zen habits : breathe

How to Live Well

‘Begin at once to live, and count each separate day as a separate life.’ ~Seneca

Post written by Leo Babauta.

I’m not a rich man, nor do I fly around the world and drink champagne with famous people in exotic locales, nor do I own a sports car or SUV or a yacht.

And yet, I’m very happy.

Much happier than seven years ago when I ate fried foods and sweets all time time and felt unhealthy and overweight, when I watched television and was out of shape, when I shopped a lot and was in debt, when I worked a job that paid fairly well and had no time for myself or my loved ones.

How have I accomplished this? With small tricks. The truth is, you don’t need a lot to live well — you just need the right mindset.

Here’s what I’ve learned about living well on little:

  1. You need very little to be happy. Some simple plant food, modest shelter, a couple changes of clothes, a good book, a notebook, some meaningful work, and some loved ones.
  2. Want little, and you are not poor. You can have a lot of money and possessions, but if you always want more, you are poorer than the guy who has little and wants nothing.
  3. Focus on the present. Stop worrying about the future and holding onto the past. How much of your day is spent thinking about things other than where you are and what you’re doing, physically, at this moment? How often are we living as opposed to stuck thinking about other things? Live now and you live fully.
  4. Be happy with what you have and where you are. Too often we want to be somewhere else, doing something else, with other people than whoever we’re with right now, getting things other than what we already have. But where we are is great! Who we’re with (including just ourselves) is already perfect. What we have is enough. What we’re doing already is amazing.
  5. Be grateful for the small pleasures in life. Berries, a square of dark chocolate, tea — simple pleasures that are so much better than rich desserts, sugary drinks, fried foods if you learn to enjoy them fully. A good book borrowed from the library, a walk with a loved one in the park, the fine exertion of a short hard workout, the crazy things your child says, the smile of a stranger, walking barefoot on grass, a moment of quiet as the morning wakens and the world still rests. These little pleasures are living well, without needing much.
  6. Be driven by joy and not fear. People are driven by the fear of missing out, or the fear of change, or the fear of losing something. These are not good reasons to do things. Instead, do things because they give you or others joy. Let your work be driven not because you need to support a lifestyle and are afraid of changing it, but by the joy of doing something creative, meaningful, valuable.
  7. Practice compassion. Compassion for others creates loving, rewarding relationships. Compassion for yourself means forgiving yourself for past mistakes, treating yourself well (including eating well and exercising), loving yourself as you are.
  8. Forget about productivity and numbers. They matter not at all. If you are driven to do things to reach certain numbers (goals), you have probably lost sight of what’s important. If you are striving to be productive, you are filling your days with things just to be productive, which is a waste of a day. This day is a gift, and shouldn’t be crammed with every possible thing — spend time enjoying it and what you’re doing.


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