It’s all very well to think the meaning of life is happiness, but what happens when you’re unhappy? Happiness is a great side effect. When it comes, accept it gratefully. But it’s fleeting and unpredictable. It’s not something to aim at – because it’s not an aim. And if happiness is the purpose of life, what happens when you’re unhappy? Then you’re a failure.
Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules For Life
Every year, I sit down to write out some goals that I’d like to achieve in the coming year; the following year, when I go back and read over some of those goals I had for myself, I almost never achieve any of them. Instead of these posts being something I re-read to help me stay motivated through the year, I find that they add more stress to how I’m feeling. I think about how poorly I did in achieving those goals, and never give myself permission to set those goals aside because something else came up.
A prime example of this behaviour is my reading list for 2018. Not only did I list the books I wanted to read here, the books are staring out at me on my bookshelf mere feet away from where I type now. Looking over that list, I didn’t finish any of the books, and only started one of them. That’s disappointing for me because I love to read and really wanted to achieve that goal of finishing them all. I did read a lot of other books the past year, and certainly a lot of material online or in magazines. That doesn’t lessen the load on my shoulders when I’m reminded daily that there is a goal I’m not reaching.
It’s a simple task, finding the time to read instead of doing other things in the evening. It’s one that I have been succeeding at, so why was I feeling like a failure for not reading these certain books?
While not really an answer to my question, a helpful reminder popped up in the Daily Stoic email earlier this week:
From now on, then, resolve to live as a grown-up who is making progress, and make whatever you think best a law that you never set aside. And whenever you encounter anything that is difficult or pleasurable, or highly or lowly regarded, remember that the contest is now: you are at the Olympic Games, you cannot wait any longer, and that your progress is wrecked or preserved by a single day and a single event.
I added the emphasis to the phrase that stood out for me.
I don’t need to be making resolutions, setting goals on what I want to achieve in the next year. What I need to do is craft rules for how to live my daily life that I can fall back on when I’m struggling and facing challenges. Simple mantras worth repeating to myself that I fully believe in.
The simple answer would be to pare down Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules For Life, which I’m listening to on Audible, to something I can put into practice. Some of his rules can be useful, especially the earlier chapters such as “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today,” and “Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.” I believe that I should craft rules that I can easily apply to my own life without questioning what they actually mean.
This is a task I don’t want to rush and want to think about over the next few weeks heading into the new year. The one rule I know I want to be on there that I have been following is:
- Read daily for as long as possible, regardless of the subject and the source.
I want to live life in a way that I am proud of, without focusing on it being better or more rewarding than the previous. I want to use the Latin mantra of memento mori, “remember you must die,” to propel me to live every day as my last and trust things will improve if I keep following my rules.
The sun has set on 2018. It’s a new year, but it is the same life I was living yesterday. Time to become proud of who I am, where I am now, and where things are heading.