KNOW WHO YOU ARE
We all want to live good lives, but what does a "good life" actually mean?
It's a hard concept to nail down, since we all have different values and goals. What one person might consider a great existence -- a high-powered job living in bustling city, or a cozy life spent raising a handful of children, or a solitary existence spent writing in the mountains -- others might think of as very unpleasant. What "good" means is relative, especially when it comes to creating a well-lived life.
Still, I believe there are certain things we all need to have a good life. I've been thinking about this topic a lot recently, and I happened to stumble upon a Forbes piece featuring ten golden rules for living a good life from the book The Ten Golden Rules: Ancient Wisdom from the Greek Philosophers on How to Life a Good Life.
These ten golden rules really resonated with me so I thought I'd share my versions, along with my thoughts on them, here. For the most part, these are the same as the ones referenced in the article above, only I've tweaked them a bit and the thoughts below are my own.
EXAMINE + ENGAGE IN LIFE
The first rule of living a good life is knowing how important it is to explore the world and be curious about your environment. We instinctively do this as children, but it should be a lifelong practice. You can't live if a good life if you're not really living. To me, this means both examining and engaging in life outside yourself (by playing games, making art, trying new foods, etc.), and also examining and engaging in your inner world too.
(TRY TO) WORRY LESS
Worry is, unfortunately, a part of life, but how much you worry -- and what you worry about -- can impact how good your life is. It's important to try your best to worry only about the things you can control. Learning how to quickly identify what you can control vs. what's out of your hands is one of the best ways to minimize worries. Someone living a good life knows she can't control everything; she can control her reactions to everything.
As humans, we crave connection and affection. Whether you're the type of person that has countless friends or you prefer a few close pals, friendship -- and the connections and life lessons that come along with those relationships -- are invaluable. No amount of wealth, power, success, fame or any other measure of success can beat the positive benefits of a good friendship. Someone living a good life knows to treasure and care for his friendships.
FOCUS ON TRUE JOY
In life there are plenty of things that make us feel good, but not all of those things should be the focus. Living a good life means avoiding shallow, meaningless, or fleeting pleasures and instead focusing on meaningful, deep joys that have lasting effects. For instance, consider the feeling of eating a giant slice of cake vs. the feeling of having an inspiring conversation. Both feel good in the moment, but the long-term impacts are very different.
KNOW WHO YOU ARE
KNOW WHO YOU ARE
Personally, I think this should be number 1! To live a good life, it's essential to know yourself, to be self-reliant, to cultivate self-love. Equally as important is focusing on what's true, not what's convenient. Self-deception is all too common for many of us, but it does us no good to convince ourselves of things that are untrue. If you struggle this this rule, here are some good resources to check out: My Life Story So Far, Letters to My Future Self, Finding Your Self, Loving Your Self.
FIND BALANCE + HARMONY
As you might already know, too much of anything (even the good stuff!) can be a bad thing, which is why, to live a good life, it's important to avoid excess. In all areas of life -- home, relationships, love, work, etc. -- it's a good idea to strive for balance. Overindulging in the good stuff can lead to what I think of as a "happiness hangover," but depriving yourself of fun (and a little bit of bad behavior!) it's great either. Find what balance means for you and strive for that.
ADHERE TO POSITIVE VALUES
This rule really comes down to one basic concept: be a decent human being. When you've done wrong, accept responsibility. Whenever possible, be honest with yourself and with others. It's vital to be accountable for your choices and actions. What you value is up to you, but figuring out those values and sticking to them throughout your life is one of the best ways to ensure you're living a good life. (Also: be open-minded and, if need be, change your values as you grow and learn.)
PROSPER WITH CAUTION
With any luck, you'll have an wonderful opportunity to prosper in this life, to flourish financially and achieve great success. If this happens (and I hope it does!), be cautious and thoughtful in your choices. I imagine it's difficult not to get carried away, but one of the keys to living a good life is being rational with your resources (whatever those might be!). Many prosperous people become foolish and delusional. Personally, I think this is a great place to focus on gratitude over gains.
DO HARM TO NO ONE
This might sound like an obvious rule for a good life, but it's an important one. To live well, strive to harm no one -- including yourself. Hurting others hurts you too (even if, for whatever reason, you feel as if they deserve to be hurt). Speak with kindness, focus on forgiveness, have compassion, embrace empathy, and, above all, try to cultivate as much love as you can for your fellow humans. (I also recommend extending this rule to animals and nature, too!)
BE ENDLESSLY KIND
The last rule goes hand-in-hand with the previous rule. Kindness is mandatory for living a good life. Not only does kindness make the world a better place, but every time you're kind, you feel good. Also, regardless of whether or not you believe in karma, if you pay attention to how kindness plays out in your own life, you'll find that your kind deeds are often rewarded or returned in some way. Whether it's something small -- like sharing your water with your dog on a long walk or sending a friend a bag of cheer -- or something huge, being endlessly kind will always lead to a better, happier life.
These words of wisdom are nothing new (after all, they were inspired by ancient philosophers!), but there's a reason we're still writing about these concepts today. They are vital for making the most of your life, regardless of who you are, what you have, where you live, or what you do. Follow these rules and an uncommonly good life can be yours!
A big thanks to UncommonGoods for sponsoring this post! If you're looking for unique gifts, jewelry, home decor, and more, UncommonGoods should be your go-to spot. Not only do they sell meaningful products that create a positive impact on the world, but they also have amazing personalized gifts (see here), which I think are the best kinds of gifts! Plus, awesome filters on their site allow you to search by categories like birthdays (here), anniversaries (here), bridal showers (here), etc. Honestly, I feel like I could shop there for every occasion for years and years and never run out of creative gift ideas!
This week my favorite season, autumn, officially arrives! I know how basic it sounds, but I seriously love everything about the season. In particular, I love the changing of the leaves. Not only are the vibrant yellows, reds, and oranges my favorite, but I find something comforting in the fact that the trees are at their most beautiful when they are in the midst of letting go.
For most of us, letting go is hard. It's a struggle to release people, things, or emotions we've grown accustomed to having in our lives. Some people are better at letting go than others. I, for example, have a terrifically terrible time letting go of people, but when it comes to letting go of material things, I have absolutely no trouble saying goodbye. Others don't seem to cling to people the way I do, but ask them to get rid of a dress they wore once in high school and they act like you're asking them to sell their soul. We're all different when it comes to letting go, but I bet that no matter who you are, you have a hard time letting go of something.
But you know what? That's okay. It's okay to have a hard time releasing what matters to you. Whether it's things, people, or thoughts, it's difficult to give up something you once thought of (or still think of) as yours. But just because it's hard doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. When you keep things you don't need (and, yes, this includes people), you create emotional (and sometimes physical) mess. Extra things create clutter in your home, and extra people create clutter in your heart. Personally, I'd rather not have any clutter in my life -- and the only way to do that is to learn how to let things go.
It's not always easy to release things, the way the trees always seem to graciously let go of their leaves each autumn, but it's up to you to choose to stop clinging to the things that you no longer need in your life. No one is going to do it for you, but I've got some tips for how to make it happen. Ready? Okay, let's go let go!
Decide what's really important. When you take a step back and think about what's truly important to you, you'll realize that many of the things you're holding on to aren't as essential as you once thought. What's essential is being healthy, positive, mindful, and living your life to the fullest. If you are clinging to things or people, you're not really at peace with yourself or your life. Step back and assess what really matters to you, and letting go will become a lot easier.
Assess what benefits you're getting. One of the reasons we hang on to things or people is because we believe they add value to our lives. But is that actually true? Think about it -- and I mean really think about it. Are you benefiting from the clutter (emotional or physical) in your life? Is your life richer because you are surrounded by negative people? Probably not. Take a moment to list the benefits you think you're getting and you'll probably have a short list. Use this to motivate yourself to release what no longer serves you.
Recognize that you're overvaluing it. You're the one placing high value on a person or thing you're holding on to unnecessarily. More often than not, you're idealizing that person or thing and telling yourself that, for whatever reason, you need it/him/her. However, that's not true. If there's any part of you saying "let go," that means let go. What you need in your life is you. You also need things that are bringing you up, not down. If something isn't bringing you up, it's bringing you down. Stop overvaluing it and let it go.
Be brave enough to release your grip. It really does come down to the old Nike slogan, "Just do it." No matter how hard it is, no matter what obstacles stand in your way, sometimes you have to just suck it up, be brave, and release your grip. I know this is much easier said than done, but, honestly, it really is the only way. You owe it to yourself to be brave; to release the things that you no longer need. A remember: the hardest part is the release; once you're brave enough to take that first step, you'll soon see that you're just fine without it.
As much as you might think you need something or someone, keep in mind that "need" is a very strong word. What you really "need" in your life is very different from what you "want." Keep in mind that, deep down, you know what's best for you. If there's something telling you to let go, listen to that instinct. Your gut feelings will let you know what's right and what's wrong. You just need to open your mind and listen to them. And then, when you hear that voice telling you that you need to let something go, have the courage to really listen and to take action.
Letting go isn't often easy, but you can make your life so much more positive if you take inspiration from the beautiful trees in autumn and just let the dead leaves drop. And, yes, you might go through a tough time -- a winter, if you will -- but that will pass, and you'll grow stronger and healthier in the process, just like bright green leaves and flowers do each spring.
“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”
10 Creative Ways to Express Gratitude : check out my Tiny Buddha post!
How to Fall in Love with Yourself : your greatest love story yet ;)
Why Is It So Hard to Live in the Present? : this video explains it so well
7 Tips for Clearing Office Clutter : less mess equals less stress
Secret Room : omg, these bookshelves + secret room are amazing
What Does It Mean to Have a Good Life? : is yours actually good?
Feeling Anxious? : turn down your body's alarm system
5 Pointers for Freedom-Based Creativity : excellent work habits list!
Peace is Power* : love the mantra behind this beautiful candle
HabitZen : this new Zen Habits app sounds (and looks!) amazing
Small Habits That Will Steal Your Happiness : try to break these habits
Practice Self-Gratitude : doing so will actually help others
"The Greatest" — Sia
"Carry Us" — Afrakite
"Black and White" — Regina Spektor
"Rise Up" — Jasmine Thompson
"Money" — Joe Achi
"Making All Things New" — Aaron Espe
"Wildflowers" — Caged Animals
"Golden Fleece" — Amy Shark
"Clementine" — Sarah Jaffe
Check out my reading list on GoodReads.
I write books too! Check it out...