A More Exciting Life by The School of Life
A guide to greater freedom, spontaneity and enjoyment
“If the goal is to have a longer life, whatever the dieticians may urge, it seems like the priority should not be to add raw increments of time, but to ensure that whatever years remain feel appropriately substantial. The aim should be to densify time rather than to try to extract one or two more years from the grip of Death.”
A MORE EXCITING LIFE
The name alone was enough to draw me to this little book, a more exciting life! While I think there are certainly aspects of my life that are exciting on the surface, there’s a lot underneath that’s holding me back from actually experiencing excitement and joy. This book is a guide to greater freedom, being more spontaneous, and enjoying things more.
I’m grateful to The School of Life for the gifted copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I’ve enjoyed reading their content for a while now, and have reviewed two of their books previously: What They Forgot to Teach You at School and How to Find the Right Words, both of which I’ve found pretty darn helpful, which you’ll see if you look into those reviews.
There’s the typical run-of-the-mill self-help books, then there’s The School of Life. I say that because there’s something about the wording and conciseness in their books that makes it all the more relatable and easier to read. I don’t need to pour over pages of repetitive content to hopefully arrive at some kind of answer in the end. With The School of Life books, they’re small, matter of fact, and contain all the information that I need on a subject. I actually find them kind of fun to read as well, whereas self-help books can be a pain in the ass sometimes, and I rarely ever finish them. These great little books also look really nice too, and make for pretty awesome gifts as well.
The book opens with an introduction that states, “When we lack excitement, it isn’t that things are terrible,” and then goes on to state that we may have things such as work, friends, family, but that things can feel “repetitive, routine, and devoid of intensity, as though we are going through the motions.”
Sound familiar? For me, it did. The intro also touches on how as humans, we address the absence of excitement by doing things others might find exciting, so we might parachute out of a plane or learn a foreign language, mostly because we’re encouraged to do it to feel excitement. It made me question if these things are actually exciting or if we just feel they are because others say so?
A More Exciting Life states that it’s “a guide to recovering some of our spirit,” continuing “this is a book about freedom.” The book itself contains chapters on: others, self, relationships, work, pleasure, and freedom.
The 'others' chapter resonated a lot with me. It talks in depth about learning to lie less often. And don’t tell me you don’t lie, because we all do! This section addresses that we are continually lying about how we feel in areas like: hurt, guilt, tenderness, anxiety, sexuality, and pleasure. The chapter also talks about learning into vulnerability, “what we fear above all is judgement.” Being vulnerable is tough, and hearing that it’s fear that holds us (or me, at least) back is fear, seems to be true.
The section concludes with, “There might be nothing more generous or impressive we could offer our neighbours than a tranquil disclosure of our feelings of sadness, isolation, worry and existential despair.”
I also found the 'self' chapter extremely helpful since it covers things like learning to be angry, being friendly to strangers, and dealing with depression. This chapter states that “almost half of us will suffer from depression at some point in our lives,” and continues to talk about the differences between sadness and depression, “the sad person knows what they are sad about; the depressed person doesn’t.”
I think the chapter I took the most away from (the one with the most post-it notes) was work. I really liked reading a section called 'you could finally leave school.' It’s mostly about how while we may be in our 20s and older, we still live as though we go to school, within some kind of imaginary boundaries, “a sense that there is an implicit curriculum out there - an externally mandated map of what one needs to do to succeed.” I’m a very rigid, type A person, and reading this made me realize that while I might have left school physically, ten years ago, I still live my life like I’m in the classroom.
“At times, perhaps without knowing why, we slip into a resolutely ‘lazy’ mood,” a section begins. I resonated with this part of the book, too, and if there’s one major thing I took from it, it’s that “we need to distinguish between emotional and practical hard work.” The book uses someone like me as an example, the busy-bee, always running around with something to do, but states, “there may be a lot of avoidance going on beneath the outward frenzy.” Ding ding ding. This hit the nail on the head. I use my busyness as a way to distract and avoid whatever is going on underneath.
I took a lot away from A More Exciting Life, using a full highlighter and an entire strip of post-it notes. I also went to Indigo after and bought The School of Life: An Emotional Education because I had a craving for more of this kind of knowledge, the kind I could actually walk away from and have it resonate with me.
There are times when I’ll go to groups and therapy appointments to hear the same thing again and again, only to walk out the door and forget the entire thing. This book is a gem and I retained a lot of the info in here, and read most of it with a smile on my face.
About the Editor
Alain de Botton is a writer and television producer who lives in London and aims to make philosophy relevant to everyday life.
About the School of London
The School of Life is a global organization helping people lead more fulfilled lives. We believe that the journey to finding fulfillment begins with self-knowledge. It is only when we have a sense of whom we really are that we can make reliable decisions, particularly around love and work.