You may think living a good life requires a vast change in circumstances to leave your old life behind.
While that may be the case, it requires throwing off the bowline and setting sail on what awaits ahead. It is likely to be smoother sailing than navigating the torrents of the grind associated with everyday living.
To improve your life, focus on one key principle at a time until you embody the knowledge at a deeper level.
Don’t wish for the destination to arrive sooner, since that is like leaving home on a road trip without your car keys. You cannot skip to the end while foregoing the journey that takes place in-between.
Easy does it, one step at a time.
1. Don’t Worry About What You Can’t Control
“The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.” — Bertrand Russell
We spend our lives worrying about things outside our control, feeling powerless to experience an extraordinary life. Many of your problems seldom come to pass. It is the uncertainty of an unexpected future which causes pain and disillusionment. Let go of worry and develop trust because life is self-serving and knows exactly what it’s doing for your greater good.
Often it may seem that a situation is not playing out as you expect. Don’t be quick to judge what is taking place until the entire picture is formed. I invite you to consider your problems in the context of what do I worry about? versus what should I worry about? In most cases, we catastrophise circumstances that will fix themselves if we allow ourselves to step back from the drama.
Chaos is necessary in order to give birth to new beginnings. If you gauge what is taking place based on first impressions, you are not seeing the entire picture — only a tiny facet of it.
2. Don’t Take Yourself Or The World Seriously
Many people believe life owes them something. This may be gained from family and loved ones and carried around like a heavy burden. Yet, this keeps them trapped in their misery because they live according to these expectations and not what is actually taking place in their life.
Life doesn’t owe you anything because you are the expression of life, meaning you convey whatever you want to experience through your thoughts and actions.
Imagine you’re looking down on your life from outer space. How insignificant would your problems appear from that viewpoint? The only reason you take yourself seriously is because you are involved in your own drama and cannot see a way out — you are caught in the eye of the storm. So stop struggling and allow life to take you where it needs to, because you will end up in a delightful place once the storm has settled.
3. Master Yourself As Best You Can
To master yourself means knowing who you are beyond your character traits. It means cultivating an empowering inner dialogue. When you are in tune with yourself, you are aware of who is contained behind the person you call “I.” This formed image is the accumulation of past conditioning and does not represent the real you.
If you only identify with that part, you realise you are nothing more than pain and suffering. The ego tries to reinforce this image instead of identifying with your core self. It then becomes a battle to distance yourself from the fictitious character formed in your mind. The more you give it life, the stronger it grows. You are whole, comprised of both worthy and imperfect qualities, yet you are not any of these in particular unless you associate with them.
If you associate with anger or fear, you overlook other prominent qualities. From this perspective there is nothing to take seriously because your formed image is a character come to life in your mind.
4. Practice Kindness And Compassion
“The good life consists in deriving happiness by using your signature strengths every day in the main realms of living. The meaningful life adds one more component: using these same strengths to forward knowledge, power or goodness.” — Martin Seligman
Kindness and compassion are elements of a two-way street benefiting giver and receiver alike. Compassion means a shared empathy for others who experience pain and suffering.
It’s shown that compassion affects the supramarginal gyrus, a part of the cerebral cortex region of the brain. Practicing compassion directs your mind to be more empathic, which is a sign of emotional intelligence. Kindness means to treat your fellow man with humility and respect. You treat others as you want to be treated yourself. The basis to kindness starts with compassion for oneself.
When a person lacks kindness, they may have been psychologically, emotionally or physically abused and have adopted this learned behavior. But this is not the essence of who they are.
5. Make Peace With Fear And Anger
A golden rule to living a good life is to make peace with fear and anger. It is unhealthy to harbour toxic emotions fuelled by thoughts that intensify them. Whatever occurred in the past taught you something important about yourself and your life. If you do not make peace with these emotional states, they will afflict you. They are toxic energies with a potential to ruin your relationships and health in the long term.
This has been a major part of my work in the past decade, during which I devoted two books to helping people transform their pain. To make peace with fear and anger, accept what transpired in the past and give up the need to be right. You can be right or you can be happy but you cannot be both. Choose happiness every time, even if you must give up something because your emotional wellbeing is paramount.
Many people want happiness, yet clutch to their anger and fear with intensity. They are reluctant to let go of these emotions to experience the very thing they desire. You cannot hold a piece of hot coal in one hand and a beautiful flower in the other because your attention is diverted to the pain, instead of the beauty in the flower. “Fear, largely, is a waste of good life, one of the most capable thieves of presence. Not to mention love,” affirms author Jan Frazier in The Freedom of Being: At Ease with What Is
6. Love And Approve Of Yourself
I deliberately left this point until now since it ties everything together. Many problems people experience arise from a lack of self-love. They focus on their unworthiness instead of choosing to highlight their greater qualities. They create a story of pain and misery which amplifies their suffering. Loving yourself starts by recognising you are worthy. You are worthy irrespective of what happened in the past.
I grew up with a stern upbringing from a domineering father who insisted nothing I did was good enough. As a result, I became my own role model by providing whatever was missing from my childhood. I nurtured myself with loving kindness and compassion over the years. In retrospect, this was the most significant step I undertook because it instilled in me a strong sense of self-esteem. I no longer relied on others to reinforce my sense of self because it came from within.
Loving yourself means complete acceptance of who you are, without conditions. It means owning your pain and suffering, knowing you are complete and deserving in every way.
“Because, just as supportive love teaches us that we are valuable and worthy of a good life, archetypal wounds teach us to devalue who we are and believe that we are unworthy of a good life,” – states author Mario Martinez