A Healthy Way to Aspire to a Better Life

By Leo Babauta

I have a friend who is unhappy with his life – being in debt, lonely, with a job he doesn’t like, in a town he doesn’t like.

I asked him what ideals he has about life that his current life isn’t meeting. He reflected for awhile, and said he wants to find work that he’s passionate about and have friends who care about him.

I agreed that those are great things to aspire to … but that he might try finding things about himself and his life that he appreciates. He might try accepting the reality and finding the goodness in the present, rather than comparing his present life to his ideal life and finding it wanting.

The comparison, the ideals, are causing him dissatisfaction. The reality isn’t so bad if we let go of the ideals and just see the present moment as it is. It’s been my experience that when I look at any moment, even uncomfortable ones, I find that there is a lot to be curious about, a lot to appreciate, a lot to discover and love.

He agreed, but then asked whether he should give up all his aspirations. Which is a great question! But no, I’m not suggesting you give up your ambitions and aspirations. It’s only difficult when we attach too tightly to them, and then we can become unhappy with the present.

What I’m suggesting is a loosening of attachment to these ideals, a turning to the present to appreciate it and get to know what’s in front of us better. Once you do this, and accept what’s in front of you, you reach a place of peace.

Here’s the key: from this place of peace, you can then take action towards your aspirations … you can find your passionate work, not because you’re so dissatisfied with your current life, but from a place of acceptance with your current life and a desire to do something good for yourself.

Either way, you take action towards your aspiration, but it can be either from a place of dissatisfaction (and wanting to change something crappy) … or a place of acceptance and peace, and wanting to do something good for yourself (or others).

Here’s the method in summary:

  1. Notice your dissatisfaction.
  2. Notice your ideals that you’re holding tightly to.
  3. Loosen your hold on these ideals, and turn to the present moment.
  4. Really see the present moment with curiosity, find something to appreciate.
  5. Accept the present moment completely, with love.
  6. From this place of peace, respond, take action. It might be toward an aspiration, or not, but it’s a response from a good place.

This method takes a lot of practice, and I’m still not very good at it. I enjoy the practice, though.