My Thoughts on the “7 Cardinal Rules For Life”

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If you follow this blog (or you follow my posts via Twitter or LinkedIn), you have likely noticed a number of quotes posted lately pertaining to love, friendship, loss, hope, despair, etc. On my blog I have felt it appropriate to include the occasional post or quote on subjects that do not pertain to sports performance/exercise science. After all, none of us lives in a vacuum. Our lives outside the athletic arena/field, gym, health club, training center are (hopefully) as important to who we are as individuals, as that portion of our lives spent in athletic/fitness pursuits.

Today I came across this photo in a Twitter post from BeFitMotivation (https://twitter.com/BeFitMotivation). It is a picture of a banner or sign that outlines seven rules for living a happier life. I thought I should share this and perhaps share my thoughts. I do not claim to have all of these areas “dialed in” in my personal life. I’ve always considered myself very much a work in progress. But I agree with these “rules” in principle. 😉

“1) Make peace with your past so it won’t disturb your present.” We all have “a past.” We all have experiences — some of them good, some of them not so good. Sometimes we make good decisions and sometimes we make decisions that do not work out so well. Sometimes relationships end on a positive note and sometimes they end bitterly. Regardless, if we are to live a full, happy life we have to come to terms with our past. It is difficult to reach for something new when you are still holding onto something from your past. Overall, I think that I do a pretty good job of accepting that I can’t change the past and that I have to live in the moment to achieve those things that I want for the future. But like most anybody else, I could use the occasional reminder.

“2) What other people think of you is none of your business.” I have generally been OK with the idea that not everyone is going to like me. Everyone has a right to their opinion. As a general rule, I tend to think that if everybody likes you, you are doing something wrong. After all, not every person is going to have the same thoughts and values as you. They may not stand for the same things that you do. But I have to admit that sometimes I have felt stung by what I have perceived as harsh, unfair criticism/perceptions. If I am going to grow, I have to look at criticism objectively and determine if there is some truth to it. If there is some truth to it, I might need to change. Then again, maybe not. If the criticism isn’t justified or is based on values and beliefs not consistent with my own, I may have to accept that I can’t win this person over to my camp. On a related note — criticism from those close to us holds more potential to sting. After all, we want them to like us and sometimes that criticism seems like a rejection. If they legitimately care for us, their criticism should come from a place of concern/helpfulness/love. Sometimes it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, we have to remember that we have all hurt someone that we love unintentionally (or even intentionally) and try to forgive them.

3) “Time heals almost everything. Give it time.” Heartbreak/grief/pain are part of the human condition. As badly as I have been hurt in this life, I don’t know that I would give up the “privilege” of emotional pain. I don’t know how I could be “human” if I could not feel that pain. How can you feel the highs without the possibility (certainty?) of feeling the lows? Having been hurt before and having passed through that hell to come through on the other side, I know that with time I should be able to get through most anything. That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t consider signing up for a clinical trial testing a new short-term drug for emotional pain though (I am only half-kidding). If you have been hurt so badly that you want to cry out in pain or curl up in the fetal position and fade away, you know what I mean. But as long as I have the stamina to endure, I should be able get through the crucible of heartbreak/grief/pain. However, notice the use of the word “almost” in the rule. Some wounds do run deep. I can only imagine the grief felt by a parent that has lost a child or that of a husband or wife that has lost their spouse to death or divorce. But even with those wounds I think that it is possible that time can eventually dull the pain. The problem is that, of course, it takes time. If we can’t come to terms with our heartbreak/grief/pain, we may eventually need to seek out professional assistance. I, myself, have been guilty of trying to bull through without help. I have to wonder sometimes if some of the pain and suffering that I have endured in my life would have been less-debilitating and shorter in duration if I had only had the courage to seek help.

“4) No one is in charge of your happiness. Except you.” You will no doubt encounter people in the world that care little for your happiness. In fact, some people seem genuinely compelled to go out of their way to prevent your happiness. The good news is that you are ultimately responsible for your state of mind. Sure, you might find yourself in unpleasant conditions or situations that would challenge anyone’s ability to remain happy and positive, but generally speaking you can choose how you will react. Will you allow anger, hurt or sadness to determine your reaction? Or will you try to remain positive and choose to be happy? I haven’t always done the best at this, but I try. Sometimes it is tough, because sometimes I want to remain angry/hurt/sad, at least for a little while. The problem is that being unhappy only hurts me. Life is too short to waste time being miserable.

“5) Don’t compare your life to others and don’t judge them, you have no idea what their journey is all about.” We all come from different backgrounds with different challenges and motivations. You should strive to live your life without the self-imposed burden of expectations built on your limited understanding of someone else’s life. Moreover, you have to remember that you don’t know enough about a particular person’s life to draw an entirely accurate conclusion about the state of their life and contentment.  So you should try to avoid being judgmental and to remain charitable.

“6) Stop thinking too much. Its alright not to know the answers. They will come to you when you least expect it.” There is nothing wrong with thoughtful reflection and seeking the answers to probing questions. But life is meant to be lived. Any virtue taken to an extreme can become a vice. If your prolonged thinking is leading to indecision and inaction, perhaps you are thinking a little too much. I can certainly relate to this one. I have a tendency to over-think things and delay action until I understand a situation thoroughly. The problem is that sometimes you have to act, sometimes with limited information. Most of the time the answers are not that important at the moment. Also, when it comes to “affairs of the heart” the answers are not so clear and it can be difficult to rationally define/explain emotions.

“7) Smile. You don’t own all the problems in the world.” Let’s face it — everyone finds a smiling face more attractive. Moreover, putting a smile on your face, even when you do not feel like smiling, might just fool you into being happier. It can be sort of like a case of “faking it before you make it.” Most of us know that there are people in the world that are less fortunate than us. Happily, we are not expected to solve all of the world’s problems. As a fitness/sports performance professional that works with the public, I understand the importance of putting on my “game face.” That includes smiling when I do not feel much like smiling. I do pretty well there. But I could stand to improve on that front when I am not on the clock.

These “rules” can certainly have a positive impact if you put them into practice. Have a great weekend. 🙂

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