The Art of Being Human (and Happy)

The Art of Being: I don’t care how you get there – get there if you can!

Image presenting life as a learning challenge.
Learning is a lifelong challenge

It can take a lifetime to learn the art of being a whole and happy person. Taking short cuts with education, training and coaching is not cheating – it’s smart!

There are people who love formal leaning, people who don’t, and people who don’t seem to fit in anywhere. Fortunately we learn the Art of Being a human being in the University of Life, but there are other places to learn too. And sometimes the most unusual lessons can be learned in the most unusual places. When it comes to being human, the university janitor can be as informed as the chancellor! There is no limit to the learning, so there is no limit to who can be teacher either.

Help and advice in growing up

Growing up is not just the responsibility of the young. Life’s harder lessons come much later in life – some of the hardest of all right near the end. We continue to develop knowledge, understanding and skills while we still have the ability. Growing up is the process of learning the Art of Being, and lasts from cradle to grave. Choosing who to listen to is one of the big challenges we face.

As children the world is full of people telling us what to do, how to do it, and (hopefully) why to do it. They also let us know whether we have achieved the goal! As we become more independent we select our own influencers. Celebrities, peers and significant others may be more alluring than listening to Grandma. She often seems out of touch and doesn’t really understand.

Of course Grandmas usually understand all too well. As we mature we see that the confident dismissals of youth come from blissful ignorance. Each of us goes through this process of revelation. Each must gain this understanding to benefit from the experiences of others. The alternative is to learn everything the hard way! Every event is an opportunity for learning. Allowing others to share their hard-won knowledge with us is a privilege we should be grateful for.

Learning, unlearning and relearning the things we need to know

Humans have succeeded in spreading across the globe by developing adaptable cultures. You can find spiders everywhere in the world too, but only those suited to particular environments. Humans have learned to live everywhere – even in space – by learning to adapt and teach one another to survive.

Human evolution has therefore come to include cultural evolution. We change our culture (our acquired habits of living) at breakneck speed compared to the slow pace of biological evolution. Our ability to change and adapt (which we know as intelligence) marks us as different from other animals. We don’t know what it is like to be them, but they probably never think about what it is like to be us. They are not wired to do so the way we are – because we humans are learning machines!

Having said that – I don’t think my cats ever worried too much about their credit rating or their online profile. There are probably advantages to keeping it simple. You won’t find Oliver worrying about his tax return.

Look at life philosophically – like Oliver

The Art of Being involves finding a balance

We can all appreciate spending time just being human. For some of us that means family time or hanging out with friends, while others enjoy games or more solitary hobbies. Achieving a healthy pattern of exercising, eating and sleeping is a vital part of this too. Downtime, playtime, or quality time, however you conceive of it, is important for our health and wellbeing. It allows us to rest and process the world in alternative ways, and to recharge our creative batteries. (If you want some pointers on that – just ask Oliver – he could teach us humans a thing or two!)

But not everyone is good at achieving downtime. Some people are so driven they can only switch off if they leave home and go on holiday -and they won’t be leaving their phone behind. In the modern world your boss could still call you if you were in orbit around the planet! Not good for health or wellbeing. Learning to set boundaries to protect your you-time is an essential skill to learn.

The Art if Being With Intent

Finding a balance between living in the moment, living for the future and living for others is a critical skill of The Art of Being.

Other people can struggle to step up to the mark. At some point we all need to put our toys aside and apply ourselves with intent. There is thinking to do, things to learn, goals to set and plans to make. Work must be done and money earned if we are to develop into productive and satisfied members of society. And people are depending on us to do this – cat biscuits don’t grow on trees you know!

We may like the idea of living the good life, with only pleasure and fun in mind, but the reality is far from satisfactory. A life lived in that way is boring. Having nothing meaningful to do is soul destroying. Real satisfaction comes from having a dream and making it real, not from consuming products created by people more successful than ourselves.

The Humane Being – us at our absolute best!

In everyone’s life there are times when we face particularly difficult challenges. We have to learn to step up again; to find our very best self. We may be required to make real sacrifices for very good reasons. We all have to learn to put our own desires – and even our health and safety at times – in the service of other people. This often demands us to mange ourselves with great emotional restraint or self discipline. While situations like this can be formative in developing our mature characters, don’t underestimate the value in learning some really useful skills in advance!

I often compare managing emotions to managing a water hose. Anyone can cope with an empty hose, when it is full of water it can be heavy and hard to carry, but once you let it open under pressure it can be like fighting a wild animal! I strongly recommend learning emotional skills in advance of needing them.

Firstly you don’t want to be learning to use a hose when your house is on fire, you need to have those skills immediately! Secondly, learning under controlled conditions is much easier and more precise than learning in extreme conditions. Thirdly, trying to live happily while dragging a hose full of heavy emotions behind you is a waste. Sort out your baggage and get on with enjoying life. Prevention is always better than cure!

Finding a balance is always the key

Whatever stage you are in on your life journey, today will bring you something new; the worst thing you can do is to fail to notice it. Intelligence is the ability to recognise what is going on and to find ways to deal with it successfully and sustainably, so wandering through life without noticing things is not the best way to go.

That doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to do something about what you notice beyond thinking about it a little and considering what the implications might be. If you can do that sitting next to the pool with a Mai Tai so much the better, but you may need to apply yourself with more intention.

If the occurrence is a significant one you may well need to do some research, find out why it happened and what it means for you and take steps to control the situation. You may need to adapt to accommodate or remove the situation from your future. One thing is sure – ignoring a real problem never made it go away – but it often gives it time to establish itself comfortably!

The Art of Being Brave

If it is a serious threat you may need to put your own concerns aside. This is where we put on our big boy trousers and and take out our more responsible and socially aware priorities. Your plans may come second to the need to contain and resolve a threat to others as well as yourself. In fact as a responsible person, your own wellbeing can often be pushed aside. This is why learning to be well is so important. When people are relying on you – you have a duty to take care of yourself. You need to be strong enough to bear that responsibility. Good luck if you are dealing with that kind of challenge today; be your most humane and courageous self!

Invest in your own Art of Being

A life lived without understanding and intention can be something of a wasteland. If you can manage your feelings and think well – then life is a gift!

Why not spend some time today thinking about how you are spending your time? Are you Being with your best intention? Are you spending a little too much – or too little time – just being human? Or are you coping with challenges that are testing you and forcing you to adapt to survive? Whatever you discover, remember that in the art of being you are creating your own Self. If you want to live a life that brings you satisfaction and joy, you must invest time, effort and thought in making it that way.

If you want to get to appreciate life as a gift (while you are still young enough to enjoy it) be prepared to learn from others. They may just know the answers to your problems already. If you don’t invest your time in sharing with them, then they cannot invest their wisdom in you!

Inside every mature person is the child they used to be.  An image showing a photograph being taken of an older woman, which shows her as an infant.
What you see isn’t all of the story!

Visit the Campbell Education Library for free learning materials and modular courses in aspects of growth and self development in The Art of Being.

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