Are you living or just existing? It’s a question which many people feel compelled to answer.
Because on the one hand, many of us are told growing up that we live in a “free” society. One where everyone can follow their dreams.
But does the way you currently live your life make you feel free? Does it make you feel like you could drop everything right this moment and follow your dreams?
If, for you, the answer is “no”, you might just be existing rather than living…
Living – from childhood to adulthood
Many people don’t even consider the thought that they could be doing something different with their lives until it is too late. Simply existing is an easy enough rut to fall into:
After all, you need to work to eat and have a roof over your head, right? You need to pay those bills. Every part of society seems geared to tell us how important it is that we do what people normally do. But what is “normal”?
Get a job. Work grinding hours. Come home. Maybe get a credit card so we can work more grinding hours to pay it off, working towards those two weeks or so every year when we can put our feet up or indulge in some glorious escapism. How can that be “normal”?
If you have or had a child, you would tell them to do whatever makes them happy. Go! Live your dreams. But as soon as we reach adulthood, we start to lose our joy in the simple act of living.
We start following the “rules”. We start doing what society tells us we “should” be doing.
Now, imagine that child is you. Are you still confident that you are living and not existing?
What does existing mean?
In this context, existing can best be thought of as “living on autopilot”. You simply go through each day after day, following the prescribed path of things you “have” to do without any thought as to your dreams or what you want to do.
For most people who even consider whether they are living or just existing, this means going to a job which they hate – or, at best, tolerate – for around eight hours or more every week day.
You roll out of bed because you have to go to work. You never do anything different, because change is frightening. You do your daily chores instead of thinking about what it is really like to be alive in that moment.
If that sounds like you, you might be at the start of your own battle, pitting existing vs living.
What is the difference between living and existing?
The difference between living and existing is pretty easy to define then:
If you are living – really living – you wake up with a purpose more than “I must pay the bills” each day. You have a dream and, for at least some of the time, you chase it.
If you are alive, you are probably also grateful for what you have. You don’t have to chase money-based dreams of things you want to be able to buy.
Someone who is living isn’t afraid of change. They know that life doesn’t stay the same forever. Things happen.
They live each moment as it happens and are content enough with themselves that they don’t need to be ceaselessly striving for the next promotion, the next pay rise, the next slightly better job which they will still – at best – tolerate.
Existing is just getting the things you need to survive.
How to start living
The overriding factor which often separates someone who is living from someone who is existing is control.
Externally, this means being controlled by society or peers – allowing what other people think of who you are and what you do to influence your actions.
Internally, this means being controlled by your emotions – especially fear – or your ego.
In order to take back control from these external and internal factors, there are several things you can do:
1) Ask yourself “why?”
Why are you doing this? Why are you feeling this way? Be honest with yourself.
2) Learn when to say “no”
Do you really want to go out for drinks to network with colleagues? Would you rather have a night to yourself working on your hobby or dream?
Don’t always do things because you “have” to. Check to see if you want to. Learn when to say “no”.
3) Find what makes you happy
Get to know yourself a little better. What makes you happy?
Even if you don’t know specific activities, remember that you are living and alive and that is a wonderful thing. Learn to find joy in the little things and the things you already have.
4) Get some perspective
It can be hard to know what you need to change from inside the same rut you’ve been existing in. Get away from it all. Don’t holiday for escapism – do it to get some perspective. Think. Consider.
We find that this is one of the reasons why people choose to visit us at the Spirit Vine Center. Ayahuasca has been used for just this reason for centuries. In recent times, numerous well-known people have written about their ayahuasca experiences and how it led them to serious career or life changes. There’s a reason for that.
5) Find a purpose
However you choose to go about getting some perspective, the next step is to find a purpose. A purpose will get you out of bed in the morning better than any alarm clock.
Remember – “getting money to pay the bills” is an existence. It’s not a purpose.
6) Let it go
So many causes of stress and regret could be overcome if we simply let go of what was bothering us.
It’s easier said that done, of course. But if you want to be living rather than just existing, it’s something we all have to face.