Life Has Three Rules: Paradox, Humor, and Change


Extreme Close up face shot of young woman with eyes closed.Girl doing mental exercise against bright background with light beam.

“If you worry about what might be, and wonder what might have been, you will ignore what is.” – Unknown

Mindfulness is the art of staying aware and paying close attention to the here and now with interest and curiosity.

Or, at least, that’s how I think about it at this stage of the game.

If you’re practicing mindfulness, three rules from Peaceful Warrior can help.  In Peaceful Warrior, Socrates shares three rules of life with Dan.

It goes like this …

Life has three rules: Paradox, Humor, and Change.

  1. Paradox: Life is a mystery; don’t waste your time trying to figure it out.
  2. Humor: Keep a sense of humor, especially about yourself. It is a strength beyond all measure
  3. Change: Know that nothing ever stays the same.

I’m a fan of simple sets of three, and I like this set.

I believe you can create more meaningful moments when you embrace the rules.  For example you can apply the rules to how you think and act in the moment, by shifting your mindset or your focus or your approach.

Here’s how I think about the three rules and put them into action …

Rule #1 – Paradox

We can waste our time trying to figure out some aspect of life when there’s nothing to figure out.  Or, we try to figure it all out up front, only to find out we got it all wrong, or that things change under our feet.  Or, we forget that, it will come to us when it needs to (“when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”).

Most importantly, we miss out on the journey … The journey of life.

Life is inconsistent.  Life changes under your feet.  Life doesn’t go as planned.  Things happen.  Don’t try to figure it all out up front.

Instead, embrace the journey as it unfolds both the mystery and the opportunity.

Rule #2 – Humor

Whether it’s work or whether it’s life, find a way to play with it.  You’ll be kinder and gentler to yourself, and, as a result, kinder to others.  It helps you build compassion, ease the stress, and acknowledge that in any situation, there’s a lighter side that, if you can find it, will help you keep things in perspective.

And, most importantly, enjoy the journey, a moment at a time.

Rule #3 – Change

Holding onto something is often what holds you back.  It’s the often the shift that makes the difference.  Whether that means look with a new lens, lean into the challenge, or learn to let go, you can make more from your moments when you embrace change.

Act in the Present

If the past and the future are illusions of the mind, the present is the moment to act in.  The past and the present only have power over you if you let them.  Here’s what Dan Millman says about taking action:

“Action always happens in the present, because it is an expression of the body, which can only exist in the here and now. But the mind is like a phantom that lives only in the past or future. It’s only power over you is to draw your attention out of the present.”

You Are This Moment

One thing to keep in mind is that you get to redefine your moments.  Here’s another famous take from Peaceful Warrior, where Socrates reminds Dan to make the most of his moments:

Where are you? …. HERE.
What time is it? … NOW.
What are you? … THIS MOMENT.

If you don’t get hung up by the mystery of life, develop your sense of humor, and embrace change, you can make more moments that matter and you can take your mindfulness to new levels.

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