Living Or Existing?

“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 … 

It seems to me that society has become infatuated with living forever–or at least living extended lives. With the launch of Calico, even companies such as Google have jumped in to searching for ways to increase life expectancy and perhaps discover immortality. Yet when I see others trying to escape or avoid death, I immediately begin to wonder as to the reasons why. Is it fear or despair? Is it unhappiness or discontent? Do such individuals truly feel that living life completely, even for just a day, is perhaps not fulfilling enough? <!–more–> 

When I became a father, I started to think more about family and raising children–about where my life was going and about where I wanted it to be. I began to question how and where I was seeking purpose and fulfillment in my life; to ask myself, “Am I truly living my life… or simply existing?” The answers I found led me to make changes in those places of my life that were perhaps selfish or not exactly life giving. In addition, I came to the realization that the purpose of life is much greater than simply surviving the time I am alive… it is about happiness and contentment, accomplishment and legacy, compassion, love, and kindness, service and sacrifice, giving and receiving, growing and sharing. And when I think of the individuals I know who have the highest amount of discontent in their lives, they are the ones who have not made–or are not making–the decisions to do the things in their lives that they truly love–things that they deeply enjoy and that give them a strong feeling of accomplishment and purpose.

There is a song by Tim McGraw in which he sings about a man that says, “Someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying.” And although it ironic that one would consider “living” to be the process of “dying,” when we are faced with our own mortality, we often begin to live our lives more fully, more deeply, and with much more purpose and zeal, and that is the difference between living and simply existing.

Life is not all about accomplishment–many of my best days have yielded little to nothing at all. They have, however, helped me to rest and recuperate, to contemplate and meditate, to wonder and marvel, to experience gratitude and appreciation, to add new layers of paint to the multi-colored canvas of my life. Life is truly about using our days effectively. It is about making a living and carrying out the necessary duties of the day. It is about caring for those we are responsible for ensuring that they have everything they need to live their day to the fullest. It is about giving our all and performing to the best of our abilities–knowing that in doing so, we are making valuable contributions to the lives of others. As it has been said before, “One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.”

Invest in yourself by making full use of the day that lies before you.

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


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