3 Ways to Live the Technicolor Life Today
Understanding evolution as a key to living your best life.
Posted Jun 29, 2020
There is grandeur in this view of life, wrote Charles Robert Darwin (1859) in his game-changing expose on the origins of life.
Mountains of research from all kinds of academic fields, including genetics, paleontology, ethology, behavioral science, biological anthropology, and more have shown, inside and out, that Darwin was right (see Wilson, Geher, Head, & Gallup, 2019; and my new book (with Nicole Wedberg), Positive Evolutionary Psychology). We are all descended from the same common ancestors. In fact, the entirety of the living world on earth, going back some 3.6 billion years, is inter-related. You’re related to the roses in the garden, the butterflies in the field, the jasmine that flowers in your backyard, the squirrels that play among the trees out your window, and more. Much more. All of it. If this is not a grand view of what it means to be human, then I don’t know what is.
The Mundane Life (AKA: Black-and-white Kansas)
Life these days can be so mundane, right? How familiar does this sound to you:
7:15: The alarm goes off. Uggh—hit the snooze.
7:30-8:30: Start your morning scramble—and I don’t mean just eggs. Shower, get ready, pick out clothes from your piled up laundry that you haven’t had a second to fold, feed the kids, take the dogs out, sign one kid's note, sign the other kid’s note, send between 5-10 urgent texts, put on your best smile and start faking it.
9:00-11:00: Sit through another agonizingly unproductive meeting that somehow manages to be equal parts boring and contentious at the same time.
11:00-12:00: Sift through emails, with half of your time spent deleting junk.
12:00-12:10: Eat your lunch alone at your desk.
12:10-Bedtime: Work on various tasks that seem fully meaningless to you, including a one-hour webinar on internet security issues in the workplace followed by another one-hour webinar on how you can “be your best self” at work. By the time the webinars are done, you have 100 new emails in your inbox. You sift through them frantically until 5:00. Then you leave and head down that same dull commute all the way back home, only to run into more stress and obligations. You hit the pillow at 11, wondering what in the world is the point.
The Technicolor Life
Sure, in varying degrees, we all experience the mundane nature of modern living. It’s kind of embedded in our everyday lives and there’s not much that we can do about it. But you know, just as Dorothy discovered an entirely different world when she made it over the rainbow, life might feel like black-and-white Kansas at times, but when you take Darwin’s vision to heart, by truly appreciating the grandeur in simply being alive, you can start living the technicolor life that Dorothy found as so delightful and fulfilling in the Land of Oz.
3 Ways to Start Living the Technicolor Life Right Now
Below are three ways that you can start living the Technicolor life today (brought to you by Darwinian applications to understanding the human experience).
1. Frame your world in a positive light.
The human mind evolved for relativistic processing (Arnocky et al., 2015). Our sense of our own value is largely related to our assessments of the values of others for instance. And we so often find ourselves framing tasks in our everyday lives as “obligations” rather than as “opportunities” (see my recent post (written with Jenna Weinstein) titled How to Stop Living the "Have to Life," for more on this idea). Given our mind’s capacity for flexibility and cognitive reframing, how about seeing life as a technicolor adventure rather than as a set of mundane hassles? You don’t have to go to that meeting at 11. You get to be part of an amazing team of people who have the capacity to make positive change in your corner of the world. You don’t have to go to the gym. You get to have a physical adventure that includes cutting-edge cardio technology and strength-training equipment, finely honed to optimize your body—while you get to watch your favorite Netflix series, no less. The human mind evolved to make relativistic judgments. It’s up to you to make judgments and to hold perceptions that bring your world into technicolor.
2. Find true love.
Love is a foundational emotional experience in humans (see Fisher, 1993). In a truly loving relationship (which is not easy to find), one partner genuinely puts the feelings, hopes, and dreams of the other partner at the top of his or her own list of priorities. True, mutual love can be the most fulfilling experience that one can find in life. It can bring Kansas Dorothy straight over the rainbow into the Technicolor Land of Oz. And there are good evolutionary reasons as to why love is so foundational of an emotional experience. Loving couples have the capacity to collaborate on such important things as child-rearing and community building. The synergy that is found in a truly loving couple has the capacity to equal way more than the sum of what the individuals alone might possibly be capable of. And, of course, love extends well beyond romantic relationships. The capacity for love extends to close friendships, our relationships with our children, our relationships with various familial and community connections, our relationships with our pets, and more. A loveless life is destined to stay on the Kansas side of the rainbow. Giving your heart totally to another, opening yourself up to truly loving relationships in your world, has the capacity to bring your everyday life fully into technicolor.
3. Immerse yourself in nature every day.
The glory of Darwin’s vision as it relates to our connections with the natural world truly cannot be understated (see Wilson, 1984). As I head into my garden to cultivate the beds, I marvel at the dandelions that seem to infiltrate everything—those resilient little critters. Their seeds have such extraordinary capacity to replicate in spite of any and all human efforts. And how about those chipmunks that burrow deep tunnels that connect the beds of my garden in a wild subterranean maze? They might have all kinds of adverse effects on my attempts to grow sunflowers, but aren’t they just beautiful? And the various songbirds who grace my garden each summer so as to eat each and every strawberry before I’ve possibly had a chance to even pick them? Sublime. The evolutionary adaptations and the sheer diversity that characterize the natural world are nothing short of grand. And, as Darwin anticipated, it turns out that we are related, deeply and truly, to each and every speck of life that grazes this planet. Want to see your existence in all-out technicolor? Take a Darwinian approach. Get out into nature every single day. And always stop to smell the roses. They are part of you.
If you believe in science, then you understand that reincarnation in the literal sense does not exist. But you know, that’s OK. As Darwin’s vision makes clear: Life is grand. It extends beyond any of us in space and time. And it is a gift that is worth all of our gratitude every single day.
Sure, it’s easy to get caught up on the black-and-white Kansas versions of our lives. Bills to pay. Disagreeable co-workers. Leaving the headlights on overnight and needing a jumpstart when you are running late, etc.
But you know, you don’t have to live in Kansas forever. The truly technicolor version of your world is just over that rainbow. Frame your world positively, do anything and everything to experience truly loving relationships with others, and get yourself out into nature each and every day.
There is grandeur in this view of life. Welcome to the Technicolor Land of Oz.
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Arnocky, S., Perilloux, C., Cloud, J.M. et al. Envy Mediates the Link Between Social Comparison and Appearance Enhancement in Women. Evolutionary Psychological Science 2, 71–83 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40806-015-0037-1
Darwin, C. (1859). On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1st ed.). London: John Murray.
Fisher, H. (1993). Anatomy of Love – a Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray. New York: Ballantine Books.
Wilson, D. S., Geher, G., Mativetsky, H., & Gallup, A. (2019). Darwin’s Roadmap to the Curriculum: Evolutionary Studies in Higher Education. New York: Oxford University Press.
Wilson, Edward O. (1984). Biophilia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.