Depending on the decade when you graduated from high school or college, you may remember the spoken word poem Desiderata (Latin for “desired things”) that was written in 1927 but did not gain widespread popularity until the early 1970s.
Or the college graduation speech improbably delivered by a number of people ranging from Kurt Vonnegut to Darth Vader but I believe (and let me know if you have better information) was actually written by Mary Schmich in an article called “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young,” for the Chicago Tribune. You might know it as “Wear Sunscreen.” Both are intended as advice to help us live a good life. The self-help section of the book store overflows with advice on how to live a good life.
And yet, here you are, hoping I have some nuggets, a silver bullet, the secret solution for all of life’s problems.
In short, you want, The Answer. Because, when we know The Answer, everything in our lives will be good.
By good, we mean: There won’t be bills left when the paycheck runs out. Our parents will approve of our choices. We’ll get that coveted promotion. We’ll find that special someone and live happily ever after. Our children will get into that preschool, or the advanced placement program, or the Ivy-League school that we just know will pave the way for assured life-long success for them and let us boast of our parental prowess for years to come. We want our good health to hold up. We want our children to still love us when we’re old.
Sure, taking life one day at a time, being grateful for what we have, not sweating the small stuff, living in peace, taking care of our bodies, doing more than is expected, doing something that makes a difference – it’s all good advice.
There’s only one thing you need to know to live a good life. It’s not to follow to certain diet or believe in a particular religion. Flossing and sunscreen and calcium will only get you so far. Whether we reach the grave with a well-preserved body or arrive totally worn out, those who die with the most toys are still dead.
The one thing you need to know to live a good life?
Show up for life and be yourself every day
That’s all you need to know. That’s all you need to do.
It’s all any of us can do.
When we do that, we maintain respect for ourselves and show respect for those around us. Life doesn’t get any better.
Life Is Honest, Open and True: Self-help books are great for helping us think in new ways, making the journey through any kind of loss, or overcoming a disappointment. If they help you, read them. Friends who know us and have our best interests at heart are equally valuable in this regard. We all need advice. It’s our nature to want to do better, to be better. But never for a moment should we think our life isn’t good enough.
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