These ‘’Commandments’’ are actually just life lessons. They are reminders to myself about my favorite insights into how to keep myself happy and moving forward.
1) A clear target
I’ve found it’s not enough to try hard, if you’re not working toward a clear outcome. Everyone says this, but I like it because, if I’ve been clear, I can finally rest when I get there. And I like a good rest. (And a snack.)
2) Challenge the target
Goals are so ’09. Instead try milestones. Rather than saying “I’d like a million bucks” imagine a whole situation you’d like to find yourself in at that time. Because you don’t just want the money. You want the money and a sense of belonging. You want to be able to go for long walks in the morning. You want people emailing you asking for your take on the mid-East talks. Work out the whole picture. What’s the best outcome in 6 months and 6 years.
The more detail you work out, the more you’ll see little opportunities to lock in some gains.
Personally, I want to wake up and have the newspaper waiting for me on the table, beside a cold glass of orange juice. I want to work for a while and then meet friends for a long lunch. And I want smart people to get paid to brief me on things. And it would be nice if they kept calling me Sir.
2) A Lil Every Day
I try to take at least a small step forward, every day. And not just something that obviously needed to be done, like the laundry or something. That doesn’t count at all. I’m talking about working on a ladder, something that will pay off big time later on. Like, if you’re not a funny person, work on a really funny joke to tell the next day. And then, when no one’s expecting it, you can drop it in at the water cooler and be King of the Office. That’s what I’m saying. Live the dream.
3) Appreciate it
On the days I remember, normally as I start my walk to the MRT (the subway in Singapore) I take a little moment to think of something I’m grateful for. Why? Because I’m just a softie that way. But also, because it makes me feel good.
Socrates said, “He is the richest who is content with the least.” Socrates was always trying to mess with peoples’ heads. The truth is we’re humans, so we’re never going to be completely content. We’re going to strive because that’s how we are. But we can also appreciate the good things along the way.
You can’t live in a place of striving and never arriving. Strive, but also smell the coffee.
4) Speak up
This is one lesson I have to keep learning every few years. I keep realizing I should say more, and worry less. And I’m not talking about ‘not worrying what other people think.’ It’s not that. It’s everything. It’s that life is just too darn short. There are so many things to absorb and know and wonder about. And there are enough people trying to censor you along the way that you should never censor yourself. To paraphrase my mother, “you’ll drive yourself crazy if you don’t talk about it.” Plus you’ll get credit for your ideas. You’ll build community around yourself. And also chicks’ll dig you more.
5) Make it a good day
Even on good days, I try to think of one thing that could make the day a little better. Often this involves stopping at the store and buying some candy to eat. Or I can grab a sneaky hamburger on the way home, before my wife notices I’m late. Also, getting into my pajamas early in the night makes me happier. I can’t be expected to do any more work, or take out the garbage with my PJs on.
6) Sleep on rice
Okay this seems like a weird one, but it’s not. Okay it is, but bear with me.
As a teenager I heard a story of a struggling immigrant man. It made a big impression on my soft, hormonal brain. The man, who had recently moved to the United States worked all day in his brother’s restaurant and then, to save money, he slept in the back room, on rice. He had a wife with him. I can only imagine how pleased she must have been with the arrangement.
Eventually, they had enough money saved so that they could get an apartment of their own. But they didn’t. They stayed on the rice.
Why? Because he realized that if he sacrificed a little more than the average person he could be more successful than the average guy.
I also think that sacrifice is good for the soul.
Disclaimer: I got the idea for this post from Gretchen Rubin’s personal commandments –which she shares in her Happiness Project. I learned so much doing my Life List that I figured I have a go at this as well. (And as for the title, I couldn’t resist. I very rarely have clever ideas like that.)