Today — December 26th, 2013 — is my thirty-third birthday.
Everyone always assumes having a birthday right after Christmas is no good because you get short-changed on presents, but I’ve always loved it — having Christmas, my birthday, and New Year’s (still my favorite holiday) all in one week is pretty sweet. And writing this post is the closest I’ve ever come to working on my birthday, another plus.
I like what Leo did for his birthday post a few years ago, so here’s my version. This list of “rules,” of course, leaves out many obvious ones like “be a faithful husband,” “tell the truth,” etc. And I’m by no means perfect with the ones I’ve included here, but I’m happiest when I am doing well with them.
I hope you find one or two that might be worth adopting in your own life.
33 Rules that Set Me Free
1. “Dream no small dreams, for they have no power to move the hearts of men” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe). In other words, set big, “unreasonable” goals and let them guide you.
2. Never leave the site of a decision without taking an action.
3. Read every day. Aim for a book a week.
4. When you want to make a change, put reminders (post-it notes, calendar alerts, etc.) everywhere. So many habits fail simply because you forget to do them.
5. Read to your kids every single night before bed.
6. Say “no” often. Saying yes is easy, but effective people are great at saying no to anything that’s not a perfect fit for their vision.
7. Don’t fill the space you have with clutter. Resist the natural tendency to accumulate things until they overflow the space you have for them.
8. One cup of coffee at most each day. After that, drink green tea if you still want a little caffeine.
9. Don’t have a beer or glass of wine until you’ve accomplished everything you want to each day. Even one drink has a way of killing your motivation and willpower.
10. Aim for thirty-three (hey, good number!) items of clothes per season.
11. Make your bed each day. According to Gretchen Rubin, it’s linked to happiness.
12. Don’t put off little disciplines (like the above) until the magical day in the future when you have all the time and money you could want: if you ever reach that point, you’ll just do more of whatever it is you do now. So if you’re messy, you’ll be messier. If you don’t donate money now, you don’t donate money then. Etc.
13. Never post a blog post “just to post something.” Publish when you have something worth publishing. Unless it’s your birthday!
14. Take responsibility for what’s in your life.
15. Don’t make excuses for anything. Especially, never ruin an apology with an excuse.
16. Before you eat something unhealthy, eat a huge salad.
17. Meditate every day, even if just for five minutes, and even if meditate means “just sit without doing anything, deliberately.”
18. Sit down to a real dinner with your family every night.
19. Plan your work day (the one to three most important items) before it starts — either that morning or, better, the night before.
20. Train for and run at least one marathon or ultra every year. This seems like a good minimal acceptable amount of movement and exercise to ensure that no matter what else is going on, you won’t let yourself get out of shape for long.
21. Spend the last five minutes (at least!) of every run thinking of all the things you have to be grateful for.
22. Find the half a dozen things that really matter to the work you do or the goal you’ve set out to achieve, and do them for as much of your work time as possible. Ruthlessly delegate, outsource, or eliminate everything else.
23. Get at least one 90-minute block (divided in two 45-minute segments separated by a five-minute break) of the above done before you check email each morning.
24. Don’t take yourself too seriously, but …
25. Don’t do the self-deprecating humor bit. It doesn’t take any skill, gets only cheap laughs, and worst of all, negatively affects you on some level.
26. Make decisions quickly. Be a satisficer, not an optimizer.
27. Drink a smoothie and a eat a salad every single day.
28. Separate work time from family time — you’re horrible at both when you try to do them simultaneously.
29. Listen to something educational or inspirational with any of your passive time (running, commuting, washing dishes) — except when you’ve deliberately set aside that time for mindfulness.
30. Get at least 90 percent of your calories from whole, vegan foods. The rest (for me) are still vegan, but not always whole.
31. As often as is reasonable, choose the path of inconvenience — I’ve found that once you get used to it, it’ll make you happier than the alternative (here I’m thinking of diet, the choice not to have cable TV, a microwave, a smartphone …). Being comfortable with discomfort is one of the most valuable skills I’ve learned in the past few years.
32. Remind yourself often how short life is, and how quickly it can disappear. But only as long as this motivates you — too much of it can do the opposite.
33. Make a leap of faith, burn the boats, go all-in. It almost never doesn’t work out, and the few times when it doesn’t, the consequences are never as bad as they seemed when you worried about them.
Oh, and lest you think I’m a grown-up because of all this, know that now I’m headed to a bar that’s also an arcade, for some local Asheville beer and Street Fighter II Champion Edition. I honestly don’t know how any self-respecting 33 year-old would choose not to do that for his birthday.
‘Wake Up’ is Almost Ready!
Finally, a reminder that I’ll have my new e-book, Wake Up: 31 Days and Actions to Take Charge of Your Life, available before the end of the year! I’m really excited about it, and I’ve got a great interview scheduled along with another amazing bonus for anyone who gets it in the first week of the year. If you’d like to find out more, you can sign up here to get details as they’re available.
Enjoy the next few days! They’re my favorites of the year for planning, goal-setting, and daring to dream big.