Recently I was asked if there was a formula for a successful life. I decided there wasn’t because a formula provides but one method, whereas there are as many ways of being successful as there are people seeking success. What we need are guidelines that are useful to everyone, regardless of gender, race, aim or social station.
What is a “successful life”? That definition is up to the individual, and depends on his age, abilities and circumstances, so a formula would have to be so vague it would be worthless.
I seldom use the word happiness in the context of success, as it is an ephemeral emotion, whereas contentment is a fairly constant, vague, background feeling that you’re in the right place, doing the right thing, with people you like to be with. It’s akin to cosiness and when it’s absent one has the desire to get it back.
I define a successful life as one in which the person feels more or less contented most of the time.
Fortunately, wise men and women over the centuries have provided us with a plethora of guidelines that, if followed, could lead to a contented life. Interestingly, despite the philosophers’ differences in time, place and culture, their ideas on how to life are similar.
Seven precepts have guided me to what I consider to have been a successful life.
- Be aware of your mental and physical limitations and abilities.
- Understand the difference between wants and needs, and after satisfying your needs, want only what is possible.
- Everything in moderation – nothing to excess.
- Treat others as you want to be treated.
- Keep healthy in both mind and body.
- The man who has one real friend in his life, is most fortunate.
- Waste not; want not.