#OneLife — The 5 underlying philosophies to life

Rajiv Srivatsa @telljeeves
7 min readSep 12, 2019
Image Credit: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/02/well/move/even-a-little-exercise-might-make-us-happier.html

This is the first part of a 3 part series covering my philosophy to living a happy, successful and fulfilling life.

Part 2 — https://medium.com/@telljeeves/onelife-a-guide-to-living-a-happy-successful-and-fulfilling-life-1d3efaa1816c

Part 3 — https://medium.com/@telljeeves/onelife-the-100-hour-rule-daedeb671994

Introduction

Happiness is one of the most searched topics on the internet. It does not matter which stage of life you are in, or how privileged you are — every single human being is searching for happiness in some aspect of life. It could be in the form of being healthy. It could be in the form of more fulfilling relationships. It is may be success at work. Or it may just be about having fun in life. Happiness manifests itself in all of these different forms.

3 years back, I had gone through difficulties at work and a divorce, and began reading a lot of literature (thousands of years old) on happiness, success and fulfilment. One Confucius quote that struck me strong was this —

We have two lives, and the second begins when we realise we only have one.

Everyone needs a story to live towards, and for me, it became anchored around this quote. I became a big proponent of this term #OneLife. The term itself is not new — there are many variations of it like #YOLO etc. I have also written in the past here about the philosophies behind living #OneLife and a framework for living it (around a year back). I had also touched upon different ways to be happy.

Over time, after getting a lot of feedback from people, and living my own #OneLife, I have modified and prioritised certain aspects of the #OneLife framework. The following 3-part article contains the modified version of this framework, with far more structure to it. Nothing in this article is rocket science, it just offers a structured perspective to look at/ prioritise life.

The 5 underlying philosophies to #OneLife

The universe is 13+ billion years old. Our own earth is 4+ billion years old. Humans (homo sapiens) have been living on this earth for close to 100k years. The study of happiness has been in vogue for at least 3000 years. Compared to all this, our own life time is a small speck. Human history, evolution, studying trend-lines and understanding philosophy has gone a long way in sorting out certain fundamentals towards being happy. So here are the top 5 that I believe are critical for every one of us to internalise -

(1) One Life to Live

  • All of us have only one physical life to live. It does not matter which religious school you subscribe to, no one remembers ‘past lives’ or ‘future lives’. So, it’s critical that you live this one life without regrets — after all when you are moving on from this life, you don’t want to look back and say ‘I should have done this / done that’. And here’s data on what that could be from a nurse who has attended to 100s on their deathbed.
  • Every human is supremely talented in multiple ways — so living life to its full potential is also a critical aspect of life. This again goes back to the regret point — you do not want to look back and say that you had the potential to have done far more but could not do it for whatever reason. As you will see in subsequent points, successes and failures are all part of the journey — so nothing should deride you from realising your full potential.
  • You can realise all this at whatever point in time — typically after a major life event because we all have inertia to realise it otherwise. For e.g. for me, it was right after my divorce and work challenges. The great part about life is that the present moment is the only truth. The past is gone, and the future is unpredictable. So it does not matter when you realise it — you maybe aged 20 or 60 — you start living it then.

(2) Millions of options exist

  • The universe is a rich place and there are millions of options out there. Across people, places, jobs, media, hobbies, and the likes. Technology has helped us connect globally to a variety of these options, all at the click of a button on a mobile phone. The younger you are, the easier it is for you to explore a variety of options across health, relationships, work, travel, media etc.
  • If something closes, some other option always opens up. The great part about these options is that, if one option closes for you for some reason, there’s always a variety of other options to go after. Life is too rich to brood over something that’s not working out. Just have an open mind to try something new.
  • Explore as many as possible at any time without the fear of missing out (FOMO). We all have only 70–90 years in this life to explore these different options — so how much ever successful or how much ever money you have, it’s impossible to explore all of this in one physical life. So stop having FOMO about missing out on exploring a particular place or a particular profession.

(3) Love & Commit to 1/few

  • Love some. And make some deeper commitments too at any point in time. It’s easy for all of us to move from one option to another but there’s joy in committing deep to some option — it could be a particular person / particular profession.
  • When you commit and go deep into loving a particular aspect, there’s a very different kind of a feeling you experience. That’s because the biochemicals in the body get going to achieve flow. These biochemicals work to give you great happiness (and at times great sadness too when something does not work out)
  • We are all human, so desire is absolutey fine. We are not born to live the life of a monk (at least not until you have experienced enough!). Desire leads to love & passion which also leads to vulnerability & heartbreak. As you will realise from the next point, that’s all part of life.

(4) Purpose of life is the journey

  • The purpose of life is the journey itself, not any particular milestone. That’s because milestones come and go and are impermanent. Whether it’s a particular materialistic object, or a promotion, or a life stage event, or your favorite sports team’s win, everything has its shelf life on providing happiness. Life goes on the next day or week or month. A rich life is one that’s gone through a lot of different experiences, not just successes in a narrow field.
  • So look at results dispassionately, cause love / passion will also lead to some heartaches when results don’t go your way. Handling success or failure with equanimity is what the Buddhist religion (somewhat of an expert when it comes to handling life) preaches. Do not get too attached to either, cause a blind attachment to success (or failure) will only hit you hard when life does not go the way you predicted.
  • Over time, the definition of success (specifically w.r.t. relationships, work) needs to be re-calibrated to internal fulfilment, not external accolades. But we all have to live our own journey to understand this — since Maslow’s hierarchy is a puzzling phenomenon. Much as we know the truth that all of us need to get to self-actualisation, we all have to get there on our own. So go through your own calibration of external successes (money, press coverage, job titles, marriage, kid, house etc.) before you land at what really gives you internal fulfilment.

(5) Everything is a story

  • The single biggest skill that differentiates humans from other animals is our storytelling ability. All major revolutions (home sapiens evolution, religion, kingdoms etc.) are a result of humans being able to communicate with each other in far more expressive ways than any other animal could. That’s also the reason why humans have pretty much wiped out every other species on this planet.
  • All institutions (nations, corporations, religion, marriage etc.) are stories we have created for our human race to bring in order. Even this #OneLife is just a story :) Whatever story you live by is the right story for you! So it’s great that you live the story of the company you work in, or your marriage, or your religion. We are designed to live these stories! But when some of these stories start going wrong or against your expectations, don’t take life too seriously or get dejected.
  • Live your story, not someone else’s. And let others live theirs too without judgement or intrusion. Our only duty on this earth is to be respectful and good — so we don’t intrude into others’ stories. There may be times when your story and someone else’s story may clash, but during those times, resolve these differences and move ahead cause life has too much to offer!

Here’s a cheat-sheet that summarizes the above 5 philosophies—

It’s important that you understand the above 5 philosophies and internalise the same since this will have an overbearing thread to the different parts of the #OneLife framework itself.

Please share this article in case you resonate with the 5 points. Please comment on other underlying philosophies that you think are critical.

In Part 2, I cover the 4S / 10 point framework which act as a guide to living your #OneLife — https://medium.com/@telljeeves/onelife-a-guide-to-living-a-happy-successful-and-fulfilling-life-1d3efaa1816c

In Part 3, I will be covering the 100 hour rule which talks about prioritising specific aspects of your life and actioning it by spending time on it — https://medium.com/@telljeeves/onelife-the-100-hour-rule-daedeb671994

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Rajiv Srivatsa @telljeeves

Partner at @Antler India. Co-founder Urban Ladder. Write on Startups and Happiness. Podcast @OneLifeTheory. Jack of all trades, master of none!