How to “live your best life” has become quite the little cottage industry these days. Everyone seems to be writing articles, books, or hip-hop songs with tips on how to live your best life, or that describe what it’s actually like to be living your best life at this particular moment in time.
Please. Seriously, enough.
I never thought I’d long for the good old days of YOLO, the “You Only Live Once” mantra and pseudo-motivational lifestyle manifesto that encourages people to live every moment of their live as if they’re starring in a Mountain Dew commercial with hints of Jagermeister and Red Bull shots thrown in for good measure. Ride in a shopping cart off the roof of a two-story house into a swimming pool that lacks water? YOLO!
At least a casual observer could dismiss the shopping cart adventure-seeker as a foolish buffoon hell-bent on ending his apparently singular/YOLO life prematurely, or at least living a significant portion of it in extreme pain.
But living our best life? Or, worse yet, you living your best life and insisting on sharing every sometimes-admittedly-impressive-but-often-rather-mundane moment of it with me? Thanks, but I’ll pass.
And right there is where the conflict lies. If you are unequivocally and indisputably living your best life – at least in your mind – why do you feel compelled to share aspects of that apparent top-notch, without-equal existence on social media? Clearly, there’s a little spot in your gray matter carved out for gaining acceptance and adoration from those who occupy the world around you, but if you were truly living your best life wouldn’t you be entirely satisfied and content to do the “best” things you do when no one is looking, or without forcing others to look and respond with various levels of awe and affirmation?
I would guess it’s pretty hard to find a professional mental health practitioner in the industry who would conclude that it’s possible to “live your best life” if you’re not at least reasonably at peace with the person you were at one point, the person you are now, and the person you might be one day in the future. Also, I can’t help but think that people who share on social media so many of the things they do as part of their daily existence, whether they’re mundane or truly spectacular, are compensating for something they’re lacking deep within. That doesn’t sound like the “best” of anything to me, but more like room for improvement. There’s no getting around it: We all have plenty of room for growth and development, even if our toes are in the sand, we’re reading the latest great novel while enjoying a cocktail, our spouse and kids are splashing in the water, and later that evening we’re going to accept an award from our peers basically cementing the fact that we’re among the most lofty of the upper crust in our profession and/or life.
I’m not trying to pick on anyone or be particularly mean or critical. Honestly, I’m not. It’s a losing battle, after all, placing a grain of sand on the tracks in front of this endless train traveling at lightning speed in the hopes of derailing it. Social media is basically the way most people stay in touch these days, and I get it.
And I’m guilty of a bit of hypocrisy here, too, of hopping a ride on that same train from time to time. Checking my Facebook page, it looks like my wife and I shared a picture a few weeks ago after a couple hours spent on the sidelines of a cold, rainy and windy high school soccer game. We were freezing and soaked, so we escaped to the closest sports bar for a drink to warm up our insides and ease our frustrations over the game not being postponed, and we took the predictable selfie to mark the occasion, and actually discussed it for a minute or so before deciding to share it on social media.
But I didn’t include in my status update words indicating that I was “living my best life” or even trying to “live my best life.” I was having a beer and some appetizers on a Thursday evening with my lovely, amazing bride after watching our youngest son play his tail off in horrible conditions for any outdoor activity. Make no mistake, life was pretty rootin’-tootin’ good at the moment we held my wife’s phone out in front of our faces and snapped the photo, but by no means was it my “best” effort. And did I mention it was several weeks ago, not two hours?
If you’re hiking up a mountain and the views are breathtaking – and, man, aren’t you in amazing physical shape and blessed with such tremendous looks – go ahead and share your photos with me because, I’m not going to lie, they look incredible and a couple molecules of my being are admittedly a bit envious of your prowess for dominating at high altitude, not to mention your overall physical stamina and appearance. But don’t try to pump yourself up under false pretenses and at the same time - you know you’re guilty of this – rub my nose in it a little bit by claiming that you’re living your “best life.” No, you’re not. It’s a pretty good life, no doubt, but you’re getting some fresh air and exercise, and you’re fortunate enough to live in altitude.
Maybe if you were truly living your best life, you’d come down from that mountain and head to the nearest homeless shelter and volunteer. Maybe you’d help build a house, or read books to kids in a classroom. Maybe you’d get closer to your best life if you put in some meaningful time trying to make others’ lives a little less bad.
Of course, I don’t spend any significant time volunteering anywhere. My biggest contribution to the world each day involves trying to be a decent husband and dad, maybe writing a few meaningful words that a few people will read, and being the first to say hi when my path crosses with other people.
That won’t qualify as the definition of “best” in anyone’s life dictionary, but it’s good enough for me, and for the most part I keep it to myself.