I always had all of these ideas about what a well-lived life looked like.
You know—a happy marriage, a beautiful home, perfect health, fit body, amazing friends and family around, work that I love, lots of money, the ability to travel.
All of the stuff we see on social media.
And I’ll let you in on a little secret—I don’t always have all of that. I’ve had moments of financial hardship. And serious health issues. And family members get sick. And sometimes die.
I’ve had fights with friends and family. Challenges with work. Leaks and housing problems.
My real life isn’t a curated image. Because it’s real. It’s moving. And, in between the glamorous perfection is all of the other shit that isn’t always to my liking.
It took me a long time to realize that a well-lived life isn’t necessarily a perfect one. Or even a happy one.
It’s one where we respect ourselves. Where we have integrity. Where we feel our values integrated into every single aspect of our life.
And true self-respect is unconditional. It’s not about what results we get on the outside. It’s about what we feel on the inside. It’s about choosing our values, even in the midst of the shitstorm.
And, today, many of us are feeling that shitstorm hard. Many of us—myself included—are not living through 2020 in absolute perfection according to my previous definition of a well-lived life.
And it sucks. Because I know I want certain things to happen—in my personal life and in the world around me. I’m going to guess you want certain things, too.
But wishing things were different and feeling too hopeless to take action never really changes much of anything. What does is taking steps that articulate our values, even when they’re not convenient.
Our actions declare our values. And our values show us our identity—who we are.
I don’t just want to know who I am when life is really convenient and perfect. Because that’s not realistic. It’ll never last. I want to know who I am at all times. When shit hits the fan. When I have to find this inner strength and resilience.
Just choosing our values when life is easy will never build true self-respect. We have to choose ourselves and what we truly value unconditionally. Again and again.
And I have no idea if it’ll lead you to everything you’ve ever wanted. I can’t say with certainty that choosing your values always gets you the short-term goal. Because I’ve had plenty of times where I busted my ass, made sacrifices, chose my values, and didn’t get it.
But what I can say is that choosing our values will always lead us to success and fulfilment—at least in the long term. Because it’s what we really care about. It’s the values that make up who we are. And the thing we wanted to feel in the long-run, anyway.
So we might as well fiercely defend that.
Because loss of our short-term goals in favor of our true values is what we call personal growth. And we can never go wrong growing into ourselves.
That’s why I do the work that I do. Because it’s the only effective way I’ve found to be truly, truly successful and fulfilled.
To keep coming back to my sensitivities, my purpose, my gifts, my values. And then try like hell to implement those into every area of my life. When it’s convenient and, especially, when it’s not.
It builds a kind of unconditional resilience. A kind of deep knowing of ourselves. A kind of cementing of our values.
And people who aren’t aligned with our values just kind of fall away. Because who the hell wants to be around the Vulnerable guy if you don’t like vulnerability? If that’s embedded in every moment of his life, you don’t want to be there.
And people who do resonate just kind of show up. Because the games fall away. We’re not playing emotional chicken anymore and hiding ourselves. We’re just showing up and being who we are and not trying to prove ourselves.
You can take it or leave it. There’s no need to prove ourselves. Because, when you respect yourself, you see the immense worth you bring to every moment.
And it’s hard. I look back to where I was a few years ago and how I’d think, “What a crock of shit.”
Because self-love and unconditional self-worth sound like ridiculous pipedreams. The kind of substance-less bullshit that coaches and self-help authors spout without any plan to get there. It sounds good as an ideal, but it’s impossible one, at that.
But we can’t love ourselves if we don’t know ourselves. And we can’t love ourselves unconditionally if we don’t choose those values again and again, regardless of the conditions.
It’s just painfully slow. And really hard. And almost invisible. You don’t realize what’s happening. And then one day you realize that you love yourself more.
Because you chose your values in easy moments. And you chose your values in hard moments. And you took out the conditions. And now you love yourself unconditionally.
It doesn’t happen overnight. We have to map our experiences, figure out who we are, clarify our values, start slowly choosing that in each aspect of our lives, and commit to it when it’s hard.
It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done. And by far the most rewarding.
I don’t always have what I want. But I know that I can be in integrity and fulfilled in every moment. No matter what life throws at me. No matter how hard shit gets.