Ever just go through the day and feel as if you can’t change your life for the better? Everything has been decided for you and you have no choices in what you do, wear or say? Some days can feel like that, but have too many in a row and you just might be drifting aimlessly through life.
Then there are those people who get excited when they wake up in the morning. They have things they look forward to and they don’t know what is going to happen to them in the future. These people don’t merely exist, they’re full of life.
Living vs. Existing
I think the biggest distinction between living and existing comes from how much control you have over life decisions. Where do you see control coming from? In general, someone who exists feels as if everything is outside of their control while someone living knows they determine the path their life takes.
Emotions have a big role to play in this. Someone who exists lets emotions such as fear and anger dictate what they can and can’t do. Someone who is living understands those emotions, controls them and doesn’t let them interfere with their decisions.
Someone who exists would stay in the same dead-end job for years despite being unsatisfied and unhappy. Their fears have trapped them and they have no plans of getting out. They’ve lost hope and just mindlessly go through the day in order to maintain the status quo.
But it goes much further than a job and paycheck. Someone who lets their fears control them won’t take other actions that would improve their life. They stay in relationships they don’t like, don’t do things on their bucket list and always put their dreams on hold.
People who simply exist do the same boring routine every day even though they don’t really like it. They don’t take any chances on improving their life just so they can maintain their current comfortable lifestyle. This is because they are unable to take control of their decisions.
How to Stop Existing and Start Living
So how would you even know if you’re someone who exists or lives? Steve Jobs did something that could provide some guidance. Apparently he used to wake up each morning, look at himself in the mirror and ask himself the same question, “If I was to die today, would I do what I am about to do?” If his answer was no too many days in a row, he would make a change.
I think this is a good starting point for figuring out if you’re just settling for mediocrity. If you’re not getting excited or happy most days with what you’re going to do, you need to take action and change something. This goes for every area of your life.
Steve Jobs’ attitude is how I would describe someone who is living. He’s not content with doing a routine simply because he did it the day before. He knows that you continually have to find something that is meaningful for you and makes you happy. Otherwise you stop getting up in the morning because you want to and you start getting up because it’s obligatory.
So start asking yourself the same question that Steve Jobs asked. If you find yourself saying no to the question too often, you know that you need to make a change. Once you know what you want to change, you’ll have to confront those fears holding you back and remind yourself that a change is necessary.
I realize this can be a scary process; I went through something similar. Many years ago I had a job I didn’t like. It wasn’t horrible, but after several years of work I realized I had started going there only because of habit and not because I liked the work itself.
I knew I needed a change so I quit. I had searched for a job before I left, but didn’t have anything lined up right away. It was really scary at first, but I knew quitting was the right thing to do. Several years later, I’m still glad I made the decision.
Be in Control of Your Life
In the end, you need to be the one making the decisions for your life. Nothing should tell you what to do, even your fears and doubts. If you haven’t already, you need to take back control and make life meaningful for yourself again.
I know it can be easy to get stuck doing something because it is comfortable and has become habitual. I’ve been in that situation before. Even Steve Jobs battled with it if you consider that he asked himself that morning question every day for 30 years. And if he could get stuck in a rut doing something he doesn’t like, anyone can.
Do you think you are living or existing? Are there things you’ve become comfortable with and need to make changes?
photo credit: Phil Dowsing Creative