Rarely do we get much guidance or training on how to best live life. Most of us bumble through in a trial-and-error mode. Many of us end up behaving like everyone else, which is often counter-productive and a perfect illustration of peer pressure at work.
For example, you may notice that most of us now use the word “like” every fifth word in our dialogue. We are often completely unaware of the habit: it is just that “LIKE everyone is doing it! It’s LIKE incredible. It’s LIKE so LIKE amazing!”
We know as adults that being skilled in relationship and performance effectiveness is VERY important. It is so important that we often conclude that relationship effectiveness is likely to be among the MOST valuable competencies we can have. On the other hand, it is curious that getting along effectively with others has been a subject missing from school curriculums since there have been schools.
After a few decades of practicing in the human relationship and performance effectiveness business, I have come to realize there are some incontrovertible truths about the business of living. Living by these truths can make your life much more fulfilling, especially if you want to be happy and successful (as most of us do). I call these truths AXIOMS OF LIFE©.
To get started, here are a few given assumptions I encourage you to review:
– OLD BELIEFS + OLD HABITS = PREDICTABLE CONSEQUENSES
Consider smoking, over-eating, over-spending, lying, being irresponsible, blaming others, playing victim, etc. If life is going badly for you, you are probably unaware of how you helped that happen.
– NEW BELIEFS + NEW HABITS = NEW CONSEQUENCES (perhaps improved!)
Consider the consequences of new commitments and disciplined habits in relationships, fiscal literacy, persuasion, good health, strength of character, education, high standards, and self-respect.
– My ongoing behavior and habits are a result of my ongoing beliefs.
– Whatever I expect to see, I will likely arrange to confirm.
– What I focus on expands.
– Whatever I rehearse, I will duplicate.
– When we effectively change and improve our beliefs, our perspectives, and our habits, we will gain different and by far better outcomes.
In order to make lasting changes and improvements, I must:
- Put on a new set of glasses to look at my reality differently.
- Adopt and practice a new set of effective behaviors to anchor new and lasting habits.
SO HOW DO I GET STARTED?
For your consideration, here are my AXIOMS OF LIFE©
- LIFE IS AS IT IS, INSTEAD OF HOW IT SHOULD BE.
The only life to which you are entitled is the one you are living. The nature of your experience in that life is for you to decide.
Often life is supposed to be different than the way it is. You are supposed to be good looking, healthy, fortunate, born into a good family, educated, safe, privileged, smart, lucky, respected, and popular. You are supposed to be happy, brilliant, successful, and perpetually young.
AND, while all the above is the way life is supposed to be, you will likely notice that life is often quite different. Life turns left when it is supposed to turn right. Sometimes you get sick, let down, betrayed, lose your job, divorce, waste your time, make bad decisions, perpetuate bad habits, and get old. In addition, you may notice you are often complaining and describing the problem more than doing something to solve it.
SO WHAT DO YOU DO?
PLAY THE CARDS THAT ARE DEALT!
Most people prefer to complain about the situation they are in rather than figuring out how to improve their situation. Remember, LIFE IS AS IT IS, INSTEAD OF HOW IT SHOULD BE.
Consider what Christopher Reeve did. After finding fame and fortune as a movie star and celebrity, he experienced a horrific accident in 1995 from which he became a quadriplegic. He was confined to a wheelchair and required a portable ventilator for the rest of his life. He lobbied on behalf of people with spinal-cord injuries and for human embryonic stem cell research, founding the Christopher Reeve Foundation and co-founding the Reeve-Irvine Research Center. Somehow, he decided to play the cards that were dealt and still touched the lives of millions until his death in 2004 at age 52.
If your life destination has a roadblock, figure out a way to get around it. Life is too short to waste your time whining, stalling, rationalizing, and swimming in self-pity.
Remember, DOING IT RIGHT IS SECONDARY. DOING IT IS PRIMARY! So replace the whining habit with energy to create solutions and action.
2. LIFE IS FAIR, UNFAIR, AND BOTH.
When you are little, you routinely complain to your parents that life is unfair. Your children likely say the same thing to you, “That is not fair!” And, the answer is, “That’s right!” Some things are fair, and some things are unfair, and in life it is often both. LIFE IS MESSY.
Whoever said that life is supposed to be fair? If you believe life is supposed to be fair, you are likely to be miserable and swimming upstream (see Axioms #1 and #7).
Some people seem to get better breaks. Some situations are blocked for you. Some circumstances have unfair outcomes. Sometimes you will be denied admission, you will be abandoned, cheated, deceived, and some family members will get more and treat you disrespectfully. Sometimes people will appear to discriminate against you. Sometimes bad things happen to good people… and it’s unfair.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
ADAPT, ADJUST, IMPROVISE, AND OVERCOME!
Plot an alternative course to your destination. Keep your standards high, maintain your self-respect, do the right thing, love what you can love and let the rest go… and keep going! It is all about the journey more than the goal.
3. WHAT I RADIATE, I ATTRACT. WHAT I FOCUS ON EXPANDS. PEOPLE WILL TREAT ME HOW I TEACH THEM TO TREAT ME.
Think about this. It might just be so obvious you might miss it.
Think about how you routinely behave. If people are warm around you, you might be helping them to behave that way. If people are distant and non-responsive, you might be teaching them to behave that way. If you expect people to be unimpressed with you, you will likely conclude they are.
What you radiate, you attract. Generally, if you are warm, people are inclined to be warm in return. If you are hostile, people reward you either with distance or hostility in return.
You become more interesting when you are interested.
More than you know, you teach people how to treat you. So think about how you behave in the first place. Love begets love. Hate begets hate. Distance begets distance. Criticism begets loneliness.
Your pride is often very expensive and a colossal time waster.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
RADIATE WHAT YOU WANT TO ATTRACT.
As Ken Keys says, “A loving person lives in a loving world. A hostile person lives in a hostile world. Everyone you meet is your mirror.”
YOUR CHOICE OF HOW YOU CONDUCT YOURSELF IN YOUR WORLD LARGELY CREATES THE WORLD AROUND YOU.
4. AS AN ADULT, I AM RESPONSIBLE.
The biggest indicator of being an adult is the willingness and practice of taking responsibility for yourself, your actions, decisions, relationships, behaviors, beliefs, feelings, successes and failures. To continually blame everyone else and avoid responsibility is a habit that too often will keep you dependent, weak, and in emotional prison.
If life is going well for you, you probably had a huge contribution in creating that – good habits, health, wealth, positive relationships, happiness, success.
If life is terrible, you probably also contributed to that outcome – bad habits, poor health, broke, upside down financially, under-educated, miserable, weak, irresponsible, dishonest, dependent.
If life is a huge pile of boring, underwhelming, meaningless, and unimpressive… you did that too: simply putting in time, doing just enough to get by, waiting for “hump day,” pay day, retirement, and life to be over. Passing your life with time, rather than passing your time with life.
Remember, you CAN avoid being responsible by refusing to do anything. Note: “Doing nothing” is a decision and a choice for which you must also take responsibility.
SO WHAT DO YOU DO?
TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOURSELF.
Operate from high standards, self-respect, and strength of character. Own your situation, your decisions, your conduct, and your life direction. Look in the mirror and if you like and respect what you see… then good for you! On the other hand, if you are unhappy with what you see, and your self-respect is in the tank, then it is time to take more responsibility for yourself and do something about it.
5. FORGIVENESS WORKS WONDERS.
Pride is very expensive. Think about how often you are angry, betrayed, insulted, rejected, abandoned, cynical, humiliated, let down, embarrassed, and/or upset by someone or some people. Often you will be so bothered that you refuse to forgive them.
Now, think about the effect on you. You remain in this emotional prison refusing to forgive. Sometimes you are unable to let it go and get on with your life. You remain bitter, hurt, scared, angry, prideful, and wanting a pound of flesh. Further, you may start noticing that in reflection, you may have had some contribution to the bad experience and/or you continue to punish yourself for being so weak, stupid, vulnerable, etc. Now you are unable to forgive them and unable to forgive yourself. Most of the time your pride prevents you from getting out of emotional prison. So you waste time that you are unable to get back.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
DECIDE TO FORGIVE. NOW!
Forgive others and yourself for being imperfect and human. Then you can get on with life with less focus on being emotionally hostage and with more focus on your next chapter. Forgiveness lets go of being stuck in the past and charts a new course for the future.
Consider what is more important:
- Staying hurt, angry, bitter, wanting a pound of flesh?
- Forgiving them/you and learning to feel calm and hear the quiet?
When you forgive YOU get out of emotional prison and you develop grace. The bonus is that sometimes you get to reestablish and restore important relationships.
6. I MUST CHANGE MY BEHAVIOR FIRST.
It is the best way to cascade change around you. We are all responsible for at least 50% contribution to every outcome in relationships in which we participate.
We all contribute to the outcomes if they are good and also if they are bad. We are either often causing the problems and/or enabling them to continue.
When you change your contribution FIRST, you will create a condition where others HAVE to adjust and change. Sometimes the only way to win is to refuse to play.
Remember, you have much more control and power over YOUR own behavior and conduct anyway.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
MAKE THE FIRST MOVE.
Reach out, compliment, reinforce, forgive, listen, understand, empathize, show patience, respect, and flexibility. Ask them to dance.
Quit enabling, refuse to participate, remove yourself from toxic circumstances, trust your judgment, choose to operate from strength. Let them infect their own lives. The only way that someone can take advantage of you is with your consent.
Choose your self-respect first.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
7. ACCEPTANCE IS DIFFERENT FROM APPROVAL.
I can accept without agreeing. I can also accept without concluding resignation or defeat. See Axiom #1, “Life is as it is, instead of how it should be.” Sometimes in order to function in life, I must accept how things are rather than getting upset and disapproving or retreating in defeat.
Think about life as a river, I can go downstream and get in the river in the direction it is flowing rather than fighting life by swimming upstream and wasting energy or disconnecting and disengaging from life and relationships.
In this context, there are types of people:
A. BYSTANDERS. People who watch life go by without any engagement. They avoid contributing to society and spend their time being oblivious, feeling entitled, and/or being apathetic. They act like they have years in their life instead of life in their years. They are unaware there is a river anywhere or where it is going.
B. EXHAUSTERS. People who swim upstream and fight life. They are often unhappy, angry, defensive, critical, suspicious, cranky, pessimistic; they compensate for weaknesses and describe the problem. These people always seem to have a cause, a protest, a need to make life fair, a hyper-sensitivity to life being unfair, a constant need to fix and repair people, and an inability to reconcile the difference between how life should be and how it is.
C. SURFERS. People who go downstream contributing to society, optimistic, capitalizing on strengths, solving the problems. These people surf the waves, avoid the rocks, contribute to the greater good, and enjoy life. They pursue happiness and enjoy it after they find it. They help people to help themselves. They spend more time reinforcing and appreciating than criticizing and invalidating.
The Surfers can accept without having to approve all the time. They make room for lots of types of people and situations. They can embrace the differences more than condemn them. They can forgive, change their behavior first, and take responsibility for themselves.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
START SURFING AND GOING DOWNSTREAM.
“Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” – Will Rogers
“The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You must catch it yourself.” – Benjamin Franklin
8. LIFE IS ABOUT LEARNING LESSONS, AND LESSONS WILL BE REPEATED UNTIL THEY ARE LEARNED.
Every one of life’s dilemmas is doing you a favor by opening a window for you to learn a lesson. How much are you willing to pay the freight and learn the lesson?
What happens if you fail to learn the lesson? You remain destined to repeat it over and over again.
Consider some very expensive lessons to learn:
– Physical and financial irresponsibility: Consuming more than you need and spending more than you have.
– Demonstrating poor character without integrity, responsibility, and generosity of spirit.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
REFLECT ON YOUR EXPERIENCES, LEARN THE LESSONS, AND CLEAN UP YOUR MESS.
Wisdom happens when experience collides with reflection on experience. So, make a point to regularly reflect on your experiences to determine life’s lessons.
Remember, happiness is about wanting what you have rather than having what you want. He who dies with the most toys is still dead.
Here are some final thoughts for your consideration.
“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Martin Luther King
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Marianne Williamson from A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles.