Easier said than done, but nothing worth doing is ever easy, right?
1) Don’t complain about anything you’re not willing to make an effort to change. If you do choose to complain, then you have an obligation to do something about it.
2) Barring truly extenuating circumstances, do what you say you will, and do not do what you say you will not. Let your word speak volumes because it is your bond. If you are uncertain, remain explicitly uncertain to all relevant parties until such time as you can commit. Be wary of others who may sully the reputation of your word – either intentionally so or not – by ascribing false or unqualified quotes to you.
3) Let every choice you make be an opportunity to discover and define yourself more deeply. Make no unexamined turns, however unimportant they may seem. Be deliberate. Consider how your past and future selves will perceive your present words and actions. Strive such that your choices transform into principles you want to have. Actions form habits.
4) Endeavor to enter into all that you do without reservations nor expectations. Don’t hold back, and don’t only do things because of what you hope to gain. Respect the journey. Live fully and expect nothing, and everything will feel like a blessing.
5) Accept the existence of your worst self. Stare into a mirror until you cry. I guarantee no matter how comfortable you are with yourself, this will happen if you stare long enough. When you break, don’t look away. Realize that you are exactly the way you are meant to be – perfectly imperfect. It is alright to feel uncertain and to experience failure and to even hate yourself.
Recognize that you will not always be your worst self, nor can you always be your best self.
6) Doubt yourself regularly. The only true confidence comes from doubting yourself more than the world ever could, provided that you don’t let it paralyze you. Try to recognize doubt as a beautiful instinct, which reveals what’s important to us to address (whether we like to admit it or not).
7) Find things out for yourself. Whether it’s a rumor you heard or a fact you read about or a description you received, do whatever you can to validate, confirm, or experience it for yourself. Sources can be wrong, both accidentally and intentionally. You can be too, but even finding out that you are wrong – for yourself – will be an amazing learning experience.
8) Don’t underestimate the impact of your words and actions. A simple smile or unsolicited compliment can save a life, and you can never tell the stakes when you see or meet someone. On the other hand, an offhand, hurtful comment or interaction can stay with someone for their entire lives.
9) Don’t forget the big picture. Nothing really matters, and everyone dies. No one really knows what they’re doing, and everyone is more worried about themselves than they are about you. But don’t let this make you a nihilist. Rebel and recognize that inherent meaninglessness grants you complete power over defining what’s actually important in this short, fragile life.
10) Communicate your feelings – first to yourself and then to others. The range of human emotions is as intensely varied as it is enigmatic. Take the time to examine your emotions, and then take the time to explain them – without unleashing them – to the family, friends, and colleagues who may be impacted by them.
11) Don’t leave loose ends. Be the first to apologize, and always say goodbye. Life is fragile and meaningful. There is nothing more tragic to see destroyed or left hanging than a relationship.
Let no loose ends linger, lest we meet unexpected ends with ends left untied.
12) Embrace un-productivity. Netflix, comfy pillows, and bad Chinese food are pretty much necessary on occasion.
13) Ride or die (judiciously). Know exactly who or what is on the very short list of things you would do anything for. This list should exist, and should not change frequently, if ever. Spots on this list are not earned via quid pro quo – they are granted by your commitment and thus have little to do with feelings which may change.
14) Keep mementos in a safe location. Gifts, photos, and letters have the amazing ability to capture moments and emotions which are too terribly fleeting. Don’t lose them, even if you don’t care much for them right now. Whether or not you may like to admit it, they capture a piece of who you once were, so discarding them is like discarding a piece of yourself.
15) Cut ties from people and things which drag you down. This one’s difficult, but so necessary. Every vice and piece of baggage you leave behind is a weight that your tired shoulders shouldn’t have to carry as you navigate life’s hurdles and obstacles. And fret not about the people you may leave behind – let your absence in their lives prompt them to examine what about themselves made you move on.
16) Always be the last to withdraw your hand. Relationships (both romantic and platonic) fail when one of the two people chooses to walk away. Don’t be the first to stop making an effort to connect or to help. Note that this does not mean you should let them drag you down.
You can’t save someone or something from quicksand by stepping into it yourself.
17) Take responsibility for your perspectives and opinions. Perspectives and opinions are like pets. If you find you can’t take responsibility for them, you don’t deserve to have them. Voice them and stand by them, but don’t forget that your responsibility also extends to potentially changing them in light of new information or experiences.
18) Draw a line between personal and professional. Many folks try to put each of their relationships into one of the two buckets. While this may seem the easier option, the lines may naturally blur as you get to know someone, which often results in either nepotism in the workplace or aloofness in friendships. Let the line be drawn by context, rather than by person.
19) Remember that you’re not “better” than anyone, for any reason. But don’t worry, because in the same vein, no one is better than you for any reason. To believe otherwise is to disrespect the amazing complexity of our very existences. With an infinite number of aspects to who we are, it’s impossible to define a comparable aggregate measure of quality.
20) Always take the opportunity to learn something new. Living with more knowledge is like fishing with a bigger net. It’s not the net or knowledge itself which is of greater value, but your capacity to explore and capture more of what’s out there.
21) Always accept the possibility that anything you know and anything you believe may be incomplete, unqualified, or plain wrong. And not just things you don’t understand, but especially those things you feel absolutely certain about.
22) Learn to embrace regret. I know – couldn’t this list have just been one item? I don’t think so. Despite your best efforts and adherence to the above, regrets will happen. When they do, focus on being grateful that you cared enough about something to regret it. Then move on. I think the worst thing in the world must be to care about nothing.
23) Make your own list. This list is the one I’ve compiled for myself (so far), but regrets are born and carried individually. Take the time to consider how yours came to be and might be overcome.
Define your own rules and trust in your struggle to live by them.