Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

How Do You Live Life Fully Alive?

Fully Alive

We were all created to live an adventure. To fully embrace the challenges life offers and finish our stories well. So why do most of us feel empty, depressed, and wanting more?

My friend, Ken Davis, just wrote an excellent book on the subject called (appropriately), Fully Alive.

In it, he talks about how he got into shape, reinvigorated his childlike awe with the world, and feels more alive at age 65 than he ever did.

So what’s the secret? What’s the solution to finding your way in the world and living more abundantly?

It’s not what you think, and I can promise you: You’re not gonna like it.

A simple, hard fact of life

If you look carefully, you will find people all around you who show few signs of life. They haven’t flatlined yet, but they stopped singing long ago. Rarely do their hearts race in excitement over the possibilities held by a new day. They lurch through the darkness like zombies, clinging to memories of what life used to be. But deep inside they long to live again.
—Ken Davis 

The first step is accepting a simple, hard fact of life. What really makes us come alive? Is it money? Success? Fame? No, it’s none of those. It’s something better, something scarier.

Pain: that’s how we begin to experience life. Struggle, strife, hardship. These are the ingredients for a life well lived (told you that you wouldn’t like it).

Muscle is formed when you stretch your body beyond its normal limits. Strength is built when you push past your comfort zone. Courage is created in the face of danger. We are our most alive when we are least comfortable.

Ditching comfort for life

A comfortable life is not the path to being fully alive. It’s a ticket to boredom and despair.
—Ken Davis (Tweet this)

Despite decades of success and fame, Ken came to a painful realization not too long ago: his life was empty. This is coming from a guy who once was the opening act for Ray Charles — crazy, right?

So what was the reason for feeling so hollow inside? He was too comfortable. This man had built an existence around enjoyment and self-preservation, which is exactly where life goes to stagnate and die.

If you are going to check out of the land of the walking dead, you are going to have to give up your addiction to comfort and press into the hardship of life. It won’t be easy, but it will be good.

Become a participant in your own life

In this upside-down world you have only two options. You can choose to stand helplessly, waiting for somebody else to take care of you, or you can analyze the situation and do something yourself.
—Ken Davis 

If you’ve ever been stuck in a traffic jam or been coerced by a telemarketer, you’ve likely felt like a victim. At some point, you assumed your role as passive bystander, and you hated how it made you feel. But what choice did you have?

Isn’t this the hand we’ve all been dealt? Life offers a raw deal, and we spend our lives trying to survive? No, there’s more.

The real difference-makers in this world are those who step up and stand out. They lead by example, taking risks along the way and embracing failure for the teacher it is.

You can do the same, if you really want.

The cost of living fully

I know I’m ready for more life; I hope you are, too. But the real question is this: Are we prepared for the cost of life? Are we ready to live?

It’s too easy to say “all you have to do is follow these three steps…” It’s harder to choose to live — to accept that pain makes us grow, to ditch comfort for life, and choose to participate in our own stories.

The abundant life costs something, and that’s the point. It’s why those who are lucky enough to find it are so rich.

If you’re ready to live life fully, check out Ken’s book, which comes out this week.

* * *

In other news, check out the Wrecked book site which just launched this week. More on that soon. For now, tell your friends and make sure you get your free chapter.

How do you live life fully alive? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • It’s amazing that so many of us just meander through life without living.  I want to LIVE not just live.

    • Agreed.  Use your life to craft an amazing story.  It is your legacy.

    • Me too Larry! 

      I want to live a life worth living. Able to look back and say “It was good.”

  • The struggle is certainly essential. My wife and I talk a lot about how we must depend on God if we want to Live Fully, but we just moved overseas and are suddenly realizing how little we ever depended on Him. Now, however, we have no choice.

    It’s exciting.

  • Wow. Jeff, this book sounds amazing, and I can’t wait to actually read it – it really resonates with me, but I never could express it that well. Loved this.

    • You won’t be disappointed Daniel. Ken’s a great speaker and comedian but his writing really blows me away.

  • Susan48

    So, the big fat mortgage, the 30 yr. old furnace that may not see us through another winter, and the roof that’s growing moss – that’s living. Hmmm. I knew someone would come along and explain it to me one day. But wait – struggling to get those things attended to has made me wriggle out of the comfort zone and tip toe onto new writing landscapes – so I guess the point is made. 

  • This is so true, Jeff.  There is a bizarre beauty found in pain.  It grows us and opens our eyes more than anything else I know of.  When I faced my fear of writing a few years ago, I remember how uncomfortable and scary it was for me.  And yet, I finally felt like I was finally coming to life when I faced the fear and did it. 

    •  Eileen, after I read Jeff’s post today I quickly posted something I wrote a little while ago about exactly what you commented on, the beauty of pain and what we learn from it (https://therunningstitch76.blogspot.com.au/2012/07/beauty-of-pain.html).  Jeff’s post and your comment made me think ‘great minds think alike’ and all that!!!

      •  Just read your post, Alison.  Loved this “On reflection, each and every experience has
        taught me a lesson, has impacted and shaped my life somehow…”  That’s definitely the beauty of pain.  It grows us!

  • Mike Zserdin

    It takes serious intentionality…so easy to go into autopilot, look up and realize you’ve lost years.

  • Katharine Trauger

    Pain. That’s the secret? Ha!
    So, when we rainsed six kids, homeschooling them for a quarter century, growing all our own veggies and much of our own protein, and I felt fully alive, the struggle engendered life, and now with the baby marrying, life flattens, because the fight has ended. Hilarious, in a way that I longed for this day so I could figure out who I really am, besides an extension of my kids. I find myself exchanging the pain of nothingness for the pain of straining against the harness. Too ironic, but so often the story of my life: I finally arrive and the goal has moved on.  Thanks for helping me wake up.

  • I think another thing that can help us live life fully alive is to take notice of and rejoice in the wonders around us. As we do that, we find ourselves living a life of gratitude — and I think that’s fully alive living, too. 

  • “Are we prepared for the cost of life? Are we ready to live?” What great, hard questions!
    Thanks for the book suggestion, Jeff. It looks like a great one.


  • Shari England

    As I youth, I used to get embarrassed by the awe I held for God’s creation. I didn’t see that same wonder in the eyes of my peers. As an adult, it is easy to bypass God’s beauty and wonder on the fast and furious freeway of life. I don’t ever want to lose that childlike awe. Thank you Jeff. This article was great encouragement to me. Creativity often seeks isolation, and I for one often prefer it to the noise of a crowd.  But seclusion is also lonely and can stifle creativity if I neglect to connect with those around me–those whom God has placed in my area of influence. Abundant life lies in reaching out to the needs of others.

  • Simply present time consciousness.  I strive to be fully invested in each moment that I’m in, and be open to how the day unfolds.  Many unexpected adventures have been stumbled upon. When they present themselves, I remember something a colleague told me:

    “When something makes you flinch, lean in to it.”  It won’t kill you, and it can only grow you.  Thanks for the book recommendation.

  • Authorlynnromaine

    Give up  moment to moment having to figure life out, the interpretations I bring automatically to life, as best as I can, and keep moving myself to being present each moment searching for and speaking the deeper meanings of life – giving up cliches and accepting that life is ultimately about ‘not’ belonging for human beings as well being with loss inside of an empowering context.

  • JudyGuion

    At this point in my life, I have 3 Life Commandments:

    1. Dance like no one is watching,
         Love like you’ve never been hurt,
         Sing like no one is listening,
         Live like it’s Heaven on earth.

    2. I don’t want any more regrets or missed opportunities.

    3. As long as they keep making pills and replacement parts, I’m good to go!

    A few years ago I discovered seven and a half years of family letters written between 1939 and 1946. I’m close to having the first of many books published. At my age, it’s scary but I feel ALIVE.

    • Judy, your commandments rock. Imagine the world changing impact people could have if even 1% of the world lived in that way.

  • I often wonder if I live life fully alive. It more often feels like I’m stumbling and fumbling through it. High points come and go and then it there are the long periods of downtime. 

  • Whenever I get in one of my ruts, I know it’s because I’m not challenging myself enough.  Sure, these ruts can also show up when I’m challenging myself *too* much, but I think they read just a bit differently than the ones that stem from boredom.

    I decided that 2012 was going to be the year that I started testing the depths of my comfort zone. I joined a volunteer fire department after wanting to for years and I’m renting a gallery space for my first solo art exhibition coming up this fall. I’ve wanted to play hockey my entire life but have never had the chance, so that’s coming up soon as well. I’ve never ice skated before and the last time I played street hockey was about 14 years ago, but I’m pretty excited as it’s been a life long dream of mine to play. And the funny thing about all this? I’m actually more comfortable now than I was before. My guess is because I feel like I am truly living.

    I’ve overheard too many people who are past their prime say that they wished they did this or that. I’m glad I’ve heard their stories….they’ve scared me enough to get me moving.

    My last thought about the subject: live spontaneously and don’t plan too much– planning makes things seem scarier than they really are. I’ve learned to just show up and go with whatever happens. Less expectations, more fun.

  • I agree that struggle makes you feel more alive and it is a way of living a worthy life. Getting uncomfortable can actually be a quite comfortable change. Thanks for the recommendation Jeff!

  • I read this post and my heart leapt in my chest – I wrote a piece a couple of weeks ago titled ‘The Beauty of Pain’, and hadn’t ‘done’ anything with it.  After reading the post I immediately went and posted my piece on my blog, even though it’s not finished and polished (https://therunningstitch76.blogspot.com.au/2012/07/beauty-of-pain.html). 
    The article so resonated deep within me, as that is my life experience, that pain teaches us many (often unwanted) lessons, and makes you feel alive.  I’ve been trying to work out how to share that, to encourage others to see the beauty in pain, I’ll certianly be getting a copy of Ken’s book to read about his journey, and learn even more!!
    P.S.  Posting my piece as it was was another painful act, I didn’t like ‘writing ugly’!!!!

  • For most of my twenties, I just wanted to be comfortable. I’d been through some things growing up and those dramatic experiences made me long for stability. Once I turned 30, however, I realized I had become stagnant and afraid of pretty much everything that presented a challenge. No wonder I was unhappy! Long story short, I vowed to change things up and let God lead me toward the things I’d only daydreamed about. So far, it’s been wonderfully fulfilling and extremely terrifying, but I couldn’t be more pleased.  

    • Dara, 
      I totally resonate with your sentiments. Thank you for sharing them. Isn’t God amazing?! 🙂

  • I like this  “The abundant life costs something, and that’s the point. It’s why those who are lucky enough to find it are so rich.”  …wanting the life lived between the “-” to be full…with no regrets:)  Great post…I’ll need to get the book!

  • Publishing my first book has changed my life. Meeting writers and readers and seeing the world through their eyes gives you a new perspective on life. I’ve never been one to live in the shadows and if you are a writer that is the last place you better be comfortable in. I thank God for my abundant life, obstacles and all, and hopefully I can share what I have learned, and still learn what others have to teach.  

  • You’re right. That is scary. I like comfort, I like money in the bank, and I like nice things. But all of those things do get boring. There is always something new to buy, more money to be made or more comfort to find, but in the end they are lacking. I’m left wanting more. I think that is true for everyone. Real life is uncomfortable and risky. It required trusting God for the million things we can’t control (and giving him the control of those we can).

    I got permanently laid off at the end of May this year and although it definitely has its disadvantages, it has opened up so many possibilities I didn’t consider before. It had definitely freed me up to start living more. I want to start giving more. One of the things I started was a blog (https://blog.travishinkle.com)

  • Lisa Armstrong

    I try to live a life full of Joy! I found myself in my late twentys married but still no kids, and on a very long waiting list of adoptive parents, when we got our call to adopt our kids now 8 and 9, my life is filled with so much joy now, I laugh and play with them and relive my childhood through them, they are what keeps me young!

  • Barbara

    This so resonated with me Jeff.  People have asked me most of my life how I survived my childhood and stayed sane (that being relative ;).  I’ve always believed the saying, ‘If it doesn’t kill me it makes me stronger.’  

    When life gets a bit too cushy I get bored.  I would never want to relive any of my life but I do try to stay challenged and push toward learning new things.  This post says it all.  Thanks!

  • Rain

    Wow… Yes. I came to a similar conclusion and now I must get this book.

  • CaroleSmith

    It’s a daily struggle to be content and intentional about my life… to fully live rather than survive in protection and safe mode.  I wrote a poem that I try to make my life motto… 
    btw… I saw Ken Davis in his comedy show a couple of months ago and he talked alot about his book and living fully alive… awesome stuff!

  • Reading this post makes me excited to read Ken’s book! To be fully alive I’ve been working on being present all the time, not just living for the weekend. I put everything I have in me out to the world everyday, like each day is my last!

    • Awesome. A formidable challenge indeed.

  • As a great man once said (ok fine, fictional man) Challenge Accepted!

  • You are so right Jeff.

    We grow most in the curves, not the straights.

    Powerful thoughts!

  • To me, to live fully alive is complete surrender to God’s will for my life. Then hang on, because it’s going to get wild!

  • I was spurred into writing through the pain of being unable to find a teaching job when I graduated last spring. I still don’t have a job yet, but I continue to write and love it.

    I had to experience the pain in order to discover this beauty. I didn’t like it…still don’t. I would much rather have a monthly paycheck coming in, rather than trying to query agents about my novel…but it’s also made me live more fully.

    Great post Jeff!

  • Nice post. I wrote a very similar one about two days ago with the same message. I’m so tired of living comfortably and being sheltered. It’s hard to step outside this image that people have of you once it’s set. And your refusal to take risks only reinforces their image of you as someone who can’t do this or that. The post is here, would love any feedback:


    Thanks for this
    insightful blog post.


    I also feel most
    alive when I push myself out of my comfort zone and try something new.

    For example, I (finally!)
    launched my personal blog and got a great energy boost from it.

    An easy thing I do on
    an almost daily basis to live more fully is to try new recipes, often simple
    ones I find online or in a cookbook. With a bit more time, I try recipes from
    different cultures or to cook a new vegetable that I know little about.


    Travel – especially to
    foreign countries – is another great way to feel fully alive. I wish I could do
    it more often as it does wonders!


  • Just today I finished reading Forbidden by Ted Dekker.  By the sound of Ken Davis’s inspirational story, I’d say Forbidden is it’s fictionalized counterpart.  It’s a fascinating read, as is most all Ted Dekker’s work.  Ken Davis is right.  We spend our lives trying to become comfortable only to (hopefully) realize that comfort is the death of excitement, of life.  I’m ready to get out of the La-Z-Boy.  It’s been a safe place for a little while when I needed it, but I think it’s started to meld to my butt.  Just not sure which way to turn. 

  • Anonymous

    Pain leads to an abundant life? Really?

    Want pain? Get a chronic disease. Have a spouse get Alzheimers, Parkinsons, or a severe mental illness, then take care of them morning, noon, and night. Or watch your child slowly waste away due to MS. Fight your own battle against ALS or bone cancer.

    Seriously, how stupid an answer is pain? 

    • I know it seems absurd.  And those are tremendously difficult situations to deal with.  But when you think about it, the reason we have pain, and most especially in the types of trials you mentioned, is because we love.  If we never loved, we’d never have pain.  When a loved one is hurting, we hurt because we love them.  We could choose not to love, and we’d never hurt, but what an empty life we’d have without love.  And when we’re the ones with the chronic disease, or whatever (I have had headaches everyday for 5 years, and I deal with other chronic physical pain, too), it causes us to grow, it causes us to find courage, to mature, to trust, to empathize with others in similar situations and give them encouragement and comfort.  Pain is only the impetus for a life that is full of, well, LIFE!  We all have some kind of pain, it’s what we choose to do with it that matters.  We could ignore it, and stagnate in our river of denial (sorry, couldn’t help that one!), or we can face it and have a life that’s really worth having. 

  • Finally, a book that speaks the truth!  Have downloaded the first chapter and will buy the book to read more.  

  • Hi Jeff,

    I loved your blog today and couldn’t agree more.  Learning to welcome the pain and see it for what it for the “gift” that it is can be challenging,  especially in the midst of the storm … however coming out the other end is a beautiful experience.

    On a separate note, I signed up for your free online blogging course and haven’t received week one yet.  How long doesn’t it normally take?



  • Jeff, keep doing what you’re doing!  Love your writing…it resonates in my spirit.  Heavenly Father, I pray that You would bless Jeff and cause Your face to shine upon Him and be gracious to him.  I pray that Your kingdom would come into his life more fully and that Your will would be done in his life more freely, on earth as it is in heaven.  Thank You Father for using Jeff in ways way beyond his imagination.  In Jesus Name, Amen.  Blessings, Jeff!  May your tribe increase!

  • I am very excited to read this book! 

  • DS

    I live life by embracing life’s challenges and opportunities.  By loving my family, by working hard, and by utilizing the talents I have been given.

  • I look at the activities that inspire me as my job; the most important job
    I have ever landed.  It’s no chore to engage in the
    activity, it’s just a chore to get started.  But the “pain” is the indication to me it is right.  The secret to life is work.  And by work I mean calling, not J-O-B.  It is this work that will make deposits
    into my happiness account my whole life through.

    Can’t wait to read this book.  Another great message that inspires me to keep living my life all the way!

  • Intriguing book, ‘want that free chapter’. It seems that we are all almost there. Let’s do it, no distractions, we only got one shot. 🙂

  • Bonzoi

    Thats really great…. write a book and we will be waiting to read it

  • Bonzoi

    publishing a book might be a small job for you… you are writing really well

  • Jtmunro

    Wow – you seem to have opened a can of (strangely religious) worms here Jeff! It seems to me that your article has been misconstrued by some people to mean that you either have to fork your own eye out, embrace cancer, or let your life be decided by a ‘God’. Amazing.

    It seems to me that you were simply telling people to wake up and live in the moment; to be an active participant in their own destinies and to be aware that choices and decisions are in their own hands.  

    For me, I know that I am in control of my own destiny. I am the one who decides what happens and, if a decision is out of my hands, I decide how I react to it and what I do next. I live my own life and am not swept up by circumstances. To me THAT is what being alive is. I make sure I’m not one of those people sleepwalking through life, and I don’t leave my fate to be decided by anyone.
    Just to add – I can’t say how disappointed I am that a lot of the responses to this insightful article veered into the realm of religion. I know you attend church but thankfully you don’t throw religion at your readers. I actually had to read back to see if you mentioned God at all in your article. You didn’t.

  • Deedlit

    It’s hard to live when life keeps knocking you down. I don’t feel alive through my pain, I feel hopeless and anguished. I feel out of control of my fate. Bad things happen every day,  and I don’t have the money to go live out my dreams. 

    • Wondering

      I agree with you.  I want to live in the moment and go for the gusto, but bills have to be paid, low-paying jobs have to be maintained and even they are threatened.  Would love to go after my star, but my life so far has been one of taking what I could get, never had a chance to even know what I wanted or even how to get it. 

  • I totally agree. Put simply: No Pain, No Gain. I’ve tweeted this hoping that more of my friends will have this perspective about life. Of course, there are some that are already living the strenuous but fulfilling life you spoke of!

    Thanks for the great post.

  • Jeff, keep doing what you’re doing!  Love your writing…it resonates in my spirit.  Heavenly Father, I pray that You would bless Jeff and cause Your face to shine upon Him and be gracious to him.  I pray that Your kingdom would come into his life more fully and that Your will would be done in his life more freely, on earth as it is in heaven.  Thank You Father for using Jeff in ways way beyond his imagination.  In Jesus Name, Amen.  Blessings, Jeff!  May your tribe increase!