Redefining the Rules for Living Our Best Lives

Many of us probably know the excitement of planning out our lives in the beginning of a new semester or any new season of life. If you’re like me, you most definitely understand the giddiness of shopping for school supplies, decorating the blank walls of a dorm room with photos and string lights, and going on random cleaning sprees while armed with a high-powered vacuum and a lot of disinfectant wipes.



These things bring me such joy because they feel good. They make me feel accomplished, providing me the sense that I have a clean slate and can start something, anything, new.


While these habits are generally pretty helpful and harmless (cleanliness is always a good thing!), the danger is when I begin to apply this clean-slate mentality to everything else in my life -- including my daily bad habits, my flawed rhythms of life.


When I start to think that I can easily wipe everything out -- all my mistakes, my terrible choices, the things I wish I could take back or the words I wish I could stuff back into my mouth -- without any consequences and without learning anything, that’s where the trouble begins.


Instead, what I’ve realized is that living my “best life” -- in terms of living a picture-perfect, idealized, Instagram-worthy life -- is never attainable. On social media it’s easy to delete anything I don’t like and start over again. In the beginning of a new semester, it’s easy to vow to myself that I will do better this time, that I’ll study for every test, that I’ll do all the assigned readings, that I will never procrastinate on writing a paper.


That is, until I fail. Until I don’t reach my lofty goals. Then, I fall. I fall with all the weight of my expectant hopes and dreams crushing me from above.




But when I create a new set of rules for myself, there is hope. I begin to realize that I am an inevitably flawed human being, that I cannot ever be all that I want to be or do all the things I want to do, and that is okay. When I elevate myself and my own capabilities above everything else, I expect too much and end up destroying myself. But when I put down these lofty expectations and see myself for who I really am, whole and genuine and broken, then I can begin to see life through a new lens and live fully, freely, and without regrets.


I won’t lie: adopting this new mentality is a lot of work and requires a lot of inward reflection. But it can be accomplished as a continual learning and growing process. There are many times when I fail and am forced to pick myself back up again, dazed and wounded. I think, This wasn’t supposed to happen. I was supposed to have everything under control.


However, what I’m learning, over and over and over again, is that mindset matters. And the way I approach an obstacle or a past failure matters. So maybe I fell 23 times before. I have to accept that I’m going to fall 23 more times, maybe even hundreds of more times throughout the rest of my life.

Because it’s always a growing process. It’s a process of looking back at what I’ve done and saying, Okay, I did A and B wrong. I can look ahead and try to adjust, and if that doesn’t work, keep adjusting. Adjusting and adjusting and adjusting, without complaining, without getting angry, but understanding that this is my starting point. Maybe I don’t get a clean slate every time, because that would just be too exhausting. But maybe I get to start from where I last left off, and adjust, and tweak, and learn, and grow.  


And that becomes enough. That process becomes my best life.