Lead an optimal way of life

Alice Herz-Sommer cheerfully optimistic

Written by Suraj Shah. Inspired by greatness.

What if you were to lead your life with an underlying feeling that all situations you encounter are optimal?

It turns out that every single thing you face in life, no matter how demanding it may be, is actually conducive to you leading a calm and purposeful life.

The pessimistic path of loss

When you lose someone close, it can feel like your own life energy has been sucked out of you.

Suddenly it feels as though the world is collapsing around you and you’re falling apart along with it.

Wherever you look, all you notice is pain, hardship, struggle, darkness.

All you can see is negativity, which somehow makes sense to you so you hold onto it with all your strength. Down this path, slowly but surely, you take on the life of a pessimist.

And then you go downhill. You lose interest in your work, you push away others who love you so dearly, and your health suffers.

Embracing optimism

But the life of an optimist – well that’s a whole different way of living.

The definition of optimism is:

“Optimism is a mental attitude or world view that interprets situations and events as being best (optimised), meaning that in some way for factors that may not be fully comprehended, the present moment is in an optimum state.”

Embracing optimism brings about:

  • Better relationships – focusing on fulfilling our duty towards those close to us.

  • Purposeful work – doing the daily work that matters the most, bringing about fulfilment and joy.

  • Great health – the vitality to do the work we need to do, for the people who we need to care for.

  • Peace of mind – being content in the moment and enjoying the serenity that this contentment brings.

Even when some of these may come up a little short (because life is not necessarily plain sailing and there will be hiccups along the way), you will find yourself able to calmly endure whatever life throws your way by seeing the opportunity in the circumstance.

Leading an optimal life

So what does it take to lead a life of optimism?

  1. Look at the bright side of life: By taking your boundless inner energy and shining it onto all that you perceive, you will be able to see the opportunity in a previously gloomy situation. Acting on that opportunity can transform your entire life. Looking at the brighter side means you’re leading an optimistic life.
  2. Live with equanimity: All situations that happen in your life, take place because they were meant to. Such is the nature of the world within which we live. All things that come will eventually inevitably go. Such is the way of this world. So to be able to understand that that’s how life is, to calmly accept the reality of our world, is a way to let go of the emotional ups and downs that often arise from witnessing change. Living with equanimity means you’re leading an optimistic life.

  3. Look for the beauty in life: The 109 year old Holocaust survivor Alice Herz-Sommer was asked in an interview about the secret to feeling good. Her response was: “Optimism… and looking for the good. Life is beautiful. You have to be thankful that we are living… Wherever you look is beauty.” Looking for beauty means you’re leading an optimistic life.

  4. Live with awareness: Life isn’t rosy (a phrase often used by pessimists!), but life is real. Go about life with your eyes wide open. Stay vigilant, prepare for your adventures and protect yourself from harm. As the interview came to a close, Alice uttered “I know about the bad things, but I look for the good things.” You don’t need to actively go out looking for trouble or negativity – just be aware that this is a life of struggle and you will face many challenges, but within it is also an opportunity for greatness. Seek out the greatness of what life has to offer. Living with awareness means you’re leading an optimistic life.

I urge you to watch this extract of Alice’s interview (1m22s video) so you can hear the congruency in her voice and see the radiance on her face. You’ll agree that she is a true model for leading an optimal life.

A special mention for my friend Menka whose reason for optimism is that every experience is an opportunity to build awareness. Thank you, Menka, for transforming my mundane cliché’d understanding of “optimism” into an empowering way of life.

True independence

Written by Suraj Shah. Inspired by greatness.

Fourth of July, globally known and celebrated across the USA as a day of independence. A day of freedom, a new start, a fresh beginning. The notion of freedom translated into happiness. Yet, amongst this outer independence, we are still bound, still dependent, still largely unhappy. So how do we get true independence?

Still dependent

From a young age we have been dependent on our parents and those around us for the shelter of a roof over our heads and food in our stomach. We have sought the approval of others to make us feel good and the moment someone doesn’t love us the way we expect, we feel sad.

Our lives are dictated by the actions of others or the situations in the world around us. Our mood is governed by the temporary nature of the mundane objects in this mundane world. Our calm and peace is jeopardised by the fleeting nature of the relationships that we hold so dearly.

The whole of our existence is in constant fluctuation of ups and downs, like a roller-coaster that goes through twists and turns but never comes out of its loop.

We look for happiness in the world around us, but true happiness resides within.

The pursuit of happiness

Its time now to ditch the dependence and look within. The pursuit of happiness is about discovering that inner stability, regardless of the incessant mayhem of this world.

I urge you to find your path to true happiness. Pursue it, like your life depends on it.

It does.

Wishing you a calm and purposeful day, with an inner state independent of the outer situations or good opinion of other people.

Happy independence day.

Adventure following loss

Written by Suraj Shah. Inspired by greatness.

Following a significant loss, some people are consumed by a state of depression, while others find a way to get beyond their suffering and lead a life of adventure.

My dad had just returned from a last-minute two-week adventure in Florida and the Bahamas. Now in his late 50s but living with the spirit of a man in his 30s, he was enthusiastically telling me about all the watersport activities he took part in.

While jet-skiing, he went super fast, with no worries about falling off – he was wearing a life jacket and there were coast guards all around in case of emergency.

When snorkelling, he jumped off a platform over two storeys high to get into the water – just to beat a 20 minute wait going down the normal route – again with life guards around in case he needed help.

As he was telling me all this and more with eyes lit up, I knew he’d had a whale of a time.

In essence, living by example, here’s what he was telling me:

  • It’s ok to take risks: Do a little planning, take the necessary precautions, step a little outside your comfort zone, but surely take a leap.

  • Have fun: This life is hard enough as it is – don’t weigh yourself down further with stresses or worries. Enjoy what you do, whatever you do.

  • Life is for living: This life is rare. This moment is precious. Who knows what will happen later in life. Live with zeal. Live with adventure.

This September it will be 7 years since mum died, but for my dad, he seems to have really embraced life. I have noticed as he has transitioned over the last few years, from frustration and sadness, through to zeal and adventure. Most of all, he’s taken life by the reins, rather than letting it rule him. I’m proud of him for leading by example.

Dad, on this special day, I wish you a very happy birthday. You’re awesome. Enjoy your celebratory weekend ahead filled with fun and adventure.