I wouldn’t be exaggerating, would I, if I were to say that in life one couldn’t live without some definite values and principles. Every one of us has some guiding standards, or shall I say philosophies or rules of life, by which we choose to abide. These principles act as our North Star and give us a sense of direction, a meaning to our existence.
The other day, Abigail, a friend of mine, brought up the issue of having too many life principles and how some of them proved to be contradictory at times, causing confusion and unhappiness as opposed to leading a well-adjusted and happy life.
She had me pondering on how different sets of principles each and every one of us really had, and how we used each principle, despite the differences in kind and priority, to achieve the ultimate goal: to lead a successful life.
What I am implying by a successful life is a life full of satisfaction (being healthy, happy and fulfilled in your existence.)
I am sure most of us would like to lead such a life; and all we really need to achieve that would be our philosophies or ways of thinking, and the principles we follow, plus of course our attitude toward things.
When I asked another friend of mine if he had any specific principles he adhered to in life, his prompt response was a simple one: simplicity. He claimed that he always chose to live by simple rules, saying life “is already complicated as it is.” I didn’t agree. Life is complicated only because we make it.
Anyways, I opted to stick to one of my all-time favorite quotes: “Choose Better. Do Better. Be Better.” Craig Harper, a well-known Australian motivational speaker, said these sublime words.
In his book “One Hundred Principles for Life,” Craig has provided readers with pointers on how to improve your life. Although I am not a great fan of ‘how to’ books, I must say that I was really impressed by the advices presented in this one.
Reading these principles, one does realize that it takes all the fun out of making excuses and not taking responsibility… Yet, it also teaches the readers a lesson: we need to make choices and take decisions to take our lives in the direction we want.
Everything we do in life is a choice, and I think most of us realize that. But what most people don’t seem to realize is that everything we don’t do in life is also a choice. Every day we choose to do some things and to not do other things.
We all know that we can change our life whenever we want to. But just wanting to change is not enough. We must make the choice to change. Many of us choose to do nothing but wish things would change. Consequently, nothing ever changes.
While choosing not to do something is sometimes the wisest choice, there is however a huge difference between choosing not to do something and choosing to do nothing.
If our life is shaped by the choices we make, then we need to realize that the secret of making wise choices is based on our values and principles.
In an attempt to identifying my guiding principles, I sat down and began writing the qualities that I believe reflect my morals and principles I hold myself true to. I didn’t know where to start so I put them all down, not necessarily in the same order.
Self-esteem, confidence, health, meaningful relationships, honesty, loyalty, self-discipline, compassion, accepting others as they are… the list went on and on. They were all qualities of purposive action that can never be obtained as an object but that can be put into action from time to time. They were also standards of good behavior that the society expected of me… or a perfect citizen.
One of the concerns of my friend Abigail when she came up with the subject was, if I am not mistaken, the inconsistent principles that we have to face every now and then. In other words, there are circumstances when principles can conflict with each other.
“Leading a stress free life” for instance may interfere with relationship values. Let’s say one has to risk rejection to have a relationship involving love and affection, or one has to tolerate distressing imperfections in others to have genuine and close friendships.
Such occurrences could result in a state of confusion but one should remember that we could always control our reactions. We are in complete control of our responses and decide what value any event has in our lives. It all starts with a choice.
Let me illustrate with a hypothetical example.
Let’s assume your life is lacking joy and happiness. What can you do? You might start by counting your blessings, the things you are truly grateful for. True happiness comes from being grateful for what we have.
Happiness also comes from giving. Whether it’s a smile to someone who made eye contact with you or an encouragement to someone who is feeling discouraged, you are giving and at the same time becoming a source of happiness for others. After all, a very reliable source once told us that “there is happiness in giving.”
The point is therefore ‘make a choice!’ Once you do, you can always follow it through. The quality of our lives depends on the quality of choices we make, and for that we need to refine our principles.
Let me part my way with the following seven simple principles for living the good life as suggested by Stephen Mills in his website the Rat Race Trap. He chose them from many because they are simple and easy to understand.
Keep it Simple and Quick: Don’t complicate things.
Reduce Your Choices: the more choices you have the more unhappier you get. Called at times “the paradox of choice,” the fact remains that many possibilities leaves us stressed out—and less satisfied with whatever we do decide. Having too many choices keeps us wondering about all the opportunities missed. So reduce your choices and stop wasting time making the simple complicated.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: I believe this to be one of the most important attitude changes you can make. When you don’t sweat the small stuff, you allow your mental energy to be available for the big stuff. Identify the
Essential and Eliminate the Rest: This is simple in concept, but takes a lot of commitment to implement. You need to sit down and specifically identify what in your life is essential and then eliminate everything else. You will tend to think everything you do is essential and nothing can be eliminated. Don’t get caught in that trap. What if you only had one month to live? Would all that trivia be essential then?
Eliminate the Drain People: For many of us, being overly manipulated by people is something that is overlooked and taken as a given, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The debaters, the complainers, the victims, the angry, the rude, the needy, and those who think you are obligated to live your life for them … in brief the people who drain your resources should be eliminated.
If you think you can’t eliminate them, at least limit your interaction with them and set yourself free from manipulative relationships.
Living in the Present Moment: So much has been written on this that I won’t spend a lot of words on it.
Be Fit and Healthy: Some of you may believe that being fit and healthy is not that simple, but it is actually quite straightforward. It may require intense commitment to habit change in order to implement, but it is most assuredly not complicated. Do short, intense, and interval type exercises. Eat a lot of raw fruits and vegetables for enzymes. Eat a variety of seeds and nuts. (Beef, fish, chicken are of course included).
Therefore, draw up your list of guiding principles and make the choice to have the life you want. Make the choice to get started today and make sure you choose to do better to be better.