So, What is Wholehearted Living?

Photograph by  Josie Derrick

Photograph by Josie Derrick

What is wholehearted living?

If you ask someone from an older generation what it means to live wholeheartedly, you may be met with confusion. In fact, I received quite a few quizzical expressions and a little bit of laughter when I asked the question as if my parents and grandparents didn’t actually understand what I was asking.

“Wholehearted living would be a bit redundant, wouldn’t it?” and “Living is wholehearted by nature, isn’t it?” were the responses I got.

While the concept of “wholeheartedness” certainly isn’t new, its newness as an adjective to describe a way of life has become a type of catchphrase for creative entrepreneurs. Wholehearted living is this trend that conjures up images of freshly picked farmer’s market flowers, modern-yet-perfectly-historic farmhouses in neutral color palates (white marble or granite countertops are a must), and a minimalist lifestyle with no place for TVs or children’s toys or dog bones or your husband’s socks that somehow never get put away.

And while I am a huge fan of farmer’s markets and Joanna Gaines’s immeasurable talent for making historic homes functional, I can’t help but wonder what I would find enjoyable if I hadn’t seen this preconceived perfection. Media in all forms have been influencing human behavior since the dawn of time, and I am sure other generations have felt a similar struggle. However, in our globalized world, it is important to take intentional time away from what is trending and ask the hard, sometimes uncomfortable questions.

With the advent of social media marketing, now more than ever we are inundated with opinions, trends, and constant contact with those who push what’s “popular.” But what is important to you? Are you living sincerely? Are you doing things that make you happy? If social media didn’t exist and nobody knew what you were doing, or how your home was decorated or what you bought, would those things still bring you joy?  

Last year I found myself in a situation where I cared so much about the Instagram opportunities I was about to have or the photos I could take, that I sacrificed quality time and memories with a lot of people. At my worst, I nearly ruined a fun trip I planned with my husband. I feel a slight twinge of regret when I see pictures from that time in my life, and I feel guilty about the emphasis I put on what I thought would be popular on Instagram. I wasn’t enjoying those moments; I was spending time and energy getting an aesthetically pretty picture so that it would appear that I was enjoying those moments. Saying it out loud is humbling. I was doing the exact opposite of wholehearted living.  

Thankfully I caught myself before it got out of control. I realized that wholehearted living isn't the perfectly styled flat lay, or the perfectly poured latte art at an environmentally-conscious coffee shop, or the light and airy landscape photograph we so commonly see in our social media world today.

When I started living with sincerity and a commitment to my own values, I created a life that is more genuine, and ultimately, so much more enjoyable. This meant spending time at theme parks with neon signs and clashing aesthetics because I absolutely LOVE rollercoasters. Sometimes it meant sacrificing my Saturday morning farmers market plans so my husband could watch SportsCenter and eat cereal in bed. Either way, it definitely meant less time to worry about pictures I could take, and more time focused on what would make me (and my husband!) happy in that moment.

It’s an intimidating first step, but if you want to practice wholehearted living, you can do what I do.

When I make decisions, or when I find myself at a crossroads, I periodically ask myself a few questions:

  • Would I be doing this activity/buying this item if I knew I couldn’t post about it on social media?
  • If social media didn’t exist, would this activity/item bring me joy? Does it align with my values?
  • Does this activity/item align with my short and/or long term goals?

Regardless of your preferences (and they may happen to be trendy, right now!), if you are making decisions based on what you love, and choosing what makes you happy without hesitation, you’re on the right track. As parting words, I would encourage you to integrate your happiness, your values, and your personal sense of self into your life so much so that “living wholeheartedly” actually becomes a redundant idea.