Ever wish that life had a rule book? That there were a manual which told you how to live your life – to maximise the joy and limit the pain? Recently I found this piece I wrote many years back for the Daily Mail, based on the world best-seller Chicken Soul for the Soul. Remember that? Amongst its entries, the book included one entitled “The Ten Rules for Being Human”. These inspirational rules, it transpired, were penned by Dr Cherie Carter-Scott, a corporate trainer and management consultant. She went on to expand the ‘rules’ into a book – a list of basic truths about life. “Life has often been compared to a game,” she says, “We are never told the rules, unfortunately, nor given any instructions about how to play. These are the guidelines to playing the game we call life. They are universal truths that form the foundation of how we can live a fulfilling, meaningful life.”
THE TEN RULES
RULE ONE: YOU WILL RECEIVE A BODY
“The moment you arrived here on this Earth, you were given a body in which to house your spiritual essence,” says Carter-Scott. “The real “you” is stored inside this body – all the hopes, dreams, fears, thoughts, expectations, and beliefs that make you unique. Your body acts as a teacher of some of the initial and fundamental lessons about being human.”
You may love it or hate it, but you are stuck with your body. So it is essential that you learn to transform your body into a lifelong ally.
• Accept your body: If any part of you believes you would be happier if you were thinner, taller, larger, firmer, blonder, stronger, you should spend some time learning about the value of acceptance. Embrace what life presents to you with a good attitude. Ask yourself: “What are you not accepting about your body?” Work with it.
• Build self-esteem: Search and find where your feelings of worthlessness stem from. Then look at what is great about yourself. Tap into your good points whenever you feel lacking or low.
• Respect your body: Treat it kindly and carefully – it is a valuable and irreplaceable object. Learn to listen to your body – it will tell you what it needs.
• Allow yourself pleasure: make time and space for fun in your life. Figure out what brings you pleasure and do it, and do it often.
RULE TWO: YOU WILL BE PRESENTED WITH LESSONS
Why are you here? What is your purpose? We each have our own purpose and distinct path. As you travel your life path you will be presented with numerous lessons that you will need to learn in order to fulfil that purpose.
• Be open: Lessons will show up every day of your life. Notice them. Some are obvious – a new promotion, a new relationship. Others are more subtle – a difficult person, a hard task. Ask yourself which lessons you are resisting.
• Make choices: You can’t sit on the fence. Sometimes you have to make choices – hard choices. Think back to choices you have made – how does it feel to act on your choices?
• Drop “it’s not fair”: If you want to move towards serenity, you have to stop complaining. Think about what you consider unfair in life – re-evaluate it.
RULE THREE: THERE ARE NO MISTAKES, ONLY LESSONS
Most people feel disappointment and anger when their plans don’t work out. We hate to “fail”. Yet the failed experiments are no less valuable than the successes. In fact you usually learn more from your perceived “failures” than you do from perceived “success.” View your mistakes as opportunities to learn.
• Be compassionate: Open your heart and connect with other people when you have the chance. Don’t be limited by your judgements of other people. Imagine what it would be like to be that person – step into their shoes.
• Forgive: Let go of resentment and forgive. Forgive yourself. Forgive others – even if they have hurt you. Let it go.
• Laugh: A sense of humour helps you when the going gets tough. A good laugh can diffuse tension, relieve stress and release endorphins, natural mood lifters. A crisis can turn into a comedy when you laugh or smile.
RULE FOUR: A LESSON IS REPEATED UNTIL LEARNED
Have you ever noticed that lessons tend to repeat themselves? Does it seem as if you keep going out with the same person in a different body? Do you keep working for the “same” boss? Remember Bill Murray in Groundhog Day? He woke up in the same day over and over until he learned all the lessons he needed to in that one day. The challenge of this rule is to identify and release the patterns you are repeating.
• Become aware: become conscious of the pattern or issue.
• Acknowledge and choose: admit that you need to release the pattern and actively choose to do so. Make a plan and stick to it.
• Be patient: Change is rarely easy and you will need to be gentle on yourself. Growth can be a slow, painstaking progress.
RULE FIVE: LEARNING DOES NOT END
Does it seem like just when you have mastered one lesson, another challenge presents itself almost immediately? As soon as you figure out how to be a good parent, your children leave home and you have to learn how to let go? Striving to get all the details of life under control is impossible, because life will present new lessons daily. Life is a year-round school from which you never actually graduate.
• Surrender: The key to coming to peace lies in surrendering to what is, rather than trying to create what you envisage should be. This is not to say you should remain passive and just let life happen to you. Rather you need to surrender to those circumstances over which you never really had any control.
• Learn humility: A person with humility has a confident yet modest sense of his or her own merits, but also an understanding of his or her limitations. The moment you think you have seen everything or know it all, the universe senses arrogance and gives you a great big dose of humility.
• Be flexible: Learn to bend and flex around every new circumstance. Your company many restructure and you will have to survive. Your relationship might end and you will have to cope.
RULE SIX: “THERE” IS NO BETTER THAN “HERE”
Many people believe that they will be happy once they arrive at some specific goal: when they win the lottery; when they lose ten pounds; when they get a better job…. However, more often than not, when you arrive “there” you will still feel dissatisfied, and move your “there” vision to another place. The secret is to live in the here and now, to focus on the present without abandoning your dreams.
• Be grateful: Be thankful and appreciative of what you have. It is easy to overlook the gifts and blessings you already have.
• Cultivate inner abundance: No amount of external objects, affection, love or attention can ever fill an inner void. The void can only be filled by looking within. We each have the potential for “inner” abundance – cultivate it.
• Find peace: Living in the present brings the one thing most people spend their lives striving to achieve: peace. Relaxing into the present moment puts you in the mental and physical state of calm, quiet and tranquillity. Pause from time to time to be fully rooted in the moment and feel the peace that results.
RULE SEVEN: OTHERS ARE ONLY MIRRORS OF YOU
Your reactions to other people are really just barometers for how you perceive yourself. You cannot really love or hate something about another person unless it reflects something you love or hate about yourself. We are usually drawn to those who are most like us and tend to dislike those who display those aspects of ourselves that we dislike. So think about approaching life as if other people were mirroring back to you important information. View the people you judge negatively as showing you what you are not accepting about yourself.
• Be tolerant: Try to give up judging people so harshly. Give up your righteous intolerance and stop judging the world. When you feel intolerant, ask yourself “What is the feeling beneath this judgement that I don’t want to feel?” It could be embarrassment, insecurity, anxiety….
• Be supportive: Be aware of others’ needs and support them when you can. If you don’t feel able to do this, look within and see if there is anything inside yourself that you are not supporting.
RULE EIGHT: WHAT YOU MAKE OF YOUR LIFE IS UP TO YOU
Every person creates his or her own reality. It is not our external resources that determine our success or failure, but rather our own belief in ourselves and our willingness to create a life according to our highest aspirations. You can either engage in the “blame game”, making excuses and saying “I couldn’t because….” Or you can take control of your life and shape it as you would like.
• Take responsibility: You are answerable for your behaviour and responsible for your own actions, feelings and life.
• Let go. In every situation you can either take responsibility and attempt to cause things to happen, or you can let go. Every situation is different and only you will know what is the right thing to do in each case. There are times to take responsibility and times to just walk away.
• Find courage: Courage is finding the inner strength and bravery required when confronting danger, difficulty or opposition. What fears stand in your way? Bring them to light so they loosen their hold over you.
• Have an adventure: Your life has the possibility to be a wondrous journey, filled with astonishing experiences. Be open and adventurous – explore every possibility.
RULE NINE: ALL THE ANSWERS LIE INSIDE OF YOU
All the answers you are looking for are already within your grasp: all you need do is look inside and listen. There is no outside source of wisdom that can give you the answers to any of your innermost questions: you alone are your wisest teacher. Powerful hints can come in the form of an intuitive flash, or the “little voice” that whispers in your head. They can come in synchronicity – a line in a book or a paper; a phone call…
• Listen: Messages don’t always come in the form we might expect. You need to listen, to be aware, to focus to hear your own messages in the most unlikely places.
• Trust: Trust your inner voice, your intuition, your instincts. Trust that you are learning how to know who and what is in your best interests. Start by tuning in and trusting the smallest messages – phone your mother, buy that dress. Then build up.
• Be inspired: Inspiration is a kind of inner wake-up call, a spark of flame within that sends a message. Spending time in nature can be inspirational. So too are the arts. Create your own “inspiration box” – full of images, words and objects which inspire you. I use Pinterest for this.
RULE TEN: YOU WILL FORGET ALL THIS AT BIRTH
Cherie Carter-Scott says, “You came into this world already knowing all the wisdom imparted by the Ten Rules. You simply forgot them somewhere along the way from the spirit world to the physical world. So some lessons may look and feel familiar – you are remembering.”
The challenge of Rule Ten is to remember.
• Have faith: Have faith that you will remember your truth and the knowledge stored deep inside your soul. Life can be difficult and there will be tough moments – this is when you need that faith. Try grounding yourself with prayer, with breathing, yoga, walking the dog or anything else that works for you.
• Cultivate wisdom: Who do you know who is wise? Spend time with them. What qualities of theirs would you like to emulate?
• Remember you are limitless: There are no boundaries to what you can become or what you can do. You have an infinite capacity to grow, to love, to remember all the wisdom within you.
If Life is a Game, These are the Rules by Cherie Carter-Scott (Hodder & Stoughton)