Live Life to Its Fullest: 39 Ways to Live and Not Merely Exist
“The proper function of man is to live – not to exist.” – Jack London
Too often we go through life on autopilot, going through the motions and having each day pass like the one before it. That’s fine and comfortable but not until you have gone through another year without having done anything or having really lived life. Or when you have reached old age and looked back on life with regrets.
Honestly, none of that is fine.
If you want to truly live life, to really experience it, to enjoy it to the fullest, instead of barely scraping by and only living a life of existence, you need to find ways to break free from the mold and drink from life.
What follows is just a list of ideas that I hope are useful reminders on how to live life to its fullest. We all need reminders sometimes. If you find this useful, print it out, and start using it. Today.
Fall in love, if you aren’t already. If you have, fall in love with your partner all over again. Abandon caution and let your heart be broken. Love family members, friends, anyone- it doesn’t have to be romantic love. Love all of humanity, one person at a time.
Don’t let yourself be shut indoors. Go out when it’s raining. Walk on the beach or hike through the woods. Swim in a freezing lake and bask in the sun. Play sports or walk barefoot through grass. Pay close attention to nature.
Don’t just eat your food, but really enjoy it. Feel the texture and the bursts of flavors. Savor every bite. If you limit your intake of sweets, it will make the small treats you give yourself (berries or dark chocolate are my favorites) even more enjoyable. And when you do have them, really, really savor them slowly.
Create a morning ritual
Wake early and greet the day. Watch the sun rise. Out loud, tell yourself that you will not waste this day which is a gift. You will be compassionate to your fellow human beings, and live every moment to its fullest. Stretch, meditate or exercise as part of your ritual. Enjoy some coffee.
We often live our lives too cautiously, worried about what might go wrong. Be bold and risk it all. Quit your job and start a business for yourself. Go up to that girl you’ve liked for a long time and ask her out. What do you have to lose?
Try to find the things in life that excite you, and then go after them. Make life one exciting adventure after another.
Find your passion
Similar to the above tip, this one asks you to find your calling. Make your living by doing the thing you love to do. First, think about what you really love to do. There may be many things. Find out how you can make a living doing it. It may be difficult, but you only live once.
Get out of your cubicle
Do you sit all day in front of computer, shuffling papers, taking phone calls, and chatting on the Internet? Don’t waste your days like this. Break free from the cubicle environment, and do your work on a laptop in a coffee shop, on a boat or in a log cabin. This may require a change of jobs or becoming a freelancer. It’s worth it.
Turn off the TV
How many hours will we waste away in front of the boob tube? How many hours do we have to live? Do the math, then unplug the TV. Only plug it back in when you have a DVD of a movie you love. Otherwise, keep it off and find other stuff to do. Don’t know what to do? Read further.
Pull away from Internet
You’re reading something on the Internet right now. And with the exception of this article, it’s just wasting away of your precious time. You cannot get those minutes back. Unplug the Internet, then get out of your office or house right now. Go and do something.
Sure, you want to travel some day. Maybe when you have vacation time or when you’re older. But why wait?
Find a way to take a trip, if not this month, then sometime soon. You may need to sell your car or stop your cable bill and stop eating out to do it, but make it happen. You are too young to not see the world. If need be, find a way to make a living by freelancing, then work while you travel. Only work an hour or two a day. Don’t check email but once a week. Then, use the rest of the time to see the world.
Rediscover what’s important
Take an hour and make a list of everything that’s important to you. Add to it everything that you want to do in life. Now, cut that list down to 4 to 5 things- just the most important things in your life.
This is your core list. Focus your life on these things and make time for them.
Eliminate everything else
What’s going on in your life that’s not on that short list? All that stuff is wasting your time, pulling your attention from what’s important. As much as possible, simplify your life by eliminating the stuff that’s not on your short list.
Get off the couch and go for a walk. Eventually, try running or do some push ups and crunches. Swim, bike, row or go for a hike. Whatever you do, get active and you’ll love it. Life will be more alive.
Learn to recognize the negative thoughts you have. These are the self-doubts, the criticisms of others, the complaints, the reasons you can’t do something. Then, stop yourself when you have these thoughts and replace them with positive ones.
Open your heart
Is your heart a closed bundle of scar tissues? Learn to open it. Have it ready to receive love and to give love unconditionally. If you have a problem with this, talk to someone about it.
Kiss in the rain
Seize the moment and be romantic. Raining outside? Grab your lover and give her a passionate kiss. Driving home? Stop the car and pick some wildflowers. Send her a love note. Dress sexy for him.
Face your fears
What are you most afraid of? What is holding you back?
Whatever it is, recognize it and face it. Do what you are most afraid of. Only by facing our fears can we be free of them.
When you suffer, suffer
Life isn’t all about fun and games. Suffering is an inevitable part of life.
We lose our jobs and we lose our lovers. We lose our pets and we get physically injured or sick.
Learn to feel the pain intensely and really grieve. This is a part of life, so really feel the pain. And when you’re done, move on, and find joy.
Life moves along at such a rapid pace these days. It’s not healthy and it’s not conducive to living. Practice doing everything slowly- from eating to walking to driving to working to reading. Enjoy what you do. Learn to move at a snail’s pace.
Get out of your house and manicured neighborhoods and find those who live in worse conditions. Meet them, talk to them, understand them. You can even live among them and be one of them. Give up your materialistic lifestyle.
Help at homeless soup kitchens. Learn compassion and learn to help ease the suffering of others. Help the sick, those with disabilities, and those who are dying.
See Also: The Power of Volunteering
Play with children
Children, more than anyone else, know how to live. They experience everything in the moment fully. When they get hurt, they really cry. When they play, they really have fun. Learn from them, instead of thinking you know so much more than them. Play with them and learn to be joyful like them.
Talk to old people
There is no one wiser, more experienced, and more learned than those who have lived through life. They can tell you amazing stories, give you advice on making a marriage last or staying out of debt. You can learn from them and avoid their mistakes. They are the wisdom of our society. Take advantage of their existence while they’re still around.
Learn new skills
Constantly improve yourself instead of standing still, not because you’re so imperfect now, but because it is gratifying and satisfying. You should accept yourself as you are and learn to love who you are. However, don’t stop trying to improve because the process of improvement is life itself.
For some, this means finding God, Jesus, Allah or Buddha. For some, this means becoming in tune with the spirits of our ancestors or with nature. Others consider it as inner energy. Whatever spirituality means for you, rediscover it and its power.
Don’t leave the joy of retirement until you are too old to enjoy it. Do it now while you’re still young. It makes working that much more worth it. Find ways to take a year off every few years. Save up, sell your home, your possessions, and travel. Live simply, but live without having to work. Enjoy life, then go back to work and save up enough money to do it again in a couple of years.
Despite the tip above that we should find excitement, there is value in doing nothing as well. Not doing nothing as in reading, taking a nap, watching TV or meditating. Learn to be still, in silence, to hear our inner voice and to be in tune with life. Do this daily if possible.
Stop playing video games
They might be fun, but they can take up way too much time. If you spend a lot of time playing online games, consider going a week without it. Then, find something else to do outside.
Watch sunsets daily
Make it a daily ritual to find a good spot to watch the sunset, perhaps having a light dinner while you do so.
Stop reading magazines
They’re basically crap and they waste your time and money. Cancel your subscriptions and walk past them at the news stands. If you have to read something, read a trashy novel or even better, read Dumb Little Man once a day and be done.
Break out from ruts
Do you do things the same way every day? Change it up and try something new. Take a different route to work. Start your day out differently. Approach work from a new angle. Look at things from new perspectives.
Stop watching the news
It’s depressing and useless. If you’re a news junky, this may be difficult. I haven’t watch TV news or read a newspaper regularly in about two years. It hasn’t hurt me a bit.
Laugh till you cry
Laughing is one of the best ways to live. Tell jokes and laugh your head off. Watch an awesome comedy. Learn to laugh at anything. Roll on the ground laughing. You’ll love it.
Not only control over yourself, but control over others. It’s a bad habit to try to control others as it will only lead to stress and unhappiness for yourself and those you try to control. Let others live and live for yourself. Lose control of yourself now and then, too.
Crying is an amazing release. So, cry at sad movies, funeral or when you are hurt. It releases these emotions and allows us to cleanse ourselves.
Make an awesome dessert
I like to make warm, soft chocolate cake. But even berries dipped in chocolate, crepes with ice cream and fruit, fresh apple pie or homemade chocolate chip cookies or brownies are great. This isn’t an every day thing, but an occasional treat thing. It’s wonderful.
Try something new, every week
Ask yourself. “What new thing shall I try this week?”
Then, be sure to do it. You don’t have to learn a new language in one week, but seek new experiences. Give it a try. You might decide you want to keep it in your life.
Be in the moment
Instead of thinking about things you need to do or things that have happened to you, think about what you are doing right now.
What is around you? What are you experiencing? Learn to do this as much as possible through meditation. It’ll teach you how to put your focus back to the present as much as you can in everything you do. It’ll help you be more aware on how to live life to its fullest.
Written by Leo Babauta, a writer, runner, vegetarian, and the owner of Zen Habits.
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Author: Jay White
I started Dumb Little Man so great authors, writers and bloggers could share their life "hacks" and tips for success with everyone. I hope you find something you like!