Living a Life from Which We Don’t Need Escape
Do you feel good about your life?
Are you generally excited about your days (or at least something about your days)? Do you feel the activities that make up your days have elements that are meaningful, fulfilling, and fun? When many consider their day-to-day lives, they may think about them as something to get through—something to endure until they can get on with the fun or meaningful part of their lives. Something they have to do until they can escape.
But it’s possible to build a life from which we don’t need to escape—a life that gives us what we need. But it takes some effort, and it requires us to be intentional, open-minded, and creative.
What is special about the escape?
When we think about a break in our routine, it might be something regular, like weekends, something that we do periodically, like going on vacation, or we may have in mind a permanent break, like retirement. We may feel like we’re enduring the ordinary and doing the work so that we can enjoy the “special” times. But an important question we should ask ourselves is, what makes the special times special? We may have opportunities to try new or adventurous activities, we may be able to go places we’ve never been to before, or we may just have a chance to relax. But regardless, it’s important to identify what it is about those times that makes them special. By doing that, we can incorporate those elements in the rest of our lives. You might make the argument that you don’t have time or the opportunities for those elements in your day-to-day life, and it’s true that we are limited in certain ways, but we should never use that as an excuse to categorize our whole lives as ordinary and only our escapes as special.
Making all elements of your life meaningful
In order to avoid certain elements of our lives being ordinary or monotonous and only some being fun or meaningful, it’s important to make the most of all our life elements—to be present in and make the most of each moment (see Something New—How to Keep Growing in the Midst of Routine). It’s OK and very natural to look forward to different parts of our lives, but it’s important to examine our motivations. Is it because we are getting away from our day-to-day lives, or moving toward something else?
Everyone needs a change from time to time. If we’ve worked for a year since our last vacation, the vacation may feel like an escape. When this is happening, it can be helpful to shift our mindset—to think of a change in routine as one more step in making our entire lives fulfilling. As much as we all look forward to a vacation, it’s important to have enough perspective to continue to live in the moment—to make what we’re doing now as meaningful as what we will be doing on vacation (see Work).
It’s also important to create some variety in our day-to-day lives so that they don’t just seem like a stream of unchanging activities. We can try new things, meet new people, challenge ourselves professionally with something we’ve never tried before. The options are many. There may be some things that we can’t do unless we travel or have some free time, but there is a whole world of things we can do if we are open-minded and have the courage to challenge ourselves.
To what are we escaping?
When we think about escaping our day-to-day lives, it’s tempting to think about the exotic and exciting. It’s tempting to focus on the fact that our time will be our own. But it’s important to remember that wherever we go and whatever we do, we will be in our own bodies, in our minds and with our thoughts, that we will have the same connections to the universe. Why is this important? Because when the novelty of something new fades, when time becomes something we need to fill rather than something we never have enough of, we will need to find something meaningful to move toward and occupy us (see Exist). This is especially true of retirement, but it is also true for vacations and any other escape we might have. It’s not just about getting away—it’s about moving toward something, and it’s up to us to make that something fulfilling.
When the novelty of any new experience wears off, we are left with a new routine—a new ordinary. It’s another opportunity to make the “new day-to-day” extraordinary and help us understand how to make our regular lives extraordinary too.
Ultimately, you are who you are. There is no escaping you.