Seven Principles of a Happy Life
Now in my 50s, I have been facing up to mid life crisis, bearing the ominous words of Dante in mind. He described his own mid life situation in the Inferno. My mid life is more positive than that, but still it’s proving to be a time of thought and reflection, and questions about what next?
“I found myself in a dark wood, for the straight way was lost. Ah, how hard it is to tell what that wood was; wild, rugged, harsh. The very thought of it renews the fear!” (Dante)
I have been reading a lot, and have come across some marvellous books on positive living and the spiritual life. There seems to be lots of “7”s in these ideas, both in literatures and business; the seven whispers of wisdom, the seven spiritual laws of success, the seven habits of highly effective people, and so on (not to mention the seven dwarfs, the seven deadly sins and 7up.)
So, what better time to create my own seven laws for a happy life, to dispel the despondency of age!
1. Live in the moment
Lots of literature and self help steers on this, but sometimes hard to put into practice…Buddhists talk about living in the moment and appreciating what we have right here, right now. There is so much of a tendency in our increasingly frenetic lives to be thinking about what we have to do later on, tomorrow, next week, or be fretting about something that happened yesterday, that has been and gone. Christine Baldwin outlines a breathing technique that encourages you to slow down, and be mindful of where you are, called (as I affectionately refer to it) the “lbw” technique; let go (of immediate thoughts and worries), be here (what’s happening inside right now), and think what next? Worth a proper read through in her book (see link at the end), but does illustrate the need to conscious of each moment of our lives
It’s a difficult one to get hold of and maintain, but important to try and keep an element of wider perception. William Blake said “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thru’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” Part of learning to live in the moment I think is also around creating space to reflect and meditate, and increasingly I am trying to find this; I haven’t got to the two 1 hour slots in every day that some of the teachings suggest, but work in progress!
2. Keeping positive and “oiling” coping mechanisms for when life goes wrong
I have written some on this in the self esteem article, and believe that being positive and confident is a gift. Some people have it like a naturally occurring spring; others have to work harder to generate it. However, we all struggle with its loss from time to time, and need to create coping mechanisms to get it back, if its gets lost through life’s periodic travails and mishaps. I call this the “bounce back”, and it’s worth knowing and understanding what you need to do when these things happen to sail into calm and sunny waters again…(see article below)
3. Nurture family and friends
Seeing all the people who turned up to my 50th party gathered together recently, reminded me in a compelling way, how very important immediate family, birth family and good friends are. A guy I met in Turkey travelling said to me “if you can count on the fingers of both hands how many real friends you have, you are a lucky man”.
We have all probably heard variations on this cliché, but good friends who will stick by you in a crisis, and understand what true reciprocation means, are worth their weight in gold.
4. Stay fit and healthy
I have written about the benefits of exercise in one of the blogs, and somehow have re-gained the habit in the last few months, having lost it since my twenties and thirties, when I did lots of football, squash and tennis. I think I have by now integrated this as part of the furniture in my life, along with brushing teeth and having a shower. All the aches and pains that were starting to emerge have not entirely gone away, but much less prevalent. This cannot just be down to glucosamine!
5. Do what you enjoy (mostly) and have a passion for
Statement of the obvious? Perhaps, but some people grow up being told that things they hate doing are good for them, and “character building”. Whilst being grateful for being pushed through Mathematics to O level standard, I struggle to grasp the ongoing needs of knowing about logarithms, how to use a protractor, and tangents and cosines.
The point I am trying to make is that it’s important not to sleep walk through life doing something (especially your job) that you either feel pretty ambivalent about, or actually don’t like. We weren’t created to do this. As Nelson Mandela said in his inaugural address (well he was actually quoting someone else, but the sentiment is important) “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, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”
There is also something about integrity in this principle; being true to yourself, and recognising that your strengths are the things that you will do well.
6. Be there for others
Whether we believe in the concept of altruism or not, its good to be there for others, on both practical and emotional levels, as it’s at the root of intimacy, and the biggest single strength of being human.
Deepak Chopra says “every relationship is one of give and take. Giving engenders receiving, and receiving engenders giving. What goes up must come down; what goes out must come back”
7. Always keep developing
A personal passion and a lifetime’s work in my view. Some people I come across in my work and socially have “calcified” and become seemingly stuck, and set in their ways. I do think fate or whatever it is, opens up opportunities and ideas for us every day, if we choose to see them. Stephen Covey calls is “sharpening the saw”. Just as a motor car or any other sophisticated tool needs regular care and maintenance, so too do the human body & mind.
I include spirituality in this also. Not necessarily religion, but a sense of a wider context than the small canvas that we live our lives on. For some, this is the power of nature and landscape, for others it’s a life of giving and support.
For me, one of my passions is to write, and I may look at turning this into a book; could be pie in the sky, but on the basis of principle 5: I run a successful business, have travelled and worked around the world, have recorded a music album, and achieved a good deal of happiness and love being in a family, and lots of other things I am proud of, so why not?
“Every relationship is one of give and take. Giving engenders receiving, and receiving engenders giving. What goes up must come down; what goes out must come back” Deepak Chopra
Ideas for further reading