My Grandmother’s 7 Rules for a Good Life

Auriane Alix
80 years of experience in 7 short, wise key points.
Photo: Author.

My beloved grandmother will celebrate her 80th birthday in July. She is one of the five most precious people in my life. She is kind, generous, caring, wise, and at the same time, she is the kind of person who tells you when you’re doing something wrong.

Last year, I asked her what she thought were the three to five rules for living a good life. On my birthday, she handed me an envelope with a knowing smile. Inside was a card with a sheet of paper. And seven rules, which she called “suggestions”.

They all fit in one sentence. Three to six words each. Here they are. I hope you enjoy this summary of my cherished grandmother’s experience.

“To find one’s inner beauty by rediscovering the innocence of childhood, without being in judgment of others and of oneself.”

1. Keep smiling

It’s been proven that smiling releases endorphins, the happiness hormone.

Okay, some times are harder than others. I’m currently at the bottom of the heap. But I’ve decided not to crawl under the covers and wait for a miracle to happen. I keep getting up and working hard to find ways to feel better.

I think that’s what she means. But also, that self-talk and thoughts are very powerful. That self-conditioning is never far away. And that it’s something to be wary of.

“Focusing on negative thoughts may lead to decreased motivation as well as greater feelings of helplessness. […] This is in large part due to the fact that your reality gets altered to create an experience where you don’t have the ability to reach the goals you’ve set for yourself. […] This sounds simplistic, but research has shown that positive self-talk is a great predictor of success.” — VeryWellMind

When you keep smiling, you don’t overwhelm yourself with negative self-talk that can only lead to more negativity. You stay open to positivity. The Universe is watching you closely.

2. Let your thoughts fly away

Thoughts are just thoughts. Sometimes I get caught up in an inner whirlwind, forget what’s around me and lock myself in my own head, deep inside, with my negative thoughts.

Before remembering that they’re just thoughts. Then I come back to the real world, look around, and see that nothing has changed. My thoughts were not real. The world remained unaffected.

When you let them fly away from you, you don’t catch them. You acknowledge them, but you don’t identify with them. That leaves you free to think for yourself. That’s part of what meditation is about: letting your thoughts pass through the window of your mind like clouds in the sky.

It makes a real difference.

3. Focus on the essential

I’ll let this one get to the point. There's beauty in simplicity.

4. Practice the “know thyself” principle

I often read articles online. Which often deal with self-help. Or fitness. Or anything else. And it’s taught me one thing, among others: the author’s experience is their own, and it’s intimately connected to their past, present, aspirations, experience, environment, and personality.

This means that whatever you see, hear or read, don’t take it for granted. Identify the lessons they hold, but don’t apply them blindly to your life. Every human being is different.

Know yourself, so you know what is right for you and what is not. Some things may not be right for anyone but you. Other things may be right for everyone but you. It doesn’t matter. Try, fail, try differently. Keep what works for you, throw the rest out the window.

5. Listen without judging

This one is difficult. Because as soon as we hear something, we can’t help but judge it.

I guess it’s about staying open-minded and having a soft heart. Recognizing, again, that everyone is different from you. And that they have reasons to be the way they are. They operate on a completely different reasoning than we do, which makes as much sense to them as ours does to us.

Listening to others without judging them seems to be a tool to understand them better, in order to nurture better relationships. Which are the foundation of life.

6. Surround yourself with beauty

This one is foolproof advice to overcome the vacuum of existence. Beauty is everywhere. In love. In laughter. In food. In nature. In waking up in a room bathed in sunlight. In going to my grandmother’s house for lunch today like I’m about to do right after I write this.

Beauty soothes the soul and gives meaning to everything. But it requires us to stop and look around, as often as we can remember.

7. Make your senses blossom

We tend to stay focused on our mind. Except we forget that we are first and foremost a body.

The fulfillment of your senses is your connection to reality. And reality is all that exists, at all times. Making your five senses blossom is a beautiful way to be part of the world.

It can be done by smelling the cake my mother is baking or the smell of the first spring mornings. It can be by hearing the voice of my loved one, or the night bird that sings in the distance each evening. It can be tasting how good that homemade soup my father made is. It can be feeling the touch of someone’s skin, or the clean sheets I slip into at night with a happy smile on my face. It can be, quite simply, by looking at how beautiful nature is.

My grandmother concluded these few lines with the following sentence, which she underlined:

“To find one’s inner beauty by rediscovering the innocence of childhood, without being in judgment of others and of oneself.”

I think that sums it all up.

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