Home > Living Well > Living Well 1: Passive Movement or Assertive Engagement?

Living Well 1: Passive Movement or Assertive Engagement?

Life is wonderful. Life is full of joy. Life is precious. Life is powerful. Life is a gift. Life is peaceful. Life is enjoyable. Life is fun. Life is productive. Life is fantastic. Life is purposeful. Life is hard. Life is long. Life is tedious. Life is boring. Life is painful. Life is a pain. Life is laborious. Life is dull. Life is pointless.

There’s a lot that can be said about what we’re doing right now, living. It’s a thing of such opposites. Many people hate their lives. Many people love their lives. It’s such an individual thing. Some of it is perspective. Some of it is goals. Much of it is the way that we choose to live. Loving life and being full of it necessitates living life well. This is one of those difficult tasks that is so worthwhile. One thing that we must do to live well is to assertively engage with the world around us.

Often our modus operandi in this world is to get caught up in the current of life and gently swim with it. There is so much movement, so much going on, and so many alternative behavior choices. Many forces in our various individual environments affect us and are drawing, pushing, pulling, compelling, or some other word that means the world around us is an influential force. These forces can be categorized as external social forces and internal individual forces.

The culture has its way of doing things and the vast majority of people in this nation are living their lives as a part of the mass movement of culture. There is a particular way of doing things, of living and functioning socially that is deemed correct and acceptable to the culture. It’s very easy to get caught up in whatever this way of doing things is (which changes depending on age, location, and time) and simply live this way. Doing so means that we are socially accepted members of the majority. There are many socially mediated consequences of moving against the cultural norm and social acceptance is often only granted by living by some sort of cultural norm. Often the way that the large culture as a whole actually has an impact on the individual person is through the smaller social group(s) of the individual.

The force exerted by a small group of friends is stronger on the individual than the large scale culture. Every different grouping of people has different sets of implicit rules and regulations of proper beliefs, attitudes, and conduct that persons within the group should adhere to. The broad culture impacts these cultural subsets and it is mainly these cultural subsets (often can be read “groups of friends”) that exert a force over the individual, for it is the individuals within the group that socially enforce the implicit rules of the culture. Terms like “peer pressure” explain this cultural enforcement. The internal understanding of the rules of a particular group of friends or others is necessary in order to feel the social pressure exerted to behave in a particular way. This pressure can be felt by groups ranging from 2 to infinity, not necessarily of a stronger pull with more people. The pressure is real and often so are the consequences of acting out of line with the principles that guide the behavior of particular groups. Thus, there is good reason to live life according to the culture that one is within, moving along with its flow, avoiding the pain and difficulty of moving against the current.

Then, there’s us and our own internal reasons for living our lives a particular way. We’ve got our own issues. One of the reasons that we tend to move along with the flow of everything is because we have always moved along with the flow of everything. We choose not to change our lives because we have always done things this way. Sometimes, there is no better reason than that. Our habitual thoughts, beliefs, actions, and reactions can become like a rut in the road. Turning out of the rut is difficult and it’s much easier to stay within the rut than to break out of it and move the vehicle in a new direction. Our habits of all sorts become so deeply ingrained in our lives that they become the way that we naturally do things and it’s really hard to change habits. There are many other internal factors (like laziness or fear of change) that make it difficult to change and easy to keep living life with the flow of the world around us and in the rut of how we’ve always done things.

So, all that was a little long, underdeveloped, and not written with much clarity or depth, but the point is simple: it’s easier and simpler to passively move through life than it is to live differently. That’s why we tend to go with the flow. I think that the reason we do this is that we just don’t quite get it. We don’t have an answer to the question of why we should live differently. Living passively isn’t actually going to get us anywhere but right where everyone else is going, and most people have no idea where that is. If we do not assertively engage life, then we are doomed to float along the river on our way to nowhere. The ease of floating through life is a benefit far less significant than the cost of missing out on life. The things that are most desirable and satisfying in life are those things that take work to get and require living differently than everyone else and differently than we’re living now.

Living well means taking an active role in our daily lives. To live well we must master our own thoughts, beliefs, words, actions, and reactions. We have to engage the world instead of being compelled by it. So many of us want a good life. It is a natural human longing to want a life full of meaning, where we, happy and whole, act according to the purpose that brings meaning to our lives. Only when we take control of our own lives can we actually live well.

How do we do this? It’s already been given to us. Humans are created such that they have power to decide what they do. We have the capacity to choose to do whatever we would like to with our own lives. It’s not easy to grab hold of ourselves and start breaking habits and moving in a direction opposite of the flow of the culture, but it’s necessary. It’s worthwhile. As we become the acting rulers over ourselves and take responsibility for our own actions, we become capable of moving our lives in whatever direction we want. To be who we want to be and do what we want to do we must first have the freedom that comes from being able to move in any direction, regardless of how much opposition is in our way. We already have the ability to do this, we just have to do it.

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