To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there. ~ Kofi Annan
What does “independence” or “freedom” mean to you? Does it mean being free from slavery or restraint? Does it mean being able to walk outside, walk around town, spend money on dinner, movie tickets, or gifts for another?
To me, “freedom” means living a life free of restraints of the mind. It means knowing that every choice I make is the choice that my spiritual being wants to make and would continue to make, time after time.
That’s what having rules does for me. It allows me to go to sleep at night without worry. My hope is that you’ll create your own. If you like what these rules are, use what works for you, and throw away what doesn’t.
The Rules I Live By
1. Love is all that matters.
People are born craving their mom’s attention. They become adolescents craving the opposite sex’s attention. Finally, they get married and it’s all about the spouse, then the kids.
Money, nice things, games, meals, parties … all are enjoyed because I share them with others. If I were the last person on Earth, I couldn’t imagine wanting to live without other people.
Sharing time with others is about loving people. Loving others reminds you of the message that life is occurring now … and that you loving and wanting the best for another is actually you loving yourself.
When I have a million things on my plate but a friend needs to talk about his family struggles, I choose love. When I have ten dollars in my pocket and the people for gay rights ask for a donation, I choose love.
At the end of the day, love is something you will never regret. The Beatles were right?
Rule: When faced with any choice, always choose love.
2. Your health directly affects your happiness.
One bad meal and my mind doesn’t notice. String together a few of them and my happiness starts to slip.
A sad day turns into a happy day after an intense bout of exercise.
A few deep breaths, a walk with nature, an intimate discussion, or a super-clean salad are reminders that …
Life is not as serious as my mind makes it out to be.
Life is defined by ups and downs. The downs are what make you conscious about the ups. You might not know health unless you had cancer before. You might not know how precious life is if you never experienced a loved one’s death. You might not appreciate the summer without the winter.
You can’t control the downs. But you can shorten the duration and intensity of the downs through a foundation of health. The closer to Paleo you eat, the fitter you are through exercise, the slower and more present your mind, the stronger your social network … the easier you come out of the downs to be up again.
Rule: Make healthy choices 80% of the time (eating clean at least five days a week and exercising at least four days a week) so you keep your sanity.
3. Nature knows better than any human claims to know.
Reality is what it is, and no human will every be able to defy reality. Gravity is real and jumping off of a building without a parachute won’t end well. We may learn to use the laws of reality to our advantage by understanding the laws of flight and developing a plane, but we can’t neglect nature’s laws.
Humans didn’t evolve on processed foods, grains, homogenized and pasteurized dairy (raw milk may be a slightly different story). Why do we think we can consume these foods now? Because some one’s lobbying for them? Come on government, give me a break.
Mercury in your vaccines, aluminum in your cutting boards, fluoride in your toothpaste, nitrosamines in your shampoo, chlorine in your water … what the heck? Chemicals cause way more chronic disease than conventional wisdom wants to admit. I’ll stick to my organic foods, baking soda, and vinegar, thank you!
Maybe all the disease and unhappiness is nature’s way of telling us:
Break my laws and get punished!
I’ll stick with you Mother Nature. After all, we could take all of the most brilliant minds, put them in the same room with trillions of dollars, and no technology would ever be able to turn an apple into a human cell better than the human body can.
Rule: Put any health, environmental, or philosophical knowledge through a “nature” filter.
4. Self worth: If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else?
Something I realized as I was coming out of my depression in my junior year of college:
Everybody and their mother is going to do their best to tear me down a peg. Only I am responsible for lifting myself up.
Sheeple (sheep + people = sheeple, or those who follow the herd, doing what everyone else is doing) love to judge, criticize, complain, and bad-mouth others. It makes them feel better, like the big sheep on pasture. Think of the high school bully and his posse. You’re on his side because you’re in with the herd. If you’re against him, you’re out.
Don’t add to their negativity. Know your worth. Think and speak only positively about yourself. Let your insecurities die.
If you’re not for yourself, why should anyone else be for you?
Rule: Never speak negatively about yourself. Only lift yourself up.
5. Acting is better than waiting.
Do you want to know who you are?
Don’t ask. Act!
Action will delineate and define you.
~ Thomas Jefferson
One of my friends is always talking about having a girlfriend. He wants to date. We go to a bar and he talks about how attractive one girl is and how another smiled at him.
Yet, he does nothing. He waits, letting his life steer itself.
So many of us have a goal, desire, or dream, and we watch that thought float by without ever planting the seed to see it become reality.
In my experience, doing is better than not doing. Doing and experiencing allows you to learn from your mistakes and learn more about yourself for the purpose of growing.
Rule: When in doubt, take Nike’s advice. Just do it.
6. Identity: There’s no fooling your true self. Stop being like everyone else.
It’s easy to be a sheeple. Go with the herd and satisfy your social needs. But that doesn’t mean the herd knows what’s best for you.
I want to live a long time. So as I said above, I don’t use any cleaning supplies or hygiene products that aren’t baking soda, coconut oil, or vinegar. I can think of three people off the top of my head who have judged me in the past week for saying that I don’t use conventional shampoo.
I like having longer hair because it makes me feel in touch with nature, which makes my spirit happy.
I don’t like shoes because it feels so good to go without them.
Living life in society, the pressure is to conform. To work the 9-to-5 job, to wear a shirt and tie, to feed your dog dog-food (although I’ve never seen a dog or wolf in the wild eat weird brown pellets), to go hatless at the dinner table, or to wear a shirt at the dinner table (because you’ll be judged a bum when in reality, it’s just comfortable), and to be a sheeple.
My question to any conformity is why?
It’s liberating to not worry about what others think and be myself. I rarely experience negative feelings such as jealousy, regret, or shame when I do things out of pragmatism and to be myself. All I have to do is listen, pay attention, and follow the signs in order to stay on the path.
Rule: Feel who your spiritual self wants to be and be that person. Conformity isn’t for you.
7. Connecting with one: When you’re with someone, be with them.
I’m talking to someone. His body is faced away from me towards the action on the other side of the room. He’s not looking at my eyes, texting away on his cellphone. I ask a question, he replies “what was that again?”
There’s nothing that makes me feel like less of a human.
On the other hand, having a deep conversation where both individuals have dove in is inspiring.
An interesting challenge: next time you’re with someone, ask them, “Tell me something.”
Give her your full attention, look into her eyes without being distracted, and absorb every word that she said. I dare you not to be moved by what she says. Be inspired. Your genes are hard-wired to connect.
Rule: When you’re with someone, be with him or her. Don’t think about what’s for dinner.
8. Connecting with many: Play hard.
It’s work hard, play hard. Not work hard, work some more.
Dancing is an ancient phenomenon. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors danced as celebration of life.
Dancing with friends, laughing about jokes at parties, celebrating won football games and birthdays, and enjoying the company of people who inspire me has imprinted memories in my mind that I will never forget.
Pondering the existence of people who forgo the chance to let loose brings a single tear to my eye.
I wipe it away and continue dancing.
Rule: Never miss a chance to celebrate life. You won’t regret it.
9. Purpose: You’re going to die some day. Will your dead self be happy with what you’re doing today?
Thinking about dying allows you to make the choice that your spiritual self wants to make but may be too scared to. Addressing a problem in a relationship. Asking a girl or guy out who you’re nervous about. Apologizing to your children for making a mistake.
Rule: Remember you’re going to die some day. Now live your life accordingly.
The Rules You Live By
What rules do you live by that systematize your choices, reducing the amount of time and effort that you have to think about choosing?
What rules make sure you stay on your life path?