What Does Your Best Life Look Like–And Are You Living It?

A redheaded woman standing in the rain under an umbrella
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Are you living your best life? If you’re not even sure what that means, you’re not alone in your confusion. It makes a nice hashtag, but like #YOLO (remember that one?), the concept gets harder to pin down the closer you look.

It doesn’t help if you’re looking on Instagram or Pinterest for examples. We all know that those are carefully edited, selectively curated versions of reality, and yet we still scroll on by with mixed feelings of jealousy and longing.

Someday, that’ll be me lounging by the pool or looking pensively over the sea. If I just worked a little harder or had a little more willpower, I’d be there already.

Gee, it’s almost like yet another seemingly positive slogan is secretly toxic.

Those poolside snaps of perfectly tanned knees and fruit-laden cocktails aren’t telling the whole story. Sure, the person who took the photo seems like they’re living the dream, but a picture is just a brief moment in time. It doesn’t tell you what happens next or how the person really feels about their #bestlife.

And let’s be clear–a lot of those social media posts featuring minimalist interiors, high-priced brunches, and fun-filled vacations are leaving something else out: privilege. Influencers tend to be rich, conventionally attractive, and a whole bunch of other privileged qualifiers.

If you aren’t currently drinking a kale smoothie in Prague while wearing vintage designer clothes or partying with your two hundred closest friends at a Miami club, that doesn’t mean you’re failing to live up to your potential.

Your best life isn’t the one that gets the most likes on social media. It’s the one that is most in line with your values.

Do You Know Your Core Values?

For some people, their values are immediate and obvious. You might feel strongly about family or community. Faith might be deeply important to you, or you might be dedicated to social justice and helping those who are less fortunate.

It’s not always that easy, however, to know where your true values can be found. In part, it’s because we tend to think things are important to us when they’re actually important to other people in our lives–or even because of those pesky social media influencers.

For example, you might think that travel is essential to your life… but what if you don’t actually find it that fulfilling? Not to sound like an elderly Millennial, but are you sure that you’re not just doing it for the ‘Gram?

Following your bliss, in the words of Joseph Campbell, is a lot harder when you don’t know what your bliss even is. Take a few minutes to try the following exercise–and make sure to record your answers. It works a lot better if you write this down.

Figure Out Who You Are in 10 Minutes or Less

Step one, make a list! Write down 3-5 values that you think are important to you. Some examples might include: charity, compassion, faith, adventure, creativity, kindness, success, fame, freedom, balance, honesty, humor, discipline, justice.

Okay, on to step two… forget everything you just wrote down. When you self-select your values, they are filtered through layers upon layers of other people’s expectations, your own baggage, and pressures from your culture to look and act a certain way.

Now the real work. Think about times in your life where you’ve felt happy, proud, content, or accomplished. What were you doing? Who were you with? Why does this moment stand out to you?

This part is going to require some introspection–think of it like personal detective work as you look at all the evidence and figure out why those experiences were so meaningful and memorable to you.

As you examine the evidence, you should start to see a theme emerge. Maybe your happiest moments involved helping others or working on a creative project. Maybe your moments centered on workplace accomplishments and personal achievements. Or maybe your moments were focused on your family or community.

It could be that your happiest moments involve playing Dungeons & Dragons with your friends or meditating alone on a mountaintop. It’s even possible that your bliss really is all about lounging beside the pool with a fruity beverage. I don’t know your life, let alone your best life!

There’s no right or wrong answer. Instead, it’s a way to discover the values that make you feel fulfilled. Once you know what those values are, you can begin to do more of the things that make you feel happy, proud, and content. Now that’s living your best life.

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