We live in crazy times. No matter how you analyze it, the events happening around us are often unprecedented and challenging. The gamut of craziness runs from politics and investigations to egregious behavior and accusations to social media, uncivil media, and so much more.
I’m not discounting the tremendous opportunities that exist these days. However, I am, for purposes of the year ahead, thinking specifically about this question:
How do you live well in crazy times?
What can anyone do? The short answer? Pursue sanity. While is sounds like a good idea, just how do you do that?
- Don’t add to the craziness. Be civil with those you disagree with. Balance your heart with your head so emotionalism doesn’t drive out reason. Take responsibility for your life and quit blaming others.
- Separate fact from opinion. Don’t get excited about things that either aren’t true or are so wildly exaggerated as to get attention. Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts.”
- Act with integrity even if others don’t. Reacting without thinking and lashing out in anger are both shortcuts to an ulcer. Just because others are behaving badly doesn’t mean that you are justified to do so, too.
- Slow down. The longer I live the more convinced I am that you accomplish more of importance by slowing down. There are times when speed is necessary, but too often speed only seems necessary because we are chasing rabbits instead of tracking the big game in life.
- Eat slower. A friend’s father-in-law was a doctor and when asked the most important thing someone could do to improve their health, the doctor’s response was “chew more.” Not only have I tried to chew more, but in doing so it slows how quickly we tend to gobble down our food.
- Get enough sleep. The research is clear: lack of sufficient sleep is a major influence on poor health. When I was young I prided myself on burning the candle at both ends. Now, I sleep enough to keep the flame of my candle going.
- Read for education and entertainment. I love novels that aren’t just engaging but teach something at the same time. (Michael Connelly’s crime novels are a great example of engaging plots and insights into police procedure.) But don’t read exclusively for pleasure. Read enough about current events to have an informed opinion and world view.
- Limit your news intake. News tends to repeat itself, both on TV and in print. You can be saturated with much of the same news each day, which adds to your frustration. Be informed but don’t be inundated by news.
- Exercise. (Yawn.) Sorry, but despite how much we talk about it, few of us do it enough or do it correctly. I am amazed at some of the bad practices I see at my gym. Doing weight lifting wrong is a quick way in injury and will produce little if any positive results. And don’t forget to get your heart rate up enough to improve your cardio. (In my book, The Potential Principle, I explain the F.I.T. Technique as a way to get better at anything. You simply increase frequency, intensity and/or improve technique.)
- Have deeper conversations with friends. Go beyond “what are you doing?” to “what are you thinking?” Staying superficial is easy but it is the junk food of thought. You’ll learn more when you learn what others think and feel and why.
- Take a trip. The best way I know to enlarge your perspective is to travel abroad. But if time and finances don’t allow, visit a new state or spend time in a museum near where you live. When we live within the familiar we forget about the diversity in the bigger world.
- Be civil. I’ve found I can’t make others be civil, but I can be civil and at best set a positive example and at least minimize the total incivility in the world.
- Be kind. I remind you of the advice of Philo Judaeus: “Be kind. Everyone is fighting a tough battle.” That is one of the most succinct and practical bits of advice I’ve ever read.
- Count your blessings every day. To be precise, at least three. No matter how bad things are, there are always things to be thankful for. The antidote to negativity isn’t necessarily positive thinking, but rather gratitude.
- Spend less than you make. My father Leslie taught me this and it is the best financial advice I’ve ever heard. It is the basis of all monetary success.
- Invest more in experiences and less in stuff. Stuff takes up space in your house, but experiences take up space in your memory, and that’s where you find the richest rewards.
- Live intentionally. Be specific about what you want to accomplish each day. Don’t sleep walk through the day. Find two or three meaningful things you can do each day, and pursue them as a priority.
- If you can’t take action to deal with something, then don’t worry about it. And if you can take action, then do it and stop worrying. Invest your energy in constructive effort, not soul draining worry.
- Tell people that you love that you do love them. My mother Dorothy recently passed at the age of 82. I always tried to end every conversation, phone call, or visiting by saying “I love you.” You’ll never regret telling someone you love them, especially when you no longer have the chance.
Sadly, the last words of pop icon and musician David Cassidy were, “Too much wasted time.” To live in a crazy world, we must make the most of each day not just “because of,” but often “in spite of.” There is much we can’t control, but so much that we can. Focus on the latter, and you’ll enjoy more sanity and a richer, fuller life.