Life Goals! The Quaker's Rules For a Happy Life
Several years ago, a reader sent me an article called "Wisdom of the Quakers" which is a list of rules to live by, designed to make your life simple and joyful. As our New Year's Resolutions fall by the wayside and the cold months of February and March stretch out ahead, this is a terrific time to put "happiness plans" in motion and the "Wisdom of the Quakers" provides a super game plan.
1. Live beneath your means.
When you feel out of control in other areas of your life, especially if you are being attacked, mastering aspects of your life that you can control gives you a sense of power and purpose. Perhaps no other area of life gives us more agita then our finances. Make a budget, prune the unnecessary, make saving a priority, and don't engage in destructive shopping therapy. Keeping up with the Jones' is exhausting and not beneficial.
2. Return everything you borrow.
In one of Shakespeare's most famous lines from Hamlet, Polonius advises his son, "Neither a borrower nor a lender be, for loan often loses both itself and a friend." It's so true, clothes, lawn equipment, books, whatever you borrow, take it back. Every second that you hold onto something that you don't own is a second that you are responsible for someone else's property and all that that entails. Clean it, repair it, and take it back with a heartfelt thank you.
3. Stop blaming other people.
Obviously, if you are being bullied and harassed, that behavior is the responsibility of the attacker. However, throughout the day, we often passively blame others for our own failure to "pull the trigger" on the things that we want. We blame our kids or our spouse or our parents or our boss when we are looking for excuses to not put in the work to change. This ultimately builds toxicity in our lives. If you really want to do something, do it, if you don't, admit it to yourself and focus on things that you do really want to do.
4. Admit it when you make a mistake.
As Watergate should have taught us, it's not the crime, it's the cover up that destroys. How many times have you made a mistake but instead of just owning it, sincerely apologizing, and moving on, found yourself compounding the problem with avoidance, justifications, or lies? Sincerely say your sorry when you make a mistake, don't justify, don't blame others, don't elaborate. Just own it, apologize, and let it go.
5. Give clothes not worn to charity.
If you haven't worn it in a year, unless it of real, significant, sentimental value, sell it or donate it. Too many choices can actually create a lot of mental baggage. Holding onto clothes that remind you of bad times, fit a thinner or heavier body, or aren't appropriate for your lifestyle today aren't doing you any favors and can be doing someone else a lot of good.
6. Do something nice and try not to get caught.
Read about the "butterfly effect." Your random act of kindness can have a profound effect on others far and wide. Doing good also helps to put things into perspective. No matter how bad things may be, the world goes on, other people are hurting and in need too, and you can help.
7. Listen more, talk less.
Many people who are victimized by hate struggle to talk about their situation. But once they do find their voice, it can become overwhelming to others, which can actually further isolate victims. One of the ways that you can get out of your own head and make deeper connections with others is to focus on listening. Ask people about things that they like to talk about, their daily lives, their jobs, their passions, their experiences. Too raw to listen to other people's issues? Libraries, museums, and all sorts of organizations feature talks and presentations on just about every subject. Listening is about focusing on something other then yourself and learning lessons through the experiences of others.
8. Every day take a 30-minute walk.
Get the blood flowing, get to know your environment, get your body moving. Before work, during lunch, or before you rest for the evening, a walk does wonders.
9. Strive for excellence, not perfection.
Aren't we our own worst enemies? Thanksgiving to me is often the perfect example. How many people (usually women) make themselves miserable trying to achieve the perfect, Martha Stewart Thanksgiving meal. They end up feeling bitter, overwhelmed, and underappreciated when an easier, more casual event would have made everyone involved more comfortable. Learning to do your best and accept flaws, mistakes with grace and humor will make you much happier.
10. Be on time.
Being chronically late shows a lack of respect, both for yourself and for others. Always being in a rush means that you never feel fully in control or at your best. Factor in more time to get up, get ready, and get to the places you need to go.
11. Don't argue.
Have you ever really changed someone's mind by arguing or raising your voice? No. You may have overpowered the other person with your words, and they may have agreed with you to end the battle. But arguing only builds a wall between. Pick your battles, recognize that your opinions are opinions and not everyone has to share them, and when you can, let is slide.
12. Get organized.
I love stuff. And I am not naturally organized. This was a horrible combination for many years. I lost important papers, misplaced photos and mementos, and was constantly searching for something. I justified disorganization with all of that "a messy desk is a sign of brilliance" nonsense. But, rising to a challenge, I took a week and completely organized my home. I found things that I forgot I had, became reacquainted with things that I used to love, and got rid of a ton of stuff that I never used. More than that, I can now find whatever I need quickly and without panic.
13. Be kind to people, even unkind people.
When my sons were small, I spent a lot of time teaching them to have good manners, holding the door open for others, greeting people warmly, and just generally being kind. One day. when one of my boys and I were standing in line at the grocery store with a full cart, he noticed that the woman behind only had a few items. So he offered to let her go ahead of us. Good manners right? She responded by snapping "Mind your own business!" He looked at me hurt and asked "why should I have good manners when other people don't?"
I think that a lot of people struggle with this. The world is full of rude, unkind, poorly mannered people. But kindness isn't just about making someone else feel good. Being kind is about making your world a gentler place. When you are kind, without the goal of getting something in return, you release toxic negativity, you slow down, and appreciate. You have no idea what is going on in someone else's life and your small act of kindness, even if it doesn't seem appreciated, can have a profound effect. Being kind to others, especially people who are unkind to you, isn't easy. But it is worth it.
14. Let someone cut ahead of you in line.
see above... be aware of your surroundings and consider how you can make things better. When you focus on others, you can get out of your own head, and become kinder to yourself.
15. Take time to be alone.
Learning to be comfortable alone is one of the most important skills that a person can cultivate. Those victimized by hate may have spent a lot of time alone, thinking about their situation, but that is not the type of "alone" that is healthy. Being comfortable by yourself means that you can enjoy time on your own doing things that you enjoy.
16. Cultivate good manners.
Having good manners doesn't mean behaving in a stuffy or overly formal way. It really means that you are polite and know how to behave in a socially acceptable manner. Aside from making other people feel respected, having good manners will help you feel comfortable and confident in any social and business situation. Need a refresher? There are plenty of modern manners books that can get you up to speed.
17. Be humble.
Having confidence, being proud of your accomplishments, and liking who you are as a person is terrific! Bragging, belittling others, and talking about yourself constantly is not. Cultivating humility helps you to really connect with others and learn to enjoy people (including yourself) with no promotion or pressure to perform. Besides, no one enjoys spending time with a braggart.
18. Realize and accept that life isn't fair.
Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes your the bug. Life isn't fair and sometimes it down right sucks. You can dwell on the inequity of it all and make yourself (and everyone else) miserable. OR You can accept that life is sometimes cruel, do the best with what you have, weather the storm as well as you can, and know that this too shall pass.
19. Know when to keep your mouth shut.
Most of the hurt feelings and misunderstandings of the world could have been avoided if people would just take a moment, consider their motivation in lending their "two cents" and keeping their mouth shut. Even when people ask for your opinion, they rarely want it. What they want is your agreement with their opinion. And few things are less welcome than an unsolicited opinion.
20. Go an entire day without criticizing anyone.
Try it, you may be surprised to find how frequently and casually we criticize. From silently judging someone else's fashion choices and complaining about other drivers, belittling a co-worker or your boss (behind his or her back of course) to micromanaging your spouse, criticizing is toxic. If you criticize face-t-face, you can damage someone else's self esteem and build resentment. If you criticize behind someone's back, others may laugh and nod, but they won't trust that you aren't doing the same behind their backs. And criticizing others in your head, just creates more negativity in your own mind. Who needs that?
21. Don't sweat the small stuff. It's all small stuff."
There is an old country and western song by Garth Brooks that says "I thank God for unanswered prayers..." How much time and tears have you wasted on someone or something that ultimately, just wasn't worth it. I know that I certainly have agonized over people and situations that years later, I can scarcely remember. So much of what we focus on is inconsequential, out of our control, or just not that big of a deal.
I want to add my own - SING! Don't worry if you can't carry a tune, singing, especially happy songs, releases all sorts of "feel good" chemicals