by Laurie Israel, Esq.
1. Never Underestimate the Power of Serendipity. Life is an art, not a science. You cannot control everything or much of anything. Luck is your friend. Appreciate what falls your way. Go with the flow. Enjoy your good luck. Learn from your bad luck.
2. Forgive Yourself. We are human and therefore make mistakes. Know that however bad your mistake is, making mistakes are part of life, and in fact, part of our education as human beings. Give yourself a break. Tomorrow is a fresh new day.
3. Don’t Give Advice. Give advice to others extremely seldom and sparingly. In general, hold your tongue, even if you think that what you say might help someone. People learn best from their own mistakes. If you must give advice, wait until the right moment.
4. Give other People a Break. When you are in public places, send good thoughts towards the strangers that you see. It doesn’t have to be religious praying, just personal wishes of good will. Always try to think the best of someone, even when what that person does seems negative.
5. Be Vigilant in Defusing Anger in Yourself and in Others. Anger is a totally unproductive emotion. When you encounter it in yourself or in others, identify it, and let it pass. Eventually, anger will disappear from your life and you will be calmer and more satisfied.
6. Try to See the Other Point of View. We are each of us the center of our own universe. It is difficult to see someone else’s reality. This causes conflict, mis-understanding, sorrow, and impasse. The more we attempt to cross over from our own point of view, the more peace there will be in our little universe and a drop of peace will be created in the entire world.
7. Separate the Thought from the Reality. It is a human tendency to worry and fantasize about the horrible things that may happen to you. In actually, most of them never actually occur except in your imagination. Separate the fantasy from reality, and when you get a negative thought, identify it, and push it aside. Remember that a thought is not reality. It’s just a thought. Why tarnish your wonderful life with negative things that never happened?
8. Keep It Simple. Complexity is a killer. Pursuing the goal of fulfilling desires add complexity, stress, and costs to our lives. People run themselves ragged to make money to pay for their desires. Once achieved, a desire looses meaning, and another desire takes its place. Desire is like an virus. A simple life with few desires produces the most pleasure and stimulates the most personal growth.
9. Don’t be Afraid to Ask. Never be shy to ask for something, as long as it is reasonable. The answer might be “yes” more than you would ever predict. Why fantasize a “no” answer? “Yes” is what makes the world go round and lubricates the gears of happiness, progress and human contentment. Sometimes you just need to ask.
10. Accept Criticism Seriously. All people are blind to their own faults. Even if you don’t like what is said, or disagree with it, there is probably (at least) a grain of truth in it. This grain will be a starting point for self-examination, and for growth and improvement of one’s character.
11. Don’t Borrow Trouble. Many if not most of the setbacks in life are caused by our own bad judgments. Analyze why you have experienced a situation of difficulty, and most times, you will discover that it was caused by your own actions. By being careful with your own actions, your life will be better and characterized by fewer adversities.
12. Give Everyone You Meet Great Respect. Have a soft touch with everyone you meet. There are treasures in everyone. Don’t let your apparent differences cut you off from someone. Know that deep within, you all come from the same source. Look past the differences and annoyances into that source. Love and respect all people.
13. Work Hard and Joyfully. Working is your contribution to society, no matter what kind of work you do. Be connected to your work, and if your work feels meaningless, make an effort to leave it and find other work. Work is also your daily engagement with other people and with the flow of history. Don’t think about or aim for success or money. Work for the pure joy of work and to make a contribution to other people, and good things will come.
14. See Setbacks as Opportunities. Unfortunately, we do not learn from our successes. We learn from our mistakes. Although this can be extremely painful, it seems to be the most effective way for us to improve ourselves as human beings. In fact, it is often the people who have the most adversity who rise to the highest levels of growth. This is because adversity is the tool for personal development.
15. Think Before you Speak. We are creatures of emotions, and it is very difficult for us to put our emotions into check before saying words. A mere one second pause prior to speaking or responding will do wonders in the consideration of what you are saying. Wait until the timing is right because you say anything to another person.
16. Be Thankful. Say “I’m so lucky” 50 times a day to yourself and 10 times a day to your partner. Say it because it is true. You are very very lucky. Marvel and be grateful about how lucky you are.
17. Get Married or Stay in Your Marriage. Being married is important to personal growth. Marriage is a laboratory for individual growth and interpersonal relationships. As important, it is a secure economic and home base for your progress as a human being. End an abusive relationship, but try to work out a non-abusive one.
18. Tap into your Subconscious. We are creatures of the day and of the night. Our nighttime dreams are subconscious activities that complement our daytime thoughts and actions. Embrace your sleeping time, and enjoy the rest it provides for both body and mind. Remember and treasure your nocturnal dreams. You can continue to work them through during your waking hours. They are a gift to you and fodder for increased understanding.
19. Timing is Everything. There is a right time for everything. Life unfolds in a measured pace where everything is in place. The best communication will fail when the other person is not ready. Things not understood at one point become apparent at another. Just because you have thought of something, do not necessarily put it into effect until you think the timing is right. This includes things you do, actions you take, and things you say to other people.
20. Control your Moods and Emotions. Negative moods are merely thoughts. If you feel sad or depressed, identify the cause of your bad mood, and evaluate it. Know that it will pass in time. What is the difference between a human being and a computer? Aside from technical thought complexity (and the capacity for self-reflection), a human is in a physical body that creates moods and emotions. Appreciate them for what they are, but do not let them rule your life.
21. Be Generous. Do what you can do to give another person a “leg up”. You can be generous by giving another person encouragement, or simply listening to another person. You can help someone else make a livelihood by buying their goods and services. Helping others is a very strong force in the world. Be more generous as you get older. This assures than when we are gone, the people who remain have every benefit we could have given them to forge onward.
22. Keep your Mind Clear and Positive. Don’t let negative things impinge on your mind. Avoid reading the newspapers and viewing TV news. Avoid unnecessary hearing of bad things and avoiding participating or hearing negative talk about people you know. Keep yourself in a safe haven insofar as possible. There is no reason to be bombarded with negative news when there is many times as much more positive news in the world that never gets reported.
23. Screen Your Attempts at Humor. Don’t be funny at the expense of others. Think about the meaning of your humor or jokes. There might be a cruel edge to them, and they may be at the expense of someone else. Examine your jokes (and everything you say) for negativity and mean-spiritedness.
24. Clarify Misinformation. If someone says something that is hurtful to you, don’t assume the worst. Ask them what they mean in a neutral non-confrontational way. You will often discover that they mean something entirely different than what you had assumed. Another negative experience is eliminated and clarity is gained.
25. Do Not be Afraid of Getting Older. We develop our minds and work to perfect our personalities during the many years of a normal lifespan. This lifetime of work properly done makes an older person gain wisdom. Wisdom is a great treasure for oneself and for society, and is truly the recompense for a failing body. Death is much more intimidating for the young than it is for the older, because the older know that they have received the benefit of a long life well-lived. Appreciate the wisdom you have earned — enjoy what it brings in terms of understanding and intensity, and use it for the good of others.
Copyright ©2007 Laurie Israel.
Laurie Israel is founder of Israel, Van Kooy & Days, LLC, a law firm located in Brookline, Massachusetts. She combines a family law practice with estate planning, tax, mediation and collaborative law. Laurie is currently on the board of directors of the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation and the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council. Her writings include articles on mediation to stay married (marital mediation), collaborative practice, marriage, divorce, and pre- and post-nuptial agreements. She is a frequent presenter at professional conferences.