12 Rules For Life is a book I read last fall after hearing it recommended several times. It became one of those rare books that I’ve gone back to repeatedly for answers whenever a question sticks out in my mind.
The quote above is from the introduction of the book and has stuck with me since I first read it. It explains the deep-rooted desire we’ve each felt for most of our lives: the longing to be genuine and live a life of meaning.
A part that resonates with me is “the heroism of genuine being.” It makes sense why we connect with story protagonists and superheroes. They’re people with strengths and weaknesses that ultimately do good. That’s the dream, to be who you are, weaknesses and all, and be a force of good in the world rather than a contributor to what’s wrong. Genuine being sums up that idea well.
“Being,” as described in the book, refers to your individual experience and who you are (which tend to go hand in hand), as well as the experiences you share with others. It’s the actions you take, the connections you make, your perceptions, your aspirations, your emotions, and your thoughts. It’s your inner world and how it causes you to interact with the world around you.
From that understanding, it’s easy to see how one could operate from a non-genuine state of being. Take autopilot, for example. Time’s passing and you’re doing what needs to be done, but you’re unconscious through most of it. Self-sabotage is another example. It’s neglecting continued opportunities to improve your life. Someone who is deliberately keeping themselves stuck certainly isn’t looking out for the good of those around them (with the right intentions).
One of the key points 12 Rules for Life Makes is that proper being is a responsibility. If you have a pulse, it’s your duty to wake up every day and function. Hopefully, you’re doing more than just functioning. You’re growing. You’re contributing. You’re alive and usually quite glad for that fact. While being is your responsibility, enjoying it is certainly an option and a good one at that.
There are plenty of factors that play into genuine being that can seem complicated and difficult at times. Personal experience and talking with others have helped me find meaning in seven ways that have given me clarity and direction. I hope they do the same for you.
“Understand” is an underrated word. Its definition is to “grasp the meaning of” (Merriam-Webster). If meaning is what we’re looking for, it’s right there in the definition of understanding. It may not be a bad place to start.
Understanding provides much-needed security. If you understand a topic, you’re secure in your knowledge of it. If you understand a person, you’re secure in your connection with them. If you understand yourself, you’re secure in your behaviors because you know what works and what needs to change.
There will always be things you don’t understand. These can undermine the security of what you do understand if you let them, but there’s a better perspective to have. Many of the things you don’t yet understand you could if you chose to. They are opportunities to expand yourself. What you choose to understand is up to you. It’s important to choose wisely because your understanding becomes a part of you.
If you lack understanding relationally, learn about people. Understand that people are individuals with unique stories and perspectives who share many internal experiences. Start to actually pay attention to them. Talk to them with genuine interest. Find common ground. Find differences. Establish connections with the right ones.
If you lack understanding internally (as we all do), slow down and pay attention. Catch yourself in knee-jerk reactions. Notice your thought patterns, your strengths, and your weaknesses. Appreciate what lights you up inside. Do those things more. Appreciate the people who understand you. You owe it to them to understand yourself too.
Subjective thinkers are a dime a dozen. Understanding derived from truth is far more beneficial to yourself and the people you interact with. There’s an objective truth behind most things. Find it and share it.
What snaps you out of intense emotion or panic? Noticing the feeling. That may sound too simplistic, but it works.
When you become aware of what emotion you’re experiencing, you begin to see it objectively. An internal earthquake can be identified as anger or an internal flood as weariness. You still experience it, but you see it for what it is now. And it will pass.
Emotion isn’t the only thing awareness helps. It keeps you from drifting through existence and lands you in the clarity of each moment. From there, a feeling can be let go or a decision properly made. You clearly see your ability to choose and make good use of it.
When you make conscious decisions, you become responsive rather than reactive. Your response is the one thing you truly have control over. Nothing can phase you unless you let it, and if you’re aware of that fact, you can make a choice. That alone has the power to lessen the conflict you experience tremendously.
Awareness and understanding go hand in hand. What could you learn if you paid attention? What good could you appreciate? What could you improve? Noticing what’s in front of you and acting accordingly will set you in the right direction.
Connection is the most crucial part of being for most of us, myself included. The first thing that comes to mind is connecting with other people. While that’s necessary, there are plenty of other means of genuine connection.
You can connect with forms of creativity and expression, like music, literature, or someone’s skill or trade. Connection can also be found logically, with concepts that click into place like pieces of a puzzle you didn’t know were missing. You can connect with nature and all that’s in it, or the Maker of it all. That may be the best form of connection there is.
Connection with people becomes effortless when you’re connected to life itself. If you want people to like you, start looking beyond other people for connection. Understand that there is plenty in life to relate to, much of which is ingrained in who you are. Finding those things is exciting. You’ll gain passion and independence, both of which are traits that the right people are drawn to. More importantly, you’ll become more genuine and aligned in the process, which leads to great things down the road.
Ah, yes. The word we all know and love.
I asked one of my closest friends recently what he would change about his life story if he could and he said “learn how to be patient earlier.” Knowing him, this was both an honest answer for himself and a word of advice for me. In all the frustrations I’d shared with him, and the ones I hadn’t, patience was the answer.
I am not thrilled at that fact. It’s like the idea that the world we live in, when looked at objectively, is really quite simple. That statement can be comforting or infuriating given the context of your situation.
Patience being the answer to most of my problems is frustratingly simple. I’m a goal-driven person, which is great until what I want can’t be achieved. And some things just require waiting on them to unfold.
Waiting can be done well. I’ve seen people take transitionary times in their life and do something wonderful with them even if it’s not where they want to end up. For instance, my best friend from high school is spending the summer far from home working at a children’s summer camp. She’s gained independence and some great memories along the way, and I’m very proud of her for it. Her aim is to eventually be an elementary teacher, and she’s filling the time it takes to get there with experiences that align with that objective.
If you have an idea of where you want to end up, you can do things now to prepare yourself for that. Better yet, you can spend the time being doing what you won’t be able to do down the road. If you want a puppy, go on trips now while you don’t have a dog to look after. If you want to move away from home, spend quality time with the people you love at home while you look for the right place. If you want a better job, make sure you’re giving your current one your all. You never know who might notice.
Good things take time, so fill that time to the best of your ability.
Thank you for reading this post. I’m beginning this blog to discuss topics similar to this one that provides understanding and application.
My name is Olivia Engleman. I’m 18 years old and work full-time as an International Dealer Support Rep at a local company that manufactures and sells In-Ear Monitors to major stage artists, audio producers, and hi-fi music listeners. I began working there part-time while I was still in school, gaining real-world experience before I graduated. I’m blessed to enjoy what I do and the people I work with.
I have a good amount of hobbies outside of work (archery, music, drawing, and horseback riding to name a few). I am a jack of many trades, master of none (yet), but quite happy being well-rounded enough to take on whatever I set my mind to.
Blogging is a hobby I initially picked up a few years back. It checked all the boxes: there’s good competition, plenty to learn, and creativity and effort are needed for success. My interest returned recently after an unexpected connection I made with a coworker over our shared interest in Jordan Peterson and his lessons. Conversations of that caliber light me up inside. Talking with people about topics that test our understanding is one of the happiest places on earth for me.
The aim with this blog is to create opportunities for just that: conversations that expand everyone involved. Sharing ideas challenges and refines them, and the people who have them. From solid ideas comes improved action. Not to mention the connections you form from such conversations are some of the most meaningful kind.
I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog. Until next time. 🙂