What is the difference between being alive and truly living?
by Jonathan Hilton
All people are going to answer this question differently depending on where they are in their life. To me being alive is a fact of nature, and enjoying life and living for a purpose is truly living. But how do you enjoy life?
Other people will answer this very differently. It only takes a few visits to any number of blogs to experience the wide variety of philosophies and beliefs that exist.
Young people are struggling to master life, yet so hopeful about living it is encouraging While older people are resigned to the fact that you may never figure it out everything there is to know about life, but they share their thoughts and experiences.
One of the things I like about reading so many different people’s opinions is to be exposed to ideas that are different from mine. Valid yet different and I think that is a powerful force of growth. These are my thoughts on truly living.
The problem with Life
For me there is a question that came to me as I got older and thought that I was on the
path I should be on. After carefully contemplating the experiences I have been fortunate enough to have in life I came to the conclusion that being alive was not enough and that I needed to start truly living and for me that meant I had to make a lot of changes in my perceptions of people, life, God and everything that at one time I was sure of.
I wasn’t sure what was “right”, but I knew there was more to life than a conditioned accumulation of material goods to supply comfort to life.
What comfort did I ever give to others? What did I contribute? Even as an educator, I was contributing stories about living which happened long ago, espousing the morals and actions that young people should aspire to follow, with the awareness of the world around me the size of the head of a pin.
I don’t think I consistently enjoyed what life gave me. There are easy things to enjoy and appreciate, like those we love, and those that love us, a sunny, beautiful day, a large sum of money, all of these can be easily enjoyed, but how many people pass through a day without having gratitude for anything in their life, because they are too busy looking at what they don’t have.
I was one of these, searching for the right amount of stuff that would bring happiness with it. I never found that.
One of the biggest problems people face,when trying to truly live is that they always seem to distract themselves from the moment they are currently experiencing.
Perhaps spending time with someone you love, reading a book, exercising, or doing whatever it is you do, because you allow yourself to be distracted by things that make you feel the moment you are in is not a good enough thing.
One distraction is the past, which often allows you to reminisce about the past and feel that things were so much better back then, when you were happy.
Often the past is not quite what we remember it to be and it really doesn’t matter in the scope of today. It is over and gone, good or bad and to short change today for yesterday is selling something tangible and of extreme value for nothing but a fantasy.
Often I had looked to the past to the good old days, which were nice memories, but other than lending experience to today, couldn’t help make me very happy or allow me to truly live.
Others choose to focus on the future, planning and scheming the best way to route their lives to get to the point where finally they will be happy. They think that if they do this particular thing, at this particular time then I will be happy, satisfied, successful, or whatever.
The problem with this is that when you put all of your focus onto tomorrow you miss the great things that are happening today. You can prepare for the future with the actions of today and enjoy today at the same time, the difference is that you don’t put anything off, like being happy and satisfied with life or anything else. Tomorrow may never come and rarely does it happen as you plan, so putting happiness off is a bad gamble that will most likely never pay off.
I’ll Be Happy When I am Rich
Materialism is another distraction that keeps people from enjoying the moment, often it goes hand in hand with waiting for the future, but tying your happiness into the acquisition of some material thing is going to stop you from appreciating today, because you are going to be thinking that happiness is going to come when you get that house, or car, or Ipad or whatever.
The satisfaction of that acquisition will be short-lived and soon you will be looking for the next thing that should bring happiness and satisfaction to your life, as you ignore the opportunity for happiness that you have in your experience today. Being grateful for what you have will allow you to enjoy the day. If you don’t believe me, then try it. Be truly grateful for what you have.
So truly living to me is the appreciation of what life is giving you right now in this moment.
That doesn’t mean that it will always be perfect. Sometimes there are painful things in life, and we have to deal with feelings that are not so nice, people get sick, accidents happen, people die, life is not perfect and there is no guarantee that everything is going to go your way.
However, there is a choice that comes pinned to each of those experiences to make it a positive or a negative factor in your life. Only you can decide for yourself the difference between being alive and truly living.