I’m not going to put self-help, motivational, or productivity writers out of work. But I am going to share some of the life wisdom I have learned. Things that might genuinely make your life better. They could even save you a couple of years worth of life-hack reading. (We didn’t have life-hacking in my formative years. Only cats, or sick people, or smokers, or axes hacked back then.)
Be kind. Mean people are the worst. Civility seems to be in decline, and we are worse off for it. You don’t have to agree with someone to be civil to them. (Punching people in the stomach is just rude.)
Take risks. You can take risks and truly live, or you can avoid risk and safely wait to die. (I’m not talking about life-threatening risks like playing chicken with a train on a tricycle, or tight-rope walking without a net over the Grand Canyon, or trying to jump over 16 double decker buses on a motorcycle. But reasonable risks like telling someone how you feel about them, getting up and singing on karaoke night, or starting a new career.)
Don’t bottle up your feelings. And the flip-side: don’t lose your temper and throw bottles.
Shower the people you love with love. (Thanks, JT, for placing that crucial nugget of wisdom in a song and making it easy to remember.) Tell them. Show them. Love them.
Work hard. Or marry wealth (which is not easy, and you probably won’t enjoy it without love.) Do your work to the best of your ability. This builds character.
Help others. It’s medicine for your soul.
Don’t be lazy. Except on days off and vacation and other appropriate times.
Exercise and eat healthy. Except on vacation or days off or when entertaining or other appropriate times.
Don’t hate people. Even if they are a member of a different political party. Even if they don’t share your belief system (or lack of.) Even if they don’t share your values. Even if they don’t look like you. Hate is heart cancer. Don’t harbor it in your heart. Let it go. Spend your energy on loving and helping people instead. See “Be kind” and “Help others.”
Life isn’t fair (you were right Mom.) It never has been. Make the best of your situation and try to improve it. You will be improving yourself also.
You can’t always get what you want. (Thanks, Mick, for setting that one to music. Last song reference. I promise.) Try being content with the good things you already have. You don’t always need more.
Get up early — if your job starts at 7:00a. Otherwise, sleep in. Those things depend on your life circumstances. (Unless you’re a rooster.)
The world doesn’t revolve around you (you were right again, Mom.) Gain a little perspective. You are only one of the billions of souls on Earth. You’re probably not all that important in the overall scheme of history. Stay humble. See “Be kind” and “Help others.”
Think for yourself. People are often wrong, even when they claim to be right. Don’t let others tell you what to think. Unless they are excellent teachers and mentors without an agenda who genuinely want to help you. Then consider their advice and still think for yourself.
Career success and money don’t always lead to happiness. Status and power and preferential treatment, but not always happiness. Finding people and activities to love, and contentment are usually better paths to happiness.
If you can’t change something, don’t obsess over it. Focus on the things you can do. Doing something positive is better than ranting about something negative.
Listen to music. Not as background noise. Actually listen. It’s audible emotion, and one of the few examples of real magic in the world. Music makes your day better.
Success comes from showing up and trying, then failing, then learning from your mistakes, then showing up and trying again. Then repeating the previous steps.
It is alright to turn off the news and social media and enjoy life. A steady diet of depressing media is not healthy. (By the way. The people on television can’t hear you when you yell at them.)
No one is perfect. You will make mistakes; everyone does. Mistakes are how you learn and improve. Don’t be a perfectionist. Learn to say “That’s good enough.” (You will get more done that way also.)
Be real. We all have weaknesses and struggles. Don’t pretend you don’t. Sharing them can lighten the load. Just don’t whine about them. (Whining is almost as bad as being mean. Which we already established as bad at the start of the list.)
Don’t envy other people. You don’t know how miserable their life might actually be.
Go for walks. Preferably in nature or a park. Good for your body. Good for your mind. Good for your soul. (Bonus points if you don’t wear headphones and actually think and notice the beauty around you.)
Find a creative outlet. Art, music, cooking, writing, sports, hobbies, etc. The more outlets the better. We are all creative. Let it out. You need to participate as well as spectate.
Use common sense. Not sure what that is? Here’s an example. You go to the zoo. A lion comes running up to the edge of his enclosure. He roars. He looks really hungry and angry. Don’t jump into his enclosure and try to calm him down. That’s common sense. Read everything above again.
Be yourself. Celebrate your uniqueness. There is no one else exactly like you. (Until science perfects cloning.)
Embrace these simple truths, and your life will likely change for the better. Or not. There are no guarantees in life.
Now go read some fiction or humor or poetry.