How to Live with Gusto

There is an ancient Hebrew teaching that upon our death, not only will we be called upon to account for our sins, but also for every permissible pleasure we refused.

Mind you, this isn’t permission to act irresponsibly or immoderately. Rather, it assumes that within our life falls enough moments of joy, love and pleasure to temper the bad, and that to pass these moments up is to return the gift of life unopened, or at least partially unused.

istock_000003781332xsmall.jpgWhat a glorious attitude! Life is meant to be lived. But living life with a full appreciation for the beauty and fullness of experience doesn’t come naturally to everyone. In fact, some aspects of our culture seem bound and determined to make us feel guilty for any pleasure or respite we seek, no matter how innocent, positive or life affirming.

Living with gusto takes practice. Many of my coaching clients report that, with the constant pressure to do and be so much these days… they find themselves present, yet removed. They’re anxious to find a way back to being fully available, and to use one of my favorite expressions… to be alive, awake, and aware in every aspect of their being.

Here are five tips you can try to help you open up your heart and your life, and grab hold of everything they both have to offer.

1. Change your paradigm from “Why?” to “Why not?”

“Why” starts with a “no” and requires being convinced into a “yes.” It’s suspicious, cautious and gives the impression that the question at hand is almost certainly a bad idea. Given that starting point, it is almost always easier to come up with reasons against, rather than reasons for, doing anything.

On the other hand, “why not” almost seems to playfully dare you to come up with a “no.” It’s a fun, lighthearted and daring approach to life that acknowledges that, yes, there may be some potential hazards or pitfalls, but that the joy received will more than pay for any negatives incurred.

2. Try one new thing every day.

Eat somewhere you’ve never eaten. Try a on a new color or hairstyle. Stop by the cosmetic’s counter at the mall and sample a scent you have never worn. Take a different route to work, sit in a new spot during class or play hooky and spend the entire day learning how to paint with watercolors in the park.

Whether it’s little habits and routines or a complete schedule overhaul, trying something new every day will keep life fresh, interesting and anchored in the present. Remember: the opposite of life is not death, but rather indifference and boredom.

3. Put family and friends first.

Nothing gives life sweetness and joy like spending it with the people you love. Being there for the events that matter to your children, taking time to simply be with your spouse, joining your friends on outings or just hanging out – all of these should be the point of your life, not the perks for a job well done.

Yes, making a living is important. But what good is making a living if that’s all the living you do? Many of us spend far more money trying to make up for the emptiness in our lives with purchases than we’d lose if we cut back our hours at work and filled them with the things that matter to us most. Next time you find yourself dropping a sizable amount of money on something you don’t really need, but feel “entitled” to or “deserve” for all the hard work you’ve done and the sacrifices you’ve made, consider if that money wouldn’t be better “spent” by giving it up to do the things you love to do and being with the ones you love.

4. Everything in moderation. Including moderation.

Our bodies and minds evolved to deal with a natural cycle of feast and famine, and with periods of utter tedium broken up by moments of sheer terror or utter joy. Feast days followed or preceded by fasts, times of rest counterbalanced with times of intense activity, time spent in serious pursuits as well as indulging in play. Today, we often ignore these natural variations and try to balance our lives over far too short a period. But in reality, balance happens over a lifetime, not a day or a week or even a year. Give yourself permission to really focus on and indulge in whatever life puts in front of you at the moment, knowing that later on you’ll be swinging the pendulum back the other way.

5. Share of yourself.

If you find something you love, share it with someone. If you have a skill, use it to help others. If you find pleasure in something, find a way to do it so that others can do it with you and share your joy. If you have more than you need, share with someone who has less.

Not everything that comes to us in this life is intended just for us. It’s our job to pass on our talent, skills, desires, resources, and ideas to those who need them or who can benefit from them. Like using one candle to light another, sharing of yourself increases the light in the world.

Thanks to for including this post in the Total Mind and Body Fitness Carnival, to Chinese Medicine Notes for featuring this post in the Carnival of Healing, to The Tall Poppy for publishing this post in the Living a Real Life Carnival, and to Living by Design for inclusion in the Living by Design Carnival.

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