The past few years have helped me to learn me a lot of lessons, but some of them are frustratingly hard to keep in mind and to follow. Here are a few of them. They may sound trite, but if they are oft-repeated, it is because they are true.
- The past cannot be changed, and to live in it or lament it is pointless. The best (and most) you can do is be grateful for the good you have received, ask forgiveness for your offenses, and learn from both good experiences and mistakes and bad decisions (yours and those of others).
- You must do your best to understand and recognize the present for what it is, not for what you’d like it to be. That includes knowing and accepting the truth about who you are right now and what your relationships are with the people around you, with your work, and with God.
- It is your own responsibility to act in the present to help shape the future. You can’t wait for others to decide or act for you.
- You should act in a way that is consistent with reality and with your principles. That is not always easy – it has consequences that are not always what you want – but the longer you let fear or anxiety paralyze or blind you, the worse things will get, for you and for others whose lives you touch.
- Making the right decisions requires making the effort to inform yourself and use your best judgment, as well as relying on the advice, counsel, guidance, knowledge and wisdom of others.
- If you need help, ask for it. But the more important the help you need, the more careful you should be about whom you ask.
- Looks can be deceiving.
- You are not in control of what happens around you. No human being is. The universe is an incredibly complex network of causes and effects, natural laws, and decisions made with varying degrees of freedom and rationality. Rely on God’s providence and guidance. He is the only one who really knows what is going on – and he does know.
- In this life, you will never fully understand God’s plan. Just when you think you’ve got it, he will probably throw you a curve ball. Trust that he can bring good out of any situation.
- The previous two rules mean that you need to pray a lot: prayers of thanksgiving and of petition, prayers for others and for yourself. And believe that those prayers will be heard and answered, although the answer may not be what you want nor come when you would like it to.
- God is the only person whose expectations you must live up to. And God’s expectations are often not the same as yours, or anyone else’s. You discover them as you go along; always be open to the unexpected.
- God wants you to develop the gifts he has given you the best you can, in your specific circumstances, and to use those gifts in a way that makes you and others happy (the two go hand in hand). You must be the best “you” that you can be.
- The previous two rules mean that your happiness will come from fulfilling God’s specific plans for you, not from living up to any other standard. No two people are the same, nor should they be. Other people can serve as an inspiration or model in certain ways, but you cannot measure your success in life by direct comparison of your achievements with those of someone else. We all start life with unique talents, difficulties, and resources. We pass through unique challenges, circumstances, influences (both positive and negative), etc. The results will inevitably be different. Don’t ask whether or not you are better or worse than someone else in any given aspect of your life or personality; ask whether or not you are the best “you” you can be in your circumstances.
These are easy to write, but I never manage to apply them all at once…