Favourite ideas for living a good life

John Persico, at his blog Aging Capriciously, writes thought-provoking and often provocative posts. I enjoy thinking about what he’s said and “listening” to his perspective to understand where he’s coming from. Recently he’s been posting a series about his four favourite things. (Well, to be fair, since he’s in the US, he calls them his favorite things!) His 4 favourite books of non-fiction, his 4 favourite books of fiction, his 4 favourite readings, you get the idea. Actually, I couldn’t think of any readings that sustain me, favourite or otherwise. That one stumped me.

The most recent post in this vein was his 4 favourite ideas. By this he means the ideas, philosophies, or principles that he uses as guides in trying to lead a good life. See, I told you he could be provocative. His four favourites were:

  • There is no truth
  • Everything will change
  • Love is the only real purpose in life
  • You can’t take it with you.

What do you think? He has very long explanations for each of them. My only difficulty was with the first one, but as long as I kept reminding myself that he wasn’t talking about our current world of post-truth (if someone tells you known lies and you choose to believe them because you prefer them to the truth) I could see his point.

Always being up for a good challenge, I thought I’d think about what I would call my four favourite guiding ideas for life. In thinking about it I realized that a few of these would probably have been different at earlier phases of my life, but some have been abiding. So, thanks to John Persico for getting me to think about this. Here we go:

  • Win-win is always the best approach. I first encountered this principle at a Stephen Covey workshop nearly 30 years ago. It has never stopped speaking to me. As many of you will know, win-win is one of the patterns of human interaction that people can use in dealing with others; win-win, win-lose, lose-win, and lose-lose are the main ones. Win-win is a strategy that always looks for a solution that will allow everyone to feel that they have won, that there are mutual benefits to the solution. It requires listening from all sides and it usually requires some compromise, but it can also result in surprising results that wouldn’t have been thought of without the expectation that everyone’s voice should be heard. And at the end, everyone should feel part of the solution. [Win-lose means that I win and you lose. That’s obviously the case during any kind of competitive situation, from sports to bidding for construction contracts to beauty pageants, and good sportsmanship is the preferred and usual approach for the winner. In the WH at the moment we find an extreme example of someone who believes in win-lose; he believes that you haven’t really won unless everyone else has lost and that your opponent hasn’t really lost until you can rub his or her face in it.]
  • Concentrate on what you can control. Too often we worry about those things over which we have absolutely no control and no chance of changing, and wear ourselves out from that worry so that what we really can do, and do well, doesn’t get the energy it needs and deserves. It’s a vicious circle, because if we don’t accomplish what we set out to accomplish because we’re using up all our emotional energy on things beyond our control, we can even lose faith in our ability to shine at what we are good at and care about. So, putting our priorities on what we can control is important. There’s a caveat in this. Don’t underestimate what can be under your control. Don’t let fear of trying something new or challenging get wrapped up in whether something is within your control. Which leads me to my next “idea”.
  • Always leave the door open to new opportunities. In my 30+ years as a worker bee I watched a lot of people being given opportunities to try something new. A move into an administrative position, an offer to change from part-time work to full-time work when you weren’t expecting to even think about such a change, a move to a new part of the country. It’s been interesting to see the different thought processes people go through, depending on their family situations for sure, but also on their personalities, their self-confidence, and their risk tolerance. Some people have more self-confidence than is perhaps warranted, others less. Some have more risk tolerance than is perhaps warranted, others less. Everyone has to make their own decisions. But it is important to ask yourself whether you’re thinking of saying no just because of fear of failure. You don’t know what you are capable of if you don’t try. And you don’t want to end up years later with regrets. You’ve been offered the opportunity because someone sees something in you that you didn’t see yourself. Think hard before saying no.
  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The Golden Rule is part of every world religion. Every one. We all learn it, even if we aren’t observers. Isn’t it remarkable that we all learn the message – from an early age – that we should treat others the way we would like to be treated and yet that sentiment is rarely to be seen in public discourse? When we voice distress at the nastiness, even cruelty, in the way politicians speak about opponents and more and more about people not like their “base”, we’re told that it’s OK, the “people” are really very kind. Why is it OK for kindness just to be found in neighbourhoods and not from leadership? But I digress. The important point is that in being kind to others, not only is it most likely that they will be kind to you, but also it makes you feel better. Smiles are so easy to give and so nice to receive, no matter how busy you are.

That’s it from me. Do any of you have “ideas” or principles that guide you in life, maybe, like me, ones you never gave much thought to before?

 

 

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15 Responses to Favourite ideas for living a good life

  1. Sam D.C.C. says:

    That Venn is perfect. We are told to let go of things we can’t control/control=bad, etc. But, the important crossover is right where ‘things that actually matter’ happens. Something I would add, within reason and normal adult life/parent obligations aside, to partake only in that which feeds your well being. Situations, time, people, activities, thoughts, media, etc. Why purposely choose to involve yourself in anything that makes you feel WORSE!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Even better, except as you say in cases involving parenting and supporting those you care about in bad situations. Thanks for adding an important consideration, Sam.

  2. Dr. John Persico Jr. says:

    I like your four Jane. I used Win Win negotiating when I was working with Union Management relations. I still follow this principle. AA teaches the Serenity prayer which I think embodies your principle number 2. Your other principles are all very positive and no one could go wrong living with your ideas. Thanks for the comments and introduction. Who was it said they could go six months on a small compliment. I can go much longer on your large compliment. John.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, John. You’re right, the Serenity Prayer definitely captures very well the concept of doing what is within your control rather than overwhelming yourself with things beyond your control. I’d forgotten about that nugget. As for describing your blog posts, the title of your blog says it all! And I think anyone who reads the piece you posted earlier today would agree that it’s not just thought-provoking but also provocative! 😏

  3. LA says:

    Learn both sides of something completely before you form an opinion. No one is right or wrong, they just think differently than others. Don’t make assumptions on what people are really like until you’ve spoken to them. The goal is not to be right, but to learn

  4. I like all of yours, but you have omitted one.: Hope springs eternal.

  5. DM says:

    Love the question. One guiding principle that I am very aware of …. my life is a marathon/ not a sprint…therefore, I need balance/ moderation/ (regular naps? 😉 etc. When I see someone really focusing on tuning their body to be the absolute leanest/ fittest/ fine tuned toned/ tanned machine..my first thought is..let’s check back with them 20 years from now and see where things are at. That’s why when I meet someone who has been able to say, loose a bunch of weight and 5 years later, they’re still on their game….they have my attention. they’ve probably not obsessing about it as much as maybe just built some healthy lifestyle habits into their life.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      A very good guiding principle, DM. Slow but steady wins the race. Your example reminds me, how is your training to retrace your pioneering ancestor’s route with the cart and horse coming along?! 😉 Seriously, from what I can gather, you lead your life according to very wise guidelines.

      • DM says:

        Well, thanks for asking…as far as that trek from Red River Manitoba to here in Eastern Iowa…. I would start next week ( not really) probably start in June or July ) 😉 the desire and ability are still 100% there…I realized that for me to take off from work the amount of time that would be required (3 months) would be financially irresponsible..so between expenses and lost wages, I figured I would need to fund raise $10,000…that’s not going to happen, so I have turned my historical researching energy into working on my wife’s family history…the goal is to assemble (4) volumes..2 for her side of the family tree and 2 for mine..trace each one back about 4 generations…and if I have material from further back, I’ll include that as well…been a pretty fruitful last few weeks…found out last night, her great grandmothers brother was a notorious, cattle rustler/ all around thug, in Nebraska back in the day..lots of newspaper articles to prove it. that was kind of neat…I can see I’m rambling….I have one more week off from my regular job, to do this sort of thing, then the following week,it’s back in the saddle. Thanks for asking. DM

        • Jane Fritz says:

          Oh my, DM, it sounds like you have settled on a project that’s at least as much fun (in a very different way) and will be an extraordinarily special legacy for your family. Cattle rustler, now there’s some family history. You two have serious pioneer/frontiers people in your blood. Glad I asked. Have fun, as usual!

  6. Dr B says:

    Two personal guiding principles of my own:
    1. Feedback is the breakfast of champions.
    2. Three things you never give up on, your friends, your family, something you believe in
    And, …… if you want an ultimate extra ….. there is no God or afterlife.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Dr. B. I really like your guiding principles. Dead on. Regarding your bonus observation, which perhaps is sort of related to John Persico’s “You can’t take it with you”, I came to a determination about that subject when I lost my Dad when I was 19 and then my Mom when I was 28. For me, our immortality is found in the impact we leave behind, through those people we’ve touched in some way. I realized that they both lived on in me – and in many others – and continued to influence how I lead my life. Of course that’s another good reason to try to lead a good life … while you can.

      • Dr B says:

        Agree entirely about leaving an impact behind as a form of immortality, no gods in Buddhism either generally but the possibility of reincarnation. Don’t buy that either!

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