There are many purposes you can choose for your life. Some can be grandiose like saving the planet or inspiring a million people, and others can be more normal, like raising a healthy family.
With all the paths you can take in life and the purposes you can assign to your life, what if the answer was simpler than that? What if we all had one purpose?
What if the purpose of our life was really simple and so silly we’d almost dismiss it or drive right past it?
Rita Mae Brown, a well-known writer, once said:
“I finally figured out the only reason to be alive is to enjoy it.”
I shared this realization with her the other night.
A lighthouse without enjoyment
Two nights ago, my girlfriend and I sat down to watch a TV show called Grand Designs. The show is about people building their dreams in the form of structures to eat in and sleep.
The way the structure interacts with its surroundings and makes a statement is the premise of the show.
The episode I watched told the story of a music industry record executive with a young family who lived by the seaside in the UK. The father had always loved watching the sea rage against the cliff from a place that was safe. The more the storm raged the more he wanted to watch it. The problem was he didn’t have anywhere safe to watch such storms from a distance.
The idea he came up with was to build what he called “a storm room.” This thought then led to an obsession that took the form of demolishing his family home, building a new one and constructing a four-story lighthouse with its very own storm room. Originally when he started the build seven years prior, he thought it would take $2M to build. By the end he had spent more than $6M and the home still wasn’t even close to being finished.
During those seven years, he went deeper and deeper into debt, took huge risks, and his wife left him for good. His kids barely knew the man that was left sitting in his castle of semi-constructed sleeping quarters.
He kept saying how much he was going to enjoy life at the end of it all — even when that life would be without the people he loved.
At the end of it all, the only thought a viewer could have was, “What’s the point of it all if you never enjoy the damn view?”
He had everything and yet lost it all while waiting for a lighthouse to help him live again. He had taken a turn down the back-alley of unfinished dreams rather than prioritize enjoying life in the present.
He was existing to one day finally live.
This experience made me think about moments that made me enjoy life. Both of those moments came about in bizarre transition periods where nothing exciting was supposed to occur.
One moment was sitting by the beach on the Amalfi Coast in Italy and thinking to myself, “Wow, just wow!” It was a beach, a certain smell of lemons and a simple blue sky that made me enjoy life on that day. It reminded me of how important it is to enjoy life and how easy these moments are to create.
The second moment came about because of a simple email. As a writer, you’re mostly screaming into the abyss and hoping someone might hear you or feel you. That screaming was met with silence for many years. Then when I opened that email and one reader said that a piece of writing helped them make a much-needed decision, it all changed.
It was that single moment that made me start to enjoy writing and to enjoy life again.
“How have I been complicit in creating the conditions I say I don’t want?”
— Jerry Colonna
This is one of my favorite quotes of all time. It reminds us that we helped create the conditions that have prevented us from enjoying life. So if you can create these negative conditions, you can also change them too.
You can finally decide to take responsibility and commit your time to enjoying life rather than chasing life’s tail endlessly.
Here are some ways you can enjoy life again (or more):
One of the ways to rob our life of enjoyment is by jamming our mind with so much information that there is no space left to think and realize the enjoyment we’re already having.
There is always another podcast, article, video, or person who has something to say. We’re told to keep learning, but what if too much learning prevents us from enjoying life?
Less inbound information helps you to enjoy life again because it gives you the empty space to fill up with pleasurable moments.
One less photo
I’d love to encourage everybody to take one less photo.
It’s cool to capture a moment, although if the setup process and action of capturing the moment simultaneously destroys it, it’s not worth it. Most of the photos you take you will never look back on.
The best way to capture a memory is to live it so that it’s captured in your mind.
Stop caring about every damn thing
Most of what you worry about is never going to happen. Spending your attention on caring about every damn thing distracts you from enjoying what you already have. You already have so much.
Everybody around you wants you to care about what they’re doing. You do not have the mental bandwidth to achieve this. In a recent podcast, I learned that chess players burn heaps of calories while playing the game.
This seems strange because there is no physical activity involved in playing chess. The hand movements to move a chess piece can be achieved by a 104-year-old man or woman without a fuss. When you delve closer into the science, you learn that chess takes a huge amount of mental energy and that uses glucose and therefore burns calories.
Draining your brain by caring and worrying about everybody else’s problems leaves your mind literally starved with no energy left to enjoy life.
Material Object Fallacy
The man building his material dream by owning a lighthouse forgot that objects don’t make us enjoy life more. Enjoyment from material objects is a fallacy.
It’s who you spend life with, how you feel about life and whether you take the time to enjoy it that matters.
Objects only make us chase shadows that don’t hold enjoyment.
Connect with the idea of a rented body
Try thinking about life in this way: you’re renting your body and have to give it back at some point in the future.
If your body was rented and life was purchased at an arcade with a one-dollar gold coin that had a time limit, wouldn’t you just enjoy the time you had in that body playing the game before the time was up?
You are renting the experience of being human, so you may as well enjoy it while it lasts. There is no point taking anything too seriously if it robs you of enjoyment because that’s the purpose of the experience.
Do one thing you love
The best kind of enjoyment comes from doing something you love. If life is about enjoyment, could you not spend more time on those activities you love which 10X the experience?
This is why I work part-time and spend a stupid amount of hours writing. I love writing and it helps me enjoy life more.
Don’t be like the man who wanted to build a lighthouse and forgot the simple enjoyment that came from the view and spending time with his family.
Your life is about enjoying it before time runs out and you have to give your body back to the Earth and let it be reborn for the next person to enjoy life with.
Seriously, enjoy life and live for today. Enjoy the simple pleasures you’ve taken for granted and you’ll get the most out of the human experience.