“Care and diligence bring luck.” ~Proverb
When things aren’t going well for you, it’s easy to blame it on bad luck—to assume other people who are doing better had more help and advantages.
Nothing could be less empowering. This line of thinking just confirms that the world is unfair and you have limited control.
While both those things are true on some level—life isn’t fair, and in many ways, we’re not in control—happy people take responsibility and create their own luck, while their unhappy counterparts sit around blaming misfortune, feeling bitter that other people appear to get all the breaks.…
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” ~Gandhi
Both the industrial and digital revolutions promised increased productivity, meaning people could work less and live a more balanced life. We all know that’s not how history has played out.
Even as technology advances, we work longer hours than ever and ironically, struggle financially and accrue more debt with each passing year.
If you haven’t noticed adverse effects on your personal relationships or the other areas of your life, you’ll likely keep plowing full-steam ahead and only stop when you have a compelling reason.
So here’s my proposition: Work as …
“To cure jealousy is to see it for what it is: a dissatisfaction with self.” ~Joan Didion
I like to think of myself as a realist. I realize it sounds good to recommend fighting envy with gratitude. As in, “Don’t dwell on what you don’t have—just count your blessings!”
I recognize that this is a wise suggestion and that we’d all be happy if we could just focus of the abundance in front of us.
But I also realize this isn’t a complete solution.
We’re wired for look for two things in life:
- Solutions to problems—physically, emotionally, spiritually, and professionally
“When someone receives us with open-hearted, non-judging, intensely interested listening, our spirits expand.” ~Sue Patton Theole
Whether you’re talking to your mother or your coworker, odds are you don’t always give your complete attention, without formulating thoughts of your own. Even the most Zen person sometimes waits to talk instead of really listening.
It happens all the time.
As your sister recounts her afternoon and the hassle she encountered at the DMV, you feel the temptation to interrupt and one-up her—your afternoon was even crazier.
While your boyfriend tells you about his interview, you half-listen and half prepare your …
“Be present. It is the only thing that matters.” ~Peaceful Warrior
Technology pervades our world. From cell phones and laptops to iPods and digital cameras, the average person owns an arsenal of gadgets that, in many ways, simplify life.
You can increase your productivity, connect with people quickly, and access information instantaneously—while documenting your every move via tweets and photos to upload to Twitpic or Facebook.
Which begs the question: At what point does technology stop enhancing life and start detracting from it?
When you feel tied to your phone and enslaved by your email, can you pull away, …
“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for a minute?” ~Henry David Thoreau
You’re riding on the subway, immersed in a book. You’re running in the park, lost in your iPod. You’re waiting in line at Starbucks, fixated on the menu.
Sometimes we act like we’re completely alone, even when surrounded by lots of people. It’s like we’re following an unspoken rule that suggests we shouldn’t look at each other, at least not for too long.
It happens all the time…
You suddenly make eye contact with someone you don’t know and …
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.” -Charles Swindoll
One day everything seems great in your world—maybe not perfect, but overall things are going to plan. And then something happens.
You lose your job, or someone you love, or your home, or maybe even your health.
It isn’t fair. You don’t deserve it. You didn’t see it coming. You didn’t plan for it. You have so many feelings and frustrations you don’t know what to do first, or if you want to do anything at all.
It would be easier to sit around …
“Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.” ~John Allen Paulos
I used to love uncertainty. I wandered my way all around this country with little more than a suitcase and a journal. Committing to anything felt limiting, suffocating even.
One day I realized it wasn’t enlightenment that pushed me to embrace the unknown; it was a paralyzing fear of creating something certain. You can’t disappoint people when you don’t form relationships with them, and you can’t fail when you never start.
One day I decided to do the scariest …
“The only Zen you find on tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there.” ~Robert M. Persig
We live in a fast-paced, achievement-oriented society. At the end of a busy, to-do-list-focused day, we often find ourselves mentally and physically exhausted and uncertain whether we’re actually moving in the right direction in “the pursuit of happiness.”
Perhaps this explains our fascination with all things Zen. It’s become a buzzword in pop culture, branding products that have little to do with peace and enlightenment—and oftentimes, represent ideas that are diametrically opposed.
Zen Dharma Teacher Rev. Lynn “Jnana” Sipe takes an …
“It is easy when we are in prosperity to give advice to the afflicted.” ~Aeschylus
Earlier this year I got some feedback from the ‘tween magazine I wrote for: “It sounds like good advice, but kids probably won’t do any of that.”
In my head it all sounded logical but I didn’t consider whether I’d have taken that advice as a kid. Or now, for that matter.
People do it all the time: look at a situation from a removed, non-emotional place and hurl suggestions that are far easier said than done. And sometimes, just plain unrealistic.
I’ve listed five …
“It’s really important to be able to receive love and receive compassion. It is as important as being able to give it.” ~Pema Chodron
Yesterday morning two of the correspondents on the news in Boston (where I’m home for the holidays) had an interesting conversation about the classic It’s a Wonderful Life.
One of them said he’s not a big fan of the movie, which instilled a sense of complete outrage in me.
How dare he take George Bailey’s name in vain! It’s such an inspirational film! From saving Harry’s life to finding Zuzu’s petals, every scene gets my …
“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” ~William James
There’s this saying I used to love that doesn’t resonate with me anymore:
“Go big or go home.”
I understand the allure of doing big things.
Life seems more meaningful when you’re pursuing a passion that could feasibly improve life for masses of people; and at the end of the day, most of us want to create a legacy—something that lives on beyond our own ripple-in-the-ocean life spans.
I’m not arguing the benefits of going big if that’s what you want to do, especially since I have …
“Friendship isn’t a big thing. It’s a million little things.” ~Unknown
This hasn’t been an extravagant holiday season for me. Like everyone and their mother, I lost a lot of income last year and I just don’t have the means to give expensive presents.
Yet I feel I’ve received a lot of gifts this year. Most notably, I’ve realized how many of the people in my life mean more to me than any of the things I’m trying to accomplish.
The friends and family members whose love and support far eclipse the achievement of any goals I set. The people …
“It is never too late. Even if you are going to die tomorrow, keep yourself straight and clear and be a happy human being today.” ~Lama Yeshe
There’s a common misconception that there comes a point when it’s too late to do things you want to do. Maybe one of these statements sounds familiar to you:
“I can’t become a designer. I’m far too old to change my career path.”
“I’ll never get married. It’s too late in the game for that.”
“I couldn’t possibly start yoga. That’s for people much younger than me.”
We choose arbitrary windows of time …
“Commitment in the face of conflict produces character.” ~Unknown
We all face obstacles in pursuing our goals, whether they’re professional or personal.
We think we’re on the right track but realize we’ve chosen the wrong approach. We’re enthusiastic and hard-working, but our support system disintegrates when we need them the most. We’re just about to make significant progress when we run out of time or funding.
Tenacious as we may be, we all have our breaking points—that moment when the potential rewards stop justifying the effort. Usually, that’s the hump that separates your best shot and your best reality.
“When you live on a round planet, there’s no choosing sides.” ~Wayne Dyer
Research shows that rooting for a team, identifying with a group and enjoying the camaraderie you feel with other fans, can increase your sense of personal happiness.
While it’s satisfying to feel a sense of belonging, it can be dangerous to carry this us-against-them philosophy into other areas of your life. We do it all the time.
A man connects so deeply to his heritage that he puts up walls with people from different backgrounds.
Or a woman believes something with so much conviction that people who …
“Instead of complaining the rose bush is full of thorns, be happy the thorn bush has roses.”~Proverb
Complaining can be a bonding experience.
You meet up with your friends after work and immediately start rehashing frustrations with your boss. You have dinner with your siblings and commiserate about confrontations with your black-sheep uncle. Or you release tension on a blind date by noticing the wait staff’s shortcomings.
Commiserating is a great way to immediately establish rapport. In that moment you feel connected—you both have grievances, problems, and wishes for a better world.
It’s even easier to do in a challenging …
“Being right is highly overrated. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.” ~Unknown
We all know someone who always needs to be right.
She turns everything into an argument worthy of a courtroom, complete with counter arguments and below-the-belt accusations. She finds holes in everything you say, even if you were actually agreeing with her. And in the end she needs the last word, even if means belittling you or ignoring your feelings.
Not everyone acts this righteous all the time, but we’ve likely all tried to win in an argument at least once before.
Maybe it’s the …
When I first sat down to write this piece for 5 Rules for Life, I wrote “Live without rules” five times, each followed by a reason to keep your approach to life flexible.
The way you live is largely a reflection of where you’ve been, who you’ve been, and the beliefs you’ve formed. Who am I to create a cookie-cutter hard-and-fast code that makes sense for everyone?
That’s when I realized I’d need to make a sixth rule to introduce these ideas: judge my words, and anyone else’s, against your own reason and moral code.
Buddha said, “Believe …
“We must never assume that which is incapable of proof.” ~Unknown
You can never truly know someone else’s intentions.
If a coworker offers to cover your shift, she may be trying to ease your stress—or she could be vying for your job. If your sister-in-law offers to pay for your meal, she may want to help you out during tough times—of she could be trying to remind you that you’re inferior.
You can always find a negative assumption that allows you to believe the worst in people. Or you can give that person the benefit of the doubt and believe …