Nov 042011
Bust of Marcus Aurelius by Wikipedia

Life for many of us is trial and error. We live, we make mistakes and we fall down. Then we get back up and try all over again. Along the way, we gain insights and develop guidelines to make better choices and actions. There are many books and articles on guidelines to living a good life. The most famous of them would be Marcus AureliusMeditations, which I am sure many people have heard of and read.

Now I may not be a Roman Emperor or a wise philosopher. But I thought it would be a good exercise to write out a few guidelines of my own. On the one hand, it helps me to define my values and approach to living a good life. On the other hand, it helps me to examine them more closely.

You may not agree with all that I say. And this is fine because each of us has our own views about the world. But I do hope that you will be able to take away something with you. I also hope that it will cause you to reflect on and define some of the guidelines you have for living a good life.

The Vizier’s Guidelines to Living a Good Life

Taking Responsibility

1. I am responsible for shaping my life and my destiny with my choices and actions. Thus, I must choose and act with care.

Making Decisions

2. I must never make a major decision without careful thought. Rushing into things is rarely prudent. Rushing through a major decision could be disastrous for me.

3. I will listen to and seek out advice for creative insights. But my conclusions and decisions must be my own. I must make up my own mind because this is my life.

4. My understanding of events is finite. To act on imperfect understanding is unwise. Therefore, before I make a major decision, I will always divine the possible outcomes of my choices and actions first. This allows me to see the bigger picture and hence the best course of action I should take. Often, the big picture forces me to revise my assessment of events. Thus, I never act without seeing the big picture as far as I can.

5. I will always blend logic and intuition when it comes to making decisions. To rely on one and exclude the other is foolhardy.

Managing Change

6. Change is the only constant in life. Everything is impermanent. All I really have in life is moments. Therefore, I must beware of my attachments and know when I must let go. But at the same time, I must treasure each moment and make full use of it to avoid having regrets.

7. Decline follows success. Times of hardship follow ease and prosperity. What was once useful and dynamic will become old and obsolete. This is the eternal cycle of life where nothing lasts forever. To guard against changing fortunes, I must always be alert and prepared. I can never allow myself to be complacent. More importantly, I must know how and when to change my ideas and approach to keep up with the times.

8. Success depends on preparation and planning. But my plans must be in accord with the demands of the times to succeed. On the one hand, I must be careful and thorough. Yet on the other hand, I must also be adaptable and flexible as well.

9. When it is time to keep still, I must know how to keep still. When it is time to act swiftly and decisively, I must know how to do so. Only with this self-control and awareness will I be likelier to manage change well.

Managing Adversity

10. Focus on the solution, not the problem. Worrying about the problem does nothing and yet wastes a lot of energy. Since I have to expend my energy, it is better to do so in a productive way. If I can channel my energy to find a creative solution to remove the root cause of my distress, all will be well once more.

11. Failure is a vital part of success. It reveals my shortcomings and the areas I need to improve on to succeed. Learn from my mistakes and adapting my approach is the only way to success.

12. Every crisis has a life lesson. This is the way Life helps me to gain the wisdom, experience and capacity to handle greater things in the future. If I do not learn these lessons now, I may not have the chance to do so later. For the sake of my loved ones, I must master these lessons so that I will be able to manage when it matters the most.

13. Pain is part of the healing process. I must let it flow through me, I must hit rock bottom before I can be whole once more. Resistance is futile and only prolongs the process.

14. Laughter is good for the soul. I must strive to see the humour in things and find ways and means to laugh often. This always helps me to cope with adversity better.

Social Interactions

15. There is a first time for everyone. Each person is an expert in his or her own field and cannot possibly know everything well. I must remember this when I have greater expertise in one area than others. At another point in time, I might need to rely on their expertise as well.

16. This is not a perfect world, so tolerance is vital. I am bound to meet people whose behaviour irritates me. If it causes me no harm beyond this, I will not let it bother me. If it is beyond my ability to tolerate, I will try to resolve matters in an amicable manner. If my intervention does not improve the situation, I will remove myself from it as soon as I can.

17. No one owes me anything. I must be grateful for any service or favour that someone else does for me. This is not something I should take for granted especially with the people closest to me.

18. Every human being is deserving of respect unless he or she acts and behaves in a way that proves otherwise. As far as I can, I must be respectful to all whom I meet. This also involves consideration for their feelings. I must watch the way I behave and the things I say with care.


19. If it is within my means, I will not turn away a request for help. If it is beyond my means, I must know when and how to say no. By knowing when to say no, I will avoid bringing disaster on the parties involved.

20. In giving and helping, I must do so without expectations. Unmet expectations can lead to disappointment. It is better to give within my means and not to expect anything in return. Expectations turn giving into a transaction. In this case, I should be upfront about what I expect.

21. To listen well, I have to place myself in the shoes of the other person. When I can understand the reasons behind their actions, I will be less inclined to judge. This allows me to feel compassion for the difficulties he or she faces. And what I can do to help, I will do so.

22. It is important to have true friends whom I can rely on. True friends multiply the joys I have in life and help me to manage hardships better. When I find people whom I can become truly good friends with, I always make it a point to nurture and cherish this friendship. True friends are a blessing.

Mind Body and Soul

23. Any form of extremes is harmful to living a good life. I must beware of my indulgences and master my passions. Balance is the key to good living. In all things, I must practice moderation, including moderation itself.

24. Exercise and meditation is vital for a healthy mind and body. It also builds discipline. I always set aside some time for them each week unless I have pressing matters to manage.

25. I do not live to eat, but I do have my indulgences. Therefore, I remove all forms of unhealthy food from my presence to avoid temptations. If I must indulge, I will do so with healthy alternatives.

26. Nourishment is vital to living a good life. I must pay close attention to the way I nourish my mind, body and soul. If I give into temptation and impulses, I could end up harming myself in the long run.

27. Work hard and play hard. It is vital to balance work and play when it comes to living a good life. When working I must focus fully and work in an efficient and productive manner. When playing, I must be able to relax fully to recharge. Only by balancing work and play can I live a good life.

General Observations

28. Reading widely allows me to build upon the experiences of others. By blending ideas from different fields, I might come across a creative approach to resolve a challenge. I cannot learn and experience everything on my own. There is not enough time. I must therefore learn from others.

29. Unity is strength. If people are united, they can achieve great things. If not, they waste energy with infighting to further their own interests. This leaves them vulnerable to external dangers. Finding common ground and win-win solutions is the key to the survival of the human race.

30. Great responsibility comes with great power. If I have the means to help, I must do so while being aware of the impact of my help on the lives of others. Going too far or not going far enough is equally harmful. Again, the key is balance.

31. Everything happens at its own time and place. I must certainly do my part in my planning and preparations, but there are times when I have to let events proceed at their own pace. To hasten matters or to skip steps due to impatience will only lead to harmful results.

Horizon by Gary McCafferty

Taking Action

What are some of the guidelines you have for living a good life? Do share your wisdom below! :)

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  22 Responses to “The Vizier’s Guidelines to Living a Good Life”

  1. A remarkable list Irving. Beautiful, timely, and potent. I want to thank you for the time and care you put into this post. How to pick from such a great list? But I love your reminder on the power of laughter — I forgot about this one a long time but now I have remembered — and taking care to nurture our friendships.

    I surely feel a friendship with you and I want to acknowledge it. Well done with this post.
    Christopher Foster recently posted..What is fitness? Introducing a pioneering plan to get fit and lose weightMy Profile

    • Hi Christopher,

      Thank you for your kind words about the list I made. I appreciate it coming from you because you have lived far longer than I have and certainly seen and experienced more than me.

      Friendships and laughter are some of the things closest to my heart and I always take care to nurture these 2 aspects of my life. The benefits I have gained from my efforts speaks for itself. I don’t think I would get through life without knowing how to laugh or with true friends to rely on.

      Yes I too feel a connection with you and I am glad that our paths have crossed! :)

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

      Irving the Vizier

  2. I’m not looking for pride in power, fame, or personal effects. And I certainly have no intentions of hurting any one in my climb up the ladder of life. I have never hidden the fact that I am very much goal orientated.
    Jazreel recently posted..Chamonix In SummerMy Profile

    • Hi Jazreel,

      Those are good guidelines to have for living. I love how they strike a fine balance. Many people pursue goals and climb up the ladder of life at the expense of others. But if you can do so without turning the world against you, life is likelier to be smoother for you. At the very least you will not have to manage needless troubles.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

      Irving the Vizier

  3. From “Taking Responsibility” right down to the last.. all good points. I find that some I do easily as they are a regular part of my life. I see Christopher puts the power of laughter out on top. Have lots of that with my friend and partner with the crazy humor. Gratitude, nourishment of body mind and soul, I do a good job of. What I need more of is the exercise and social interaction (outside of the classroom!)

    Thank you for the very encompassing post.. lots to think about.
    Barbara recently posted..New article on Helium about Bonsai. One day….My Profile

    • Hi Barbara,

      Thank you for validating the points I made. :)

      I am truly happy that laughter is a big part of your life with you and your partner. That is truly a blessing and comfort to have in this world. With this as a rock solid foundation for you, it is easy to work on other areas of your life that need a little more focus and attention.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

      Irving the Vizier

  4. Hi Irving,

    This is a well thought out list that would be perfect to post and read through each day. It definitely has some wonderful ideas on how to live a meaningful life. This one caught me eye, “Every crisis has a life lesson.” We learn so much from our struggles, don’t we? Thanks for sharing.
    Cathy | Treatment Talk recently posted..How to Feel Empowered When Your Child is Addicted: 7 TipsMy Profile

    • Hi Cathy,

      Thank you for your kind words.

      I don’t think my list should be read through daily though. I usually get familiarity blindness when I read the same thing too often lol! So I try to vary the things and lists I read to stay inspired.

      But it is true, we do learn a lot from our struggles and there is no other way to grow.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  5. Dear Irving,

    The 31 guidelines you have for living shows your enlightened and humble soul. In them there is wisdom, virtue, giving, purpose and values. As you navigate the seas of your life, I am sure these will bring you stability and the sureness that your life is on purpose.

    Your post has tickled my mind to reflect on my own compass for living. At this stage of my life I would just like to mention three things that mean the most to me – purpose, family and service.

    I seek the purpose drivenife everyday now. Even though I am not sure where this will lead me nor what I think is a purpose will be correct. I did my searching and am following what my intuition tells me.

    Part of purpose is nurturing a great family. I never knew that becoming a family man is such a humbling experience. The things I go through now is greater than any I have ever faced in life. It is just that phase that we all must go through. Family does refine by fire.

    At the end of it all, I seek to make the world a better place. I hope I am aligned in my work and mission. Nothing is worse than a divergent path for these two. When the end of this life cones, I just want to be able to say that I have given my all for the mission of life. I hope my life will inspire those that I have left behind.

    Beyond these three things, I want to think no more at the moment. Perhaps in my quiet reflective times, I can also come up with my list.

    Jimmy recently posted..What is Personal Development?My Profile

    • Hi Jimmy,

      Thank you for being so gracious in your compliments. I still have a very long way to go in life and I haven’t fully mastered my impulses to be perfectly honest. This is why I try not to be hasty in my decisions.

      Purpose, family and service are all meaningful guidelines for living a good life. You can’t stray too far from what is good and right if you let your intuition and heart guide you. Indeed having a family who depends on you can be daunting but it can also be a great motivator that will spur you on to greater heights. I think you are heading in the right direction, you just have to acquire what you need to help you along on your journey.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  6. Thank you for sharing this beautiful and helpful post… I have learned a lot from this as I am comparing my life with what you have said…
    Alice Isabell recently posted..RC Cars Are Working Scale ModelsMy Profile

  7. One of my personal favorites is to look at failure as a form of feedback and learning experience.

    I enjoy your tip #5 very much. I share the same view too!

    What a great idea to list down guiding principles of life! It may be a worthwhile exercise for me as a parent. Thank you for the inspiration!!
    Evelyn Lim recently posted..How to Overcome Self-DoubtMy Profile

    • Hi Evelyn,

      It is good to know that my post managed to inspired you. :)

      Looking at failure as a form of feedback and learning is a view that really turned my life around. As you would know, our upbringing in Singapore shuns failure, so I carried this view for a long time. But when I learned to look at failure differently, I was able to grow and to flow with my circumstances.

      I am glad you share the same view with me in tip #5. Logic without intuition isn’t always the full picture and when you act on incomplete assessment of events, the results are really 50-50.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  8. Hi, Irving, I read your list a few times. I can “hear” how this list comes from the heart of your experience and wisdom. I kept coming back to #1. I think that is the key to all the rest. #1 moves us away from bing a victim of our circumstances and acknowledges the power we have over the only thing we can control–ourselves.

    In my Shambhala training, we are now contemplating the phrase “Everything is impermanent.” Embracing this truth leads to fearlessness in our everyday lives and frees us to fully savor and enjoy each precious present moment.

    And you know I have learned in my own life that fun is good, so laughter is right up there on my list. (As you could tell by my response to Dan’s take on Mia’s situation!)

    This is a wonderful list full of wisdom. And friendship. And honesty. My own response to it was to think how lucky I am to have connected with you across the miles. Nicely done, my friend.
    Galen Pearl recently posted..Reflection on the JourneyMy Profile

    • Hi Galen,

      I always look forward to your comments to see how my articles fare against your experience and wisdom. :)

      Indeed taking responsibility is the key to living a good life. For many years, I never took responsibility for my life and always deferred to the opinions and views of others because I thought they were wiser. I suppose it also has to do with Asian upbringing. But after a series of events, I finally realized that I had to steer my own life and not let others do it for me no matter how well-meaning they were. I have never ceded control since then.

      It is true that when you realize that everything is impermanent, you become fearless because you have nothing to lose and thus you can fully live in each moment and treasure it for what it is worth.

      Although I come across as serious in person, I always like to find humour in situations. The more trying a situation is, the more I try to find humour in it. I supposed I was influenced by comics and wise cracking superheroes like Spider-Man, Deadpool and characters with offbeat humour. I always liked characters who could wise crack when they are about to be killed in a hundred different ways. :D

      I certainly laughed at how you responded to Dan’s take on Mia’s situation haha!

      I am also lucky to have your friendship in life. At least you appreciate my sense of humour. ;)

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  9. If everybody was strict to this advices, the world would be a much more better place! Moreover, we would have been a lot happier than now…
    Anna recently posted..When root canal treatment cost is not a priority question.My Profile

  10. Your guidelines are very close to what would be my guidelines. I think this says a lot.
    Alice recently posted..Why I Want You To Take Action NOWMy Profile

    • Hi Alice,

      Haha! I am not exactly sure what they says, but I would like to think that we both know what it means to live a good life.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  11. One of the most important in life is being in the ground. Always look back to where you from even you are in the peak of success. Be humble and always stay your feet on the ground.
    Richard recently posted..My Arowana Is Not Eating No Matter What I Do !!!My Profile

    • Hi Richard,

      Staying grounded is definitely a great guideline to living a good life. It is always easy to get carried away with success which can lead to danger. Therefore, being able to stay grounded during these times is especially important.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

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