Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Commandments

I LOVED Gretchen Rubin's book The Happiness Project - it's given me a lot of food for thought! In the book, Gretchen lists her personal "Commandments" and "Rules of Adulthood," which she refers to in low or stressful moments to remind herself of what's important. That inspired me to make my own list. I can't separate them into commandments and rules like she did, but these are some practical truths I live by - things I've learned that continue to apply to my life. I haven't mastered them, but I believe in them.

What is fun for others may not be fun for me, and vice versa. (And that's okay.)
This is one of Rubin's main Rules. She writes that she's always wished she enjoyed cooler things, and felt guilty or dumb about the things she does like. Light bulb moment! Consciously embracing my preferences has brought more freedom to my life, but I still fight it. Many of my friends are passionate about things that I wish I liked - beer, staying out really late, certain kinds of music, global missions, Frisbee, The Bachelor, etc. But it's okay that I'm not really into those things. I also don't have to berate myself for my domestic tendencies... having a fantastic time at home with a book or in my garden, or, let's be honest, cleaning out a closet.

Not better or worse, just different.
This ties in nicely with the previous rule. Depending on your place in the world, some traits and preferences are perceived as more desirable than others. That's just life. But I've been repeating this rule to myself for a while now for two reasons: I want to stop comparing myself unfavorably to everyone I meet, and I want to be less judgmental. The judgment part is especially important to me as a Christian. It's easy to call something a sin when it's really just a personal difference!

The truth will always come out in the end.
Yes, sometimes the truth is known too late to spare the innocent. In rare cases it might not come out until the literal end of time. :\ But justice will always be done eventually. I've lived it.

When in doubt, flipping a coin will reveal your true feelings.
My college roommate Kathy taught me this and it's foolproof. When you're happy or disappointed about the outcome, you'll know what to do!

Don't waste the pain.
As C.S. Lewis famously said, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain; it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world." I believe suffering is the best platform for growth and learning. I'm not going to seek it, but I want to glean all I can out of it and be strengthened by it. That even applies to exercise. I guess you could say I have an overall judo philosophy.

Deal with the leftovers before they get moldy.
We've all found stuff in the fridge that should have been tossed a long time ago. It's tempting to shove it to the back and avoid dealing with the grossness. But eventually, you WILL have to clean it up, and by then it'll be even grosser. So don't put off the inevitable. This also holds true for emotional and relational leftovers. I try hard not to let them fester even if it's really unpleasant at the time. Better to address it now than to let it grow into who knows what.

It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful.
Okay, this is The Nester's tagline, but I came across it at exactly the right time. For many years I didn't see the point in writing, or exploring other creative interests, because whatever I produced wouldn't be perfect. Or even good. There was already so much mediocrity in the world, it seemed wrong to add to it. This attitude extended to everything I did, not just creative things. But a few years ago, I launched a long-term war on my perfectionism, and my life has been so much better for it. In my weaker moments I still let other perfectionists get to me, but usually I feel sad for them because I'm familiar with that prison, and it's a terrible place.

Everything in moderation: OR, Something will eventually kill me anyway.
I'm not an all-or-nothing person when it comes to food. I wouldn't last a day on any extreme diet. I'd rather have a little of something than never have it at all. I also have two physical vices: caffeine, and artificial sweeteners. I rarely drink, have never smoked, and generally take good care of myself, so I refuse to feel guilty about coffee, tea and Coke Zero. After all, marathon runners on organic diets drop dead every day.

Either bring your own drink, or know where you can get one.
I have excessive hydration needs, so this is just common sense. If Mattel ever made a Barbie of me, it would have a little tumbler or McAlister's cup in its hand.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
Plato's words, not mine. I've learned firsthand that you NEVER REALLY know what someone is going through. They might be in a painful situation that you have no clue about. I don't always succeed, but I try to remember this when dealing with rude, hurtful, or annoying people. Or when friends or acquaintances seem "off" for no obvious reason. Some people are inherently jerks, but usually, there's something behind bad or weird behavior.

What are some of your commandments?


  1. Great list! I like the "Everything in moderation: OR, Something will eventually kill me anyway" one. My philosophy exactly.

  2. These are really great! I keep hearing great things about "The Happiness Project" maybe I should pick it up!

  3. Awesome! I like your last line of the "Everything in moderation..." rule. "After all, marathon runners on organic diets drop dead every day." That reminds me of a rule another good friend has. "One day, all the super healthy people are going to feel all stupid, just laying there and dying of nothing." ha. The truth is, nobody gets out of this life alive so the moderation rule is definitely a good one.

    I might have to make my own list. One that immediately comes to me (and sort of goes with your last rule "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle") is " not take everything so personally." I tend to personalize everything and then my feelings get hurt. That's hard enough in my personal life but it's super hard at work. I'm in sales for heaven's sake. Most people don't like sales people. You would think someone would get used to all the rejection but that's totally NOT true. No matter how long you do this, nobody gets USED TO all that rejection. An old mentor told me one day "You have to stop taking it so have no idea what is going on in his life...maybe this morning his patient died, maybe his wife said she wanted a divorce, maybe his kid is headed for trouble and he just doesn't know the right thing to do to gently redirect him." And now I try really hard to apply that to work and my personal life. Because another universal truth is everybody's life contains some drama...and different things affect people differently...even if I knew all the details...I may not understand their drama...I may think "well that doesn't seem all that bad" but that's totally not fair of me...everyone has their own drama and their own stressors and my job is to deal with mine as effectively as I can and to be kind to everyone I meet. That's it. I do not have to "take on" anyone else's problems...but I also should not in any way add to someone else's problems either. I guess that is my #1 commandment for life.

    Thanks for sharing this. A lot of food for thought. Maybe I should read that book too.

  4. I really like all of these!