When I was young my mom always said to me, “life is what you make of it!” She would also say, “life is an adventure,” but she always said these things to me when I was upset about something, usually being mistreated by my sisters or dreading going to school. I can’t say the context made for very effective communication of her message.
Now that I’m a grown-up I find myself coming back to these words. Nobody says “life is what you make of it” anymore. Instead, everyone says, “life sucks, and then you die” or “life’s tough, get a grip” or “only the strong survive.” Through my studies I’ve come to know that life is, in fact, what you make of it and if you believe it is going to be hard and miserable, then your belief will become your reality. So I would like to propose an alternative belief: Life is easy and fun. I would also like to invite you to join me in living a funner, easier life.
First of all, why should anyone believe that life is easy? And second, how does our attitude about what our life is supposed to be like become a reality?
In the book Sex at Dawn the authors describe an experiment where some anthropologists go out to the desert in Utah to collect Mormon crickets to see how hard a hunter-gatherer lifestyle really is. In one hour’s time they collect 18 lbs of food, equaling something on the order of 24,000 calories. In an hour. If you had to buy this much food, depending on quality, you would need anything from $100 to $300. Per hour. So, the only economic activity that hunter-gatherers participated in paid a wage equivalent of over $100 per hour. How easy would your life be if you made that much money? I know mine would be a LOT easier.
It’s been over 10,000 years since human beings relied on picking food up off the ground as their primary means of sustenance. Supposedly we have advanced since then, inventing innumerable technologies to produce greater, more fabulous products with ever less effort on our part. And yet, where has all that surplus gone to? The going wage in Japan starts at barely $10 per hour. In the United States you could starve on twice that. Because we work for wages which we then have to exchange for our basic necessities of life, we end up working very very hard for not nearly the level of prosperity our ancestors enjoyed. But with all of our technology life must have gotten easier. I suggest that it is only our belief that life is hard that enables us to accept such a miserable deal for our time.
Once you believe that something is attainable, your mind will start searching for ways to obtain it. Even subconsciously, you will scowl at choices that take you further away from your goal. On the other hand, once you believe that “this is just how it is,” you will stop trying to change things, give up, and accept the status quo. If only the strong survive, then when my life is hard, it’s a sign that I’m weak and I’m not going to survive unless I work harder. On the other hand, if life is easy, then when things get too hard we take it as a signal that something is wrong with our circumstances. If things are supposed to be easy, then being hard is a sign that something is wrong. If things are supposed to be hard, then there is no point in trying to make them easier because you’re just going to fail.
Here’s a thought experiment. Do you ever feel like you are always chasing deadlines? and is there that someone in your office or classroom that just always seems to be on top of their game? If you want to look like that someone to the people around you, all you have to do is stop chasing deadlines. My ex boyfriend was a police officer in the Israeli army. He told me that they were not allowed to be seen running in uniform because it gave the impression that the military police were not on top of their game, which weakened their image and made it harder for them to keep order. Even if they were late to an appointment with their superiors, if they were seen running they were punished.
The trick, then, to making your beliefs become reality is
- Ground your beliefs in facts that support them
- Act as if your beliefs are true
- Trust that you’re going to be ok because #1 says you will be
So, I invite you to join me in the reality that life is easy, but it is our habit of believing that it is hard that makes it hard. Many of you, I’m sure, will say to your selves “sure, my life would be really easy if I was pulling over $100 an hour” and to you I say, even the desert is full of riches.