40 Short Principles to Live Your Best Life Right Now

Thomas Oppong 7-9 minutes 11/5/2022

You are what you pretend to be

Artwork: The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog/1818/Caspar David Friedrich/Public domain

People often refer to life as a game. To win, you’ll need to learn its many principles, apply them at the right time, and be flexible enough to adjust when things don’t go as planned.

Playing smart means having a balanced approach towards everything- work, relationships and play. It also means being wise about your strengths and weaknesses so that you can choose the best activities for you at any given moment in time.

The finite game of life is a collection of challenges to overcome to thrive. It’s also a series of events, actions and experiences that determine how you spend your limited time. It’s about your choices and how they influence your future in both big and small ways.

There are no guarantees in life. The only thing that separates you from everyone else is the principles, habits and rules you apply daily. No one can predict your outcome. It’s entirely up to you to shape the trajectory of your journey for a great life.

As in any competitive environment, there are common principles of engagement and a few ways to win the game. The first is to know what it takes to win. This guide can help you prioritise and focus more on what matters most in life.

  1. Life is an evolutionary experience. That means your time is finite — diminishing returns took over the minute you were born. Every experience should be worth your time.
  2. Start with the end in mind. Where are you going? If you’ve already started an incredible journey, remind yourself of the goal once in a while. “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road’ll take you there.” ― George Harrison
  3. If you don’t think it, you won’t be it. Every reality starts in the mind. Think solutions. “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.” ― Henry Ford
  4. Life may not be fair, but the real world rewards those who get things done and provide value. Regardless of where you are, you can accelerate your progress and become a better version of yourself.
  5. Get to know yourself — self-awareness is the secret to a meaningful life. As Aristotle said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
  6. Life is a long finite game. Be careful of the masks you wear. “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” ― Kurt Vonnegut
  7. Don’t just create goals. Design a system for achieving anything you want. The process is what gets you closer to the outcome.
  8. Don’t underestimate the importance of small wins and overestimate the value of big goals — every actionable step matters.
  9. “Life is scary. Get used to it. There are no magical fixes. It’s all up to you. So get up off your keister, get out of here, and go start doin’ the work. Nothing in this world that’s worth having comes easy.” — Bob Kelso
  10. Question almost everything; your beliefs, assumptions, mindset and principles that influence your actions. Upgrade them necessary.
  11. Master your emotions. Tame your ego. Your emotional state determines your actions. Your emotional health is key to your best self.
  12. Life is not fair or linear. Not everything will go as planned. Your next action after a setback can set you up for a better comeback.
  13. Anger is temporary insanity. Don’t let your anger ruin your life. “Don’t waste your time in anger, regrets, worries, and grudges. Life is too short to be unhappy.” ― Roy T. Bennett
  14. Only a few life-changing decisions are irreversible. Failure is not fatal. Don’t obsess about “perfect” outcomes. Action is more important than intention.
  15. Don’t do things for money alone. If you can’t find meaning in what you do for work, start something outside work that makes you come alive.
  16. Listen more. Talk less. Almost everyone has something to teach. “Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn, and you will.”― Vernon Howard
  17. Pursue a meaningful life, not a temporary career. If you can, make a living from your curiosities — the journey is far more rewarding than a stable path or career.
  18. Keep an open mind. Be prepared to reinvent or upgrade yourself to adapt to the changing realities of life.
  19. Everyone is still winging it. No one has all the answers to the many questions of life and living it. Keep looking for a better approach to getting things done.
  20. “Make space in your life for the things that matter, for family and friends, love and generosity, fun and joy. Without this, you will burn out in mid-career and wonder where your life went.” — Jonathan Sacks
  21. Explore your curiosities. “Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn’t matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough.” ― Richard P. Feynman
  22. You are responsible for the trajectory of your life. Happiness is a choice. Almost everything is subject to interpretation.
  23. Beware of the stories you tell yourself. Perception is everything. Your realities determine your actions and decisions.
  24. If you want a psychologically rich life, be more present; don’t stay in the past or the future. “Wherever you are, be there.” — Jim Rohn
  25. Defend your time like your life depends on it because it does. For every demand of your time, if your reaction is not “hell yes”, say no. Life is too short to commit to things that bring out the worst in you.
  26. Don’t be afraid to stop working on anything that’s not giving you value. You’re allowed to say “no”.
  27. Become an optimistic realist. See things as they really are, not as you want them to be. But be more hopeful — half full, not half empty.
  28. Make quality time for contemplation and stillness. Take long walks in nature to reconnect with your inner self. Your mental clarity depends on it.
  29. Slow down and appreciate your daily experiences. Busyness is a trap. Ultimately, you will regret your present pursuits if they never satisfy your existential questions.
  30. Your present life is a sum of your past decisions and pieces of good actions from others. Pay it forward. Lift others or help someone on your way up.
  31. Tame your “unrealistic mind. ”The root of human suffering is attachment to unrealistic expectations. “The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today.”― Seneca
  32. In life, there are no good shortcuts. Anything worthwhile takes time. A shortcut is an excuse to avoid the real work that pays.
  33. Give yourself permission to change your mind, mindset, habits or actions. More often than not, a better life depends on it.
  34. All actions are not the same. Don’t underestimate the 80/20 rule. Most actions are a waste of time. Measure almost every action and double down on actions that deliver the most results.
  35. Work with your body. Invest in good nutrition sources to take care of your body; it’s the only house you own for life. Be more conscious of what you put in it.
  36. Give any task 100% of your attention. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Your time is limited, so make sure every minute is filled with meaning and purpose.
  37. Finally, be willing to take risks and keep trying until you find something that works for you. This can be difficult when everything seems impossible, but persistence is key when it comes to winning this game.
  38. Learn from the past — but don’t choose to stay there. “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” ― Søren Kierkegaard
  39. For a better outcome, do the real work. “Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect.” ― Margaret Mitchell
  40. The meaning of life is what you give. Sources of happiness and meaning include something to do, something to hope for, family, friendship, work, self-knowledge and nature.

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