Live and Let Live

The lightness that comes from finding your 'thing'

Live and Let Live
“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.” – Eckhart Tolle

I’ve experienced a pleasant change in my attitude over the last year.

I am more relaxed about what other people do with their lives.

I’m less advice-y, less prescriptive, and more focused on my own mountain.

Oh, you want to quit your job. Cool, go for it.

Considering studying further? Nice.

Dye your hair pink? Love it.

I used to hold onto things firmly. I thought I always had to have an opinion and give advice.

My idea of what success looked like was narrow. For me, the ‘right’ life entailed getting good grades, doing well at university, landing a prestigious job, climbing the corporate ladder, retiring and then who knows what. Anyone straying from that path was foolish, I thought.

As I’ve matured, I’ve realized how limited and naive this worldview is.

As I’ve loosened up, I’ve realized there are many different paths in life, all equally valid. There are many different definitions of success and different modes of being. People switching careers, people on sabbatical, people starting companies, people taking a break to raise kids.

It’s wonderful. Life is rich and fascinating. It would suck to pigeonhole them all into my tiny slither of a worldview. How boring would life be if everyone was exactly like me? Worse yet - if they followed all my advice to the tee?

It's been way nicer to observe, listen and go through life with less judgment.

So why the change?

I think it comes down to several things.

I. I’m getting older (and finally growing up perhaps)

With age, comes perspective. Or so they say.

By moving countries, changing careers, and reading & writing more than ever before, I’ve seen many different ways of living. I’ve been proven wrong (many times). My views have been challenged (the perks of dating someone from a different background).

This is great. It’s made me more realistic about who and what I can impact.

I’ve become more Stoic. Instead of giving advice on (and judging) how others should lead their lives, I commit to climbing my own mountain instead.

This is a much better use of my energy.

As my friend Wes Lambert says about dealing with his failed attempt to reunite a couple during couple’s therapy:

“The painful reality of life is that we cannot control anything outside of ourselves.”

Being on the other side of this transformation, it’s curious to observe a sense of “holding on” in other people. Like they haven’t realized the limits of their influence yet.

One example of this is parents living through their children. Dictating to the children how they should live because they never fulfilled their own dreams and never found their passions in life. This is a shame. Instead of helping, they end up pushing their kids further away.

Rather control what you can, keep your side of the fence clean, and give advice when someone actively seeks it out.

II. Exposure to coaching

Another reason for my shift in perspective could come down to more interactions with coaches through my circle of writing friends.

In the past, I overlooked the importance of mentoring and coaching. Now I realise the value of having a guide by your side. Athletes have had coaches and trainers for ages, why shouldn’t we also accept coaching in our careers and lives?

I admire the benefits of having an objective, supportive, non-judgmental external party who acts as a mirror.

Through speaking to coaches and working with a coach myself last year, I’ve tried to copy and apply some coaching habits in my relationships as well.

Their mantra is to give less advice and listen more.

Act like a thinking partner. The person you’re helping already knows the solution to their problems, you don’t need to add external critiques and advice to the mix.

“After all, when you seek advice from someone it's certainly not because you want them to give it. You just want them to be there while you talk to yourself.” - Terry Pratchett

This shift has fostered an attitude of genuine curiosity in me. Instead of relying on preconceived ideas (“You should definitely leave that girl, she’s bad news”), I ask questions now (“Do you think this relationship is serving you?”). Without realizing it, I’ve become more like my dad, who embodies this perfectly. Someone who is supportive instead of judgmental.

Note: I can highly recommend The Conversation Starter by Rik van der Berge if you’re interested in learning how to be a better listener. Rik is a down-to-earth, no-BS coach, with excellent guidance on being a better partner, friend and supporter for the people in your life.

III. Finding my thing

While growing up and embodying a coaching mindset have been important shifts, finding my ‘thing’ has by far been the biggest attitude remedy for me.

Because I enjoy what I do, I don't need to project my problems onto others.

Since I started writing, I am more consumed by and fulfilled with my own 'thing', so there is no need to fix things for others.

In corporate, I recall being more judgmental. I resorted to finding fault in others because I wasn’t content with what I was doing. I was one of those people who would tell others they should exercise more or look at their diet. Clearly, I was projecting my dissatisfaction onto them, but I thought I was doing them a favour by giving advice. It’s embarrassing to look back on this and it ruined relationships.

Through writing, I’ve unlocked something that keeps me stimulated intellectually, gives me a challenge, and helps me figure out my thinking.

It has become part of my identity. I feel like I’ve finally found something I can hold onto. By sharing my ideas online, creating a website with a number of essays and drawings, and saying this is me, this is how I think, I have found an antidote to my restlessness.

As funny or vain as it sounds, having something I can point to as ‘my own’ is exactly what I needed to get out of the way of others.

Feeling lighter

The world isn’t black or white, it’s everything in between.

My wish is that we all find our thing. Our calling. Our antidote to restlessness.

Maybe that’s running super far for super long. Or getting ridiculously good at chess. Or composing the most beautiful piano solos. There are many roads to Rome and many ways of being.

I never knew that finding your passion could make you more empathetic.

If you live (find your thing), then you can let live.

Thanks to Rik van den Berge and Melissa Menke for reading drafts of this essay.

Originally published at on August 4, 2023.