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Are You Living a Good Life? How to Think Like a Therapist

A Personal Perspective: Have you let life slip through your fingers like sand?

Key points

  • Our lives are fleeting and precious.
  • It is easy to deny the reality of our own demise, but wisdom comes from confronting our own mortality.
  • If you are pursuing career paths or relationships that are not true to who you are, it's never too late to make a change.

What does it mean to think like a therapist? That is the title of my latest book, in which I wrote about some of the most important lessons in life that I had learned from being a psychologist, and especially as a therapist who has specialized in traumatic stress and post-traumatic growth.

One lesson is about how precious and short life is, and how we shouldn't waste time in life on the stuff that doesn’t really matter. In a sense, that is the most essential of all the lessons because once that is learned, so much else follows automatically.

We begin to spend our time doing the things that give us more sense of purpose and meaning. We have a new perspective on life that allows us not to take the small stuff too seriously. We value the time with our family and friends in a new way that cherishes them.

We know that it is a mistake to live in the past or the future too much and to make sure we are more present and in the now. We learn to enjoy the journey of life not only for what we achieve and its material success but simply for becoming ourselves and the excitement and challenge of personal growth. In essence, that is what it means to live a good life—a happy, rich, and fulfilling life.

It is easy to know intellectually that this is true, yet it is so hard to live our lives with such wisdom. It is easier to pretend to ourselves that we will live forever, to deny the possibility of our own demise, and to just not think about it.

There is so much pressure on us to be in denial about the reality of how fleeting life is, that as we age, we may look back and see how much we have let our lives slip through our fingers like sand. Perhaps we find ourselves pursuing careers and relationships that are not true to who we are, and living inauthentic lives, full of regret and sadness. It need not be that way, but change is hard.

Often, it is our encounters with adversity that shake us up, shatter our illusions, and wake us to reality, so that we understand the brevity of time we have ahead of us. In that way, we may find personal growth that gives us new perspectives and priorities. Post-traumatic growth is such an example.

But no one welcomes adversity even if it brings some greater wisdom about how to lead life. It is a painful exchange to have to make and often comes too late in life to make the most of.

There are things that you can do to focus your mind on what really matters, to appreciate its fleeting nature and the need to live in the present more. Writing your will. Talking to older people. A walk in the cemetery reading the gravestone inscriptions.

On one walk I used to take, I would pass one that had the quote from Proverbs: "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth." Whatever else was going on for me, that quote would always be a reminder to put things into perspective.

Don't wait for adversity to strike before learning the lessons about how to live a good life. If you are not leading your life to its fullest, richest potential, choose to make a change. There is an adage that says the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second best time is right now.


Joseph, S. (2022). Think Like A Therapist. Six Life Changing Insights for Leading a Good Life. London. Piatkus/Little,Brown.

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