My retired brother is enviably clear about what makes him happy. This summer he built himself a small camper for the road trips that are one of his greatest joys. He enjoyed the process of building the camper and a few weeks ago he headed out. This trip is expected to last almost three months, the fourth of months-long journeys in the last two years, visiting National Parks and seeing friends along the way.
He also seems happy when he is not on the road. He reads books on his phone that he tells me are junk, is a popular bartender at a local high end restaurant, goes fishing and sleeps a lot. If he has my compulsion toward constant goal-setting, he hides it well.
Last week, he texted me praising the great camping in North Dakota’s Teddy Roosevelt National Park along with a photo of a bison on the range. When I shared a screenshot with the rest of the family, one of my nieces responded “He is living his best life.”
The insistent internal voice telling me to improve myself is temporarily satisfied whether I learn something new, reduce my carbon footprint, or act more kindly and I do experience joy when I achieve any of my self-improvement goals. My brother’s message and my niece’s response are fresh reminders that living my own best life also requires pursuing pure joy unrelated to self-improvement.