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A Practical Guide to Life

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Alyssa has studied psychology, philosophy, religion, and the arts. She loves sharing her thoughts, ideas, and papers with the world.


There is no official guide-book to life. When you walk across the stage in your cap and gown to shake hands with your principal, all you receive is a piece of paper, proving that you have successfully completed thirteen years of schooling. There is no brochure or pocket guide to help you navigate this newfound freedom; adulthood. There's this wonderful optimism and sense of freedom when you turn 18. Suddenly, you get to call the shots. Are you heading off to college? Are you taking a gap year? Are you going to backpack across Europe before the impending sense of responsibility kicks in? Will you find yourself on an airplane to California to try your luck at stardom? Are you immediately going to enter the work force?

As you get older, that sense of optimism fades, and cynicism slowly starts to trickle in. You make mistakes, hopefully learn from them, and make something of yourself. You realize that being an adult isn't as free as you once thought and the world is not always a happy and kind place. There are no participation trophies and no one celebrates you simply for being your unique self.

By the time you hit 30, you realize no one knows what's going on. Everyone is figuring it out as they go along and simply doing the best they can with what they have.

The world doesn't need more complicated rules, ridiculous concepts, or regurgitated procedures that promise results rivaling magical elements from a fairy tale. What we really need is a return to the simple things. No nonsense tools to improve life one day, one interaction at a time.

Life is what you make it and when you get right down to it, it's pretty simple:

  • Appreciate who you have in your life while you still have them.
  • Be grateful for the things you have.
  • Do the best you can each day.
  • Set goals for yourself.
  • Work hard.
  • Be kind.

Below I've outlined important areas that will I hope will help inspire you to create simple changes in your life.

1. You Don't Need To Make Your Bed Every Morning

The entire genre of self-help is bombarded with the same tip: make your bed everyday. Doing so only takes a few minutes, helps you feel accomplished, and creates a sense of order, setting you up to conquer the day ahead. All the successful people do it; so you should too! Besides, crawling into a freshly made bed each night just feels nice, right?

I have a confession: I don't make my bed, and I'm here to tell you that you don't need to make your bed either.


Well, to start, I get up every morning between 4:30 am and 5:10 am, depending on how daring I am. I'm not a morning person. Never have been, never will be. My first priority upon waking is to grab a cup of coffee; unless it's winter time, and then I go out and start the car. I see my husband off to work and then I get started on the day.

I have two hours of peace before my son gets up. This is my me-time - I savor my coffee, get my workout in, and make sure everything is in order for the day ahead. Additionally, my husband and I retire for the night at different times and it just doesn't make sense to waste time trying to have a picture perfect bed. I'd rather spend those minutes doing something that's truly important, like drinking coffee or doing yoga.

My bed being made up to a perfect state doesn't make me any more successful. It doesn't make me a better person, a better wife, a better mother, a better neighbor, a better friend, a better daughter-in-law, or a better anything. It also doesn't make me feel more accomplished. At the end of the day, I'm much more concerned with crawling into a cozy bed with clean blankets and pillowcases than whether the bed was made that morning or not.

You don't need to make your bed to feel or be successful. It bears no weight on the type of person you are or the quality of your life.

Unless your home is going to be featured in a home design magazine, no one but you and your spouse should be going into your room. If it's truly important to you, by all means make your bed, but at the end of the day, the state of your bed doesn't make you any more or less successful.

2. Learn Something New Each Day

Do you know what you'd be better off dedicating your time to than making your bed? Learning something new each day.

Our world is a fascinating place and we live in a digital age where information is right at our fingertips. Technology has advanced so far that we no longer even need to type, just ask Google or Alexa for whatever you need to know. Ignorance is truly no longer a viable excuse.

No matter your age, education is a great way to improve yourself and your life. Make a point to learn at least one new thing a day.

  • Hop on social media to browse through trending topics.
  • Sign up to have new word delivered to your inbox each day to improve your vocabulary.
  • Learn how to speak a new language.
  • Ask Google for a fun fact each day.
  • Get on YouTube or sign up for a class to learn a new skill.
  • Do an internet deep dive to learn more about something that interests you.
  • Visit your local library.
  • Take a tour through a museum in your area or go on a virtual tour of one further away.

Life is short. Be interested in things. Stay curious.

Live as if you were to die tomorrow.

Learn as if you were to live forever.

— Mahatma Gandhi

3. Do Nothing.

In our fast-paced society, we are always doing something. It's always go, go, go:

  • You have to be 'on.'
  • You have to be engaged.
  • You have to be accessible.

The message seems to be: the busier we are, the more successful we will be. If you aren't working directly on a project, you should be doing a hobby, working a side hustle, or honing the skills of a trade. Just take a look at your friends' highlight reels on social media. Everyone is out doing something, but busy doesn't equate to success, especially when you're just busy for busy sake.

There's something to be said about shutting off your phone and the rest of the world to take time doing nothing. Not only does it help you clear your mind and recharge your batteries, but it also helps put life in perspective.

Doing nothing can mean a lot of things. Here are some suggestions:

  • Go outside, lay in the grass, and watch the clouds.
  • Go for a walk in the park.
  • Head outside at night to stargaze.
  • Meditate
  • Do some yoga
  • Play a game with your kids.
  • Have a conversation with an old friend.
  • Spend some quality time with your spouse.
  • Visit your grandparents.
  • Curl up on the couch with a good book.
  • Relax and watch a movie.

Now obviously these are all activities where you are doing something, whether reconnecting with nature, connecting with yourself or the important people in your life, or just enjoying some relaxing down time. It's more about taking a step back, learning how to unplug, and remembering to spend time doing things you actually love with the people you love. Clear your mind, realign your focus, and prioritize the things in life that actually matter to you, instead of worrying about just staying busy.

I think the discipline comes with turning that cellphone or blackberry off and unplugging completely. You do that and you go through some withdrawals in the beginning. You start thinking, 'oh, do I need to do this? Do I need to do that?' You forget that we were doing just fine with the payphone.

— Matthew McConaughey

4. Gratitude, Attitude, and Mindset

Most people would say that they're pretty thankful. They remember to politely say thank you when receiving a compliment or gift. But gratitude shouldn't be restricted to the times in our life when we receive something, nor designated for a certain month or day.

Attitude and mindset are everything when it comes to being successful and happy. If you have a bad attitude, are always complaining or focusing on negative aspects or issues, then chances are you aren't going to have success or happiness. What you focus your energy and time on is what you get back in life. When you participate in office gossip, revel in news sites that seek to tear down the latest celebrity, or always complain about your finances, your partner, and your job you are doing yourself a great disservice. While it can be intoxicating and addictive, this type of behavior only makes you feel good in the short-term and doesn't solve the issue at heart.

Negativity begets negativity. If you are spending your time focusing on what's wrong, you'll only ever find problems and add more stress to your life. If you can shift your focus and replace complaints with doable solutions, you reclaim your control on your own life. Realizing you have the capability of fixing the issue helps you get through difficult circumstances and allows you to move on.

I'm not suggesting that you put on a pair of rose-tinted glasses and have a cheerful and rosy disposition all the time. Positivity for the sake of positivity isn't helpful or practical because it's not reality. Real life can be hard. It's messy, complicated at times, issues arise, and unexpected things happen. But having a proactive mindset, a good attitude, and a healthy sense of humor can help get you through these tough times. Remember, although you can't control everything, you can control your reaction and your actions moving forward.

Complaining about a problem without posing a solution is called whining.

— Theodore Roosevelt

5. Take Responsibility For Your Life

The world doesn't care about your feelings. It doesn't owe you anything and it certainly isn't going to hand you everything you want. You will not get an award for simply showing up and trying nor will you get special treatment for just being your unique self.

These are hard truths, and while there are many things in life that you don't control, taking responsibility for your actions and reactions is empowering. You are in charge of your life. If you aren't happy in your current circumstances, take action to change them. Don't like your job? Start looking for a new one. Go back to school and get the education needed for the job or position you want. Don't have enough money? Who does? Create a budget. Get honest with yourself and cut out needless expenses. Start looking for a job with better pay or head back to school to make that a possibility. Look into other ways you can make money. Tired of being overweight? Get serious about your nutrition and start exercising. Make small changes. Stop drinking soda and sugary drinks. Cut back on or eliminate alcohol. Do you get upset, envious, or offended when scrolling through social media? Go through your friends and follow list. Unfriend, mute, or unfollow accounts that make you feel bad about yourself. Invest your time and energy into people and accounts that inspire you or make you feel good. Better yet, stop worrying about what everyone else is doing all the time. Stop complaining and start doing. Accept responsibility for yourself and focus on achieving your goals. It's never too late to start improving your life.

Always remember that you are absolutely unique.

Just like everyone else.

— Margaret Mead

6. Manners Maketh Man

Just like your parents and grandparents used to say, mind your manners. Remember respect is earned, not given. You can't demand it. That's not how it works. It always starts with you. Say please, thank you, and excuse me. Hold the door for the people behind you. Open the door and step aside to allow people to enter ahead you. Be kind. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Never be rude and if someone is rude to you, respond with dignity and class. Listen attentively when people are speaking to you. Never interrupt in the middle of a conversation, don't speak over people, know what you're talking about, and be informed. Dress appropriately for every occasion and put your phone away during meal times. Always strive to leave people and places better than how you found them.

© 2019 Alyssa