Apr 152011
Joyful by Marek Bernat

How should you live your lives? If you were to ask 20 people how to live life, you will probably get 20 different answers. And unless these people are just like you, their answers may not be your heart’s desire. In truth, no one can tell you how to live your life. They can only tell you how they lived theirs. Thus, you cannot find the answer to this important question from others. You may get clues and pointers, but the real answer lies deep within you. Only when you follow your heart’s desire will you have had a life that is worth living.

The Madman by Khalil Gibran

It was in the garden of a madhouse that I met a youth with a face pale and lovely and full of wonder. And I sat beside him upon the bench, and I said, “Why are you here?”

And he looked at me in astonishment, and he said, “It is an unseemly question, yet I will answer you. My father would make of me a reproduction of himself; so also would my uncle. My mother would have me the image of her seafaring husband as the perfect example for me to follow. My brother thinks I should be like him, a fine athlete.

“And my teachers also, the doctor of philosophy, and the music-master, and the logician, they too were determined, and each would have me but a reflection of his own face in a mirror.

“Therefore I came to this place. I find it more sane here. At least, I can be myself.”

Then of a sudden he turned to me and he said, “But tell me, were you also driven to this place by education and good counsel?”

And I answered, “No, I am a visitor.”

And he answered, “Oh, you are one of those who live in the madhouse on the other side of the wall.”

Choosing a Path by Simon G

Conflicting Ideas

As Khalil Gibran points out, everyone has their own ideas of how things should be. This is especially so when it comes to deciding what is best for their loved ones. But what applies to someone may not necessarily apply to others. This is simply because we are unique and have different experiences.

While it is tempting to think that our parents, teachers, friends and experts know better, in truth, this is not always the case. Experts are also human and prone to error. Just look at the crisis in Japan. There are so many conflicting views about radioactivity in the disaster areas. The opinion of others may have their merit, but we must be careful not to follow their advice blindly.

Unique Roles

We all have unique roles to play in this world. No one else can live our lives for us because they lack our talents, interests and motivations. Interestingly, some of these roles are unique to the times. For example, blogging is possible today but not in the medieval ages. What might have made sense a generation ago might not make sense now. Why then should we settle for living the lives and dreams of others? Why should we do something for which we feel no interest or passion? Can we live fulfilling lives or fulfil our unique roles if we live in such a manner? The answer is likely to be no.

The need to earn a living might be a compelling reason to put our dreams on hold. But in truth, the idea of job security is an illusion. We need only look at the crisis in Japan and the civil war in Libya to realize that these things could happen anywhere in the world. If change is the only constant in life, then survival means being able to adapt as change happens. Are you likelier to adapt doing something you love or something you dislike? Which comes more naturally?

The Only Opinion That Matters

When it comes down to the crunch, the only opinion that truly matters is yours. This is especially so when it comes to living your own life. After all, who else but you can decide your own fate and destiny? Others can tell you what to do, but you have to choose whether to adopt their well-meaning counsel or not.

Bear in mind, the greatest harm can result from the best intentions. This often happens if you try to be something that you are not by following the kindly advice of others. What may work for someone might be a disaster for another. Such is the complexity of life where we have to forge our own path and find our own way because we are unique.

Finding the Naturalness of Your Way

There is a Tao to everything in this world. By Tao I mean a natural way of doing things that is in line with the times and circumstances. Following the Tao of something does not mean there is no effort on your part. It just means that you get greater results for the effort you put in. Albert Einstein found his calling as a scientist. Henry Ford was a great industrialist. Think of it this way, when you find the Tao, you go with the flow instead of struggling against the current.

Flowing River by Dave Clark

Taking Action

The only life that matters is the one we are living now. Rise up and live your life the way you want to live it. To do otherwise would be madness.

Is your life a reflection of someone else’s? Or are you living your life on your own terms and choices? How do you deal with the well-meaning advice of others? Do share your thoughts and comments below. :)

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  37 Responses to “Rise Up and Live Your Life”

  1. I live life pretty much on my own terms. I always have, not necessarily to my benefit sometimes! But with age has come experience, and hopefully I make better choices now than I did in my youth. I’m not particularly influenced by what others think, although I listen to my friends and consider their valued opinions. In the final analysis, I trust myself and my inner guidance to lead me in the right direction.
    Galen Pearl recently posted..Providing ValueMy Profile

    • Hi Galen,

      Given the experiences you shared, I can imagine how you have lived life on your own terms. It might not have been to your benefit at times, but everyone makes mistakes. The important thing is to take full responsibility for our lives, in this way we have much less regrets because we do all we want to.

      I love your balanced approach when it comes to decision making. It is the model I use myself. Always consider the opinions of others but in the end, make you own decision.

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  2. Irving,
    I love what you have to say here. I do defer to experts about things like radioactivity though since I’m not an expert, but when it comes to my own life I have to listen to my own inner guidance. I also agree with the wisdom of the Tao we do need to go with the flow in life – the only constant is change.

    Thank you for sharing such wonderful wisdom with us.
    Angela Artemis recently posted..Life is Not A Race – Go At Your Own PaceMy Profile

    • Hi Angela,

      I am glad you enjoyed my post! :)

      Like you, I do defer to experts on things where they have expertise in. But with regards to radioactivity, I would have erred on the side of caution and evacuated from the zone earlier because I don’t like to take chances even if experts say it is ok. It depends on the situation really. Sometimes there is no harm listening to experts. Other times, we have to weigh our options with care. There is no standard approach we can apply to all areas of life unfortunately.

      There is really nothing like inner guidance and the wisdom of the Tao. I am glad we agree on this. Indeed, when I learned to see the Tao in things, I started making better decisions in life throughout the various changes.

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  3. The title alone speaks volumes!
    In my personal life, I tend to turn to other’s opinions when I doubt myself. I know myself well, I am open to energy and flow, and my life tends to follow along smoothly. Interesting, when I am following my passion–such as raising my children on a boat–other’s opinions hold no merit for me..In this case, yes, there are some amazing tips on how to live more comfortably on the boat, but whether or not they agree with my decision, I See clearly how this path is right. In life, when I am on the right path, it flows and it is nice to have support, but I recognize the impermanence of everything. It is when Fear or Doubt loom large that other’s opinions may redirect or reinforce my steps..
    Thank you for allowing me to contemplate this..

    • Hi Joy,

      I paraphrased the title from Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth novel “Faith of the Fallen.” The actual quote is, “Your life is yours to live. Rise up and live it.” The story was essentially about people who had been so oppressed by their government in a communist like setting that all life had gone out of their souls. The worst part is they accepted this as the norm and gave up responsibility for their lives to others who did not have their interests at heart. It is definitely one of the more memorable books I have read and it has shaped my life to a certain degree.

      I believe it is very important to consider the opinions of others. Often they have insights or ideas that we would never have thought of on our own. The point to bear in mind is that we must make our choices for ourselves here. We cannot simply follow advice blindly just because someone we like said it. They might be bias or they might make mistakes.

      But clearly you have the wisdom to listen to advice and to make up your own mind from what you have shared. The key is balance. It also helps to be aware of impermanence as it reminds us of the bigger picture which we might miss when we are focused on the details.

      When fear and doubt loom large, I turn to the Yijing through divination to consider the wisdom of the ancients. Then I use my intuition to interpret the answer according to the situation. This is how I have come to eradicate most fear and doubt from my actions. After all, if you knew the likely outcome of your actions before hand, what is there to fear or doubt? On the one hand, you know the best choice to make. On the other hand, there is little that can surprise you.

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  4. Oh, Irving! I’ve been meaning to visit the blog for a while, but I’ve been having a downtime of sorts.

    Anyway, I’m experiencing a LOT of synchronities right now regarding the topic you write about. Even on this blog. The opinion we have is really the only one that matters in the long run. Tao is pretty new to me, but I think there IS a natural way to do things as you write. I will research this subject further. Going with the flow is important. If you stress and struggle, you end up pushing yourself further from whatever you want to achieve.

    • Hi Sol,

      I have been waiting for your visit. So glad that you have finally dropped by! :)

      I am glad that you enjoyed my article and that it is relevant to your life right now.

      If you have any problem or questions regarding the Tao, do let me know and I will try my best to offer some pointers. You might also want to check out the Tao Te Ching. It is one of the most famous books about the Tao. I prefer the Yijing because it is easier to apply it to life and its problems.

      When it comes to problems, if we can be like water and go with the flow, we can overcome them with less effort.

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  5. I came over from your comment on Galen’s last post. Very nice writing here and another post I needed to read right now.

    I am finding that I have to keep reinventing myself over and over again, because the path I chose in this life as my career is not/has not proved to be the right passionate expression but more a place where I felt loved and then realized it was more victimization ( self-inflicted because I was looking into the mirror of others) Now, I am orphaned in my search and trying on new passions, because after 60 years of doing other things, I can not see clearly what is reflected back to me and getting some assistance has provided some help.

    Not having funds for food and shelter is often quite motivating to take up someone else’s shovel.

    • Hi Patricia,

      I always like to say that change is the only constant in life. What may have been useful and necessary at one point may no longer be so at another stage in our lives. Hence, we need to constantly reinvent ourselves to keep up with the times and the changes in our lives.

      When it comes to life, we all made choices that might have seemed necessary at that point. After all, the most basic part of life is survival. As you rightly point out, not having funds for food and shelter is often quite motivating to take up someone’s shovel. But here we must be careful not to do this for life at the expense of our own happiness and natures.

      I believe that it is never too late to start over. Just take a look at Christopher Foster’s blog. He is the oldest blogger I know so far and he has been through many drastic changes and experiences in his life. I am sure you will gain much inspiration from his example. What matters is that we realize our discontent and the necessity for change in our lives and act on it.

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  6. Dear Irving, how timely for me to read this. How true to its very essence that we should not listen to others and live for ourselves. It took me a long time but I finally pulled the plug and finally decided that I am going to do everything my way, even though my family had doubts this is the right way for me. I have no doubt. I have strong conviction. And I’ve never been happier. EVER. Isn’t that all we want? Khalil Gibran story was very moving, thank you so much for this post, my dear friend. The Vizier indeed knows best :)!
    Farnoosh recently posted..The Vegan Journey Series- Easy Vegan RecipesMy Profile

    • Hi Farnoosh,

      Living for ourselves instead of conforming to the views of others can be one of the hardest lessons to learn. But the rewards and the results are indeed worth it.

      If you do things your way and take charge of your life, there are only two possible outcomes. One is that you succeed. When that happens, most of the people who doubted you will regard you as a genius. The other outcome is that you fail. But failure is the path to success. Each mistake you make gives you the wisdom and experience that you need to succeed.

      The important thing is that you are happy doing what you want to do the way you want to do it.

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  7. Irving,

    I have come to the point where I have become down right selfish. I do what is best for me and my family first. Now that doesn’t mean that I am heartless and not out to help anyone else but I have the thought in mind that if I don’t take care of me who else will. If I want to be happy I have got to go out there and find happiness or do the things that bring me joy. I have been guided by others opinions for way to long. This was awesome. Thanks for sharing this.

    I will put it to use immediately.
    Frank recently posted..The Reconstruction of LifeMy Profile

    • Hi Frank,

      The first thing we have to do in life is to survive. That is a basic requirement. If you cannot survive, if your house is not in order, how will you have the presence of mind to think of other people? So doing what is best for yourself and your family is perfectly normal and this is what everyone must see to first.

      Once that is settled and you have the time and energy to spare, you can easily turn your attention to other things that matter. It is really about priorities and I am sure for someone who knows as much about self-development as you do has no problem with finding the right action and balance.

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  8. For a long time, I let others decide for me. I thought that it would be easier for me to shirk responsibility. So I can easily blame others for decisions that have gone wrong. It took me a while to realize that I would be far happier taking charge of my life.

    Living life on one’s own terms requires courage. Thank you for reminding us how important it is to take personal responsibility and that not doing so, would amount to insanity!
    Evelyn Lim recently posted..Self Love Story- Lessons From the HeartMy Profile

    • Hi Evelyn,

      I can easily appreciate your mentality. Growing up I don’t think many of us were encouraged to take responsibility for fear of the consequences of making the wrong decision. Failure and mistakes were greatly frowned upon while we were encouraged to be perfect and flawless. In the end, it is impossible trying to do the impossible.

      As you rightly point out, living life on one’s own terms requires courage. We need the courage to face the challenges and difficulties that come our way. We need the courage to face failure, mistakes and criticism. But in the end, nothing makes us happier because every choice we make is our own. Even if we face setbacks, it is because we are doing what we want and love and this gives us the strength to press forth.

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  9. I used to think that I live life on my own terms, but I’ve been learning in the last few months that it is not me who holds the power in my life. I don’t like that feeling. And it’s not anything emotional, nor is it related to any personal relationship of mine.

    It’s about money, power, and debt; right now, I am in considerable debt, and the people who hold the money have the power to make my life a misery. Like I said before, it’s not a good feeling. So I’m having to get very creative and find other ways to regain my own power and independence.

    Delena Silverfox recently posted..RPC Recycle Coupon CodesMy Profile

    • Hi Delena,

      I am sorry to hear that you are in considerable debt at the moment. Financial freedom does give us the means to do what we want. While the lack of it means we have to do what we must to survive even if it is soul sucking. What I have come to admire about you from what you have shared is your resilience and creativity. When you focus on finding the solutions to problems, I have no doubt that one day you will reap the benefits of adversity.

      Actually, adversity can be a good thing. Do you notice how slack a person becomes when everything seems to be going their way? Contrast this with someone who is facing constant danger and having to think on their feet. The level of vigilance and creativity is vastly different for both. While the first person may be ahead in terms of good times, good times rarely last. Sooner or later, the person who faces adversity will have to find a way to turn things around. It is like the hare and the tortoise.

      As long as you persevere and keep on coming up with creative solutions, I have no doubt you would be debt free. You will even be well to do one day. That is how all self-made people succeed. They have a compelling reason to do so, creativity and a never say die attitude.

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  10. Hi Irving, I’ve never been successful at living the life others wanted for me. That isn’t to say I haven’t tried, but the conventional path has done nothing but cause me misery. I am again at a transition point in my life where I don’t know what I want to do next work-wise. I’m okay with that though, and I’m enjoying having the space to think about it deeply.

    As a former therapist, I really enjoyed the Gibran story. Madness is culturally defined. What would be considered pathologically dependent in one country might be celebrated as socially responsible in another.
    Jennifer Barry recently posted..Just In CaseMy Profile

    • Hi Jennifer,

      We all have to forge our own paths in life. Rarely do we find happiness following the path of others.

      When we look at the big picture, life is really about choices. It is about making the ones that are most beneficial for us while avoiding those that bring us harm. The path may not always be clear immediately, but as long as we remain open and receptive to guidance in any form, we will know which way to go. It is all about being aware of the times and reading the signs well.

      Yes, human beings are strange creatures aren’t they? Who can measure the extent of the damage that society has on the lives of people? If only more of us learned to think and reason for ourselves.

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  11. When we concern ourselves what is happening with others, or trying to figure out what is best for them, we can get lost and wrapped up in the stories of others, diminishing our personal potential so much. We can also easily infringe on the free will of another. Most of us will never know in this lifetime why things happen as they do, or what is best for another. We may have great intentions, but we need to stay consciously aware that those do not get twisted into some personal agendas of how we would like to see others live or be.

    So in that token, yes, we do need to live our life, regardless of what society or others may say is the “right” way of doing things. When our thoughts, words and actions come from the heart, that is all that matters.
    Evita Ochel recently posted..Book Review- Healing Through the Akashic RecordsMy Profile

    • Hi Evita,

      “Most of us will never know in this lifetime why things happen as they do, or what is best for another.” This is indeed a wise observation. All we can really do is our best. But here we have to be careful. The greatest of harm often results from the best of intentions. As you rightly point out, we have to consider the free will of others. We have to be clear that we are furthering their goals and not what we think is best for them. It is a delicate balance.

      In the end, the only life that we can be sure of living well is our own. Deep down inside, we know what we have to do to be happy. The question is whether we have the courage and the clarity to sift through all the “noise and clutter” that comes with living in society to get to the heart and truth of what we really need and want. As you say, “When our thoughts, words and actions come from the heart, that is all that matters.” I couldn’t have put it better myself. :)

      Thank you for stopping by and leaving such lovely comments! :)

  12. Hey Irving,

    thanks for the article! If we’re only listening to other people about how we should live our lifes, we will end up living their lifes. And do we really want that?
    (I don’t)

    Alice recently posted..How To SucceedMy Profile

    • Hi Alice,

      Yes. You have made an important observation. The advice and suggestions we receive from others is how they would live their lives. It reflects their experiences and the choices they are likely to make based on their goals and purposes. While it is important to listen carefully to advice, to follow such advice blindly would only lead us to living the lives of others and not our own. What we should do is to listen, but make up own own minds based on our goals, purpose, priorities and interests.

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  13. [...] though it may be hard to face disapproval, as Irving reminds us, you have to live your life in the way that makes sense for you. You have to set your priorities and say no to those tasks that [...]

  14. This article to me more or less talks about the secret to life. First we all must make decisions for our own lives. Second, we must accept our own decisions for where we have ended up to this point in our lives. The whole idea is to live each moment, good or bad, and embrace the experience so that we may fully understand why we have chosen the path we are on.
    ChannelingMyself recently posted..Unlock The Power of ManifestationMy Profile

    • Hi,

      I agree with you fully. I am a big believer that we must take charge of our lives and decide for ourselves. Only by doing so can we learn the lessons that life has in store for us and steer our lives towards our goals. Every moment in our life counts. In the larger scheme of things, it is all interconnected to prepare us for something greater.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  15. Really wonderful post, these are inspired words to live by! It’s common for people to look everywhere else but within themselves, which is truly the only place change can come from.

    • Hi Emily,

      I am glad you enjoyed this article! :)

      The moment we realize that change comes from within, we empower ourselves in a great way to deal with all the challenges that life has in store for us. In so doing, we can shape our lives the way we want to. And at the very end when we look back we will have little regrets for we have lived a good life.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  16. Hi Irving,
    This is so true: “the only opinion that truly matters is yours.” We spend so much time try to please others or gain their love that we get lost in the shuffle. The search for acceptance and the search for love outside one is a fool’s errand. We have all the love we need in us and all the tools to accept ourselves for who we are. Like you said, there is no need to waste time when all we need to do is consult ourselves. We’re the best guide we’ll ever need.
    Thanks for this beautiful reminder. Loving blessings
    Andrea DeBell @ britetalk recently posted..Awesomeness boot camp- demystifying our fears once and for allMy Profile

    • Hi Andrea,

      It took me a long time to realize that the only opinion that matters is my own. Growing up, I always thought that other people knew better than me and deferred to their views. Sometimes it worked, but often it did not. As you rightly point out, the search for love outside one is a fool’s errand. The applause and approval of others is fickle and dependent on their moods. To lean on this for support and to make it the centerpiece of our lives is to lean on the wind.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  17. I believe in unique roles with all my heart. This is so true. Each of us comes to this earth with specific gifts, personality traits and talents – and we need to use them for something specific. We don’t need to copy others, because what we create is tailored exactly to what we’re on this earth to accomplish.
    Christian Hollingsworth recently posted..Spring Cleaning For Your BlogMy Profile

    • Hi Christian,

      I am glad that you believe in unique roles because you are more likely to fulfill your purpose here in life. I doubt we would make good copies of others in any case. We could try, but we would never really be the original. And what fun is it to be like someone else when we could blaze our own trails?

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  18. life is wonderful. If you know how to handle such things you will live your life the way you want it to be. This article is amazing.! It is full of encouraging thoughts which enlighten the mind of the readers. All of us our unique. We need to be who we are and be ourself all the time. .thanks for sharing your ideas.

    • Hi Keirsten,

      Life is indeed wonderful when we take responsibility for it and live the lives we want to live. In truth, there is really no other way to live than to live a life that is true to our natures and who we are.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  19. I am learning to listen to my inner knowledge, learning to step out on my own. Seems strange to be saying this at my age. I have had to start a new journey and all the thoughts that have dwelt within me are now finding their place. The people I admired, the way of life, seeker of peace, mindfulness, it is all finding its place in my present journey.
    Barbara Zarrella recently posted..Worry Goes With HurryMy Profile

    • Hi Barbara,

      It is good to know that you are learning to listen to your inner knowledge and to step out on your own.

      I believe that one of the most pressing problems that we face as human beings is that we get too used to our comfort zones. Many empires and successful people rose to the top of their fields through innovation and creativity. But once they reached the top, they feared to take risks or to be creative again. Instead, they did all they could to maintain the status quo.

      So no, I don’t think it is strange that you should be starting a new journey at your age. In fact, I applaud you for the courage you have to step out of your comfort zone and change your status quo. As long as you keep working at it, you will find a new equilibrium that is just right for you.

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing your lovely comments! :)

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