Living your best life involves a series of trade-offs.
Important freedoms such as economic equality and birth control have dramatically changed the family dynamics in our society. The relaxed pace of having a stay at home mom, lots of kids to play with after school, the enhanced safety of a nuclear family… these things have changed. Instead of siblings, we have organized team sports. You get the picture.
These changes have brought tremendous good: the challenge, since the beginning of time, is to build a meaningful life within the context of our current social climate. Societies are always in flux.
I recently saw Ashton Kutcher’s speech for the Ultimate Teen Choice Awards 2013, in which he passionately states, “Opportunity looks a lot like hard work” and “Be Smart, Be Thoughtful, Be Generous” and "Build a life. Don't live one; Build one." I admire this extremely sage advice from a social icon that more frequently focuses on comedy and playfulness. It may be that because he has a strong sense of playfulness that he can also contemplate life’s more serious subjects.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Bronnie Ware writes about ‘Warmth for the Soul and the Body’ on her blog ‘Inspiration and Chai’ and in her new book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.
- I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
- I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
I believe there are small, hidden benefits to every disaster we encounter in life. Our recent economic downturn has been unspeakably difficult on myriads of workers who have lost their jobs, homes, and retirement savings accounts. My friend, an economist and Certified Financial Analyst for a big brokerage firm, explained to me that these shifts in the markets naturally rebalance themselves over time. Industries die while others are built and the number of jobs often surge to the same level or higher after a period of layoffs, but in a different market sector. While the fallout from the manufacturing sector is dealing a sharply-felt sting, small businesses are emerging from workers who cannot find employment, and who are forced to give themselves a job. I’m in no way downplaying the devastation that many in our country have experienced; however, some have been able to tap into a new, free-flowing stream of creativity and balance their lives in ways that would have never been possible, had a disaster not first wreaked havoc on life-as-they-knew-it and forced a change.
Similarly, my mediation clients often come back to renegotiate a change in child support or modify parenting plans a few years after I mediated their initial divorce. Some of the men and women, who were so extremely devastated from the collapse of their marriage, confide privately that their life is better than they could have imagined. They were forced to take a look at their lives and re-evaluate everything. They have often have attended counseling and rooted out bitterness & unhealthy coping mechanisms - in short, healed. They report that healing has provided a life where regrets are being resolved (it is a process), and they have built a life.