Simple Philosophies – Live like you’ve only got one chance

You only live once… but if you make it worthwhile, once is all you need.

Right now, millions of people out there are so busy working to buy more and more stuff, they forget that they’re wasting something so precious that they will only ever have one of it, no matter how much money they earn or things they own.

Their life.

If there is ever a clearer demonstration of how wrapped up people can get in their material lives it’s that they don’t even realize this one plain truth.

One. That’s it. No exceptions.

Even if you believe in souls or reincarnation or heaven, all of them still mean that you will only have this life, right now, only now.

If you don’t use this chance to do that one life-changing thing before it’s too late, I’m sorry to tell you that it simply won’t be done.

It seems so easy to realize this, but then why are people wasting their time away doing things that makes them upset or miserable, or doing things that don’t matter to them or simply ‘killing time’?

Oh, killing time. I know that watching TV isn’t evil. Even I do it from time to time, but there’s a line that marks the difference between a little entertainment and then just plainly wasting time. After another rerun or trashy program or commerical, it all just becomes a meaningless way to waste life. Did you know the average person living in a first world country spends at least 10-12 years of their lives watching TV by the time they’re collecting their pensions? I know a few people who could only dream a deceased loved one had lived that much longer.

Having a job and/or saving money isn’t a bad thing either. It’s real life and planning for the future. But constantly working to accumulate more money so that one can buy a bigger-slash-better ‘x‘ every other year or just for the sake of ‘having a lot of money’ is totally defeating the point. Money is earned to be used. Now, I’m not saying you should splash out on a mansion or get into debt or anything (after all, this is a minimalist blog) just keep in mind that you can’t take that money with you when you go, so perhaps using it for something meaningful is the best thing to do, or something that makes you, or someone you care about, genuinely happy.

There are other ways of wasting your one chance at life too. Such as constantly complaining, having a closed mind or being persistently pessimistic about everyone and everything. Even if it’s genuinely not the best, at least you were granted a life – it’s Mother Nature’s greatest creation. Even if things aren’t going to well, each day that you’re alive is beautiful, and we should embrace it.

a minimalist’s paradox: happiness-maximizing

What does ‘worthwhile’ mean anyway? Well, the answer is that I don’t know – because everyone has their own ideal life, stored somewhere in the back of their minds. I can’t tell you what ‘worthwhile’ means to you. This isn’t a cop out, it’s true. I don’t want to declare that only travelling makes a life worthwhile, that’s just me. Others think a raising a happy family with kids is worthwhile. Others actually enjoy their work and want to advance in their careers. You may think the same or differently.

But generally, I like to think of a life well spent as one that creates the most happiness – whether it is in oneself, other people or even in the world. Everybody individual has a different way only they can offer to achieve that. Those that use their one chance well are those who bring their worthwhile, happiness-maximizing life closest to reality.

so what was the point again?

Happiness-maximizing has become something that I’ve been pondering about a lot lately. There are plenty of tips about how we can please other people, but what about making ourselves happy? And I don’t mean the artificial materialistic ‘happy’, I mean the minimalist, no-frills, genuine Happy.

My minimalist journey started out really as a pursuit for the meaning of happiness. It’s easy to get caught up in desk-decluttering and other minimalist tips whilst forgetting what the real purpose of minimalism actually is. I’ve written about some of the bigger challenges we have to face and battles we forgot to fight, but now I realize that I’m still searching for the answers.

Last week I mentioned I’m going to shift the content slightly, and here’s how it’s gonna go: I’m moving a little bit away from the how of minimalism – because I think many of you already know that, and if not, there are the MS archives and some really great blogs out there that can tell you – and more towards the why. I’m still going to talk a lot about minimalism but I also want to ask the bigger and harder questions and explore a different kind of how – mainly how can we live a happy, fulfilling life?

How can we make our one chance worthwhile?

I’d love to know what you guys think! (At least don’t knock it ’til you try it?) 🙂 Thank you for all of your feedback about the redesign, I took all of them into consideration and more changes will be made soon! In the mean time, you can find me on Twitter for daily updates, subscribe to MS via email or leave a comment below!

  • Happiness-maximizing. Maybe it happens when all your goals and dreams line up – you’re on your way towards the life you really want, and you don’t have any real doubts that you’d be happier living a different life.

    I like the idea of optimizing happiness… well I like the idea that you can use calculus to solve any problem. I can imagine a graph of happiness as a function of Money Earned (happiness on the y axis, money on the x-axis). Starting at $0, happiness starts to increase up to a certain point, then decreases. You find the place where it stops increasing and is just about to decrease (the slope of the line at this point is 0… calculate the derivative to find exactly where the point is) then you can read off the graph how much money you should have to maximize your happiness. (It doesn’t have to be money. You can also look at how much chocolate makes you happy before you start to feel sick. Or how many hobbies you should have before you start to feel overwhelmed.)

    If only there was an equation for happiness.

    • Hey Layla,

      What a great comment! Actually, there was a while back when I wrote a draft post that I had titled “The secret formula to happiness” and I was going to write about the various theories and so on about how to optimize happiness… but then it turned out the search is much harder than I thought. It seems that no universal formula has been discovered yet (which isn’t a surprise really) but I haven’t given up hope yet and the draft is still sitting on my dashboard, perhaps I will finish writing it one day…? 😀

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  • Andre

    Why are people wasting their lives? Because it’s easier to resign oneself to one’s fate. While watching TV time flies. On the other hand, when doing hard changes time seems to slow down. Therefore most people prefer the easy way instead of the right one.
    Maybe they aren’t even able to discern which way is right for them because they have no goal. But in order to discover their purpose they must take action – a vicious circle.
    This is at least my current theory.

    P.S.: Nice buttons!

    • Dear Andre,

      I totally agree with you. I think you hit on something very important there, perhaps the difference between those who are happy and those that aren’t is simply effort. It’s much easier to be lazy, and the immediate reward is kind of a good feeling – you can relax, nap, watch TV shows – but the long term cost is very dear. Perhaps I’ll write about this, thank you for your comment!

      PS. Glad you like the buttons, I made them myself 🙂

  • I couldn’t agree more with your post. It was also eye opening in terms of what we do with our lives. For example right now I’m chasing money and yet the thing that I love most of all right now I’m ommitting to do to sit around and read the same tips over and over again. It’s pointless and it has to stop.

    Thank you for your inspirational and eye opening post. It really made me think long and hard about how I want to change and how I want to live my life. No doubt I have to work to live but I don’t have to live to work.. Or something like that.

    -Ravi G.

    • Dear Ravi,

      Thank you so much for your comment. I’m so glad that it helped, I wish you the very best of luck! 🙂