4 Highly Astute and Pragmatic Life Rules I’ll Never Stop Following
Evolution has wired humans to follow rules — without them, the sheer number of choices will overwhelm your brain.
They have revolutionized my mental health, decision-making, and success.
“Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard.”
As much as might hate society, it’s the societal rules framework that is protecting us from anarchy and chaos.
Even “breaking a rule” leads to another rule. As Pablo said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
No rule is perfect, but good (customized) ones can provide a solid backbone for your life—which is leagues better than the alternative of uncertain chaos.
I want to share 4 such rules—ones that have kept me thriving through life’s storms.
The Stoic Dichotomy of Control
Ever since I discovered Stoicism, this thought has been on 24/7 repeat in my mind — every time I’m strangled by anxiety or stuck in a thinking rut, it bails me out.
“Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our actions.
The idea is to focus on what you can control and forget whatever you can’t.
If a loved one dies, you can’t reverse the dials of time. Lamenting the loss of your job won’t put food on the table. Letting the regret of a blunder consume your innards won’t do jack.
Instead, channel the pain of loss into building something magnificent.
Learn from the blunder and don’t repeat it.
Most of the time, we know what needs to be done, but as the G.I Joe fallacy goes, that’s only half the battle — internalizing and acting on it is the harder half.
Win the second half by constantly reaffirming the dichotomy of control.
What to Assume in Any Ambiguous Situation
As a bullied teenager, I’d construe every faint snicker as mockery and lingering eye contact as some brewing conspiracy. If someone called my name? — I’d assume the most apocalyptical of events.
With crippling anxiety, bottled-up emotions, and overpowering pessimism, life turned into a drab, depressing desert.
Embracing positivity transformed my life. When something is ambiguous, I now assume the best.
Did a girl reject you? Maybe she’s having a bad day or got out of a messy breakup recently. Didn’t an editor you pitched respond? Their inboxes are probably flooded.
Those reasons may not and NEED not be true—as either way, they’re helpful.
Without your confidence or self-worth dented, you’ll approach another girl and give the editor a heads up.
Worst case, these scenarios repeat — but then you’ll know for certain what the reasons are. Then you can work on yourself or work on improving your articles.
In most cases, by assuming the best, things will actually turn out good — they call these self-fulfilling prophecies in psychology.
Leverage the Law of Causality
The law of causality governs our universe — every effect has a cause, and every cause has an effect.
The effect of one cause becomes the cause of another effect. The world then becomes a collection of causal chains — cascading causes and effects.
Karma is real. Everything you do has a chance of coming back to you — often manifold — by traversing and metamorphosing through the causal chains. So,
Never do what you wouldn’t want to be on the receiving side of.
If you don’t want to find your life savings stolen, don’t slash pockets. Don’t want your nudes broadcast to the internet? Keep the sexy snaps your ex-girlfriend sent private — or better delete them.
I’m no saint and unknowingly commit my fair share of wrongs — but knowingly? That’s the stuff of evil.
Don’t tempt karma — I’m still getting slapped in the face by it for a few deliberate mistakes I made as a mentally messed up teenager.
In Any Life Decision, Let This Person Have the Final Say
You’re born alone, will live most of your life alone, and die alone — even the closest of your family and friends are only visitors.
So, only you should have the last say in your decisions. Pay heed to the opinions and advice of your well-wishers and mentors, but let the final call be yours.
You might not always make the right decision, but the knowledge that it was your decision will let you live with even the worst of them.
But if you let someone else decide for you?
Even the slightest of negative outcomes will breed resentment towards the person.
Also, with our ego-centric biases, our minds try their best to make our own decisions right — it’s an identity and ego-level investment, after all.
Becoming a brick mason of your own accord feels better than slaving away in medical school just because your dad wanted you to.
Here’s a Bonus Rule
This is an incredibly powerful rule that I’m still working towards adhering 100% to.
Never lie in the capacity of any relationship. This differs from just “Never lie.”
If you’re a stealth millionaire and an acquaintance asks you how much you make, answering “Not much. Just over a thousand dollars” is okay.
But hiding your income during tax filing? Not okay.
Say your girlfriend asks you where you were last night and you answer, “I was home watching GOT”. If you were actually out with your friends, that’s an okay answer.
But if you were making out with a girl you met at a club?
Lying isn’t harmful as long as it doesn’t concern the person and your relationship with them.
If it does, you’re essentially stealing — robbing them of a truth that concerns them.
Even with all morality set aside, such a lie will require you to build a house of false cards — which, when it comes crashing down (which it inevitably will), it’ll be extremely ugly.
“ A lie is an act of self-abdication, because one surrenders one’s reality to the person to whom one lies, making that person one’s master, condemning oneself from then on to faking the sort of reality that person’s view requires to be faked.”
— Ayn Rand
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