Many authors have penned their rules for life, a personal code for living a better, happier, more successful life.
These standards and guidelines are meant to improve the quality of your life, regardless of where you are today or where you want to go tomorrow.
They may not be easy to stick to, to form a habit, but they will definitely be worth it.
I am a truly lucky man, blessed in many ways, an amazing wife, and a loving family, I’m not rich and I’m not poor, I don’t live in the biggest house or drive the nicest car, all of these
I count myself extremely lucky for one reason, for nearly 50 years I have kept the wolves of poor mental health from my door.
Yes, I have bad days, moments of frustration, irritation, and higher levels of stress, yes, I may be chemically wired to be cope better than others, yes, I may be predisposed to having a positive mindset, but that it still not enough, I know that and work hard at my mental health every day with a morning and evening routine. I don’t win every day, but I win more than I lose in terms of good days versus bad days, and for that I count myself very lucky.
Life changes, it always changes, it changes as we get older, it changes as our financial situation changes, it changes with our current mood, our hormone levels, and our environment changes us both over time and in the moment.
I often coach clients on the Components of Life, these are the key areas of our life that we need to work on to have a life of fulfilment and give us a greater chance of avoiding poor mental health. I try and tap into these every day, but working on all of them in equal amounts, if I am to prioritise one at the expense of all of the others then my life will suffer as a result. These are rules I live by. They are not set in stone, they are not steadfast morals that can’t be broken, rules are guidelines, just like going 30 mph on a road, it is there to protect us, yes, I have gone above that limit at times in my life but for the most part, I obey the rules.
I don’t expect anyone to live by my rules, but by reading these they may inspire you to live by your own, whatever they may be.
The 7 Rules of Life – by Me
1 – Exercise daily and prioritise sleep.
The human body craves routine, and the two main pillars of health we should prioritise above all else, is exercise and sleep.
As a former professional sportsman, I am institutionalised in my need to exercise, I exercise daily. This is not to be body beautiful, which I am far from being, it is predominantly for my mental health, regulation of my body weight and my levels of cardiovascular fitness are secondary results of my mental need to exercise. I am lucky because I enjoy exercising and for many, I do understand that they don’t, but by focusing on the endpoint of each individual run, or gym session, understanding that the benefits of completing a session of exercise far outweighs the benefits of not doing it. Yes, it’s tough, yes motivation levels may be poor, yes it might be raining outside, but none of these are reasons not to exercise.
It’s taken me a long time to understand the importance of sleep, and I now understand that I do need at least 7 ½ hours, which equates to 5 cycles of 90 minutes, every night. I go to bed at 10 pm each night to allow me to wake up at 5:30 am and start my day. I used to be a snooze button abuser, but never snooze, and I don’t allow myself too much variation to this even at weekends, sleeping in for hours at the weekends and on days off affects our circadian rhythm and doesn’t help us in the long term. Decide on a time you need to get up each day and count back 7 ½ hours to find your optimum sleep time.
2 – Set goals and work on them every day.
Goals give us an aim or purpose, they focus our efforts towards things that we have identified as being important to us, by working on them every day in small amounts, we tap into the 1% Rule, which is small incremental improvements practiced every day, that compound over the course of the year amount to significant results. Setting goals required 4 basic principles,
G – Goal – Decide on the aim or purpose (What)
O – Organize – Evaluate current position and value the goal, how important is it to you (Why)
A – Action – map out the way (How) and take the first step
L – Length – decide on an end point to the goal
3 – Work hard on the relationships that matter
We can all take the ones closest to us for granted at times, leaning on the more than we should, taking out our irritations and frustrations out on them when we shouldn’t. Our partners, family and friends are on our team, they are on our side, they wear the same kit as us. We need their support, and we need to support them, I like everyone else gets that wrong from time to time.
Work through disagreements and problems by talking more, listening more, and understanding more. Tell them you love them at least once every day. Relationships aren’t easy, but good relationships are worth it.
4 – Practice gratitude daily
Gratitude increases reflection, a period where we slow down, relax and either look back over the past, or appreciate the here and now, the present. It is a powerful positive force. Over the years philosophers have suggested that gratitude is the gateway to emotion because it leads to so many others, for example, deep appreciation of someone else can grow into love and gratitude for what you have can lead to a greater satisfaction of loving your work and as a result lead to improved performance.
Every night as part of my evening routine before I go to sleep, I list two things that I’m grateful for in my life, either my life in general or for that particular day, try it for 21 days and watch your mood improv as a result.
5 – Practice improving resilience as often as possible
This is often overlooked in modern day life.
We live in a world of systems that control every aspect of our lives, temperature in every environment, home, office, car, we have an abundance of food from every region of the world that we can access instantly, we have banking systems that we can transfer large sums of money anywhere around the world from the convenience of a sofa, everything about life geared towards ease, to keep us living in a zone of comfort and having to do as little as possible to do the things we either want or need to do so, why is that a problem?
We are now living in an ever-developing world where mini stressors, which result in safely increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone and adrenaline (epinephrine) are no longer being subjected upon us at regular spiked intervals, as a result we find it difficult to cope, and when they do, we are less able to cope.
There is no doubt about it that high levels of stress, especially cortisol over long periods is not good for us and can lead to poor health, high blood pressure and depression, but the same can be said for having two little stress which can lead to similar issues.
The benefits of something like cold water exposure isn’t so we can tolerate cold water or learn to get in an ice bath and enjoy it, it is so we can learn to manage levels of stress in our daily lives
When we subject ourselves to these stresses, we increase our neural pathways to be able to deal with them and we change the way we think about stress. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable, it’s a small price to pay for achieving your goals.
6 – Read, Write and Learn Every Day
Personal development is investment in yourself, it is not selfish, it is self-care.
We will have the tendency at times to drift, to conveniently brush our shortcomings and issues under the carpet, refusing to face them but the truth is, by doing this for long periods we stagnate, or worse, we deteriorate the quality of our life.
By improving ourselves we enhance all of our strengths, step out of our comfort zone, improve decision-making, have the ability to maintain healthy relationships and cultivate a success mindset. Whether we are 22 and just starting out on our career or 72 and enjoying retirement, member that we are always a work in progress and there can never be an end to learning.
7 – Laugh, don’t take life too seriously
It’s scientifically proven that laughter is a strong medicine. It relaxes your body, strengthens your immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain, and protects you from harmful levels of stress. But, possibly more important than all of that, laughter connects us with others, enhancing our relationship which supports both our physical and mental health. As children, we laugh hundreds of times a day, but as adults, life tends to be more serious, and laughter happens less frequently. Choose to laugh whenever you can, laugh at yourself, look for humour when negative things happen rather than bemoaning them, remember funny stories or jokes from your past, however you choose to laugh more find your inner child and make a conscious effort to laugh more each day.
My wife Nicole teaches me this every day better than anyone I have ever met.
Love, Laugh and live.
What are your rules for life?
By Nicky Forster