Virginia Woolf’s 7 Most Powerful Wisdom on How to Live a Fulfilling Life

8 min read

Education & Career Trends: September 29

Curated by the Knowledge Team of  ICS Career GPS

Woolf’s observations about life and living it resonate because they come from a place of experience and reflection.

Every life is growing shorter. Today is a new day to live purposefully, with intention and without holding back. Woolf wasn’t just a prolific, brilliant, and celebrated writer of the 20th-century writer; she was also a sage when it came to living a fulfilling life. In the pages of her own experiences and writings, she shared timeless wisdom on navigating the complexities of existence and making every moment count.

Woolf’s observations about life and living it resonate because they come from a place of experience and reflection.

They’re practical principles that can make your life more profound and fulfilling. Through her eloquent prose and keen observations, she invites us to embrace the fleeting nature of our existence.

1. Play an active role in your life

“You cannot find peace by avoiding life.” — Virginia Woolf

When you try to escape or hide from life’s challenges and uncertainties, you won’t find the true peace and contentment you crave. It’s like trying to find shelter from a storm by running away from it, but you feel even more lost and anxious.

Peace, I’ve learned, often comes from facing life head-on, embracing its ups and downs, and finding resilience within yourself to navigate it.

Avoiding life might offer temporary relief, but in the long run, it’s a path that leads away from true peace and fulfilment.

Trying to escape challenges, responsibilities, or difficult emotions is like pressing a pause button on your growth.

True contentment, I’ve come to realise, emerges when I confront life’s complexities, and struggles, learn from them, and grow in the process.

2. If you are fortunate enough to have good friends, cherish them

“Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends.” — Virginia Woolf

Life is so much better when you share it with people who matter to you. Woolf’s emphasis on nurturing relationships strikes a chord with me.

Spending time with close social connections, being present in their lives, and allowing them to be part of mine guarantees fulfilment.

“In fact, research suggests that friendships can help us find purpose and meaning, stay healthy, and live longer,” writes Kira M. Newmanthe managing editor of Greater Good.

When I’ve faced challenges or just needed someone to listen, talking to my close friends has been an invaluable source of support.

It’s like having a personal refuge where I can freely express myself without judgment and receive both comfort and wisdom. Nurturing your close social connections can be a powerful source of strength and understanding in anyone’s life. You can find solace and understanding in your circle of friends. When life gets tough, talk to someone close to you.

There’s a unique comfort in confiding in those who know you best, offering support and a listening ear.

3. Continuously adapt, evolve, and embrace new experiences

All life evolves and adapts — for better or worse. It’s almost like constantly adjusting your position to the sun for warmth and growth.

That’s why embrace optimism, cherishing the idea that we can keep transforming ourselves. Value change and continuous growth — at your own pace.

No pressure. Just pure enjoyment of what makes you come alive.

It’s like a continuous journey of self-improvement, where every day brings a chance to alter my perspective, just as the sun’s angle shifts in the sky.

“I don’t believe in ageing. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun. Hence my optimism,” says Virginia Woolf.

A growth mindset fuels my optimism and reminds me that the possibilities for a great life are endless.

Just as the sun’s position changes in the sky throughout the day, Woolf believes we should be open to shifting our viewpoints and attitudes as we journey through life. She finds hope and positivity in the idea that people can continually evolve and adapt, remaining open to new possibilities and experiences.

4. Obsessing about what people think of you can restrict mental and emotional growth

“The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages.” — Virginia Woolf

The opinions of other people can often shape our perceptions and experiences. When we are overly concerned with how others view us, their judgement can confine or restrict us.

It happens when we allow the expectations or judgments of others to dictate our behaviour and choices.

“Our fear of other people’s opinions, or FOPO, has become an irrational and unproductive obsession in the modern world, and its negative effects reach far beyond performance,” writes Michael Gervais, PhD, a high-performance psychologist.

Woolf observed the thoughts and opinions of others can function as “cages.” These cages represent the mental and emotional constraints of worrying too much about what others think of us.

When we let the thoughts and judgments of others control us, we may limit our potential and self-expression.

To be truly free and authentic, focus on your self-perception. Don’t allow the opinions of others to define or limit you mentally and emotionally.

Don’t become excessively preoccupied with how others see you and internalise their judgments.

5. Our understanding of life deepens as we progress through it with purpose

Life is fluid, dynamic, and open to interpretation.

It’s not a predictable, orderly sequence of events. It doesn’t come with a fixed set of guidelines or a neatly organised structure.

Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end,” Virginia Woolf said.

She thought life is a complex experience filled with moments of uncertainty, beauty, and wonder.

Her quote emphasises that life is more than just a sequence of events; it is a rich and continuous experience that shapes us throughout our conscious existence.

Arrange whatever pieces come your way,” says Woolf.

The notion of life as a “semi-transparent envelope” suggests that our understanding of life deepens as we progress.

It’s not immediately apparent or fully comprehensible; rather, it’s something we gradually understand as we move through our conscious existence. In that sense, life becomes a continuous journey of self-discovery and self-awareness.

6. Embrace the connection between self-awareness, contentment, and the perception of time

“The man who is aware of himself is henceforward independent; and he is never bored, and life is only too short, and he is steeped through and through with a profound yet temperate happiness.” — Virginia Woolf

Self-awareness is key to personal freedom.

When you’re truly self-aware, you clearly understand your thoughts, feelings, desires, and values. You become independent, free from the monotony of boredom.

Life suddenly feels like this precious, fleeting gift, and every moment is filled with a deep yet balanced contentment. It’s as if you’ve found the secret to a fulfilling and meaningful existence.

“Self-awareness is one of the most important psychological traits you can develop within yourself for life,” says Mark Manson.

Woolf observed that life is never dull, for people are self-aware because they have a deep connection to their thoughts and feelings.

They can find fulfilment in their interests and creative pursuits, making them less reliant on external sources of stimulation.

7. True freedom is not the absence of all constraints but the ability to manage and restrain yourself

Woolf recognised the value of self-control. She thought it enhances the quality of the freedom we enjoy.

It also allows us to make thoughtful and deliberate choices that align with our values and long-term goals.

To enjoy freedom, we have to control ourselves,” says Virginia Woolf.

When we are able to control ourselves, we are not enslaved by our emotions or desires. External forces, such as the expectations of others or the demands of society, do not control us.

We are free to think for ourselves, make our own decisions, and live our lives as we see fit.

If you conquer yourself, then you conquer the world,” says writer Paulo Coelho. When we take intentional and responsible actions, we improve our satisfaction and fulfilment.

Self-control is not a limitation on your freedom but a necessary component for truly enjoying and maximising your life.

Mastering our thoughts, emotions, behaviours and impulses means making rational choices rather than succumbing to impulsive or destructive tendencies.

Of course, self-control is not always easy. It requires discipline and strength of character.

Have you checked out yesterday’s blog yet

How to Use ChatGPT for Interview Preparation

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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