I don’t really believe in top 10 lists (that’s why this list has 9).
They are entertaining, and make great lists of fails or lolcats. But if you are actually trying to grow or get inspired, it usually represents information overload – the exact opposite of what you should be doing if you’re trying to change, which is meditate on one single point. So I recommend you do just that with this list – find the one point you resonate strongest with, and just hone in on that.
They are also often very superficial. It sometimes feels like the author was at loss of how to fill Their 99 Most Fantastic Fish list, and started grabbing at straws. Or they didn’t have a good subject in the first place but had to pull something out of their hat to make their editor happy.
This list is neither of those.
It represents things that actual impacted me personally, ideas or practices that I can look back and say ‘these changed my life.’ I actually consolidated some ideas to keep the list shorter, and each item really deserves an article of its own. So I invite you peruse this list, find the one thing you connect with the most, and let it sink in.
Here are the principles and practices that have helped change my life.
1. We were created imperfect
I put this first because it was the most critical for me. I struggled with perfectionism for many years. In my studies with Rabbi David Aaron, I came to realize that life is all about process. That’s a total cliché, I know. So here’s the deeper idea behind it: you were created imperfect. And you can never become perfect. So stop trying. Life is about continuous improvement, perfection in process. Hishtalmoot.
2. Accept ambiguity & ambivalence
Very often, in many of life’s challenges, we truly don’t know what to do – we’re not sure how to feel, or what decision to make. That’s ok too. Accept it. I often need to remind myself when working with clients that I don’t need to have the answers, and neither do they. Accepting this ambiguous state is itself the goal. And a related idea accepting ambivalence: the uniquely human capacity to feel two contradictory emotions at the same time. Embrace the contradiction. Let yourself observe this amazing phenomena as it happens inside you.
3. Embrace pain
Pain is never pleasant.
But to grow, to become a better person and to create a better situation for ourselves, we must experience emotional pain. It’s how life works. The sooner you can embrace pain as a satisfying feeling that you choose to bring upon yourself because you are trying to grow, the easier growth will be. You can reach a state where you look forward to the pain because its one of the best indicators that you are becoming a better person.
4. We hate lack of choice…
This one was huge.
You know all that procrastination in your life that you’re trying to break? All those things you’re avoiding doing? All the things in your life that you hate the most? It’s because you feel compelled to do them. We are choosing beings, and the one thing we hate more than anything is to be forced to do something. Victor Frankl speaks strongly on the subject. So next time you find yourself avoiding something, notice if part of you feels compelled to do it – the feeling can ruin even the most enjoyable activities instantly.
5. …but there is nothing we can’t choose
The flip side of the previous principle is that we have a lot more choice than we realize.
Stephen Covey was the first to help me realize this in the 1st of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – proactivity. There is always a choice you can make in any situation, regardless of how bad it is – even just the choice to dream about a better future. And the truth is that we have a lot more choice than we realize, once we find the inner power to distance ourselves from other people’s suggestions, opinions, and wants. Your parents, your friends, society – even if your goals are exactly the same, if you do something because they want you to, you are stifling your own free will.
The previous points were ideas that have changed me. The following are actions and practices that have improved my life by deliberately pursuing them.