Far too many people think that “live” and “exist” are synonyms. They aren’t. While of course you must exist in order to live, you don’t have to live in order to exist.
At its core, the difference between existing and living is this: When you exist, you do the things you need to do in order to stay alive; when you live, you do the things you want to do in order to enjoy your life. Existing is all about survival. You breathe, eat, sleep, and work to pay your bills that keep you fed, clothed, and sheltered. Living, on the other hand, is all about enjoyment. You savor virtually every day and every moment of your existence. You love what you do and how you go about existing.
Hallmarks of Existing Versus Living
Existing and living have the same four hallmarks but vastly different results. If you’re just existing, this is your life:
- Purpose: You have no real purpose.
- Engagement: You plod through your days passively and mechanically.
- Activities: Life happens to you and you go through the motions to maintain it.
- Emotions: You feel no passion or joy; in fact, you may not feel much at all.
Compare this with truly living:
- Purpose: You know your purpose and pursue it.
- Engagement: You “attack” your days actively and enthusiastically.
- Activities: You control your life and the things you do to enjoy it.
- Emotions: You feel passion, joy, enthusiasm, interest, happiness, contentment, and fulfillment.
Questions To Ask Yourself
If you want to establish whether you’re living or just existing, ask yourself the following questions:
- Who or what controls my life?
- Why am I doing what I do?
- Am I following my dreams?
- Am I living up to my potential?
- Am I doing what I want to do or what I have to do?
- Do I love waking up each morning, eager to start my day?
- Have I set my own goals, or have I allowed someone else to set them for me?
- Am I moving forward or merely running in place and stagnating?
- Do I feel basically free or basically trapped?
Quotes About Living
Sometimes seeing what others have to say about living helps you determine whether you're living rather than existing. So think about the following:
Steve Jobs, Apple Inc. co-founder, CEO and chairman: “For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
Doug Hutchison, actor: “I think being in love with life is a key to eternal youth.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer: “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.”
Emily Dickinson, author: “Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough.”
Maya Angelou, poet: “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author who suffered from slow-progressing ALS that completely paralyzed him and left him unable to speak: “However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.”
Oprah Winfrey, media mogul: “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”
- Jackson Brown, Jr., author: “Life doesn’t require that we be the best, only that we try our best.”
Will the quadriplegic to Lou his caregiver with whom he falls in love in the book and movie “Me Before You”: “You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.”
So, the question remains: Are you living or just existing? Only you can answer it.