“I’m livin’ my best life!”, says everyone at Coachella. Not all of us went to #Beychella, but we all know what it means to live our best lives. We feel this when we indulge ourselves or achieve something great. In these moments, it is as if we’re invincible, living vibrantly on our own terms.
What if “living our best lives” became our new normal instead of an occasional occurance?
Though we cannot frequent lavish vacations, attend music festivals, or indulge in midday libations, we are all capable of elevating our current quality of life.
“I’m living my best life” is a phrase “declaring the actions you are doing are causing you to live your greatest life possible”. Essentially, this means striving for greatness in every facet of your life. We must determine our own metrics for greatness and hold ourselves accountable for living up to those standards. Your standards must reflect what you find non-negotiable or most valuable. It is by consistently living by your standards that you achieve a higher quality of life.
Setting standards or rules is often seen as a dull and confined way of orienting oneself, because it is synonymous to living with discipline and without spontaneity. However, this is a common misconception.
It is through the rules that you set for yourself and those around you that create opportunities for the better aspects of life to take over.
You begin to live life on your own terms, by your own values, and stop accepting sub-par experiences that do not meet your standards.
I use this model when I make decisions, especially when choosing friends. As an undergraduate, I did not have the “full college experience”. I worked long hours, went to school full-time, and commuted 50 miles every day. With my limited time for socializing, I had no choice but to be ruthlessly selective and intentional about who I brought into my life. After all,
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” — Jim Rohn
I began thinking about what personality traits I wanted in a friend: self-aware, appreciative, understanding, conscious, respectful… I wanted to have meaningful conversations with people who would motivate me to work harder and execute better.
It was (and still is) difficult to find people who fit this profile. My growing intolerance of low-quality people did not help either. I became quick to discriminate people into categories labelled “acquaintances” and “friends”. I questioned my humanity as I judgmentally filtered people, however my well-being still held priority. I knew this was necessary if I wanted to grow from my relationships.
Although I made many companions through one-on-ones, I did not have a solid friend group to call my own. It was when I graduated college when I stopped dwelling and focused on spending time with myself and a few loved ones. As a result, I was able to deepen my understanding of those I value most and continued to refine my sense of self.
It was this month on a weekend Yosemite trip when I finally found “my group”. I planned the trip with a few friends, purposefully inviting people who embodied characteristics of my ideal friend. Fortunately, everyone blended well together. The trip was filled with incredibly vulnerable conversations, nonstop dancing, and homey meals around the dining table. A family was forming, and I could not be more excited and grateful. By the end of the weekend, we felt as if we’ve known each other for years. We even started planning the next trip before we said our long goodbyes. Had I invited just anyone, the experience would not have been as fulfilling.
I understand how pretentious this can sound, but there comes a point when you stop caring about outside perspectives. I am critical because it’s what’s best for me and my personal growth — my own non-negotiable.
This idea of setting standards bleeds into other parts of life. If you value clothing that is comfortable and compliments your body, then make it a rule to only shop for items that suit you. If you value alone time, then make a rule to only go out certain times of the month. If you value autonomy and growth in a job, then only apply to companies that can provide what you need.
You are in control of creating a life that caters to your wants and needs.
Define what is non-negotiable for you.
Create a list of things you value above all else, things that take precedent over everything and anyone. This can include personal development, health, sleep, family, friends, how you spend your time, etc.
Hold your non-negotiables sacred.
This means taking action when events infringe on your needs. This requires one to be disciplined and deliberate about how they spend their time. An example is going out on a weekday. If you need to sleep well to work optimally at work, decline that spontaneous hangout so you can get a good night’s rest. If your friends are respectful of your needs, they will understand.
Acknowledge that you are worth the sacrifice.
No one should have to compromise their needs for anyone. This connects to the saying, “You can only give what you already have.” Incessantly pleasing others before yourself will cause you to burn out, feel unfulfilled, and potentially lash out.
This was difficult for me to accept being that had a collectivist upbringing. I had always put my family’s needs before mine until I realized how damaging it was to my own health. I contemplated the scenario of the poor mother who has to choose between feeding herself or her children first. It seems selfish for the mother to feed herself before her own children, but how is she supposed to help her children if she dies of starvation? My circumstances are definitely not as dire, however I now know when to put myself first.
Making decisions according to your standards teaches you to live by your principles. Moreover, it teaches the people around you that you will not tolerate any form of indecency. It’s about time we cut out the noise and make room for the finer things that make life worth living.
This article was inspired by the multiple conversations with Kofi Bonsu, Wally Rashid, and Mina Nada as we drove to and from Yosemite. Thank you for being vulnerable, open-minded, and real. I am also moved by my unconditional, loving friendships with Kevin Luu and Thuyvy Tu. You two make me feel invincible. I value and appreciate you all.
Thank you Phoebe Lee and Theresa Tran for editing this article.