As I write this, 3,686,854 Instagram posts include #liveyourbestlife. We’ve exhausted a beautiful phrase so that it has lost its meaning. So, what the hell does “live your best life” really mean?
I say “really” because I would like to focus on the word “real.” Real life. Not the aspirational life splattered across social media channels, where we see:
- The party, not the hangover.
- The tropical destination, not the mosquito bites.
- The catalog-worthy work-from-home space, not the job they hate doing.
During this introspective year, “live your best life” is a phrase I’ve been personally investigating. Here’s what I found out.
The Phrase is Legit As Long As We’re Being Authentic
When I set out with my Love Your Enthusiasm podcast venture this year, I knew I was treading on dangerous ground with this living your best life adjacent message.
I’ll tell you what crossed my mind…cheesy, fake, cliché. These are all words I would never associate myself with and I wasn’t sure what to do with this knee-jerk reaction.
Imposter syndrome is something I wrote very openly about recently. The imposter was out in full force as I worked out the details of my podcast. Then, I realized I was being ridiculous about the whole thing.
Why let other people’s interpretation of “live your best life” trip me up? Why not interpret it another way? A more authentic way.
I was never the popular girl. I’m still not and I’m totally okay with that. But because I lean toward irreverence and individualism, that fuels my disdain for trends and buzzwords. When my stubbornness gets in the way, I like to check myself and say: If something is popular, there’s a reason for that. Dare I say it: Maybe it’s not all that bad?
Fighting Life, Rather Than Flowing with It
I was willing to champion this idea of living your best life by approaching the concept through real conversations with real people. I’ll share something important I’ve learned during some of my podcast interviews and my own exploration of this overused Instagram-worthy phrase.
If you feel like you’re fighting something in life, rather than flowing with it…you’re probably not living your best life.
I’ll give you a real-world example, one that was extremely difficult for me to wrap my brain around. My decision to quit teaching yoga.
For those of you who have followed this blog somewhere along this eight-year journey, you know I’m really into yoga. I was SO into it that I got my yoga teaching certification in 2013. I had already been teaching dance for a decade, so this was a completely suitable progression for me.
I loved yoga so much and I wanted to share it with others. Pretty simple formula for living your best life, right?
In less than a year, I stopped teaching yoga. This coincided with my move to Portland, Oregon from Wisconsin. I thought I would teach when I got to Portland. I didn’t. Well, I subbed off and on for a few months, then I quit again.
Teaching yoga is so different from practicing yoga. You are the guide, the caretaker, the rock. It’s like any type of teaching, really. You give a lot. Quite frankly, I just wanted to be a student again because I selfishly needed yoga for my own mental health reasons. I need to take more than give.
Back to the fight vs. flow idea. How ironic was it that I was a Vinyasa flow teacher who was fighting rather than flowing? Obviously fighting yoga was the antithesis of yoga. I had lost the flowing feeling I loved and replaced it with unnecessary turmoil.
It was a tough decision—one that I debated off and on for years, one my students, family, friends, and fellow teachers didn’t understand. Now I know what it was. Teaching yoga wasn’t my way of living my best life. But, being a student of yoga absolutely was.
Identify What’s Stopping You From Living Your Best Life
In the aspirational social media images I mentioned earlier, maybe we should flip what we’re seeing and focus on what we’re NOT seeing. That way we can identify what’s stopping us from living our best lives.
The party, not the hangover.
Hangovers are more common than they should be. In which case, too much alcohol consumption is holding you back. (If this is you, listen to my podcast on taking alcohol breaks.)
The tropical destination, not the mosquito bites.
Mosquito bites are reminding you that you are scratching the itch to travel. Slow down and enjoy. As we’ve seen from this year’s pandemic, we should certainly cherish these moments.
The catalog-worthy work-from-home space, not the job they hate doing.
The job you hate doing is an obvious sign that you’re not living life on your terms. We spend too much of our lives working to waste that time on something that doesn’t fulfill us.
Authenticity is so important when we talk about really living our best lives. But, so is having awareness about the things that are stopping you from living it. For me, it was easier to flip things and see what was stopping me so that I could move on with the life I wanted to live. For you, it might be something else. Authenticity and awareness seem to be the first steps.
I had the pleasure of chatting with travel writer and photographer, Alison Armstrong, on Love Your Enthusiasm about this very topic—along with hearing about her extraordinarily unconventional life. Some of you may know Alison from her blog, Adventures in Wonderland.
This was Alison’s definition of “live your best life:”
“Living your best life is not necessarily about being successful in conventional terms. It’s not about doing things and having things that you think will make you happy more than anything. It’s about being willing to live an unconventional life. Being willing to take risks, being willing to step outside of the box that society presents to you. If you achieve this, you will be happy and you will be living your best life.”
If anyone should be using the “live your best life” phrase, it’s Alison. She has a lifetime of experience with living authentically and unconventionally—so she brings a unique perspective to the table that I know you all will love.
14 thoughts on “What the Hell Does Live Your Best Life Really Mean?”
I’m not a fan of lazy ‘inspirational’ quotes either; they’re usual parroted and then forgotten. However a very simple one from Dr George Sheehan has stayed with me – ‘Be a good animal’. Always choose the option that’s best for both you and those around you. Then you ‘flow’ and don’t ‘fight. It’s not always possible or easy but you’ll feel better about yourself, you’ll be more empathic towards others and you should reap rewards (which may not always be material ones.)
Example – is it better for me to drink every night or twice a week? Answer = obvious, so do it.
Example – it’s raining, should I go for that 5-mile run? Answer = obvious.
Example – do I join an argument on social media which will only stress me? Answer = obvious.
Just making conscious decisions along the way certainly help me. (Sorry Britt, comment too long.)
Don’t apologize for the long comment, Roy…you’ve seen how long most of my freaking blog posts are. Plus, I always love hearing what you have to say.
Yes, I totally agree with you. Sometimes I feel like lazy “inspirational” quotes have taken over the internet. Especially for us writers, we cringe when we see a lot of these because we know words intimately and we see right through them.
I love the “Be a good animal” quote.
Wonderful thoughts on the subject. I myself choose to pursue my best life by putting out the best effort that I can daily. And that may mean running the extra mile. Writing the extra 1,000 words, ditching the ice cream. Sure, they suck when I’m doing them, but I don’t want to reach a certain age and think about who I could’ve been.
Of course, I’m just human, and I do falter, so not every day is a go day. But this is what I try to live by. Thanks for sharing!
I like your approach, Stuart. Mine is very similar. I’m all about attacking life with everything I’ve got. Doesn’t matter what it is. I want to give it my all.
Not always the easy path to take, but it sure feels good to be on it.
This was such a joy to read Britt. I think we both know exactly what’s the best life, and that’s the life that’s most authentic, tho even that bothers me a little because that word is flung around with as much abandon these days as the slogan live your best life. It took me years to become truly authentic. I suspect it takes most people years and along the way we try and fail and try again. The one single thing it means to me really is be willing to take risks. Which you clearly do!
Thank you for the link to my blog, and for all your kind words.
Alison!!! I thought we had the best conversation about this topic, for real. It was very no-bullshit, which is always my preference. 🙂
You’re right about “authentic” being thrown around too much as well. I remember when that started creeping into people’s vocabulary and I was kinda bummed about it, because I had always loved that word.
I remember focusing on authenticity a lot during my yoga teacher training some years ago. My teacher, Tammy, brought up authenticity frequently because it’s hard for a lot of yoga teachers to embody it. Often, they try to act like someone they are not, thinking a yoga teacher needs to have this enlightened persona or whatever.
Anyway, always good to check ourselves when it comes to being authentic. And yes, it does take a lot of work and it is an ongoing practice.
A wonderful example and inspiration, both reading you here and hearing Alison on the podcast.
Thank you so much. I’m glad you enjoyed my musings. There’s no easy answers really. We’re all doing the best we can, even if it doesn’t always look like it.
Thanks, honey! I bet you loved Alison’s podcast. Definitely a woman we adventurous-hearted people can look up to.
Isn’t it like an emoji, used over and over and over until it becomes the words which become the action, that then become just words again because it’s too much of a good thing… Nice post..
I never thought of #liveyourbestlife that way, but you’re so right. Thanks for reading and leaving a thoughtful comment!
Love this, especially your Yoga story. I think along similar lines, there is an idea that your hobbies aren’t “real” unless you have a formal certificate or monetize it.
Your DIY isn’t valid unless you sell it on etsy, your writing isn’t valid unless you publish everything, You haven’t learned a new language unless a certificate shows you’ve passed a class.
It leads to an imposter syndrome and the pressure to lead our best life in a way that has a socially recognized validity as opposed to just what makes us happy.
Totally agree! Our society has taught us all that we need that external validation. “Keeping score” is another one.
I always loved hitting the tennis ball around on the court with someone…without actually playing a game and keeping score. It’s so much fun. But, inevitably, I would try to do this with someone who didn’t get it. They wanted to play a real tennis game, keep score, and declare a winner or loser. What’s wrong with enjoying something?