In the end, how can we measure a life well-lived?
Is it by the numbers in a person’s bank account? Perhaps by the number of people who know this person’s name or follow them on Twitter? Or maybe it’s the hours they put in on the job? Things like this can be measured, quantified, and analyzed. You can turn them into figures, put them in writing, point them and say, “Look. This was a great life, right?”
Except it doesn’t work that way. A life well-lived is beyond measure.
A great life is found in measureless moments. It’s within the space of an embrace, a smile, a moment of reflection, and so much more. These moments don’t look good on spreadsheets and graphs, but when all is done, they’re what make life truly worth living.
So if you can’t plan a good life by the numbers, what can you do?
You can start moving away from a life marked by numbers, and toward a life marked by moments. Here’s how you can start.
Spend on Experiences Rather Than Things
So you’ve achieved the American Dream. You have a decent salary, you’ve started a family, and you’ve bought a home. Now you’re filling that home with all kinds of shiny toys.
But, still, you lie awake at night with a nagging sense that “something just isn’t right.”
That feeling comes because things don’t make us happy. Experiences do. And that’s what you need to be spending your hard-won money on if you want to live a life without measure.
This means traveling the world, going on adventures, and doing things you’ve never done before. Experiences don’t have to be expensive—a night out on the town in the next city over can be all you need.
This is a hard lesson to learn. After all, if buy a nice, new 100-inch television, you can show that off. If you get that new Ford Mustang, everyone can see its gleam. But what measurable gain does an experience leave you with? What do you have to show for it after it’s over?
The answer: absolutely nothing, at least not outwardly. Experiences aren’t something you can show off. No—they give you something infinitely more valuable and intangible—joy.
Material goods fade into the background over time. That giant television will eventually just feel like another boring part of your house. But experiences? Those are always fresh and new.
Not only that, but experiences also connect you with others much more than material goods ever could. Shared experiences become the stories we share with one another—the stories we continue to bond over later in life.
There are many ways to live a life beyond measure, but going for experiences instead of things is one of the most effective. So drop the television and pick up a backpack—you’ll gain a life well-lived.
Chose Love Over Work
Ask most older people what they wish they had done different in life, and they’ll tell you this: “I wish I hadn’t worked so much.”
That’s right—contrary to the American, Protestant work ethic handed down from generation to generation, putting in 12 hours a day at the office does not bring happiness. It brings fatigue, health problems, and a decidedly empty life. Work is simply one of many things we use to fill the very human void that exists in each heart.
Love fills that void. Remember this: as an employee, you are replaceable. As a spouse, mother, or father, you are not. You are infinitely valued by those who love you—these are the relationships that bring joy.
Spending more time with family and friends and a little less time at the office may not net you the measurable gains that many crave, but in the end, you’ll gain something far more valuable. You’ll be happier, healthier, and more relaxed. And what’s more, the people who love you will be happier, as well.
Choose love over work. You weren’t built for a cubicle or office, after all. You were made for the arms of those who care about you.
Be True to Yourself
There’s no place you’ll ever be more comfortable than your own skin. So why try to live in someone else’s?
From birth to death, there will always be people who try to tell you how to live. They’ll tell you how much you need to earn, what toys to buy, what people to surround yourself with, and even how to dress, act, and speak.
Take their words into account, sure, but don’t take them as your life’s Gospel. To live a good life, you have to be true to yourself.
Being true to you means getting to know yourself. What are your dreams? What do you want? What makes you happy?
You can begin the process of becoming more You by asking the question, “Am I being true to myself?” every time you make a decision—especially the important ones. This will help you figure out what you really want.
After that, it’s all about giving yourself permission to do what you want. As long as you’re being responsible, not hurting anyone else, and are taking care of yourself, do whatever it is that you wish to do, even if the results don’t quite match what the rest of society is telling you.
Your uniqueness can never be measured, nor can the happiness you’ll find when you embrace it be quantified. Be true to yourself, and you’ll find peace.
Finally, the last big ingredient for a life beyond measure is simple gratitude.
Intentionally practicing gratitude naturally leads to a more positive day-to-day experience, and although the results aren’t measurable in dollars, toys, and trinkets, they make for a great life.
Take a moment to note new things that you’re grateful for each day. These don’t have to be major events—you can concentrate on how thankful you are that someone smiled at you today, for example, or that you got to see a beautiful bird land on your windowsill.
Once you make a habit of noting things you’re grateful for, start writing them down.Grab a notebook and designate it as your gratitude journal. Or if a journal feels too stale, use something like a mason jar by writing down the moments you’re grateful for on slips of paper and sticking them in. As the jar fills up, you’ll visibly see just how many happy moments you have each day.
This is, above all, a mindset. Gratitude is a joy-inducing habit that can quickly become a part of your personality with a little consistency. The happiness you’ll gain is well-worth the work it takes to change your outlook.
The key to living a life beyond measure is to let go of your attachment to quantifying your life. Numbers are great for some things, but they can’t tell you if you’re happy. They can’t tell you if you’re at peace or if those around you truly care about you.
Endeavor, instead, to live a life defined by experiences, love, being true to yourself, and gratefulness. These are the factors that make a life truly beyond measure.