How to Enjoy Life: Do What You Hate

My first encounter with Italy was in the Spring of 2004. It was the end of my senior year in high school and I was on a 2 week tour of Italy. It was then that I discovered that bus tours and I do not get along. Long hours in stale air on winding roads with a motion-sickness-prone, ADD girl, are not the key ingredients for a good time. However, it was on that trip that I fell in love with Italy and promised myself to one day return. It was also on that trip that I would meet a tour guide whose words, over 6 years later, have never left me. We sat at the beach at a restaurant that was on a dock. A long wooden “sidewalk”, if you will, stretched out into the water from the beach. Small, colorful houses littered the mountainous terrain around the enclosed waters. The sun was beaming and nothing but a few, scattered clouds in the sky. A few of us, along with my tour guide, opted for a non-pizza lunch and sat at the dock-style restaurant, enjoying the shade of a  white, tent-like roof. It is my fondest memory of my first trip to Italy. Pasta with fresh calamari from the very sea that lay below me sat in my stomach with its fresh flavor lingering on my tongue as we spoke about life.

I can’t remember the name of my tour guide, although I can see her face clearly. She was bursting at the seams with piss and vinegar and a passion for life.  It was there that she said to,

“Chase Life."

I have had my own love affair with that statement since it was first introduced to me at my ripe age of 18 in a foreign land. Post Italy and previous to my adventures to Cuba in 2006, I loved it. I firmly believed in chasing life, since in fact, I had felt cooped up for what was then 2o years. I had damn well better chase life or else it was going to run even further away from me than it already had! Upon my return to Italy in 2008 for a State Department internship at an American Embassy, I felt that chasing life was too forced and that it should come to you more naturally. Now, in 2010, as a soon to be jobless (t minus 24 hours) 24 year old relocating to NYC on a gut feeling, what do I now think of chasing life?

  • When you feel life fleeting from you
  • When you feel that you missed the train yet again
  • When you find yourself staring into space wondering what you’re doing with your life
  • When you have dreaded life consistently despite strong efforts to improve situation
  • When you are jealous of the people you love

It’s time.  It’s time to chase life. And the statement itself is ironic. Chasing life implies that life ran off somewhere and that you have to go find her. The real truth is that she’s waiting for you, patiently, but you turned your back to her for more important things, like the pursuit of SUV’s, the ever-important corporate latter, the newest True Religion jeans or a big screen TV. You told life to wait a long time ago and when you realize the time you have spent unwisely, you may feel compelled to in fact “chase life”. But don’t get your jogging shoes on quite yet or begin to run down the street in search of the missing life. She’s already within your grasp.

She’s within you.

Life = growth, excitement and passion.

If these 3 characteristics are not in your life recipe, then you need to make changes, NOW.

Remember, the art of “chasing life” is not to be in a frenzy of constant action, physically hunting down every moment like an OCD tourist who only has 24 hours to see all of NYC. It is often times more a passive acceptance and welcoming of life with intentional action towards healthy goals.

So what excites you? What personal goals have you been putting off, maybe due to negative social influence? What, after 5 all-nighters, would you wake up at 7 am to do? What gives you butterflies?

Many of you probably don’t know or you say something you always say (automatic response), but don’t really feel any connection to. I’ve done it. "Lauryn what do you like to do?" Lauryn replies, "Travel." Don't get me wrong. I love to travel, but at times I've said it so much that I've long since forgotten what to travel means. It has become stale and cold to me. No passion, no excitement, no growth. A dead dream.

How to Enact Positive Change

Sit down today and envision yourself as a cartoon character. What type of character would you be? Would the character be happy, laughing and upbeat? Would he be energetic or tired? Would he be stressed, worried and with bad posture? Would he be smiling or would be sad?  Write out a description of this character as if you had to describe him to a cartoon artist to draw.

Now, for all the negative qualities you have identified (e.g. he has a stressed face, he’s overweight, he is sad, etc.), ask yourself out loud, “[Insert name] Why are you [quality]? Now be silent and allow the voice to vent.  Listen to what our voice says. Then ask  yourself, “[Insert name], would you like to be more [insert the opposite of the negative characteristic]?

The likelihood is that yes, you are going to want positive change. When you tell yourself yes, let that also resonate with you for a few moments. Pause and let that desire for positive change rise within you. That’s life. That’s the art of “chasing life” when she’s lost touch with you. Now, for all the characteristics you would like to change to live a happier, healthier and more positive life, write down 3 immediate action steps to take for each characteristic over the course of 3 days. You must follow through with your list. No excuses.

Here is my own example:

My cartoon image: I tend to be stressed, but with high, upbeat energy. So my cartoon might have a smile with a furrowed brow (stress). To me, the furrowed brow indicates stress and discontentment.  I may look something like this:

  1. Question #1: “Lauryn, why are you so stressed and discontent?”
  2. And then I would listen.
  3. The response: “I’m stressed because I don’t know what I’m doing. I think that by being stressed, it gives me more control of my life situation. I am afraid of failing as a young entrepreneur. All I want to do is succeed and I am so afraid I won’t.”
  4. Pause and reflect. Let the voice talk a bit. He has some venting to do!
  5. Question #2:  “Lauryn,  would you like to be more relaxed (opposite of stressed)?”
  6. Response: “Yes, I would love to be more relaxed.”
  7. Question #3: “What is one major stress factor you can eliminate? What are 3 immediate steps you can take over the course of the next 3 days to accomplish that task (1 new task per day)?
  8. Response: “Well, I tend to get really stressed when I don’t have a lot of social contact or physical activity.  So, I want to find something to do where I am physically active and around other people. My action plan will look like:
    • Day 1: Research social groups in area that promote physical wellness and/or entrepreneurship: 30 min.
    • Day 2: Analyze options and pick top 3 that I like based on appeal, pricing and location: 30 min.
    • Day 3: Contact organizations and set up a appointments to check out the groups as a visitor.
    • Ultimate goal: join a group and make the change into a positive habit of spending time with quality people and improving my physical health. Yea!

What are you waiting for? Get motivated!

O, before I forget, what does chasing life mean to you?

Tell me what you think.

Who knows, you may even change my view on it!