One of the most challenging — and most helpful and fun — tasks that I’ve done as part of my Happiness Project is to write my Twelve Personal Commandments. These aren’t resolutions, like “Make my bed,” but the principles by which I try to live my life.
It took me several months to come up with this list, and it has been useful to have my bedrock goals identified clearly in my mind. To get you started to think about your own commandments, here are mine:
1. Be Gretchen
2. Let it go
3. Act the way I want to feel
4. Do it now
5. Be polite and be fair
6. Enjoy the process
7. Spend out (the most enigmatic of my commandments)
8. Identify the problem
9. Lighten up
10. Do what ought to be done
11. No calculation
12. There is only love
So how do you make up your own list?
Consider phrases that have stuck with you. When I look at my commandments, I realize that five of them are actually quotations from other people. My father reminds me to “Enjoy the process.” A respected boss told me to “be polite and be fair.” A good friend told me that she’d decided that “there is only love” in her heart for a difficult person. “No calculation” is a paraphrase of my spiritual master St. Therese (“When one loves, one does not calculate”), and “Act the way I want to feel” is a paraphrase of William James.
Aim high and fight the urge to be comprehensive. My commandments help me most when I review them at least daily, to keep them fresh in my mind. To be able to do this, it helps to keep the list short and snappy. I suspect that Twelve Commandments is too many. Maybe I need only two: “Be Gretchen” and “There is only love.”
Think about what’s true for you. Each person’s list will differ. One person’s commandment is to “say yes,” while another person’s commandment is to “say no.” You need to think about you, your values, your strengths and weaknesses, and your interests. I’ve written about commandments in the past, and it’s fascinating to read other people’s commandments. For instance:
Talk to strangers
Stay in touch
Make haste to be kind
Less is more
Have you identified some of your own personal commandments yet? Why not start working on your list today?