You hear it a lot. I say it a lot. But what does it actually mean – to ‘live your best life’?
Does living your best life mean three vacations a year? A new car on the drive at regular intervals? Meals out in fancy restaurants with friends? Does it mean fighting the good fight? Or having a figure straight out of a magazine, and the style of a catwalk model? And what about family time, me time, us time and down-time – does living your best life mean time-a-plenty? Or does it mean pay-rises and promotions, qualifications and accolades?
All too often, it seems to mean whatever other people want for you, just as this clip from Kung-Fu Panda shows.
Deep down, Po knew that the life his father had planned for him was not his best life. He knew that his best life was not defined by vacations, or new cars and fancy meals, fighting for good causes or having a figure and sense of style to die for. And those things don’t define your best life, either. Sure some, none, or all of those things may feature in your best life, but to have them does not mean that the life you are living is the best that it can be. In fact, you could have all of those things and more, and still be living a life that is a million miles away from being the best that it can be.
You see, there is more to you and, therefore, to your best life, than those things that give you pleasure, bring well-being, or give rise to a sense of belonging. All of those things matter – of course they do – but they matter as being the outworking of something much deeper, much more fundamental than anything you can lay your hands on. They are simply the icing on the cake, not the cake itself. They flow from your best life, not into it.
All of those things that you may have in your life are complicated. Some bring pleasure, some bring pain. Some bring laughter, some bring tears. Some bring happiness, some bring heartache. But your best life is simple. Beautifully simple. It is pure. It is complete. It is the expression of who you truly are. And those things that bring you pleasure, well-being and a sense of belonging are merely temporary, requiring constant ‘topping-up’, your best life is ever-present; it is unchanging, constant, immovable, permanent.
So, back to the original question – what does it mean to live that ever-present, unchanging, constant, immovable, permanent life? What do you have to do to live that life – your best life?
Nothing. You do not need to do anything: you simply need to be your real self. Oh, for sure, you may have to strip away things that have got in the way of being who you really are – the masks you have learned to wear, the external messages you have accepted and embraced – those things that pulled you away from your true self – but you do not need to create something new, you simply need to step away from the interpretation you have become and rediscover who you already are. Who you already really are.
But how do you do that? How do you step away from the interpretation you have become, that has kept the real you locked away for so long, and release who you truly are to once again take centre stage? Well, it it simpler than you may think.
The first step is to uncover your values.
Your values are those things that matter to you. The things that are important to you. That drive you. That you would fight for, maybe even die for, if you had to. They are those things that connect with the essence of your soul, and the expression of which bring you fully alive. Maybe it’s family, truth, compassion, trust, peace, or something altogether different, but, whatever you hold as your true values hold the key to your best life.
The second step is to uncover your strengths
Strengths are a part of you. They cannot be learned or acquired – they are already in you. The trick is to uncover them, unlock them and unleash them. You see, your strengths are the way that you best express your values. Maybe you have love among your strengths, allowing you to express your values of family and compassion. Or maybe you have honesty as a strength, and that allows you to live out your value of truth. It is when you allow your strengths to get to work that your values begin to seep into, and out of, every part of your life.
The third step is to put those values and strengths at the centre of every moment of every day.
Knowing your values and uncovering your strengths is not enough to bring your best life to the fore, though. You need to actually live out those values and strengths each and every day. You must build a live that allows your values to emerge, and increase their presence in every choice you make, decision you take, word you speak and endeavour you undertake. And you must draw out, lean into, and apply each of your strengths at every opportunity. Only then will you begin to see your best life unfold.
And, as your best life unfolds, so the icing will begin to form on your cake: as the fulfillment that meaning and purpose bring takes root, so those things that bring you real pleasure will grow. It truly does not get better than that.