Forty Lessons for Living

1) You never go wrong by doing right. You'll know it's the right thing, because it's usually the harder thing to do. You never regret taking the high road.

2) Less relentless striving for perfection, and more push for excellence. No one can be perfect. But anyone can be excellent. Anyone can develop a perfect body, but not everyone can develop an excellent mind, brain, heart, or create a good legacy. And we always leave a legacy behind us. One way, or the other.

3) Stop blaming, deflecting, whining, and being generally pissed off all the time. It's boring. You - no one else - are responsible for your life, your choices, your behavior, your attitudes, your thoughts. Own your stuff.

4) You have no control over others' behavior. But you do have control over whether you choose to stay on the seesaw with them and participate in it. Study the physics of the seesaw - it cannot operate correctly without the coordination and interaction of at least two people. Step off it, and observe what happens. Study Karpman's Triangle.

5) Seek out the wisdom of seasoned, proven, people of integrity. There will always be people who know more than you. Listen to them; "avail thyself of wisdom". Anyone can be smart (or smartmouth), but not everyone can be wise. When you find wisdom, treasure it.

6) You can't tell someone something if they already know everything. Distance yourself from arrogant, prideful, harsh, judgmental people whose head won't fit in the room. They have nothing to offer but they're always happy to critique. There's nobody more fun to be around than a smug Monday morning quarterback.

7) Be grateful. Every minute of the day there is something to be grateful for. The human body has 206 finely-synchronized bones, the pattern on a leaf is infinitesimal, the universe is almost beyond our scope of understanding, the scent of a newborn is delicious. It's a beautiful world.

8) Happiness is hard work, requiring self-discipline, conscientiousness and serious decisions. Happy people did not go "find" happiness. They created it. 

9) Be careful what you go after. You just might get it. Poet John Milton said we could make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven.

10) A bitter, hard heart will put ten years on your face in a year. Everything you refuse to forgive, everytime you refuse to love, every grudge you hold on to, traces a path across your face. 

11) Forgive. For your sake, not theirs, if nothing else. Sometimes the one you need to forgive is you. 

12) Integrity is who you are, the choices you make, the things you do and think, and the way you can manage to rationalize it, when no one's looking. 

13) Pray. The Lord is looking for a transparent, open heart - not a perfect one. He's on your side. Even when you mess up. And we all mess up, sooner or later.

14) There is a law of the universe that says that a house of peace and wholeness can never be built on a foundation of deceit and betrayal. You can build a pretty house, but it's the foundation that will either support it or collapse underneath it. Take care of the foundation and the house will take care of itself.

15) Say "thank you", and "I love you" to someone, everyday.

16) Good manners never go out of style. There is never an excuse for not learning the basic niceties of civilized living that separate us from the animals. Actually, animals are sometimes more dignified than we are.

17) Never interrupt your enemy when they're making a mistake. Just stand back, be quiet, keep feeding the rope and a fool will eventually hang themselves with it. You won't have to do a thing.

18) Avoid biting sarcasm, gossip, passive-aggression, the need to always be right and one-up. It is toxic and will destroy your character, and your reputation will precede you.

19) Keep it simple. The most important things in this life are the simple things - love, trust, joy, affection, respect, laughter, good food with good people, a walk with the dogs in the woods, a clean heart, peaceful sleep. We get in trouble when we try to complicate it. Simplify and stay grounded. Never forget where you came from, and, in the end, all you've got is family.

20) Want to assess character? Watch how someone treats those who aren't allowed to fight back. Non-verbal behavior is always more accurate than verbal. If someone pretends to be nice and yet they shrilly berate the girl behind the counter, that's not a nice person. 

21) Listen to your instincts. Trust your judgment. Don't second-guess yourself.. If it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Our instincts are usually right - it's when we try to out-reason them that we get into trouble.

22) Don't judge. You don't know what that person is privately enduring. You don't know all the facts and you probably haven't heard both sides (and there are always two sides). Don't understand or like them? Pray for them instead. "Hurt people hurt people". Behavior is a symptom (but never an excuse). They need your prayer more than your smug criticism.

23) Guard your heart. Stay sweet and open and gentle and kind. Sure, you'll be taken advantage of at some point. Guard your heart, but also guard your mind.

24) My grandmother used to say, "It takes a whole lot of pretty to cover up a little bit of ugly". A pretty face will never cover up an ugly heart for long. Pretty is is pretty does.

25) What people say about you will always reveal more about them than you. If someone hates you, it's usually because they either A) Want to be like you, or B) Want what you have. Make an effort to get to at least try to understand them and, if it doesn't work, then shake the dust off your feet and stay away. "Go where the love is" - the corrollary to that is, "Stay away from where the love isn't". News flash - not everyone is going to like you. Not everyone wants to see you happy or successful. A smart and observant person is kind to all, but keeps their eyes open at all times. Know who your real friends are and who they aren't. Take care of the people who love you and who you love, and wish well upon and keep away from the rest. It's that simple.

26) Don't accept a "no" from someone who doesn't even have the authority to give you a "yes" in the first place.

27) It's never too late to say, "I'm sorry", or "Thank you". It's never too late to change or heal, or start over. Healthy families never forget this and live it everyday and understand they are never going to be perfect and that perfection is a shame-based tyrant. Unhealthy families would rather stay stuck in shame and secrets, than take the courageous steps towards vulnerability and healing. ("You're as sick as your secrets").

28) Love. Just love...riotously, without reserve. If you love with reserve, then it's not love. If you love for only what you can get out of it, then it's not love. 

29) Laugh. Throw your head back and laugh out loud. A healthy sense of humor goes a long way. Humor, good cooking, and affectionate dogs, build bridges.

30) It is never too late to take on a new venture....education, business, travel, hobbies, dreams. Always have at least one dream, one vision, you're pursuing at all times (but make a plan or else it's just a dream). People start dying when they stop dreaming.

31) Stop feeding your doubts and start feeding your passion. What are you curious about? What pulls you out of bed in the morning? Self-actualized people are those who have discovered that a good life is one filled with meaning, vision, altruism, and purpose, not money or possessions.

32) Turn off the TV, put down the phone, and read a book. Every life lesson you need for living is in the classics and the Bible. 

33) Get an education, whether it's a GED, a doctorate, adult education classes, a two-year diploma. Read the paper. Go to the used bookstore. Webinars. Seminars. Videos. Your education is one of the only things in this life that can never be taken away from you. (By the way, if you tell me that, "But I'll be 34 when I finally get that degree!", I'm probably the wrong person to say that to. I'll earn a doctorate when most people are considering retirement. I overcame obstacles, worked 2 jobs as a single parent, budgeted grocery money to buy books, volunteered as a single parent, worked myself half to death, and I study, outside the required textbooks, on my own initiative, seven days a week, 365 days a year. I had to ignore small-minded naysayers who told me I was too old and who questioned if I could hack it. I drove 110 miles a day roundtrip to class. If I can do it, so can you. If you want it badly enough, nothing can hold you back. But you've got to want it.)

34) A 9-year economics study revealed that the way the "poor/uneducated" and the "wealthy/educated" differ, on average, is not about money. It's in the way they believe, how they behave, and how they view money. Their paths of life were almost entirely dictated by these principles. Your attitude, ability to self-discipline, and pursue what matters to you dictates everything. Luck, the lottery, and happenstance are outside your control but good habits, creating a vision, and hard work aren't. Life isn't what happens to you but how you react to it. Don't be a professional victim.  YOU DO get to dictate the path of your life.

 



35) Get a good daily planner and use it every single day. Just 5 minutes a day in planning your tasks and goals, will revolutionize your daily living. Are you managing your life or is it managing you? 

36) Time is an expensive, non-renewable, commodity. Monitor how you spend your time everyday. Set daily, weekly, monthly, annual goals. Problem-solve. Break a goal or problem down into solvable steps. Work before pleasure. Develop a healthy sense of delay of gratification. And congratulate yourself when you reach a goal. 

37) Even in chaos, there is a degree of predictable pattern. Study the pattern (i.e. "process"), not the chaos (i.e. "content"), and you might be surprised at what emerges. 

38) Study Logic. Truth is always perfect, always simple, and adheres to the theory of parsimony. Keep to simple, explainable, theories.

39) Be kind and empathetic to yourself. If you had a traumatic childhood, it was never your fault. Forgive yourself and be gentle with that inner child. 

40) The Lord is committed to your wholeness. He will teach and guide you, and sometimes it won't be easy. He can use all of your experiences - the mistakes, failures, successes, strengths, to help others through you if you will allow Him. Be encouraged. He has a real plan for your life and He loves you with an everlasting love. 

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