The meaninglessness of life can be overwhelming. Like, why the hell are we here? Is this it? How should I live?
This meaninglessness can also be a useful starting point for you. The fact that life has no meaning means you get to create this meaning for yourself — with your thoughts and actions.
One of the most valuable things you can do is to design a personal value system — a set of rules, ideas, values — that can help guide you. And while you can pick them up from a million sources, you’ve got to synthesize them yourself so they resonate with you. Try living up to them. And when you fail, try again. You do not have to be perfect.
I may yet develop these maxims more fully but I don’t want to wait to write the perfect article any more. I’ve dumped them as is from my mind to synthesize some things I’ve been thinking lately. I may yet return to edit them, combine a few, maybe add or remove a few.
Here we go — the 20 Rules for a Calmer Life:
These maxims are not perfect, incomplete, and really really hard to live up to.
- Reality is what it is, not what you may want it to be. Uncover maps of meaning for yourself. Build a set of mental models that are proven to be as close to reality as possible.
- No one else can self-love you. Give yourself grace, compassion, love.
- “We suffer more in imagination than in reality.” First, realize this. Distinguish the frightening from the deadly. Second, cultivate a kind and gentle inner voice.
- Life is meaningless. Decide what you want your life to mean. Stop trying to find the meaning of life, design it.
- Empathy is difficult, and perfect empathy is nigh impossible. It is worth trying anyway.
- Your boundaries are yours to protect, not for others to respect. Define them, protect them.
- Meaningful things take work. Beautiful, valuable things are expensive. Pay the price, or accept the shitty alternative.
- Two contradictory positions can both be valid. This usually confounds us. Rather than seeking to find what or who is right vs wrong, seek to understand. Stop “finding the devil” — start trying to understand.
- Understanding yourself is enough. Be fundamentally okay with being misunderstood. Be okay with being mislabelled. Be okay with being misperceived. This is truly difficult yet truly calming.
- Emotions are temporary. Emotions are useful. Don’t try to escape them, they return with a vengeance. Approach emotions with curiosity. Like, what is this shitty feeling trying to tell me?
- Emotions often feel like reality. Be flexible. Defer decisions until you’re better emotionally regulated. “Don’t make decisions when you’re mad.”
- People who love you will fail you and hurt you. Often it is not out of malice. Do not hold their need for help against them. But do not demand that they help you either. Unafeli ndugu. Foremost, help yourself.
- Build strength. Act with strength. Protect your interests. Protect what you love.
- Most things don’t matter. Figure out the few that matter to you, and do your best to give them your best.
- A calm mind comes from a joyful indifference to most things. Wisdom is in realizing what you can control, what you cannot, and not worrying to death about either of them.
- There is strength in vulnerability. Yet there’s also strength in indifference and truly not giving a fuck. Learn the art of when to apply strength, and when to apply warmth.
- Screw perfcetion. “And now that you do not have to be perfect, you can be [damn] good.”
- There are times to think and times to act. You are a mind living in a body, not a being living in a mind. Get out of your head. Action is greater than anything that isn’t action.
- Life can be confusing. Life has no fixed, inherent meaning. Seek a set of personal values that resonate with you. Like these ones, but yours.
- You will make mistakes. Get over this. Own it when you make mistakes, apologize if you need to, but forgive yourself quickly. Focus on the lesson.
- Bonus — You live in your body. Take care of your home. Sleep, drink water, meditate, exercise, eat unprocessed foods, take long walks. You are a mind. Read, write, think.
I’ll end here for now.