“The value of life lies not in the length of days, but in the use we make of them; one may live long yet live very little.” – Michel de Montaigne
What is the difference between “existing” and “living”? This question has often been on my mind after starting a family and raising children. Is it happiness and contentment, accomplishment and legacy, or maybe giving and serving others? I believe they all are–and when I think about it, most of the people whom I have known who have high levels of discontent in their lives are those who have not made the decisions to do things in their lives that they truly love, that they truly enjoy, and that gives them a strong feeling of accomplishment.
Still, life is not all about accomplishment–many of my best days have been days when I have done nothing at all. Those days, though, have helped me to recuperate my energy and enthusiasm so that I could make more of the days that followed.
Those other days, though, are all about what we get done–and how that helps other people, how that contributes to the greater good, how that gives us a sense of having done something worthwhile. When you think about it, what more can there be to life than contributing positively to the world? And most likely we will not see the results of all that we do, but in order to live, we must make the most of our lives. We must strive to constantly make decisions to put ourselves in situations in which we can contribute without regard for the return–invest our service in good faith and love.
Of course we need to make a living–we need to take care of our families and meet their needs. In order to use our days effectively, we must give these pursuits our all, and do them to the best of our abilities with the realization that in doing so, we are making valuable contributions by helping other people, even if it is indirectly. And this is always a choice, and ours alone to make. Give to others and give it your all–don’t just exist… live life!
Questions to consider:
What, to you, is the difference between “living” and “existing”?
How does it become so easy for us to start to coast through life without expecting ourselves to make decisions that will cause us to make more of each of the days that we live?
What does it mean to you to “live long yet live very little”?
For further thought:
“I have never given very deep thought to a philosophy of life, though I have a few ideas that I think are useful to me. One is that you do whatever comes your way as well as you can, and another is that you think as little as possible about yourself and as much as possible about other people and about things that are interesting. The third is that you get more joy out of giving joy to others and should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.” – Eleanor Roosevelt