Weekend Pith: Life Rules

One of the newer features of my repainted blog is the little page at the top of the screen, which I call “My Life Rules.” It has pithy little one-liners that describe or sum up life, or at least the kind of person I want to be.

This idea was inspired by a book my best friend gifted to me, The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin. The book is full of practical ways to simply be happier, but it goes deeper than that. Happiness occurs when we have meaningful relationships, discipline, and joy in day to day life, and there are simple, down-to-earth steps to make that happen. It was the practicality of it that really spoke to me; we often talk about being happier or having more joy, but these are usually abstract concepts we don’t back up with a plan. You can’t arrive at a goal without a plan.


Rubin starts the book by listing what she calls her “rules of adulthood.” They are little principles she’s found to be true in her life, and so they help her remain true to herself while becoming better. And in the end, that’s what the point of her book is: we must always be working towards better versions of ourselves, and that in turn will give us greater satisfaction in life.
This inspired me to look for my own “rules of adulthood,” the little principles I live by even when I don’t realize it. Every so often they cross my mind, and now I catch them and tag them before letting them fly away again. In this way I become a lot more mindful and aware of the unwritten rules we all govern ourselves by, and as a bonus they sound pretty cool in a blog post.

Here’s a little look at some of my life rules. The list is ongoing, and I’m adding to it daily. 


It’s not a contest.

We get pretty competitive with the other people in our lives. Someone else’s successes, joys, and blessings become like vinegar in our mouths. I’ve noticed myself often envying friends my age as their lives start to become more settled, more sure, with stable careers and permanent homes and (even more permanent) children. It’s often hard to be okay with the fact that my life is rather tumultuous right now, and that’s okay. It’s not a contest.

Choose to be friends.

I’ve always had this fatalistic view of friendship, where I just hope someone likes me enough to stick around. I’ve had some friendships, ones I really liked, dissolve, leaving me to want to dissolve along with them. Then I had a realization: I can be friends with anyone I damn well please. Sometimes relationships do run their natural course, but sometimes you get to just decide: you’re one of my peeps now. Let’s be friends. Always. M’kay?

Always be more loving than you feel.

This one is so hard. I once had a boss tell me that one of my strengths was my ability to leave my life at home and focus on the task at hand, to keep my emotions under wraps and set aside a bad day without letting my frustrations shine forth.

To which I looked at her and said “Really?”

I don’t know what she saw in me, but I’m terrible at concealing my emotions. If I’m upset, I will cry. If I’m angry, I won’t look you in the eye (this could also happen if I’m especially shy, so don’t panic). If I’m happy, I can’t wipe the silly grin off my face.

So this is why, when I’m not feeling very loving, I… won’t be very loving. 

This quality is especially unfortunate in married life, when acting exactly how you feel all the time doesn’t help anybody. Especially if you’re an emotional person who could feel ten different things in the space of an hour. It’s confusing for a spouse to keep up with. 

(Not that I’m speaking from first-hand experience, or anything…)

I’ve often found a tense situation to be greatly improved by just acting even a little more loving than I feel. Because it makes him feel better, and soon I feel better too. Love is like gravy on a Thanksgiving plate. It gets in and around everything and makes it taste better. Just as we can never have too much gravy, we should never be sparing with love. Even if we’re not always feeling it. Because the monumentous effort it may take to be loving returns even more monumentous results. You literally cannot lose by showing love, just as you cannot lose by passing the gravy. 

(You’re welcome for the gravy analogy.)

Beware of fads.

This is one you see a lot on the internet. Everyone look over here! This person did that! Everyone talk about this! It’s trending now! Everyone buy this! It’s in style!

This might be my hipster streak showing, and as I type this I realize being hipster is somewhat of a fad as well. Dammit. At any rate, I try to be aware of what new thing I genuinely love or appreciate and what is just a fad. Sometimes our brains ping pong from one thing to another, and we lose our mental autonomy. We lose the energy to recognize what to purge from our lives and what we’d really like to keep. We become dependent on fads for mental stimulation. And it leaves us even more exhausted, more cluttered. It’s a terrible cycle, and not worth it.

Sometimes, however, the fad of the day is fun, and sometimes you like it. And that’s when you should ask your doctor if this fad is right for you.


So there’s a little look at my life rules. Hopefully they inspire you to recognize your own unwritten life principles. I’ve found writing a few down where I’ll see them daily, or making a note on my phone, helps me revisit and recommit whenever I forget. It’s way to be more mindful and evermore myself.

What unwritten rules will you write down?


Don’t Be Happy

You know how last week I wondered why, when we are so obsessed with love, is there still so little of it in the world?

Well I have a similar question. Why, when we are so obsessed with happiness, is there still so little of it in the world?

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Our entire culture revolves around being happy. Have you ever realized that? Movies are made so that we can sit down and feel happy by the end. We devote huge chunks of our lives to earning money so we can be happy. We spend a lot of that money, actually, on everything we can think of and everything we are told to think of, because we think that houses and cars, TVs and smartphones, shoes, books, food and clothes will make us happy. We even spend money on education that will hopefully help us make more money that will make us happy.

We abuse others – and ourselves – in pursuit of our own happiness. The couple divorces because they are not happy. The boss unfairly fires his employee because he is not happy. The friend is unkind because she is not happy. The church splits because it is not happy. The thief steals because he is not happy.

The Declaration of Independence says we have the right to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. The irony is that pursuing happiness is all we ever do. We never catch it; we never attain it. And I think, that while it is all well and good to pursue happiness, ultimately it is a farce.

I’ve realized that when I think about my life, who I am, what I do, and what I am planning to be and do, it is so easy to question whether I am and will be happy. And to an extent, this is important. You don’t want to be absolutely miserable in life. But the danger in evaluating happiness is that happiness starts to become the end game. It’s easy to buy society’s ideal that happiness is all that matters. I find myself getting very depressed over my life and myself, because the truth is that I am not always happy with my circumstances, my progress as a person, and the people around me.

But here’s the thing: happiness is never complete and satisfied. If you are always asking yourself “am I/will I be happy?” you are missing the point. You are striving for something that can never be obtained. For as beautiful as the world is, there is also ugliness, dirtiness, and unhappiness. Sometimes we need those things. Sometimes we need to be uncomfortable and unhappy. When we are we can grow. We can see the people and situations around us more clearly. We can be so much less caught up in our own stupid little selfish worlds and actually think outside of ourselves.

In a word, what we need is peace. Do not ask yourself “am I happy?”. There will always be a reason to answer no. Instead, ask yourself “am I at peace?” There is a heck of a difference. Happiness is an endless pursuit, always grasping beyond what we have for something more. Happiness is very self-centered. Peace, on the other hand, is contentment. It is repose. It is thankfulness. It serves others. It delights in the blessings and is okay with the deficiencies. And really, isn’t peace what we truly need? Happiness is so superficial. Peace is deeper and eternal.

This is a hard thing to work on, I know. Our culture is saturated with the pursuit of happiness. We as Americans might even think it against all we believe in to not pursue it. But keep this in mind: our principles grant us “the pursuit of happiness”. They don’t promise that we’ll ever find it. The Creator of the universe, however, absolutely promises that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 ESV). Somehow that seems like a better deal than running after elusive and fickle happiness.

So stop pursuing happiness. Start receiving peace.