More Than Happy: Cultivating Wholehearted Living

The pursuit of happiness: our country is founded on it, and our culture is fixated on it. But what if there is more to life than being happy? What if, at the end of our lives, we looked back to see if we had lived a full, abundant life?

What if we were able to live wholeheartedly, embracing all that life has to offer?

Dr. Brené Brown writes on the topic of what she calls “wholehearted living” in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection (2010), and identifies 10 areas of life to cultivate, as well as 10 things we may be better off letting go of in order to make the most of our lives.

Her list is as follows:

Wholehearted living looks like…

  1. Cultivating authenticity, and letting go of what people think.
  2. Cultivating self-compassion, and letting go of perfectionism.
  3. Cultivating a resilient spirit, and letting go of numbing, and powerlessness.
  4. Cultivating gratitude and joy, and letting go of scarcity, and fear of the dark.
  5. Cultivating intuition and trusting faith, and letting go of the need for certainty.
  6. Cultivating creativity, and letting go of comparison.
  7. Cultivating play and rest, and letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol, and productivity as self-worth.
  8. Cultivating calm and still, and letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle.
  9. Cultivating meaningful work, and letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”.
  10. Cultivating laughter, song and dance, and letting go of being cool and “always in control”.


Cultivating and letting go are both actions, meaning these are things we need to be intentional about in our lives. These things won’t happen overnight, but are rhythms to be developed.

It seems to me that part of wholehearted living is about being present in the process, and not just focused on a specific destination.

Using this list as a guide, how wholeheartedly are you living? What are some things you could let go of? What do you want to focus on cultivating?

Written by: Courtney Hintermeyer

Source: Brown, B. (2010). The Gifts of Imperfection: Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are. Center City, MN: Hazelden Publishing.