Some rules for life from a parent to their teenage child
As my daughter prepared to leave home for university I felt a sudden pressing need to make sure that she was prepared for the world.
We’ve always enjoyed a close and loving relationship and even through the testing teenage years we managed to communicate and relate to each other pretty well. For that I’ll remain eternally blessed.
I also knew she could take care of herself well enough.
What I wanted to share with her were a few simple pointers for how life seems to work (based on my own experience). She would of course be free to absorb the lessons, to practice them or ignore them - but I wanted to make sure she at least had access to them.
They’re a useful reminder that life is a constant cycle of ups and downs.
It's certainly not a one-size-fits-all model or formula for life. But each item has served me well as a reminder, to practice and to believe in through both good times and bad.
These things always seem to hold true:
1. Treat others as you want to be treated.
You know how good it feels when someone offers you a smile or a random kindness, and you have it in your power to do this for someone else. One good deed is all it takes to help you feel good about yourself, and the person who receives it will feel good too.
They’re then more likely to then do something positive for someone else, which continues the chain reaction. If you’re feeling bad about something, try doing something nice for others; I guarantee it will make you feel better. If you’re someone has done you harm, set the balance straight by going out of your way to set an example in your own behaviour.
2. Be consistent with people.
I’ve laboured this one over the years, and it’s one of the hardest things to put into practice. If you can always say you’ve been fair, reasonable and treated others consistently no matter how they treated or reacted to you then you’ve done all you possibly can. The rest is up to them.
3. Be persistent in your efforts.
Nothing that’s worth having or doing comes without persistence. Results and achievements seldom come about at the first attempt. Never underestimate the importance of giving each and every little task your best efforts. How you do anything, is how you do everything and it’s far better to devote your full energy and attention to a task and know you did your best, than to wonder if you could have done more when the results are disappointing.
Never be surprised if you don’t get the results you want or expect as quickly as you expect them. Things generally take more time, and more effort than you think it will. Trust in and expect that. Persistence and tenacity are key in all things.
4. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow will take care of itself. Today is what’s important.
What we have is now. What has happened in the past can’t be changed. As tempting as it can be to revisit and replay past arguments, disappointments and failures in trying to make sense of them, this is futile and only makes us feel bad. All we can do is learn from the past and repeat our actions if they brought positive outcomes, or learn from the mistakes and not do the same thing again if it didn’t work out. If we string together enough good days, then the future takes care of itself.
5. Nothing worthwhile, worth having or worth doing is easy.
There are no shortcuts and anything that is truly worth doing or achieving takes time, and consistent and persistent effort. The sooner you accept this and adapt to this fact, the easier you’ll find it to keep on going through the tough times. Often when we spend time looking for shortcuts or quick-fixes it’s a means of putting off what we really know we need to do; to put in the hard miles and take the difficult path.
6. You can’t control everything that happens around you, only how you react to it.
Bad things will happen, stupid people will do and say stupid things. Things will occur that you can’t do anything about and which seem unjust or unfair. You can’t control what happens around you, either the good or bad in life. All you can do is control your emotions, your reactions and how you let things affect you. Once you learn and believe that, it becomes remarkably easy to deal with the setbacks and to accept the good things. It helps you to take the wins without letting them make you cocky or complacent.
Remember also that bad things that seem catastrophic at the time are rarely as bad as we think they are. Once the dust settles, it often becomes apparent that we’ve completely lost perspective and blown them out of proportion. This is why it’s important to focus on the reaction rather than the event; keep things in perspective!
7. If in doubt, take action.
There are very few things that can’t be improved by taking some affirmative action. If you're debating whether to do something or not, you probably know what the right answer is. If you’re procrastinating over something, just take action; doing something is better than not being sure which thing to do. If you feel like you haven’t done enough work on something, do more. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and like there’s too much to do, take action one thing at a time. Doing one thing off a list of 10 is better than doing nothing because it’s all too overwhelming.
8. People are generally good; treat them as such and they’ll treat you in the same way.
There are some scary people in the world and crazy events happen all the time. Such things are beyond comprehension and rationalisation. This doesn’t mean that people in general can’t be trusted or aren’t intrinsically good. A grumpy person may be sad, lonely or having a bad day. A happy person may not be intrinsically smug or self-satisfied, but simply someone who is contented or who is trying to put a brave face on things.
Give people the benefit of the doubt and treat everyone as though they’ve got some good to offer you and the world. They have, and you have.
9. Discipline equals freedom.
Living with discipline isn’t a constraint on our lives, but rather the path to true freedom. If you live with discipline, do what you have to do before what you want to do, you’ll live with greater freedom as a result. It affects how you think, feel, act and what you get from life as a result. Being an adult means enforcing your own discipline, for yourself. It means taking the difficult but worthy path, the healthy rather than the indulgent option and conducting yourself with dignity and purpose rather than allowing personal standards to slip. The pay-offs for discipline are the rewards of freedom in all aspects of life.
10. Make your bed after you get up in the morning.
If you do this one thing then it starts the day off with you being in control of what happens for the rest of the day. If the rest of the day is a car-wreck, at least you return to a made bed in the evening. That’s nicer than returning to an unmade bed which reminds you of the chaos that existed throughout your day. This is largely symbolic but it emphasizes the effects of doing multiple small, positive things that then compound to bring order and stability into life rather than existing in chaos and uncertainty.
11. Self-reliance comes first; this isn’t the same as being selfish.
You need to count on yourself first and foremost. If you cannot rely on yourself in tough times then you will look to other people or things to provide a crutch or support, which is how we end up in corrosive and toxic relationships with unhealthy dependencies and habits. When something comes up that knocks you off track or makes you feel bad, the first thing you need to identify is the resources you’ve got within you to tackle it. There isn’t always an external solution, support or help available. Sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves, toughen up and get things done. The more you do this, the stronger you become and the easier it gets to deal with adversity.
12. Self-care matters.
If you’re tired, get to bed earlier and socialise less. If you’re feeling stressed and short of time, get up earlier and do more stuff in the day. If you’re feeling unwell, ensure you’re eating and drinking the right things and respecting your health. If you’re lethargic and frustrated, get to the gym or go out for a walk.
You are responsible for looking after you first and foremost and there are no excuses for not doing this. Beware the well-intentioned kindnesses and indulgences that are more likely to make you feel worse in the long-run. Skipping the workout today because you don’t have the energy will make you feel disappointed in yourself as well as making it harder to get to the gym tomorrow.
13. Nothing, no problem, difficulty or challenge is so complicated or challenging that you can’t work it out with the support of those who love you.
I strongly believe (and hope) that everyone has at least one person in the world who they can rely upon for support, even if that’s just for a kindly word and a second opinion on a problem or challenge. If you’re ever worried about something sufficiently, you owe it to yourself and those who care about you to reach out and tell them. They’ll soon let you know if it’s your problem to sort out yourself. It’s better to discuss and address something while the problem is small, rather than waiting until it’s bigger and requires more to sort out.
14. Remember you are loved.
Whoever and wherever you are, there are many people out there, your friends, family and others who are positively affected by your existence and who are thinking of you with love and kindness no matter whether you believe it or not. That doesn’t change wherever you are in the world and whatever you are doing. We are all as humans sharing a common experience of life, and once we can accept, believe and remember this, it helps us to live a good and positive life that benefits us all.
15. If in doubt and when you’re struggling: Stop. Smile. Take a breath. Remember this:
You’ve got this. You’ve totally got this. You’ve got more than this takes, and can deal with anything that life may throw at you. Trust in this, and in yourself at all times.