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30 lessons for life

Written by Richard Docwra

At Life Squared, we usually try to not be too prescriptive in telling people how to live - and prefer to show people how to think for themselves so they can build the compassionate, well-informed and flourishing lives they want. But we live in a world with a lot of complexities and challenges, so we thought it would be useful to set out a few principles for living a good life in the modern world. Here are 30 lessons for life.

Yes, it is a subjective view of what a good life consists of. But the world needs this now more than ever…

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30 lessons for life

  1. Don’t compare yourself - resist the temptation to continually compare your life with other people’s, as yours is the only life you are ever going to have, and your views of other people’s lives are often highly inaccurate. So, focus on appreciating your own life. To find out more read our guide ‘Your life is enough’ 
  2. Be kind - this is the positive version of Google’s vacuous and insincere ‘Don’t be evil’ motto. And it means so much more. It’s about actively seeking to do good, help people and make the world better rather than ‘not doing evil’ by omission of action.
  3. Get some perspective - take time to understand your life within the bigger picture of the universe and the world around you. Reflect on the fact that you are just a creature, part of the natural world, and that all the human-generated complexity around you (including buildings, work and advertising) is just garnish and ultimately inconsequential. To find out more see our video and guide ‘How to get perspective’ 
  4. Avoid pointless crap - much of the stuff surrounding us in modern life is pointless garnish, including processed food, public relations, gossip, news, shopping centres and advertising. These things distract us, and suck the soul, perspective, health, creativity, independence, time and compassion out of us. The only way to lead a sane, happy life is to ignore these things. 
  5. Choose the right people for you - we should of course be kind, considerate and helpful to everyone. But in your friendships, it makes sense to prioritise people who enhance your life and make you feel good - rather than the opposite. So, keep an eye on your relationships and choose the right ones.
  6. Get out into nature - because it’s good for your well-being, it gives you perspective and it grounds you to real world we live in, once you remove all the human-created trappings of life. Itis also glorious, beautiful and awe-inspiring. To find out more read our guide ‘Natural high’ 
  7. Face the reality of life and death - the hardest fact you can absorb as a human being is that you only have a finite number of years left to live. Subtract your age from 85 to get a rough idea of how many you have left, with a good wind behind you. Now look at your life again and start living as if you mean it. To find out more read our guide ‘How to think about death (and life)’  
  8. Appreciate life - every day, take some time to reflect on the remarkable fact that you exist, and what this means. Also, make sure that you savour every aspect of your experience of life - including the seemingly mundane, such as breathing in a lungful of fresh air. To find out more read our guide ‘How to appreciate life’ 
  9. Think for yourself - think critically about the messages and ideas that surround you, no matter what form they take - from someone’s opinion to an advertisement. Don’t let yourself be manipulated - take control of your life and find mental freedom. To find out more read our guide ‘The Life Trap’ 
  10. Learn to be yourself - ignore the labels that other people want to place on you. Get to know who you are, what you like and how you want to live. Be comfortable with this, and like yourself. To find out more read our guide ‘How to be yourself’ 
  11. Find The Amazing - find activities that give you peak experiences; times when you feel a profound sense of peace, pleasure, immersion in an activity, connection with the world and contentment with your place in the great scheme of things. Savour these experiences and seek more of them! To find out more read our guide ‘The Amazing’ 
  12. Be good at getting older - see ‘life as change’, rather than pining for a fantasy ‘fixed state’ that cannot continue for ever - whether it is of youth, perfect health or anything else. Ignore other people’s judgements about your age, but accept your life, age and situation for what they are, and aim to make the most of them. To find out more read our guide ‘How to age well’ 
  13. Read - reading transforms your experience of life and your opportunities in life, so do it. And If we had to give one bit of advice to parents (aside from loving your child with all you have), it would be to give them the gift of a love of reading. 
  14. Try to empathise - because it helps you see other people as fully human. ‘Try to’ because it’s not always easy to do, especially with people you don’t like or disagree with. But making the effort to understand how other people see the world helps you behave towards them better, fear them less, solve problems better and perhaps even like them more. To find out more read our guide ‘How to be civilised’ 
  15. Help - our world can be unjust and cruel, but there are plenty of good people out there. So be one of them and not only will you make the world better by your actions (both large and small), you’ll set an example for others and meet more nice people yourself.
  16. Stop trying to maximise - in the modern world, many people seem to evaluate the value of their (and other people's) lives by lists of things they have to maximise - the gadgets they own, books they've read, places they've been, experiences they've had.  Don't be one of these people -  these lives are generally shallow and unfulfilled.  Do the things you want to do and enjoy them for their own sake.  Don't let your life become a list-ticking exercise. To find out more read our guide ‘How to achieve less’ 
  17. Learn - one of the great pleasures in life is learning. It takes you into a state of flow, expands your horizons and provides a sense of freedom and release; it is the closest human beings will come to flying.
  18. Don’t strive for happiness - the ideal of perfect happiness is an illusion that the self-help industry has become rich on. We all have difficulties in our lives and need resilience to deal with them. Don't base your current happiness on achieving the goal of perfect happiness in the future - enjoy what you have now,  and you will be happier. To find out more read our guide ‘How to be happy’ 
  19. Exercise - regular exercise is not only good for your physical health - it is also great for your mind. It can help you feel happier, more alert and able to think better. To find out more read our guide ‘How to get active’. 
  20. Eat well - just eat food that nourishes you. Consider everything else as an occasional treat. This radical but simple step could transform your health, bank balance and impact on the environment. To find out more read our guide ‘How to eat well’. 
  21. Get on top of your life admin - getting our life admin in order (such as managing our money and time) is well worth doing, as it enables us to spend more time on the more exciting stuff in life. It can also give us a sense of greater stability, confidence and reassurance. To find out more read our guide ‘The modern life survival guide’ 
  22. Play - the world out there can be sad and serious but you will disintegrate if you dwell on this all the time. So, allow yourself the opportunity to play as often as you can - to have fun, make mistakes, do things badly, have a laugh and just mess about. 
  23. Inner life - spirituality, the big questions - call it what you like, but human beings have explored their inner lives for thousands of years, and doing so can nourish and enhance your life, regardless of whether you hold religious views or are a committed atheist. To find out more read our guide ‘The Inner Life’ 
  24. Listen - to other people and you’ll build better relationships with them. Also listen to the world around you and you’ll appreciate it more.
  25. Slow down - take control of your relationship with time and live at the pace of life that suits you rather than being carried along by the speed and values of modern turbo-capitalist society. To find out more read our guide ‘Slow down’ 
  26. Feel emotion - many of us seem to have forgotten how to feel deeply, perhaps feeling it is a distraction from our busy lives or a sign of weakness in a busy, competitive world. But being able to feel emotion fully is an integral part of what it means to be human. So, don’t be ashamed to dwell on things, reach inside and truly feel something. It might just inspire you into action to say or do something really good.
  27. Live and stand up for your values - there’s not much point in having values if you don’t live in line with them or stand up for them. So speak out and take action against behaviour or ideas that are unkind or uncivilised - whether these are small things that you see in your daily life, or bigger issues relating to politics, companies, institutions or ideas. Stand up for kindness - as this is the only way civilised society can survive. To find out more read our guide ‘Manifesto for life’ 
  28. Live your own life - accept the cards you've been dealt in life, and realise that other people aren't holding all the best cards - despite what adverts, other people and other external messages would have you believe.  Take responsibility for enjoying and getting best use of the cards you have.
  29. Love - like kindness, love is often mistaken for a soft and fuzzy concept, when in reality it can be about the highest form of bravery - giving everything whilst expecting (and needing) nothing in return and leaving yourself completely exposed as an act of devotion and trust in other people. Perhaps the one item on this list of lessons for life that stands on its own, if your ideas and behaviour are motivated by genuine love, then you can feel you have lived well.
  30. Teach - the final point. If you are a parent, teacher, carer, friend or anyone who has interactions with other people, take the lessons on this list and pass them on. Help to instill these positive values and ideas in other people so that they have the opportunity to live fully and we all have the opportunity to live in a good world.

© 2019 Richard Docwra

Published by Life Squared. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without the publisher’s permission.  Please contact Life Squared if you wish to syndicate this information.


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