Special to the Mirror, written and submitted by Jack Wright
All people, through every age and within every culture, face the same fundamental challenges as they attempt to build a life of meaning, prosperity and personal fulfillment. Not all people are free to advance their ambitions toward that end as some political systems, religious laws, and cultural traditions impose harsh restrictions on human possibilities, yet true liberation and flourishing are both internal and external. One must start with the inner struggles that each of us face as we attempt to come to a deep and honest understanding of who we are so that we can successfully navigate the uncertain currents of life.
I offer the 26 guidelines below as being among the most important building blocks required for a life of sustainable, individual flourishing for women, men, and children.
- Try to spend at least 10-15 minutes a day in quiet contemplation or meditation – listen to nature, honor the quiet, liberate your inner thoughts, and do not speak.
- Make every day meaningful. Our lives pass by quickly, and we are not assured a single day in the future.
- Take yourself and your time seriously; you have something to offer the world. Be able to laugh at yourself and cry at times as well; there is comedy and tragedy in each of our lives.
- Expose yourself to great art, music, philosophy, and literature. Knowledge and beauty are transforming, and the genius of others may become your own.
- Take the time to establish and understand a set of fundamental principles through which you can choose to live and to which you can always return when making important decisions. Write these ideas down, and keep the door open to their guiding influence. Knowing these principles is knowing yourself. Become fluent in discussing them.
- Be solid in your beliefs and know why you believe in them. Do not retreat from or abandon them unless you find that they should be replaced by those that you have come to regard as superior. This process of challenging and refining our ideas, however deeply they may be held, strengthens our resolve to live a principled life. As Socrates is thought to have said, “the unexamined life is not worth living”.
- Be overtly respectful, friendly and kind.
- Speak out against those wishing to deprive you or others of the freedoms to which you are entitled as a human being.
- Try to spend at least thirty minutes a day exercising or doing yoga.
- Tell those that you love, that you love them every day.
- Understand that what you have been in the past does not limit what you can become in the future. Each of us is a work in progress, in a constant state of becoming, a process for which we must accept personal responsibility.
- Make a list of your strengths. Direct yourself to their further development. Positive views of ourselves and our strengths become a self-fulfilling force. Do not be afraid of failures – learn from them. A positive attitude is life affirming. Negative preoccupations have a suffocating effect on our sense of purpose and life’s meaning.
- Set long-term goals. Understand the necessity of their value as the incremental steps necessary to achieve goals. This helps define the value of accomplishing something each day as you move toward their realization. This is an empowering process that builds confidence in your ability to have a deterministic impact on your future.
- Choose your friends wisely; your choices can tell you much about yourself. Strive to surround yourself with people whose ideas and behavior you respect and in whose presence you feel happy. Value people’s character, and do not be seduced by superficial surface traits of appearance and personality.
- Be honest with yourself and others.
- Learn how to manage your finances. Plan to use your financial resources in a way that supports your long-term goals. While recognizing the value of fun along the way, do not foreclose the higher ends toward which you aspire by saddling yourself with unnecessary debt based upon yielding to short term frivolous impulse purchases. Use credit cards wisely. Charges should be paid off immediately. Educate yourself on credit card policies and cred bureau practices.
- Do not be gratuitously vulgar. Vulgarity is self- demeaning and disrespectful to others. It is also a sign of insecurity. It represents a juvenile inclination to be contemptuous of traditional values. It is evidence of a deficiency in mature language usage, and it also suggests an inability to communicate on a higher level. This applies to gratuitous vulgarity. It could be argued that there are certainly times when vulgar expressions are appropriate, but they should be used sparingly so that they can retain their power to express strong feelings.
- Do not spend your time frivolously engaged in the world of social media. It can draw you into the quicksand of juvenile preoccupations, narcissistic shallowness, ill-informed rants, hate filled invectives, and other colossally wasteful uses of your precious time.
- Understand what your body requires for sustainable health and consume high quality nutrients to achieve that end.
- Sustainable wellbeing is developed by cultivating and balancing your mental, physical and spiritual capacities. Emotional wellbeing is an outgrowth of this balance.
- Keep your spaces clean and neat. Order creates simplicity and harmony; clutter breeds chaos and dysfunction.
- Create a daily journal. List all the tasks that you want to accomplish each day and get as many completed as possible. Those not completed move to the following days list. This gives one a very real sense of control and genuine accomplishment.
- Do not be afraid of or deterred by failure. The Greek philosopher Socrates admonished all to “know thyself,” and the ability to derive from experience, an enhanced and authentic understanding of self, illuminates the value of both success and failure. If one has energetically invested themselves in their efforts, there is no shame in failure. To the contrary, failure can help us come to a deeper understanding of our strengths and of the endeavors which, when underpinned by those strengths, may present realistic expectations for success and fulfillment.
- Wisdom derives from the continuing engagement in life’s challenges. What we are to become should be the result of a process of refining and transforming ourselves toward progressively higher states of self -realization. Life is the context within which we may continuously learn, evolve, and develop wisdom worth passing on. We must have a clear sense that we are progressing in our lives for this is the instrument of becoming, and it is what we become that determines if happiness is to follow.
- The goal of life is to flourish in a healthy and vigorous way. We should wish this for all people, especially those we love. We should work to create and sustain those ideas and conditions that provide the fertile ground for our flourishing as individuals, families and communities. This is the highest expression of our basic humanity.
- In the end, the most important choice you will ever make is in choosing a spouse or life- long companion. That person should be your best friend whose presence you covet throughout your life together. The love and mutual respect that you share will become your greatest strength and a blessing to both people. Fidelity to your shared vision of life together and to your love for each other will enable you to face life’s inevitable difficult trials without losing faith and optimism. The steel of true love is hardened in the crucible of life’s struggles.