When it comes down to it, life is an exercise in putting together a multitude of components that are part of, or could be part of, our lives. We are constantly trying to piece together the right elements in the right combination to be happy, to make a living, to raise our families, and to become the people we want to be.
I’ve always thought of these as “blocks of life.” We can think of the fundamental blocks that make up our lives—family, job, friends, activities, and outlook—but when we think about what each of these is made of, we find that there are an enormous number of components and potential components that we might incorporate into our lives and many ways that we can organize them that would give our lives different emphases.
Our life is filled with borders—those lines, both tangible and symbolic, that delineate our lives. Some of these are real, while others are imagined. Some are immovable; others are flexible. Some are imposed upon us, while others are self-imposed. How we behave in relation to these borders can have a great impact on what kind of lives we lead and how successful we are in achieving our goals.
On the surface, this may sound selfish or self-centered, but if you dig deeper into what this means, it should mean just the opposite. Putting a mark on the world that is uniquely yours. Making your life about you means bringing your own special set of talents, passions, and your own energy to everything that you do. By doing this, you will be giving the best of yourself to the world.
Be generous, but bring your generosity to bear in ways that are important and meaningful to you. You might say, “We should be generous to all those in need, not only those people and causes that we care about.” But if you think about it, it is not possible to be generous to everyone who needs it. We all have to make choices, and if our generosity is targeted and focused, it will be much more effective, and we will be more motivated to be generous.
We all make mistakes. Some of us (probably most of us) have made some doozies in our day. Sometimes we may feel that there’s no way to recover—no way we can move on with our lives.
It’s true that bad stuff happens when we make mistakes; they can have serious consequences. They may result in people getting hurt or being otherwise impacted. When this happens, it can affect the way we feel about ourselves. We may feel guilty or ashamed. We’ve not only harmed the person or people that had to suffer the consequences of our mistakes, we’ve also harmed ourselves.
When we make mistakes, sometimes our knee-jerk reactions are more harmful than helpful. We may try to hide from what we’ve done. We may try to deny that it happened, deny that there were consequences, or deny our complicity. We not only are failing to own up to what we did and the consequences of that action (or inaction), we are also being dishonest. And that dishonesty can become part of who we are, and ultimately add on to our guilt and shame.
Each of us has things we’d like to change about ourselves. We might want to eat less or exercise more. We might want to be more assertive. We might want to read more or become experts in something. We might want to be more adventurous.
How many of our desired changes would fundamentally alter who we are? Are we evolving as people?
Evolution has a lot more nuance than change. Evolution means we are building on what came before. It means that exposure to some events, ideas, or changes in circumstance has resulted in our moving forward in a different way.
Many things can lead to our personal evolution. Examples include an epiphany we’ve had about how to make our lives better, a recognition of some truth that had previously evaded us, a wake-up call we’ve had about our health or our state of mind, or an experience we’ve had that alters our worldview.