You only need a few simple rules, consistently implemented, to be the very best version of yourself. They don’t have to be clever, or world-changing, or hard to follow. They just have to keep pushing you towards a life well lived. Here are a few of mine.
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Treat others as you want to be treated
Most of us would agree with this, yet not all of us practise it. It’s such a simple rule that can make such a big difference. It’s useful to remember this one just before you have any big confrontation or difficult encounter, whether it’s with your teenage daughter, your ex-wife, or a colleague. It’s particularly important when you’re dealing with someone who has made a mistake. If you’ve just messed up, how do you want to be treated? Do you need someone to rub it in, or help you make it right? Are you already beating yourself up? Do you really need someone else to pile on? Do you perhaps need someone to forgive you, relate how they made a similar mistake and survived it, or tell you they appreciate your intentions were good, even if the results were a mess?
Give what you want to receive
This is a natural extension of the above rule. It can seem counter-intuitive to give away what you want more of. But try it. Want love? Be a loving person. Want help? Help someone else first. Want positive energy? Try and be the most positive person in the room. Want friends? Be friendly. Want book recommendations? Recommend your favorite books to people. Want people to share your stuff on social media? Share theirs first.
Pick your battles wisely
I included this in my recent article about the best four-word advice I’ve ever received, and it’s probably one of my favorite life lessons. How many of us spend our time engaged in conflict about things that really don’t matter? If you’re going to have a fight, make it over something worth fighting for. A worthy cause, an important principle, respect, dignity — not who lost the remote control or who left the dirty coffee cup in the sink.
Living well is the best revenge
A huge amount of human energy is wasted stressing about petty grievances, planning revenge and worrying about the fate of those who have done us wrong. Getting on with life and living the best, happiest, most fulfilling life you can, is always the best response when we feel we’ve been wronged. If your old enemies run into you and see what a wonderful life you’re having, great. If they don’t, great.
Never judge individuals by anything other than their own character and actions. Don’t judge them based on their looks, race, gender, religion, nationality, job or financial situation. Certainly don’t judge them on the character or actions of their political or religious leaders, or the character and actions of other individuals who happen to be of the same race, gender, religion etc. And when you’re judging them based on their own character and actions, go easy too. You don’t know their story. A lot of people who appear to be arrogant idiots are just having a really bad day.
Know what you want, but appreciate what you have
It’s great to know what you want (your brain doesn’t, by the way, so be careful when you listen to it). Knowing what you want lets you set goals and achieve them, which is an important part of having a happy and successful life. But one of the big obstacles to a happy and successful life is always focusing on what you want and never stopping to be grateful for, and proud of, what you’ve already achieved. Take stock often, give yourself a pat on the back, then get on with achieving your next goal.
If you haven’t got anything nice to say, shut up
We all enjoy a bit of a gossip. That’s human nature, but it’s shocking the amount of time some people spend every day in negative, unconstructive and viscious criticism of other people — people who, to be honest, are quite happy getting on with their own lives and couldn’t care less about what their critics think. Don’t be one of those sad, negative, small-minded people, and don’t hang out with them either. It’s contagious.
Get your priorities right
Only you can decide what your priorities are, but here are a few gentle hints: Work is not more important than family. Profit is not more important than people. Self-indulgence is not more important than serving your community. What other people think is not more important than how you feel. Fitting in with the crowd is not more important than speaking out against injustice.
Focus on creation, not consumption
Lose your desire to acquire and cultivate a habit of creation. Create something new every day: a piece of writing, or art, a new friendship, or an opportunity. If you’re trying to cut consumption, because you want to save money, or the environment, or your sanity, I have a suggestion. Put all the effort you would have put into shopping, and obtaining, and ‘getting stuff’, into brainstorming, and designing, and ‘creating stuff’. Make the world a happier, prettier or more interesting place.
Spread a little happiness every day
Smile. Be positive. Help someone out. Make someone laugh. Give something away. Perform a random act of kindness. Donate some money, or time, or possessions. Do a good turn for someone who can’t possibly repay you.
Draw up your own list of simple, live-life-better rules. Or use mine. I’m happy to share.