7 Rules for a Life Worth Living

Are you writing the story of your life, or are you letting other people and circumstances write it for you? You might not consider yourself a follower, but here are a few signs you aren’t in control:

You don’t like your job – Maybe you picked something because it was easier or safer than your ideal career. Worse, maybe you’re just doing what your family pressured you to do.

You’re living paycheck to paycheck – The problem usually isn’t money, but your priorities. It isn’t hard for the stuff you own to turn around and own you.

You feel obligated to do things you don’t want to do. Your first duty is to yourself. You can’t save the world while you’re miserable.

Leading your life isn’t easy. It means freeing yourself from many different assumptions. That freedom can be initially terrifying and painful, which is why so few people do it. It is far easier to just follow the assumptions of society, even if it leaves you unfulfilled.

Here are 7 rules that can help you start building a life worth living:

Rule One: Never let another person dictate the terms for living your life.

Not your parents. Not your spouse. Not your kids. Leading your life means you can accept the input of other people, but the final decision is yours. This means that career choice, relationships, beliefs and way of life are to be judged by you, not anyone else.

This rule holds especially when you have doubts. Don’t let your moment of doubt become a weakness to be exploited by others. Not sure what you want to do with your life? Don’t sit passively and let other people decide for you.

Rule Two: Don’t allow yourself to be chained by consumerism.

The world is filled with stuff. Don’t let stuff get in the way of what is important. When you become chained to your stuff, you are no longer leading your life. Ask yourself: if you had to give up 90{54c12dad2cc2b53ae830e39915b1a3e70288dbcbbeb8bbf8395437c5dc3c512c} of your net worth tomorrow to pursue your dream, could you do it effortlessly? If you hesitated, perhaps your ability to lead your own life has been weakened by your attachment to stuff.

Rule Three: Rule money. Don’t let money rule you.

Money is a resource that can be applied when leading your life. You can use it to reduce discomforts, focus on meaningful work and apply it to help you learn and improve. But if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, the money is in control.

Here are some goals to put yourself in a position to rule the money in your life:

  • Maintain one year of emergency funds in the bank.
  • Your lifestyle should expand at a slower rate than your income grows.
  • Be able to drastically reduce your expenditures if needed.

Financial freedom doesn’t mean the ability to buy everything you could desire or live in luxury. It means that money becomes a tool and not a distraction in leading your life.

Rule Four: You come first in relationships.

Do you know people that can’t stand being single? They get out of one bad relationship only to jump into the next.

Why? Because they put too much of their needs dependent on that other person. Without emotional and possibly financial support, they can’t survive.

In any relationship you need to be the person that comes first. That means that while you might enjoy the relationship, it doesn’t become the major purpose in your life.

Your purpose and leading your life must come before any relationship you enter. The surprising fact is that when you do this, you are able to have healthier personal and intimate relationships because there is no need for jealousy or possession.

Rule Five: Never outsource your thinking.

“You can split up food between men, but each man must digest it individually.” – Howard Roark in The Fountainhead.

Leading your own life means leading your own beliefs. It means never accepting anything unless you can filter it through your reasoning and find it to be true. Think critically about everything in life. Chances are there are a lot of indigested thoughts floating around trying to bypass your mind and go straight to your gut.

Rule Six: Anything you lack can be trained.

Never accept a fatalistic view of life. So you’ve been told you lack the intelligence, willpower, strength or charisma to do something? Ignore them. So you’ve told yourself that you lack the talent? Ignore yourself.

Begin with the assumption that anything can be trained and you’ll find few exceptions. I used to be a shy, introverted kid. Recently some friends described me as an extreme extrovert, being unafraid to meet new people and having honed my abilities to speak in front of crowds. Begin with the belief that you have no idea where your talents are until you train them.

Rule Seven: Purpose comes from your creative faculties.

Want to know what your purpose in life is? Simple. Hold your hands in front of you. Now look at them. There is your purpose and means to do it.

Purpose is your ability to take the creative energies you have and communicating them with the world. You and I might pick different mediums, but the act of purpose is exactly the same. You could be a manager crafting the art of dealing with people, a programmer crafting the knowledge of algorithms or an entrepreneur crafting the art of a business.

Don’t worry if you haven’t found the right medium. Once you feel that great purpose for your life and it comes from within, that is your greatest asset. With that belief you are the leader of your own life.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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