7 Rules for Living a Better Life
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As I sit here to write this, I reflect on the past year of my life. On may 8th of 2017 I left Boston with a one-way ticket to Los Angeles, and one suitcase packed with everything I was bringing to my new life. I’d given up my apartment, listed my car for sale, and said goodbye to family and friends.
The months following were stuffed full of appearing on talk shows in Las Vegas, speaking at live events in LA and Vegas, attending parties and galas with people I never thought I’d be in the same room with.
After that, I decided to spend time in Manhattan, where I had the honor of speaking to a variety of classes at a school, spoke at more live events, and attended more parties and galas.
All of this taught me many, many lessons. Some of which I am sharing with you in this article below. But one of the biggest things I realized was that being close to family and loved ones is what’s most important to me. All of those experiences changed me and turned me into a new person – but it was not as fulfilling of a journey to be taking alone. This is why I chose to come back to the east coast and rebuild the life I had blown to smithereens. But, not the same life. A new life with new, fresh perspectives. New abilities. A new path.
One can imagine how blowing up your life completely can affect you. Living out of a suitcase for a year, to then decide to come back to the quiet suburbs outside of Boston and turn your laptop and phone back into your office again. Instead of red carpet events, my social life is now mostly comprised of the gym and car shows.
So, I sit and wonder.
Wonder how I have handled all of the transitions that have happened in my life recently. Have I been the best son? Brother? Friend? Have I let the stress get to me even when I pride myself on handling things calmly? While I have exceeded personal and professional performance goals as of late, I feel that some time is still well-spent on making sure I remain the person who I have worked so hard to become.
For that reason – I write this reminder, both to myself and all of you; of the seven rules I feel every good person should live by. If we remember to implement these into our daily lives, I believe they will always guide us down the right path.
Help those you can, whenever you can.
I find myself observing people often these days. Not just observing though, but absorbing. Absorbing what they are feeling in the moment. The challenges they are facing. The simplicity of sitting down alone at lunch. The struggle of scaling the third flight of stairs as they likely wonder if they should work out more often. The challenges we all face, simply by being human.
I had a routine doctor’s appointment and as I was leaving, getting on to the elevator, the door opened and I found myself making immediate eye contact with a woman being pushed in a wheelchair. She glanced at me for a brief moment before looking into the distance as she continued to her appointment, but in that moment I felt her sadness. I felt it in a way that will stay with me for a long time, and I am reminded – all any of us want is to live a happy, healthy life. The realities of the world are often harsh, and sometimes we all need a helping hand.
The next time someone bumps into you, accidentally says the wrong thing, or needs help lifting something heavy into their car – do not lose sight of the realization that how you react in that moment towards them could be the best or worst part of their day.
Stay true to your commitments.
While this blog is mostly about relationships, commitments come in all shapes and sizes. Loyalty is a seemingly rare commodity in today’s society. People are so busy and connected to so many different things at once, that it is easy to lose track of things you’ve said or promises you’ve made.
For this reason, perhaps one of the most impactful things we can do for another person, is to do what we told them we were going to do, regardless of whether or not we are in the same mood we were in when we said it. This, more commonly, is referred to as integrity.
Remain courteous at all times.
Have you ever stopped your car to let someone cross the street or switch into your lane? Now, have you ever done that and received no gratitude in return? No smile, no nod, no simple hand wave to acknowledge your courtesy? Even though this seems like such a small task, the effect it has on others is much larger.
Courtesy is not something that requires much effort, which is perhaps one of the reasons why it’s surprising that it seems so rare these days. But if we all put in a concerted effort to just be a little kinder to each other, we could make a legitimate difference in countless peoples’ lives.
Be honest and genuine with everyone.
People often ask me how I became a ‘relationship expert’ – and for the record, I have never used that terminology towards myself. I don’t refer to myself as a professional, or expert, or anything of the sort. I am just a person who has spent more time than average observing and learning about people.
One of the biggest lessons I have learned is that no matter who you’re dealing with or what kind of situation you’re in, you are speaking to a human being. A human being with a family, challenges, struggles, and obligations – just like you have. A human being who probably felt a little stiff getting out of bed this morning. A human being who feels joy and pain.
These things are often difficult to remember when we see someone dashing through lanes of traffic or cutting ahead in line at the grocery store. While it may be argued that not everyone ‘deserves’ your genuine kindness, we must remember that we should not be kind to others because of who they are – but instead because of who we are.
Care less about who is right, and more about what is right.
I don’t think everything has to be ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ Two people can do the same thing in completely different ways and both feel the way they do things is correct, because it’s just what they’re used to. If these two people come together and need to do the same thing, it is natural that there will be some conflict or argument about how it should be done.
Things like this are the root of many arguments in relationships, but this is why we need to keep fairness in our minds. What makes the most sense? What is fair to everyone involved? What will accomplish the goal in a way that makes everyone comfortable?
It goes beyond compromise, it’s about genuinely striving to understand how the other person feels, and factor that into your decision making.
Do your best to avoid drama.
To live a life free of conflict is nearly impossible, but I often find myself seeing the same people on social media who never seem to stop complaining about the same things, over and over again.
Eventually, when someone constantly finds themselves in the middle of turmoil, one must ask themselves what (or who…) the common denominator is. Sometimes conflict is caused by another person in your life who is difficult to walk away from. Sometimes it may seem out of our control. While it is not easy – I don’t think it’s a coincidence that some people can never seem to escape the cycle. It’s all about the decisions we make along the way.
Show your appreciation to others.
I think it is far too easy to lose track of the things others do for us, even when they are small. We may appreciate these acts of service in our minds, but if the giver does not feel your appreciation towards them, then it is the same as it not existing in the first place.
Whether it be in our personal or professional lives, I feel that one of the most important things we can do for our fellow humans is to let them know how much we appreciate what they do. A small ‘thank you’ goes a long way when it is such a rare combination of words to be heard in today’s fast-paced, increasingly selfish society.
None of us are perfect. We succumb to pressure, we may be over-stressed, over-tired, or over-worked and snap at someone we love. We can’t be expected to handle every single thing all of the time without batting an eye…
But, what we can do, is make sure we give ourselves the time every now and then to keep ourselves in check. To make sure we are still improving and developing. To make sure that our relationships do not flounder as we navigate our path down the road of life.
We must make sure that we do not get so caught up in making a living that we forget to create a life.
We won’t solve all of our problems by reading (or writing) a list on the internet. We can’t make the world perfect, and we can’t change everything on our own. But, each of us has the ability to make at least one person’s day better if we implement these beliefs into our lives. And, if every single person who reads this makes one person’s life better, just imagine how far that can spread.
Hey, it’s a start.
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Well James I like these things you have brought up. I was an Effective Cyclist for 43 years before the accident that left me paraplegic. When someone driving a car gave me the right of way I would wave to them to say thank you. There is a reason why Montreal is rated #1 in Bicycling Magazine. I agree with the other things on your list too.
Great words, James, especially the part about remaining courteous. We seem to be drifting away from what constitutes appropriate behaviour with other people. No “thank yous,” no “good job,” no appreciation, no recognition, but a surplus of criticism.