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Newsletter: Eight Instructions

Jul 15, 2009 5:24:00 AM / by Tim McCarthy

Lessons from life. [more]

Like you, I have friends who forward me internet humor and inspiration.

Most of it, as you know, is crap. Some, much worse, carry worms and viruses. So, I'm very careful about what I open and don't.

But recently I noticed 45 "instructions" for living a good life. As always, a lot was fluff but I noticed 8 that were worth passing along with some comment on each from my own life.

I hope you enjoy them.

  1. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
    My Mom told me this often and I thought I'd followed it pretty well. But I'm a passionate guy and as I grew older I realized that I held a lot of resentment in my heart. Not hatred but still some incredibly unproductive feelings about others who'd hurt me. A guy named Steven Martin once said to me "you are what you eat (literally) and you become what you think about." Since then, I've worked to not become a resentful person.
  2. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up your present.
    Some years ago, I started a practice of meditation. Being mindful is all about this instruction. That is, seeing the present moment and noticing what I am doing. The first thing I noticed was that I'd spent much of my life "hanging on" to my past or "preparing for" my future. Now, most of the time, I am able to look at it those things (often with humor at my own feeble humanity) then let it go.
  3. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
    Comparisons are almost always inaccurate. And they can be debilitating. So, when I think of judging someone, I try to remember that they've travelled a very different journey than I have. And that it might be wise, considering my own problems and hang-ups, that they might not want to be like me.
  4. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
    This is probably my favorite since, at 56, I've decided that any time I'm not working I want to think and play as if I wasn't "carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders." Like when I was a kid! Too often we forget to do that. My Dad often lapsed into his happy childhood well into his 70's. It seemed a very good practice.
  5. Over prepare, then go with the flow.
    Through the first 20 years of my career, I over prepared then tried to force outcomes that followed exactly what I'd prepared for. That created constant frustration. Now I get ready, think of every contingency I can, then feel my way to the conclusion of things. It's calmed me down but interestingly it has also made me more effective.
  6. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
    I thought I'd never learn this one but it is finally dawning on me. Stress, for example, is self induced - ALWAYS! The biggest hurdle I've had on this instruction was in my marriage - I was sure that once I trained Alice to be the way I wanted her to be, I could be happy. Can anybody guess what the outcome of that was?
  7. When in doubt, take the next small step.
    Big problems, I'm now convinced, are not solved by big solutions, anymore than complex problems are solved by complex solutions. Panic is a very natural reaction and we tend to throw big, complex solutions at our big, complex problems. Usually, I find the best method for solving my big problems is to step back, take a deep breath and plan. Then execute one small step and see how that goes. Then another, and so forth...
  8. In the end, all that truly matters is that you loved.
    I liked this one because it doesn't say that you "are" loved. That's what I seemed to pursue most of my life. And it only caused me to create confusion. How would I know how to make someone love me? That focus was self-centered and in trying, I usually ended up causing the opposite reaction. So now I just work on loving, no matter what the outcome even if that is someone not loving me. My Mom told me once that the most outstanding love is that which goes uncompensated. It is then, she said, that we might feel most good about ourselves since that is love without a goal.

Taken together, these instructions seem to lead me to finish with one of the most instructive little quotes I've ever heard and tried to follow. That is, when Mahatma Gandhi was on his life mission of peace, he seemed to realize that he could not in any way control others who were so committed to strife, hatred and conflict. So, he lived his own life on this simple premise:

"Be the change you wish to see."

All of these instructions seem to collect under that banner to me.

If you don't like being hated, don't hate.

If you want love, love.

Seems simple, but for me anyway, it's a struggle.

But it seems a struggle worth pursuing

Tags: Newsletter, Philosophy, Life, Love

Tim McCarthy

Written by Tim McCarthy

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