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Make Life Beautiful


Make Life Beautiful[1]

Some of you reading this may be struggling. Others of you may not be struggling personally, but know someone close to you who is. If this is you, it is my sincere hope this article will be helpful. You can make your life better, and with effort dare I say, beautiful. Here’s a few ideas to help you get started. Aim at Something You have to have an aim in life. Without one, you’ll drift aimlessly. Once you give up on the immature idea that you can be everything, finding your aim becomes much easier. Once you do this, you’ll quickly realize several things:

  • Everything you aim at is subject to revision.

  • That aiming at something is better than aiming at nothing.

  • Once you start moving toward one aim, other elements of your life will come into sharper focus.

Because you can’t be everything, you’re going to have to make a choice concerning what, exactly, you want to aim at in life. Choose carefully because you only get one shot at this. You can start over, but it’ll cost you something, and the older you get the costlier it becomes so it’s best to choose wisely to begin with. You can’t be everything, but you can be something. And if you are to be someone worthy of the gift of life, you ought to pursue a worthy ideal. Accompanying your pursuit of a worthy ideal should be a sense of urgency. Why? Because you can put yourself in a very bad place in life by the time you’re 30, and if you continue with your aimless life you can easily put yourself in a place of hopeless despair by 40. But there’s hope. To a large degree, you can determine how life manifests itself to you simply by changing what you aim at in life. You can’t control everything, but you can control some things. So, find something worthy to aim at and begin taking steps toward that ideal. Progress makes people happy, so you’ll start feeling better as soon as you start making progress. Embrace the Process One primary way to build confidence is by learning from one experience at a time. Experiences aren’t end products. Most people like the end product but not the process which leads them to it. Learn to embrace the process of change. I’ve worked with clients who were always focused on the next thing in their lives and never lived in the here and now. Then one day they were suddenly hit with the realization that a large chunk of their life had passed them by while they were eagerly awaiting what was next. When you’re always looking at what’s next you often fail to see what you have. Much of their therapy sessions were focused on the overwhelming guilt and regret they felt for a life poorly lived. Slow down. If you never make time, there will never be time. Embrace the process. If you read the Old Testament, you’ll quickly realize that God is intensely concerned with the process of things. There’s the story of Adam and Eve’s life. There’s the story of Cain and Abel. There’s the story of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, the history of the nation of Israel, and many more. One way to think about these stories is to think of them as descriptions of the process of things: the process of Abraham’s life, the process of David’s life, etc. If God is intensely concerned with the process of things, why would your life be any different? Clean Your Slate Organize the mess in your life so you can see your potential. Several years ago, I noticed a pattern in my clinical practice: Almost every depressed client I’ve worked with also had a messy room or house. Sometimes it was messy, sometimes it was a full-blown biohazard. So one of the first things I attend to in my therapy with these clients is to clean their slate. But I have to be careful. Sometimes they think their life is so dismal and terrible that asking them to clean their entire slate all at once is too overwhelming. To a person who’s never struggled with depression you might think, “They can’t clean their own house?” No, they can’t. Their life feels so hopeless that the thought of cleaning their house seems entirely overwhelming. In those cases, I break it down into manageable pieces: If you can’t clean your entire house, can you clean just one room? If you can’t clean just one room, can you clean half of that room? If you can’t do that, can you organize the top of your dresser? And so on. I break down the task until it isn’t overwhelming to them. Now you might be wondering, “How is asking a client to clean their room effective treatment for depression?” Here’s how: Their room is an outward expression of their inner world. When I ask if they can clean their room, the push back I get is immediate and intense. Why? Because they subconsciously know that if they can clean their room – which represents one small part of their life – then they can begin to put their actual life together. Depression is what they know. They don’t like it, but it’s what they know. When I’ve explained this concept to depressed clients and asked why they value their depression so much, sometimes they’ll tell me, “The devil you know is better than the one you don’t.” My response is always the same: “Don’t be so sure. You’ve never met the other devil.” You do You Anyone that knows me just spit out their morning coffee when they read that subtitle. I hate that phrase. It’s glib and terribly shortsighted. But, as much as I hate to, in specific contexts I have to admit there’s merit to it. For example, when designing your life, stay true to the gifts and abilities God has given to you. Don’t try to be someone else – you do you. Here’s what I mean: Let’s say you’re in a job you really don’t like. I mean really don’t like. When you wake up in the morning and realize you have to go to work, all of the sudden life seems dull. When you arrive at work, you sit in your car in the parking lot and have to talk yourself into walking in the building. Every time you hear your boss speak, it strangles your soul. Every time that certain coworker pipes up, you feel your IQ decreasing. You hate your job. If that’s you, here’s my question: What. Are. You. Doing? Seriously – what in the world are you doing staying in a job like that? Life isn’t long and you’re burning daylight, friend. Find your lane in life, and if you haven’t, keep after it until you do. That job (or profession) is obviously not your lane. SO FIND IT! Take personality profiles to figure out your likes and dislikes. Get advice from trusted people in your life. Start seeing a counselor.[2] Start a different job and if that one is terrible find a different one. Wash, rinse, repeat. Keep trying and failing until you stop failing. I grew up in rural Colorado, and I knew a few real-deal, bonafide cowboys. They’re a dying breed made of tough stuff.[3] They live in the mountains and spend more time on a horse than they do in a vehicle. They live by a simple maxim: If you get bucked off a horse, there’s only two options: get back on or stay on the ground. Get to the Next Level Allow your life to evolve and take shape over time. Be patient. Learn to value growth. Let’s unpack this idea: You’re going to encounter setbacks in life – that’s inevitable – so it would be helpful if you developed the ability to,

  1. Reduce the number of setbacks you encounter in life.

  2. Minimize the severity of the setback to the degree you can.

  3. Learn from them.

The first two are self-explanatory, but the last one needs some clarification. Learning from setbacks will help you get to the next level in your life. People who do not develop the ability to learn from their setbacks tend to get bitter and resentful. Instead of learning from their setbacks they allow spite to take over and give in to their bitterness. Giving in to this urge makes things worse. Giving in to the misery is a completely natural reaction, but it’s also completely self-defeating. Think about it: You’re in a terrible place. You don’t like where you’re at and it’s proving very difficult to get out of where you’re at. So, you stop trying, which inevitably makes where you’re at much worse. Sounds crazy when you hear it described that way, doesn’t it? You need to get to the next level because you’re not satisfied with who you are now. You need to grow, to mature, to get better. You could be better. You know it and I assure you everyone else around you knows it too. Maybe the way you could improve is big, maybe it’s not; it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you know you could be better and you have to move toward your own improvement. If you stop trying to improve, know what changes? Nothing. Form & Function Seek solutions to challenges in a beautiful and livable way. Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting up goals in your life you won’t reach and habits you won’t maintain. This takes discernment. Discernment means that you can exhibit good judgment in a wide variety of contexts. It means that you understand memes are great at illustrating an issue, but do little in terms of explaining them. It means that you know Snap Chat is an entertainment platform, not a place for serious discourse about multi-layered, complex issues. Texting is the 21st century equivalent of cavemen scratching on walls. It’s meant to convey rudimentary information in a rudimentary way. Make sure the solution will aid in making your life beautiful (form) and you’ll find the solution to your problem is livable (function). I hope this has been helpful, my friend, and provides you with the needed direction to make your life beautiful.

[1] The title and subtitles of this blog were taken from an interior design book by the same name. I enjoy interior design and as I was reading the book, I became struck with the similarities between designing the interior of a home and designing the interior of the individual. Coincidentally, if you’re looking for a great book on interior design (like, New York bestseller great) I highly recommend Make Life Beautiful, by Syd and Shea McGee. I’ve never met the authors but from reading their book I feel safe in assuming they are obsessed with excellence, and I admire that. [2] Yes, that was unashamed self-promotion of my profession. Gimme a break, it was low-hanging fruit that I had to pick. [3] This is a tragic thing. I’m convinced the loss of their culture will be felt collectively. Any time a longstanding sub-section of a society’s collective past goes extinct that society suffers. Suffering usually comes in the form of a national identity crisis. How do you know where you’re going if you have no concept of your collective historical past?




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