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 Aurelius‘ Meditations, 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
1. I am responsible for shaping my life and my destiny with my choices and actions. Thus, I must choose and act with care.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What are some of the guidelines you have for living a good life? Do share your wisdom below!