A Thinking Life = A Happy Life
“If we agree that life is important, then thinking as we go through it is the basic tribute we owe it. It also happens to be the golden way to the good life – the kind of life in which happiness blooms.” – P.M. Forni from The Thinking Life: How to Thrive in the Age of Distraction
Part of the mission statement for The Simply Luxurious Life is to live a “truly fulfilling life instead of being led around by the nose”, in other words to live an examined life that is based on taking the time to reflect regularly on the life you wish to create for yourself.
“The life which is unexamined is not worth living.” – Socrates
The beauty of taking the time to consciously live each and every day is that your life will be your own. It will not mirror what you see in society – perhaps some aspects, but only because you agree wholeheartedly and have invited them into your life willingly not blindly. Rather, it will be a good life as defined by P.M. Forni:
“What constitutes a good life has not been a mystery for more than two thousand years. The good life is a life nurtured by a healthy sense of self-worth, brightened by a positive outlook, warmed by a loving family and loyal friends, grounded in congenial and challenging work and made meaningful by an involvement in something larger than ourselves. We also know for sure that happiness is a by-product of the good life and the good life is a by-product of good thinking.”
So, if indeed you seek a good life, you will find happiness, but in order to know how to live the good life (because the details will be different for each one of us), you must take time to think - critically, rationally, objectively, purposefully, reflectively and in an informed manner. And that is what stops many in their tracks.
But it shouldn’t.
It should be a delightful and intriguing invitation because to think well is to live well. And who doesn’t want to live well?
Over the weekend, I devoured P.M. Forni’s The Thinking Life: How to Thrive in the Age of Distraction and found myself heaving sighs of relief, nodding in agreement and annotating endlessly.
What you will find in the book is not only sound evidence that indeed the type of thinking mentioned above is the foundation of creating the good life and ultimately achieving the happiness you seek, but he also shares detailed instructions on how to think well and cultivate a habit that upon acquiring and fine-tuning you will wonder why you didn’t do so sooner (many of you already do, so you’ll find this book quite reaffirming).
So, first commit to becoming a good thinker, “Good thinking, however, doesn’t just happen; it is the result of a personal commitment,” and then begin to loosen your grasp on your technological dependence, “True, insight can travel by Twitter, but there is no substitute for uninterrupted reflection and introspective – not if we want to discover who we really are, check if we are true to our own values, learn from our mistakes, and plan our future,” because, “Unfortunately, deep thinking is often the illustrious casualty in the digital revolution.”
Here is an overview of the twelve ways thinking will help cultivate a life full of happiness and fulfillment.
1. Carve out regular time for thinking
“Good thinking requires time.”
Regularly taking time to be by yourself without distraction (the television, your ipod, internet connection, conversation, etc) is absolutely necessary if you wish to understand the life you wish you live and why.
As Forni points out, our entertainment culture would have us believe that “down-time” or “alone time” is a sign of weakness and inferiority, but in actuality one’s inability to become comfortable with their own company, even if for 15 minutes to an hour is a sign of something far more critical.
When you don’t know why you are living the way you are living or making the decisions you are making, your life takes control, others’ opinions take control, society takes control, and the longer you allow this to happen, the more difficult it can be to get your control back.
2. Master your thoughts, Create your world
“We are the ones who make our own lives good or bad through the workings of our own thoughts. In other words, life is what the inclinations of the mind make it.”
By choosing to be positive, you in turn are more enjoyable to be around, drawing other like-minded people to your company, thus creating more pleasurable and enriching opportunities. What you think about the world and its opportunity or lack thereof creates the fact. So which world do you prefer to live in? Think accordingly.
3. Forget quantity and focus on quality
“Marcus Aurelius’s admonitions remind us that more is not always better than less. In fact, less can give us more of what we really need – of what really matters.”
Filling up a to-do list simply to say you are busy, is not behavior that will help cultivate a happy life. Determine what your priorities are and then begin eliminating the trivial (which includes unnecessary worry, dread due to procrastination and demands of others that don’t align with your goals).
By doing so, you create time to fully immerse yourself in what you love and are dedicated to, as well as leaving time to think which allows you to make better decisions about where you want your life to go.
4. Pay attention, absorb your surroundings, the details, the reactions, the information that is at your fingertips.
“Together with willpower, attention is the top building block of the fully engaged life. As such, it is the beginning of the good life.”
Much like a detective, when you pay attention to your life, the present moment, is it amazing what bits of information you can unearth that will help solve the puzzle of how to live life successfully. However, many people aren’t present as they are distracted by the “ping” of their cell phone or what they are doing later in the day.
In order to live a life of quality, you must be your best self in the present because “It is when we are fully aware that we deal best with the world around us.”
5. Regular Reflection to Gain Valuable Lessons
“You will never acquire anything of consequence without effort.”
In order to make sound decisions, you must come to the plate knowing what you wish to accomplish. And while instant gratification may be a pleasurable option in the moment, it most likely doesn’t lead to the results of even greater appreciation down the road.
6. The ability to learn from others’ mistakes
“A smart man learns from his mistakes, a wise man learns by the mistakes of others.”
Along the lines of paying attention, being able to learn lessons from others’ mistakes is priceless. However, because we are not the ones feeling the emotional or physical pain directly, it is difficult to create the empathy necessary to learn the lesson. In other words, it takes effort and work to learn from others, but if we can master this valuable lesson, we are already closer to our most fulfilling life than those who must endure the lessons themselves.
7. Take the time to understand yourself
“It is through introspection that we gain self-knowledge allowing us to bring positive change to our lives.”
Introspection can be uncomfortable, but like being confronted with an obstacle, once we understand it, we can move around it and overcome it. Once we understand our strengths, our weaknesses, and most importantly, why we seek what we seek, we can navigate successfully forward toward a good life.
8. Understand the benefit of self-discipline
“Self-control always entails forgoing an appealing yet lesser gratification for the sake of a less appealing yet greater one. It requires the ability to tell one from the other and the will to choose accordingly. This is called wisdom, and there is no putting a price on it.”
Without self-discipline goals would not be accomplished, dreams would not be achieved and many problems and pitfalls can occur unnecessarily. And it is when we know what life we want to create and what our priorities are that we are more likely and able to exercise self-discipline because we have something far greater waiting for us down the road.
9. Be proactive
When you have taking the time to plan or educate yourself on a particular topic, you have the opportunity to behave in a manner that is not reactive, but proactive. And when choosing to live proactively, you are taking back some control of your lives that many relinquish due to procrastination, lack of knowledge or insecurity.
10. Always seek knowledge
Forever remain curious, gathering information to better guide you forward through your life. While change is inevitable, you have more power than you realize to make sure it is positive change that occurs, and that can only happen if you know what the heck is going on and what your options are.
11. Think before speaking
“If you think before speaking, that means you are keenly aware of the power of words and therefore committed to taking the time and trouble to choose them wisely. You do not want to offend the other person, and you do not want to make a fool of yourself, either.”
Words have power and in order to build relationships we must learn how to communicate effectively. To not understand the power of language is to lose a vital lesson in creating a fulfilling life. So rather than speaking when the emotion grabs you – in anger or in love – think about all possible consequences and if you don’t know how to respond, simply say, “I’ll get back to you.”
By respecting the words you speak, you reduce regret and cultivate opportunities to establish quality relationships.
12. Make conscious decisions
“Each decision counts because it shapes the course of your life, because it opens some possibilities and closes others, and because it can result in added happiness, misery or both.”
Perhaps the flavor of salad dressing you chose last night will not change the course of your life, but there are many decisions throughout the course of your life that will. So when it comes to making a decision, come to the table with as much knowledge as possible and don’t rush. After all, having the freedom to choose is an amazing gift. So choose wisely.
“The quality of our lives depends upon the quality of our decision making, and the quality of our decision making depends upon the quality of our thinking.”
Paying attention to a seemingly simple daily activity can truly have amazing effects on your life. What an awesome gift we receive by being able to live, so why not make sure it is lived with our full attention rather than being directed like a puppet?
Join the discussion! What activities or habits do you include in your daily live to help you live more consciously and purposefully? Feel free to share in the comments below or on Facebook.
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