Making a Living vs. Making a Life: How Our Past Can Help Create a Conscious Future

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Chris Renzo

Within the past few months I have been exploring feelings as I journey into my past in ways I never have before. I am realizing that the older I get, the more humbled I become, not necessarily by an inability to grapple with life’s challenges, but by seeing that life is more complex than I could have ever imagined.

The implications of history, both centuries deep and just within this lifetime, have affected us all. It is becoming clear to me that the present moment is a gift for us all to courageously transform the wounds of humanity through an awareness of how the past still affects us in a personal manner today.

Children throughout the world are often taught that “reality” should, in a way, be cautiously feared. We believe that to make a living, we often need to squander our dreams and conform to “reality” as it is.

For many generations, the sensitive spirit of our youth has often been met with physical and/or emotional punishment upon the defiance of convention.

Yet in this post-industrial age, we have the privilege of unburdened “free time.” Technology has, in many places, lifted many people from the backbreaking labor that the generations of the industrial past experienced. Now, in pockets, we are seeing a sort of idealism that bravely puts fear and conformity aside.

Today, we see a generation of youth peering beyond the limitations of social and conventional economic conformity. People are waking up to the irrationality of an age that demands more, more and more (and which mainly profits the rich elite among us).

We are seeing a resurgence of “aboriginal” thinking and values. We are seeing people, in much greater numbers, looking past the systemic limitations of a fear-based way of life.

Although these changes may be seen systemically, they are coming about through personal journeys into our own unique pasts and breaking free from the fear that has been passed down to us from our parents, their parents, and so on.

As I grew older and became a more independent adult, I was able to see how my upbringing heavily influenced how I experienced myself. I am more aware of how the belief systems of my “parental unit” drastically influenced the way in which I set the course of my life.

For many years, I often did things that I thought would please my parents. I was afraid to choose another way. My upbringing set up a “default” mode of being. Although now more aware of myself, I see there is room from transcendence and growth in the path of my career and my ability to relate to myself.

Self-awareness is the key. Only through being aware of some very deeply psychologically rooted beliefs have I been able to clear the fears that held me down and move on.

Growing up, I was more often criticized than praised. Even during times of what I perceived as accomplishment, there was always “something better” I could have done. I was often persuaded to live a life that was “right” by those I feared.

Directly, this was my father and my mother, but as I see now, indirectly this could be traced all the way back to the barbaric times in our human history.

For the sake of simplicity, let us say it was the fear that was passed onto me that had me believing “reality” is only one way: that we are here to secure our little piece of the pie so we can simply survive.

The thing is: having that little piece of the pie, for so many, and not just my family, means acquiring as much as possible with no end in sight—and it even justifies embarking on careers for which you feel no passion.

This submission of self came about “naturally” for so many generations. It is wise to acknowledge that life in the past was brutal. In colonial America, there were bouts of massive poverty and starvation to “warrant” the moral condoning of slavery and exploitation of poor whites, blacks, and Native Americans.

Art Prints

Survival was an accomplishment. But let us not forget that the “uncivilized” Native Americans lived a communal life on American soil with much greater ease then the first settlers, for their ethics and way of life were much more community- and nature-oriented.

Although there is a certain increase in mental and emotional freedom in our modern era, there still exists the same fearful individualistic ethic that dominates how we live together. This individualistic, competitive and possessive mentality is “parented” onto almost everyone in the modern world.

When we look within and see how the past has conditioned us, we begin to peer into the deeper collective past and how individualism has conditioned all of us to be afraid of life and each other. We believe that competition is the only way to breed ingenuity and that we must fear each other because the “other” may beat you to the next promotion.

Realize that this is only true if we believe it to be true.

It is fear that condones our way of life, fear that had us wipe out almost all of the aboriginal cultures of the world for the conquest of more land and resources from which to “profit.”

Perhaps there was something to learn from the indigenous cultures of the world, who never “owned” anything, who shared their possessions, and who worked toward the greater good of all.

As a child, I was confused by what I saw. It was very hard to understand the idea of “ownership.” It became difficult to understand what “private property” meant: land contained within fenced or invisible borders.

As I grew older, I did not understand why people “competed” against each other for more “prestigious” positions. Now, looking into my personal past, as well as into our historical roots, I see something that is real and undeniable: fear.

Fear is so paralyzing it can make us look away from the voice within that yearns to know and experience a higher version of ourselves.

Is the sum not greater than its parts? Consider life if our economic and social doctrine endorsed unity as the ethic of most importance, with individual gain being understood as vain and shortsighted.

While we are all searching for “our” life’s purpose, I say that the purpose of life in general is to understand it from a macro perspective. Why are we here? What is the purpose of humanity? How do we, at the individual level, exercise this purpose in our separate lives?

First, we would benefit by breaking free from the fear mentality that has many living a life for someone else, whether one’s parents or society. Are you doing things in life because you have to or because you want to?

Second, why not release the expectations that you have to “be somebody” in order to have self-worth or a life of value? Self-worth is something we can feel that is independent of social status and career. At its core, it has to do with the love you feel for yourself and for those in the human community with whom you share that love.

Third and finally, it serves us to realize that life is not about “making a living,” but rather about “making a life.”

These answers are, of course, subjective—but I feel there is something that unifies us all when we live life with empathy and make decisions out of love and care for life.

I also want to make clear that I do not feel that money is a bad thing. Money is just a means of transcribing value onto a service or object.

The transformation of our society starts with a personal journey within. It starts by seeing both the “positive” and “negative” ways in which we were conditioned by our parents—and then choosing to exhibit the traits that align with who you feel you are and want to become.

I am not here to tell you who you are. That is a part of your journey. Only you know what is best for yourself.

But I have personally realized that the more I open myself to other ideas without defense, I am able to observe new ideas with peaceful discernment. Thus, I open up new ways of being with greater ease.

I will end with a saying from Wayne Dyer that I think we all could live by, one that relates to everything from how we view ourselves, to whom we allow to influence us, to what we do on a daily basis:

“If it does not bring you peace, then you do not need it.”

The choice was always ours and forever will be. What will you do now to transform your life?

Copyright © Chris Renzo. All Rights Reserved.

Chris Renzo is a life coach and writer who specializes in helping others get in touch with their source of inner power and confidence to create a more harmonious life. He has been working with clients professionally since 2009 and has been helping people with his intuitive gifts since he was a teenager. He holds the notion that once people understand the root of their troubles from a psychological and spiritual perspective, they can break free from the conditions that bound them to a life of discontent. Please visit his blog at

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