A goal for most people I know is to live a well life. But what does that really mean? If we don’t pay attention, stay conscious and strive to be proactive, it’s likely that we are creating our life by default rather than by design. In other words, we end up reacting to whatever is happening in the world around us—in our families, our workplace, or with our health—and if it’s good, we are happy. But if any of those outward circumstances takes a nasty turn, we veer off track and end up in the bushes. Only when we consciously choose to design our life, can we claim the reality of a well life.
Fortunately there is help. A new book by Briana and Dr. Peter Borten titled, The Well Life offers dozens of ideas and practices to help us structure a life filled with balance, happiness and peace. Even those of us who have read hundreds of books on self-empowerment, spirituality and positive living can benefit by many of the suggestions offered in the book. And with a New Year just around the corner, who among us can’t use a few pointers to ensure that our design is a creation we hope to experience in the days to come?
What Does A Well Life Look Like?
Of course, in order to create a life by design it is important to define what is meant by a well life. According to the authors, a few of those qualities are:
- An experience of ease in our bodies and all our activities.
- A sense of openness and eagerness about the future.
- Authenticity or integrity in the body, spirit, emotions, and mind.
- The ongoing desire to expand, create, learn and grow.
- Healthy and fulfilling relationships
- Financial stability
- Frequent experiences of laughter, play and enjoyment.
- Other qualities that fit your personal lifestyle.
Three Elements of A Well Life
At the core of the book are three elements that are essential for a well life. These elements are woven throughout the book as a foundation necessary to keep all aspects of our lives in balance. These three principals work together to ensure that every area of our lives stays balanced and satisfying.
The first element is a sense of sweetness. As the authors say, “Sweetness not only makes life more satisfying, it also makes you stronger and better—more authentically you.” The way I understand it, sweetness is what makes our experiences of everything richer and more rewarding. It is the combination of play, loving, creating, enjoying, being in nature, dancing, laughing and spending time with friends that are so often what makes our hearts sing and feel glad.
The second element is structure. The authors explain this in terms of “life architecture.” Without good structure or life architecture, the entire foundation of our lives might be overly unsound, complicated or stressful. As explained by the Borton’s, “A good structure is one that’s forged consciously, incorporates sweetness and space, and steers you in the direction of your dreams.”
The final element is space. The authors define this by saying, “Space is where we listen—not to our thoughts or the media, but to the stillness within us where truth lives.” Without space our sweetness may be inauthentic or unconnected to our real self. By the same token, without space, structure loses its perspective and direction. Space, or what we might call emptiness, pulls us out of the perpetual mental engagement that often dominates our lives.
Pointers For A Well Life
- Mental, emotional and physical stillness allows us to connect more deeply with ourselves and the world around us. Without that ability, the mental overload or the “Human Data Stream” can overwhelm us. The Borton’s explain, many of us “have learned to browse through life—to stay shallow—which makes it harder for us to go deep and hold our focus for an extended period. They wisely recommend, “If you need to watch something, watch your breath.”
- Keeping your agreements and doing what you say you’re going to do, “could be the most life-changing habit a person could adopt,” say the authors. They go on to explain, “Agreements are structures, and healthy agreements make for a healthy life.”
- Most of us aren’t clear about what it is that we truly want. A big reason is we don’t trust ourselves. We are also afraid we will make the wrong choice, or that choosing one path will make the other options unavailable. Not true. We can always change our mind and sometimes we will find even more benefits by letting the path unfold as it goes.
- Understanding the difference between self-worth and self-esteem provides clarity on the path to a greater confidence to do and create the things we choose. According to the Borton’s, “Recognition of your self-worth will make you stronger in yourself; good self-esteem can help you take this value into the world and put it into use.”
- Community is essential—but we only thrive when we make our communities intentional. Unless our communities embrace similar values as us, there will always be friction.
- When we discover what lights us up, it’s just like discovering a superpower. As the authors say, “Even if your goals are quite modest, and even if you never reach them, if you’re guided by purpose and use your gifts, life won’t feel like a missed opportunity.”
- The famous saying by Joseph Campbell, “Follow your bliss” is often misinterpreted. Instead of a blanket endorsement to do whatever you want whenever you want, he actually felt that if you follow your passion then no matter what challenges you encounter along the way, you will realize they are just part of the journey. Instead, he later came out with, “I wish I had said, ‘Follow your blisters.’”
- Sometimes it is important to be okay with the idea of not achieving your goals or intentions. That’s because if you try too hard, or are afraid that it will never happen, you might actually be putting up obstacles or pushing your good away. If you can relax into the idea of not realizing your intentions enough to recognize the blocks within you, you might discover what needs to be let go of before you can move on. As the authors say, “The thing is, the fear of being poor isn’t what makes someone rich, and the fear of being fat isn’t what makes someone thin. Aversion may motivate us, but it doesn’t produce healthy, lasting, sustainable change.”
- Not everything that happens to you is a result of your thoughts. Sometimes bad things happen to good people no matter what. However, as the Borten’s say, “the quality of the lens you see life through is arguably a more significant determinant of your quality of life than your actual circumstances are.
- According to the authors, planning is “…the structure that enables the integration of sweetness and space in your life, so it is a precious thing.” What planning allows us to do is to make our intentions more real. It generates momentum, asserts our position as creators of our lives, and aids in necessary discipline. Of course, one should avoid over-planning, but as a practice good planning is a big benefit to a well life.
Believe it or not but I have just barely scratched the surface of the wisdom and practical ideas I found in this book. While some of the pointers I mention might sound similar to other authors and/or books, I was delighted by the amount of new, interesting and helpful information the authors provide.
Of course, like SMART Living or rightsizing, a Well Life is not something you manage to achieve just once. It is an ongoing process of learning, stretching, growing and discovering each and every day. As the author’s say in a very SMART way, “It’s time to stop treating life like a temperamental slot machine—you’re not at the mercy of an unconscious thing that delivers random outcomes, determined by luck.” Instead, we each have tremendous influence on the shape of our lives, and always on the sweetness, space and structure of every single day.
Lynne Spreen says
I love the idea of space. For years I wondered if I should speed up or slow down, given the shortened timeline. Finally I decided I would do both at once! Pedal to the metal on days I plan to (yes, I plan out each day of the week), and I also schedule full days to do nothing. Sometimes, the best email I can get is the one from my Google Calendar that says, “You have no events scheduled today.” YAY!
Thanks for a thoughtful, comprehensive, informative post (as usual).
Happy New Year, Kathy.
Joanne Mahoney says
Good post. Having purpose with good intention has been my mantra of late. I will have to read this book. I am a HUGE planner ( to my husband’s frustration); but when I set goals, I have a purpose.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Joanne! When I was younger I did make my husband a bit crazy too. But through the years he has grown to appreciate the many advantages of it. When we know in advance of what we hope to do and what our options are, it doesn’t mean we HAVE to do them but it does make things clearer. People who don’t have that often just float around and then wonder why things sometimes work out or just as often, don’t. I loved how this book points out that it is in the balance of the structure, space and sweetness that we get the best of all worlds. Thanks for your comment. ~Kathy
Still the Lucky Few says
Setting intentions and keeping to your plans…It’s most important, I think, to maintain flexibility while doing this. Certainly plan away, even write down your plans in a journal, but always leave room for those occasions when plans go astray. I find to do otherwise, to become too invested in what you intended to do, just leads to dissatisfaction and stress.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Diane! I definitely agree with you about structure and intentions. I think that is why it is so important to balance them with sweetness and space. I think when we do it we not only open ourselves to more options, but we give ourselves more freedom to make conscious choices. All important for sure. I hope you had a great Christmas and your 2017 is filled with peace, happiness, good health! ~Kathy
Hi Kathy, I really enjoyed this post! Playing catch up with my favorite bloggers, as we spend our holidays in San Diego with our families. And that leads me to that feeling of sweetness, which I just love! What a way to describe these feelings! Structure is also big for me, and I provided that to my husband when we first met, to lead him out of his nomadic lifestyle. For some, that lifestyle is applauded, but at our age, structure provides stability which in turn, allows for a wellness lifestyle. That sweetness you so deftly describe is literally the icing on the cake! Hope your holidays were wonderful!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Terri! Happy New Year! So nice to spend time with the people you love–and yes! That certainly counts as sweetness. And thanks for sharing your thoughts on structure. I think about it in a very similar way. But sweetness helps balance it out in such a lovely way. May your 2017 be filled with sweetness, structure and space. ~Kathy
Very interesting Kathy! I really like all these points. Thanks for the book review since I am not a self help book reader I really appreciate it.
Good pointers but I disagree on nr. 9. Any action is preceded by a thought. Mind Above Matter!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Claudyu! Yes, when I read this I did have to pause and think about it too. In the interest of length I didn’t explain it nearly as well as they do in the book. I too believe very much in the concept of Mind over Matter. But I believe the most important thing they wanted to address in this idea was that beating ourselves up and/or blaming ourselves for every challenge we face is not always because we had that one bad thought that one day when we weren’t fully conscious. I tend to believe that there are several reasons that challenging circumstances show up in our lives and saying it is only our thoughts or the fault of our thoughts is too simplistic (IMHO). Of course, having a well life doesn’t mean we have to agree on things–only that we each find and then do what works best for us. Thank you so much for your comment and addressing something I’ll bet others are thinking as well. Kathy
Susan Mary Malone says
I just love the idea of a sense of sweetness! I’d never thought about it like that, but when I’m really in the flow, that’s exactly what life tastes like 🙂
Love this post, Kathy! Happy Holidays to You and Thom!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hey Susan! Yes isn’t that such a “sweet” idea? It points back to something so obvious but not always apparent. Yet without that quality, what makes a life rich and full would be missing. May you find such sweetness in the coming days everywhere you look! Merry Christmas! ~Kathy
Susan Mary Malone says
Back at’cha, Kathy! Merry Christmas!
You always find such interesting and thoughtful books to share with us. I think that ensuring we have sweetness, structure, and space in our lives will serve us well in the new year and beyond.
I knew about the misinterpretation of the Joseph Campbell quote, but wasn’t aware of his “Follow your blisters” change-up… love it!
Best wishes to you and Thom for a wonderful holiday!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hey Janis! Yes, isn’t sweetness, structure and space a new way to think about it all? I love finding new ways to approach much of what we already know because it allows me to embody it so much better. And I am REALLY glad when it helps others to the same. And yes, in 2016 let’s follow our blisters! ~Kathy
Hi, Kathy – These are great pointers, especially as we head into a brand new year. My blog was actually a New Year’s Resolution that I made last year. It has allowed me to achieve many healthy living goals that I had set. I fully agree that is is essential to stay vigilant on creating a ‘life by design’ rather than a ‘life by default’. Thank you for a very thought-provoking and timely post!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Donna! Glad this post triggered some thoughts about the coming New Year (I was hoping for that!) As a planner myself I was delighted at how they explained the need for structure in one’s life in a way that made such sense. Most of all the good that has come to me in my life has been from the ability to set intentions and then hold the discipline to allow them to come into being. Without structure that doesn’t usually happen. Far better to “design” your life than just see what shows up. Thanks for your comment and Merry Christmas! ~Kathy