Do you want to be happy? Content? Have inner peace? Feel joy every day? Well, after reading over 100 spiritual books during the past two years including the Bible (cover to cover) here is what I came up with. I did not put them in any special order as they are all important if you want to spend your remaining years (regardless of your age) on earth with a sense of meaning and value. You can agree or disagree with the list; I am only sharing what I have learned from my study and research.
When I speak of love I'm not referring to romantic love but a mindset of love. Regardless of your religious or spiritual inclinations or views love is the basic foundation of life. Whether it's self-love or the love of life in general when love is the basis of all of your thoughts, behaviors, decisions and actions you will tend to bring peace, happiness and joy into your life. If you lack love the only other option is fear (since there are only two basic emotions – love and fear) then the ingredients grounded in fear such as; anger, hate, guilt, discouragement, jealousy, resentment, vindication etc. will fill your soul and mind therefore manifesting themselves in one way or another as a fear response to life and its conditions or circumstances.
Love is the foundation of every aspect of life and without it we are unable to enjoy life and feel a sense of gratitude or contentment.
I am not referring here to religious faith but that is included in the general mindset of faith. Faith is trusting what you can't see, don't know or is not present. Whether it's faith in yourself, your future, your decisions or life in general people who live with faith are not living in La La Land. They choose to believe what they can't prove or lacks physical evidence or manifestation. Faith is a vital part of life whether it's faith that your efforts will eventually produce positive effects or benefits or faith in God and all He has done, is doing and will do for you. People who lack faith tend to be negative and pessimistic. If you can't see it or prove it – it ain't so.
So much happens each minute in your life whether physically (every heartbeat) or the driver that doesn't ram into the trunk of your car. Most of life's happenings happen without our conscious awareness. I'm not talking here about miracles but just so many little synchronistic actions that you couldn't see coming – yes some can be perceived as bad stuff while others can be interpreted as good stuff. But, in the end, it's all happening for a reason. If we choose to interpret what is happening only from a "present" perspective you are missing so much that could end up being a positive.
Faith is seeing all that happens in your life as eventually good even though it might seem like chaos at the moment.
Most people on a routine basis focus on what they want or is missing in their life. When they lose a job, a loved one or their car keys their attention seems to gravitate towards what is wrong or absent in their life. Think about it – regardless of what you have lost, and I'm not being insensitive if you have lost someone dear to you, what do you still have?
Whether it's health, friends, family, talent or some other thing to feel gratitude for, I am positive you have more left than you have lost.
Why do so many people focus on what is missing? Is it taking so much in life for granted or just pure arrogance or pride? Or is it something else?
Let me ask you a question – the last time you lost something in your life was your immediate reaction one of gratitude for what you still have or did you concentrate on your loss? Yes you need to grieve and feel the pain of loss whether a job or some aspect of your health but I would ask you to consider – how many blessings do you still have?
If you are not growing you are falling behind. Whether it's some area of your career, your relationship skills or just general wisdom and life experience, it is critical that you keep learning. I'm not suggesting you spend hours at your computer searching for more information than you will ever need but the simple trait of having a "life learning mindset" where you are always open to new ideas, skills, approaches or attitudes.
One of the common traits that many people develop as their years pass is one of uselessness, they no longer feel valuable or relevant. When this attitude prevails in your life you will tend to see yourself as a victim and spend a great deal of time in self-pity or low self-esteem neither of which will add value to the adventure of your life.
What is your life-long learning approach? Do you read on a regular basis? Do you meet new people and share and learn new insights? Do you reach out to develop new skills or talents? It's simple folks – grow or start dying and life doesn't care how old you are. I know people in their eighties who are great students in life and I know a number of people in their twenties that think they know it all. And you approach is. . .
Service to others -
Life is about giving not getting. Ever watched the smile on another's face when you did something for them or gave them a special gift? Joy was experienced by you as well but the interesting thing is that your joy is greater than theirs no matter the gift or act of service. Why is this? Why do we get more pleasure out of giving than getting? Simple – giving that has value says you care, you are thoughtful, you are compassionate and you are unselfish. Service to others can be simply holding a door open for someone or spending months or years as a missionary but the result is always the same – you get more than they do and trust me they get a lot.
Surrender is simply about letting go – of self-absorption, control, ego needs or for more common themes like power, influence or even wealth. A great book by Ortberg is "It's All Going Back in the Box." Read it. Surrender is not giving up or giving in it's just letting go of your need to know what is coming next or to try and influence what is next and not getting discouraged or mired in self-pity when things don't go as you planned, wanted or expected. Life happens. People who refuse to give up control of things that they can't control live with a great deal of pain, stress, guilt and even remorse. All you have is one moment at a time. The previous minute is gone and you may not get the next one so relax and just be – now and not stuck in the past with all of its failures, disappointments, mistakes and even positive memories.
Hope is all we have sometimes. When life seems at its worst and you think things can't get worse and they suddenly do – BAM – where did this one come from? Hope is a spiritual mindset that focuses on the positives. Now this doesn't mean that all you hope for will materialize but at least you are not letting despair or anxiety rule your present moments and you have decided to hope for the best. Planning for the worst while hoping for the best is a wonderful life approach.
Nothing is ever accomplished without effort, nothing. There are lots of ways to define effort. There is physical effort and emotional or mental effort. It doesn't matter which form it takes life requires that if you want better outcomes or positive results you have to act, but yes acting in a mature, responsible and timely manner will help the outcome a great deal. Know anyone who wants something better but just sits there waiting for it to happen? There is no guarantee that your effort will produce the results or outcomes you want but you have a better chance of achieving them if you act rather than just sit idly by waiting because you deserve it.
The world owes you nothing and that includes; you're parents, the government, your spouse and anyone else who crosses your path. What you achieve or fail to achieve is in your hands. As long as you choose to point your finger at anyone else you will always feel disappointed and often like a victim. Responsibility is more than a choice it is a responsibility, I know – doesn't make sense but think about it. Whatever you achieve, whatever your circumstances and whatever your outcomes you will sooner or later have to bring them all back to the source – you.
The opposite of humility is pride. We all have degrees of pride and this is normal and natural but the problem begins when you lose your humility because of your pride. Humility is the quality of being modest and respectful – the opposite is arrogance. People who are humble have nothing to prove and don't require your approval or acceptance of them. They are who they are and they don't spend their life trying to impress others but here's the interesting thing – most of the great leaders of the past were driven by humility. Can you think of any?
"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children…to leave the world a better place…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
In His Service, Tim