such as working in a soul sucking job in order to pay your bills and buy stuff until you’re either 65 or dead—didn’t really stand up to scrutiny.

In turn, the direction of Minimal Student has followed me on my quest, moving on from ‘how to declutter’ articles to ones about the tougher questions—what is important in life? What does success really mean? How can I be happy?

I still have more I want to share with the world that isn’t just limited to young people or students. By trying to keep things relevant to the blog name, some of the articles I’ve written have been held back from being able to reach a wider audience. As my readers have grown, the blog has to as well. The Minimal Student community is made of readers of all ages, and from all walks of life. I want to reach out to them too.

So I have decided to start afresh. Don’t worry, Minimal Student isn’t finished. I will always be a student of life and will continue to study what it means to live. However, I will be doing so under a new blog, Minimalist Meditations (www.minimalistmeditations.com) which I am working on expanding the ideas for my book that I’m hoping to finish and publish this year.

To make the transition easier, Minimal Student with continue to exist for a little while, before all of the links will redirect to the new blog URL. All of Minimal Student’s social media will also be renamed.

The good news is that I will be writing a lot more often, and you can keep up with new posts I write and publish by subscribing via RSS or email, or following me on Twitter or Facebook.

I don’t claim to have all of the answers, and in no way have I reached ‘the end’, but I can reflect on what I’ve learned in the past several years and what I, no doubt, will learn in the future. Feel free to join me at Minimalist Meditations on this path towards finding a life of happiness.

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Finding what matters in 2016 and the best books I’ve read this year

by Jessica Dang
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road

There’s a saying that goes, ‘the days are long, but the years are short’, which I didn’t understand when I had my corporate job.

Back then, the days were long, the weeks and months dragged on, and a year seemed like an age. Although I had what most people considered an ideal job, after month after month of unhappiness, I couldn’t carry on. I was at a crossroads, so I chose the road less travelled. I quit.

I don’t have any regrets. I needed to experience everything wrong with a 50+ hours per week office job to realise that it was completely the opposite of what I wanted from life. Scared of facing the truth that I was wasting my life, I lived in denial and I never gave myself the chance to ask myself the important questions—what’s important to me? What do I want in life? Who/what do I want to spend my time on?

There’s a happy ending. With all the time and freedom I had, I started some side ventures which lead to my own investment business, and now I’m making more than my previous salary (and still growing). The best thing is, I have set it all up as a passive income, so that I don’t have to work more than 2-4 hours per week. 

In other words, I’m earning 50% more while working 95% less. 

I also travelled to several different cities/countries, hit my long time goal of reading 52 books in a year, ran both a half marathon and a full marathon, found time to learn more French and Japanese, take swimming and yoga lessons, and so much more, all of which I never would have had the time or energy for before.

My own success is the best remedy for the time I wasted during 2014-2015. Now that I have done well on my own, I have let go of my hang up about never having a successful corporate career. I don’t need one. Everybody is different, but for me, I’ve learned that I am not willing to pay the price.

Whilst all this was going on, quite a few negative things happened during 2016 (politically speaking) in the UK and abroad that I strongly disagreed with. While I did what was in my power, I’ve come to terms with the fact that there are many things outside of my control, and the world isn’t perfect, but that’s okay. As long as I do my best to make the world a better place, and I encourage others to do so too, then slowly things will be better. We’ve made a lot of progress in other areas, and with the right amount of introspection and attitude, the world can only move forwards, not backwards.

2017 will be a continuation of my personal and professional journey. With all of the free time I now have, it’s not a question of if, but when I will do the things that I hope to. I want to do more and give more this year. The best thing is that I don’t have to seek the time, money, or permission to do it. I created that for myself. I’m my own boss now.

Posts of 2016

January: Life begins when…

February: I’m only passing through

March: What I learned from 7 years of minimalism

April: How minimalism redefines success

May: Minimalist Meditations — Giving

June: Minimalist Meditations — On Control

July: What’s left after minimalism?

August: There’s no such thing as karma

September: What minimalism taught me about dying

October: What minimalism taught me about love

November: The bigger picture

Bonus: Searching in 2015

the best books I read in 2016

For the first time in my life, I read 52 books in one year. In the theme of freedom and figuring out what I want from life, here is a selection of some of the most helpful pieces of advice I received this year:

The Obstacle is the Way: The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage – Ryan Holiday. Holiday turns stoic philosophy into practical advice on how to get over difficulties that we face in our lives. It’s okay to have obstacles, and even to be annoyed by them, as long as we face them with the right perspective and get over them with the right action. Wisely, he says, “Doing new things invariably means obstacles. A new path is, by definition, uncleared. Only with persistence and time can we cut away debris and remove impediments. Only in struggling with the impediments that made others quit can we find ourselves on untrodden territory—only by persisting and resisting can we learn what others were too impatient to be taught“.

 

The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich – Timothy Ferriss. I reread this book again for the first time in about 5 years and things are very different this time around. Before, while I could agree with a lot of what Ferriss said, this time they actually meant something doable and tangible to me (see passive investments above). This book contains a great argument for working less even if it means earning less, and also solid tips on how to start and grow a passive income business. I’m also in the middle of devouring his newest book Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers.

 

Man’s Search For Meaning: The classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust – by Viktor E Frankl. Thankfully, many of us haven’t had to go through the horrors that Frankl did as a Holocaust survivor. As a professor in neurology and psychiatry, his unique perspective on what it means to find meaning in life fascinated me. In particular, his view on what it means to have good mental well-being, “[…] mental health is based on a certain degree of tension, the tension between what one has already achieved and what one still ought to accomplish, or the gap between what one is and what one should become,” reminds us that meaning is found in having something worthwhile to aim for.

 

The Last Lecture: lesson in living – by Randy Pausch. With his immediately likeable personality, yet devastating story of being diagnosed with a terminal illness that only gives him a few months to live, Carnegie Mellon Professor Pausch gives leaves this important and poignant memoir for this wife and three young children about what is really important in life. He teaches us to dream big, and not obsess over what other people think, because in the end, who cares? It’s the dreams you have, and the things you do, and the people you love and who love you that really matter, and makes us happy. Let’s not wait until we realise that we are dying to make the most of it.

 

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance – by Angela Duckworth. What makes a person successful? I’ve been asking myself this question for years and Duckworth sheds a lot of light on the answer. The answer is, spoiler alert: effort. Persistent effort. Not just showing up, or innate talent, or luck, or environmental factors, but persistently putting in the time and energy to get better. While this means I have a lot of work to do on the things I want to get better at, it’s reassuring to know that what separates the mediocre from the great is blood, sweat and tears because I’m willing to shed a lot of it.

 

The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now  – by Meg Jay. The Image result for defining decadebiggest crime of twentysomethings these days is thinking they have all the time in the world to do anything they want. I’m certainly guilty of this in some respects, so I’m glad I found this book when I did. With all the changes in the last century, people are putting off important decisions until their 30’s or even 40’s, which is too late to make the most of the time they had. The decisions we make in our 20’s have the biggest impact on our lives down the line, and it’s better to use that to our advantage right now, rather than let bad choices made for us, or by us, dictate the rest of our lives.

I read many more books than the few I’ve listed here, but these were some of the most impactful. Of course, I will continue with my journey of learning, and will post more book updates in future posts.

Minimal Student book update: This project means a lot to me so I’m taking my time with it. I’ve nearly finished the first draft of the main text, and sketched up potential covers. There will be a lot of editing to do, but I’m planning on spending some time disconnected to get 80-90% done by early spring. I will continue to update the blog regularly.

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The bigger picture

by Jessica Dang
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flying

It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of everyday life.

There’s a traffic jam, someone is rude to us, the milk has run out. Understandably annoying.

Some problems are a little bigger—ongoing stress from work, money troubles, or finding fulfilment are legitimate concerns.

We don’t make things easier for ourselves. The more we have, the more we want. When things don’t meet our expectations, perfectly good doesn’t seem good enough.

But what if we stopped for a moment to look at the bigger picture?

the view from 10,000 feet   

Anything, even a tiny insect, looks big if you’re close up. Zooming in on something until it takes up your whole focus is a recipe for unhappiness. Speed bumps become huge hurdles. Molehills become mountains.

But what if you stepped 10 feet away? Or 1,000 feet? Or 10,000 feet? Suddenly the troubles that seemed so big now seem so small. Only what really matters, the really big stuff, will stand out.

To step back, ask yourself, ‘Will this matter tomorrow? Next month? Next year?’. What’s really important here? That you used a few hundred dollars, or that you experienced something you’ll always remember? That you got a new pair or shoes or that you changed someone’s life? That you win this argument or that you had people who loved you?

A worry or a problem may seem irritating or insurmountable now, but chances are you won’t remember it in a few weeks, let alone across our whole lifetime.

Sometimes, the solution to a problem isn’t to dive into it, but to step back from it. Get a new perspective, or let it go. You’ll fly lighter because of it.

Book I’m reading now: The Magic of Thinking Big by David J Schwartz

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Searching in 2015

by Jessica Dang
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searching

For me, 2015 was about finding happiness.

At the beginning, I thought I could find through my job—I’d started a new one mid-2014, and was excited by the idea of having a regular income. I thought it would mean I could afford to do whatever I wanted. I was wrong.

I worked 50+ hours a week, pouring over business deals, doing everything I could to make sure they went through. It was so stressful, I even thought about them at night, and I couldn’t sleep properly. After continuous disappointments, I felt I couldn’t trust anything anyone said, and I lost faith in people. Where I was successful, I was paid very well, but that didn’t matter because losing all those hours to work, and feeling exhausted after each day meant that I couldn’t do any of the things I wanted to do. I had more money than I had time to spend. I was cash-rich, but time-poor.

About halfway through this year, I was ready to quit. Instead, I was offered a promotion. I thought about it, and decided to accept. Despite the disappointments, I was actually good at my job. I got a pay rise. I had more responsibility. But I should have known it wouldn’t be enough. It wasn’t more money I was after. It was having my own time that I cravedthe freedom to choose how I spend my days.

Three months later, I resolved to quit again. No backing out this time. No amount of money was going to keep my from being happy. I handed in my resignation letter, and cleared out my desk. I didn’t even work off the full notice period. I was free. A weight lifted off me. I cried. The next day, I slept like a baby.

When I look back at how I spent my time this year, I like to think of it as as journey. As much as I was grinding away at that job, worrying about each little problem or email message, considering the bigger picture I accomplished very little. In fact, it felt more like I wasted the better part of a year of my life. But I don’t regret it. Why? Because I needed to learn a lesson.

what I found in 2015

I needed to learn that money isn’t the most important thing. It’s not even the second, or third, or fourth, of fifth…there are so many things that are more precious. Like having free time, meaningful relationships, good health, or the ability to just damn relax. Eighteen months doesn’t sound like a long time to stick to a job you hate, but when you’re constantly dealing with disappointments, and wishing that time would just hurry up, it’s long enough to learn lessons that will last a lifetime.

I wouldn’t have believed anyone if they told me swapping my freedom for cash isn’t worth it. Of course it is, everyone does it! But when you’re not living life to the fullest, what’s the point? Money bought me a comfortable life, but I didn’t have time to enjoy it. By itself, money didn’t give me the things I really wanted. It as only after being deprived of time and freedom that I really appreciated how much they meant to me.

My spiritual journey has been reflected in my writing. Despite being short on time, I made a special effort to publish at least one post a month in 2015. Many of the posts focused on Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life, which I had taken a deep interest in during the cold winter nights this year after a long day at work. His essay confirmed for me that I was wasting my one and only life, and it hardened my resolve to quit.

Later on the year, I moved onto the subject of happinessobtained through noticing the miracles that surround us every day and being more grateful for the little things. After all, minimalism isn’t about paring down your wardrobe just for the sake of it. It’s ultimately about finding happiness within yourself, not from anywhere else. After this year, I believe in it more than ever.

Posts of 2015

January: Zen in a lotus flower

February: On the Shortness of Life – Part I – Finiteness

March: On the Shortness of Life – Part II – Protecting time and living in the present

April: On the Shortness of Life – Part III – Desire and life goals

May: On the Shortness of Life – Part IV – Learning

June: On the Shortness of Life – Part V – Death

July: Live life like water

August: Why Showing Up Is Not Enough

September: 5 Ways to Strengthen Your Spirit – A Minimalist’s Guide

October: Everyday miracles

November: Why Minimalists Live Happy Lives

Bonus: My article on popular personal development blog Early to Rise  Do you have a job, a career, or a calling? Written from my research and experience into finding fulfilling work. More to come next year.

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Everyday miracles

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barefoot

What is a miracle?

A supernatural event? Something rare? Magic, or deception?

Yes, it can be any of these things, but I wonder how many people would say that a miracle can be something ordinary?

Or, at least, something that seems ordinary. Miracles happen every day around us, we just don’t see it.

Most people would call walking on water a miracle, but how about walking on earth? How special that is! Yes, most people can walk on the ground, but that doesn’t make it less of a miracle.

Think about it. Think of all of the things in the universe that had to come together so that you can take a single step. From the beginning, conditions on Earth had to be just right for life to blossomeverything from the temperature to the water and oxygen levels. That’s why life has been so hard to find anywhere else. And even when it wasn’t perfect, like when a volcano erupted, or a meteor struck, every one of your ancestors survived so that you are alive today.

That’s not all. If you want to take a shorter view on it, the fact that you’re healthy and alive right now, and able to enjoy this beautiful day is a miracle in itself! Be grateful for every moment you can feel the breeze through your clothes, or the rain on your face. Be grateful for every morning the sun rises and every evening you made it to the end of the day alive…because, sadly, a lot of people didn’t.

In our modern lives, we can’t expect too many miracles. But if we look carefully, they are all around us. The miracle is not to walk on the water, or on clouds or fire, but it is to walk on earth.

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Live life like water

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clouds

Take a good look at yourself. What do you see?

Would you think that you are a wonder of the universe? If you’re living and breathing, you already are a miracle.

Why would you seek to be anything else? Look up at the sky. Watch how the clouds float contently by. A cloud is happy to be a cloud. The water within it is happy to be in that state, and doesn’t seek to be anything else. When the time comes, that water will naturally turn into rain, flow along rivers, and into trees and dams, doing what water does. It goes with the flow, and is happy to be that way.

As people, you can be as content as water. Imagine the waves at sea. Each wave has a beginning and end, each has a rise and fall, and each is beautiful in its own right. Does a wave feel fear and anxiety? Does it compare itself to other waves? Does it strive to be a better wave?

If it could look into itself, it will see that it is water, just like the wave behind it, and the wave behind that. The entire sea is one. Once it realises this the wave laughs as it goes up, and laughs as it goes down.

Like a wave at sea, things are changing all the time. You are changing all the time. Things will go up, and things will go down. All you can do is laugh and cry. Life doesn’t always work out the way that you want it, but you are already perfect in your own way.

You are already like water. Just flow, be content.

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On the Shortness of Life – Part V – Death

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This is the final part of a five part series on Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life.

Read Part I – FinitenessPart II – Protecting time and living in the presentPart III – Desire and life goals, Part IV – Learning.

5. Learning how to live takes a whole life

A typical person living in the Western world is expected to live until about 70-80 years old. There are other factors that come into play, such as income, lifestyle, and access to healthcare, but all that aside, the average life span of a healthy adult is about 70 or so years if you’re lucky.

Do you know how many days that is? Answer: it’s about 25,000.

That’s about 25,000 sunrises, and 25,000 sunsets for you to enjoy during your one and only time on Earth.

Sounds like a lot, right? But there’s a small catch. If you’re like me, in your mid-20’s, you’ve actually already used up about 9,000 of them.

Okay… so that leaves about 16,000  still, not bad right? But that’s supposing you really are going to live until your mid-70’s… which, of course, isn’t a guarantee.

What if you only lived until you were 60, or 50, or even 40? (If you’re roughly my age and you only live until 40, that’s less than 6,000 days left). Sh*t.

Now consider how quickly, say, the last 7 days went by. Hm, pretty quick right? It seems like it was just a day or two ago that I was in spin class, but I only go once a week, so that was a whole week ago… Now that I think about it, the last month went by quickly as well… I can’t believe we’re halfway through the year already… and it seemed like it was just a few weeks ago I was living in Japan, but that was an entire year ago now… wow, where did those 365 days even go? 365 is a sizeable chunk out of 6,000! Sh*t. Sh*t.

… and so on. So far, I’ve realised two things:

  1. That we all have a set number of days left, and,
  2. They’re going by stupidly fast.

If this is a depressing subject to you, then you might be thinking about it in the wrong way. It’s only when you realise that your time is finite that you can start to do something about it.

Knowing this, what are you going to do in the next 7, 30, or 100 days? Would you live your life differently?

Well, if you are already making the most out of your life, then the answer would be, ‘Nope! Everything is perfect!’ and that’s fantastic. But if you’re unhappy because you’re putting up with a life/job/relationship you hate, then Seneca has something to say to that:

“How late it is to begin to really live just when life must end! How stupid to forget our mortality, and put off sensible plans to our fiftieth and sixtieth years, aiming to begin life from a point at which few have arrived!”

 

How do we know we’re going to live until we grow old? We don’t! Nobody does. So I can’t help but think why do so many people waste their precious time being unhappy? Why do people put up with jobs they hate for 40 years, just to save up holiday time for when (or if) they reach 65?

I’m no exception to this kind of thinking. We can’t always do the things we want to, and we’ve got to make a living somehow, but if we’ve really only got a few thousand days to live, why spend them doing things that our heart isn’t into?

I’m not advocating a hedonistic lifestyle in a ‘let’s-spend-every-penny-and-destroy-everything-because-tomorrow-might-never-come’ way, but even Seneca realised it thousands of years ago, when he said that,

“[Only when life] is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realise that it has passed away before we knew it was passing.”

The saddest thing is that most people don’t realise how much of their lives they had wasted until they reach the end of it. Usually, these are the same people who don’t like thinking about death at all, because they’re living in a deluded world where if they don’t think about it, it won’t happen to them. But by then, it’s too late to do anything about it.

all their labours were but for the sake of an epitaph

At the end of your life, if everything you did could be summarised into an epitaph, what would it say? What would you want it to say?

You might not get an actual epitaph, but no matter what, you will have a legacy.

Your legacy could be celebrated by millions, or remembered by no one. At the end of your life, it wouldn’t matter to you which one of those it is. You won’t be bringing it with you anyway, wherever you’re going.

All that will matter is how you feel about it. After all, how you feel about your legacy is how you feel about the life you lived. Seneca also wrote,

“Learning how to live takes a whole life, and, which may surprise you more, it takes a whole life to learn how to die.”

Which is true. But it doesn’t have to take your whole life you could wait until you’re on your deathbed to lament on the time you could have spent on the people and things that mattered. Or you can start now, while you can.

Choose to spend today wisely, as if it was a single precious gold coin that you could never get back.

While we’re at it, we can do the same for tomorrow as well. And the day after, and the day after, until we reach the end, whenever that may be.

You could be happy from right now. Start today. Who needs a lifetime to learn how to live?

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