I was out on a run at the beginning of the year and as I ran in the cold morning, I followed my wandering mind. I was contemplating the idea of resolutions, and dreams but not the tangible sort like a silver Mercedez SLK230 hard top convertible kompressor.
I was thinking about the lifelong ideological pursuits that inspire you, and me and each of us as we move forward. I had so many questions related to finding a worthwhile pursuit. As I pondered away, I finished my morning run. Although I left that moment in time behind I went back to the thought repeatedly.
In running, we use mantras to get through high mileage days. Mine is not particularly deep, but it works when I hit the proverbial wall. When I’m beyond tired, I can’t feel my legs, the weight of a full water bottle feels almost unbearable, and I can hold only one thought in your mind this mantra is my go to thought: “Just put one foot in front of the other.” When I want to stop, often this is a sufficient command to get me through the run.
A good parallel to a running mantra is a North Star, a guiding star that can help us navigate through our life journey. Did you know that not one star remains the North Star?
Comparing a mantra to a North Star gave me clarity about finding the life truth that we must each pursue. When I think of a guiding star I think of a maxim which is defined as ‘A short, pithy statement expressing a general truth or rule of conduct.’ These may be moral guidelines such as the Ten Commandments but they don’t have to be.
Inspirational quotes have always been around, and more recently the rich-type, one-sentence graphics with hopeful sayings inundate the online social media channels. Some of these could be North Star material. Others, fall on the shallow end.
Some examples that I have liked but haven’t adopted include the following constructs:
- If not now, when?
- If it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you
- You live and learn
To make sense of the world and because I have a personality type that is practical, I have applied then the same rules to finding a worthwhile maxim that I did to finding a running mantra. These are three keys to optimize your maxim for best results:
- First: Be sure that it sounds like your voice. Surely it must be aspirational but not so far removed that it does not ring true to you. If you’re optimistic, the radiance of your personality must be transposed into this Maxim such as; “Be in Love with your life. Every Minute of it.” If you’re more shall we say realistic then something such like this may work better: “You must do the thing you think you cannot do”
- They say man is the only animal to trip on the same rock twice – It has been my experience that I have tripped on the same type of obstacle time after time until I have learned to recognize it. The second rule in picking a maxim is to consider when you will need to come back to it the most. All of us have weaknesses and they can be intrinsic for example we may be egotistical, prideful, or lazy. For someone with such weaknesses a maxim that is a soft reminder may work well such as, “Pride comes before the fall. Stay humble.” At times our weaknesses are triggered by outside forces. We may be afraid of being in that in between period. We may be afraid of success, or afraid of failure, or just insecure. In such instances something like this may work, “Stop thinking about what could go wrong and start thinking about what could go right”
- Lastly, be sure that it includes a forward motion, so that the maxim is not a fact reflective of circumstance like the following: “If it’s good, it’s wonderful, if it’s bad, its experience. No regrets.” A more empowering maxim could be, “If you want something you’ve never had, then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.” Although it could be good to have to Philosophical Life truths as I call them like, “No rain. No rainbow.”These don’t help generate inertia to propel you forward.
The maxims of our lives are all around us and they are in reality very simple. In fact, most of the keys to happiness and success are simple, but they take a lifetime of mastery. In order for them to make a difference in us, these maxims aren’t just saying that sound good, but they are truths that resonate with our very being. I now know what criteria to use to pick one and will be on the search for it. Will you?
The Maxims of our Lives. Declare your north star – the time is now.