How to live

Posted: May 26th, 2017 | Columns, Featured, Life Beyond Therapy | No Comments

By Michael Kimmel | Life Beyond Therapy

The title of this column kept tapping me on the shoulder. For three days, I tried resisting, but my intuition prevailed; so here we are.

Obviously, there is no one way to live. We each do it differently. We are supposed to. We are here to create, enjoy and learn from being alive.

How to live? We make it up. From what? From our experience, intuition, knowledge, what others tell us. We’ll only find out by experimenting. It’s all a big experiment … this life, this day, this moment.

I’d like to suggest some qualities and/or characteristics whose development have been helpful for my clients (and me) over the years:

  • Humor
  • Curiosity
  • Open-mindedness
  • A willingness to be uncomfortable
  • Consciousness/awareness
  • Forgiveness/letting go
  • Assertiveness

Most of my clients come to me because they want support with dealing with obstacles they have encountered as they get closer and closer to how they want to live. These obstacles include:

  • Feeling lonely and unloved
  • Anger
  • Bitterness
  • Perfectionism and rigidity
  • Fear
  • Ignorance
  • Passivity or aggression

One way to live is by aspiring to be open-minded. “Why?” you may ask. Because to continually keep learning new things while discarding old ideas that no longer work for you is a great way to get smarter and happier as you age.

Here’s a question that’s answer will show you in what direction you’re headed: “Are you willing to be wrong?”

The bad news is: We need to be willing to be wrong in order to be change and grow. The good news is: If we are willing to be wrong, we are on our way to happiness.

If you’re too much of a perfectionist, or rigid or afraid, then try to be willing to be wrong. You may think it will be terrifying; but, it’s actually a key to freedom.

And freedom is a very good thing.

Let’s talk about growing up. Yes, regardless of our age, many of us still act like little boys and girls. Often, with clients, it’s clear to me that the person’s real problem is that they’re still acting like the child they once were.

I may even say, “It sounds to me like you haven’t grown up yet.” Almost always, the answer is, “I want to, but I don’t know how.” This is a good place to start.

Growing up is uncomfortable. No way around it.

Are you willing? Are you willing to sit in a little puddle of discomfort from time to time in order to create the life you want? I hope so. Everyone experiences discomfort, but some of us learn to face it and begin to make peace with it.

Try this: Say to yourself,, “Okay (uncomfortable feeling), I’ve been resisting you long enough and that hasn’t worked, so now I am going to invite you into my consciousness and stop running away. Tell me what I need to learn. What people/situations/things do I need to drop and what new things do I want to begin that will bring me the future I want?”

Ask and you will receive.

Here’s another tip for a happier life: Watch your language. Your language is crucial to who you are and who you will become. What you say becomes your future. Start to listen to yourself. Pay attention to what comes out of your mouth. Your words – literally – create your future.

Notice when you use negative words to describe yourself. They are self-fulfilling, you know. And drop the word “should” completely from your vocabulary.

As my friend from Texas says, “Don’t ‘should’ on yourself.” She’s right. Using the word “should” always means that you’re not doing what you “should” do. But, according to whom?

Try replacing “should” with “could” and begin to feel a bit lighter. Long ago, I stopped saying “I should go to the gym” and replaced it with “I could go to the gym.”

Michael Kimmel

“Could” reminds me that I have a choice. “Should” is the old voice of an internalized critical parent telling you that you’re doing it wrong.

Don’t go there anymore.

As summer begins, it’s the perfect time to try an experiment: What little things can you do in your life that will make you happier? Begin to do some of them and see what happens.

—Michael Kimmel is a licensed psychotherapist. His first book, “A Gay Man’s Guide to Open and Monogamous Marriage,” will be available June 8. Advance order today (with a 30 percent discount) from Contact him at 619-955-3311 or visit

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