I was asked by parents to write something about life to their thirteen year old boy. It was hard to know what I should emphasize out of all the years of learning and reading. I decided to stick to the simple basics. It isn’t very profound, but here it is for what it is worth:
The most important thing to know about yourself is that your life is divided into in separate aspects. These include (1) our health and fitness, both mental and physical (2) our financial (3) our relationships, including our family and those we come in contact with (4) our work or career and (5) our spiritual life. Each aspect is important and it is only when we have wholesome balance in each of these areas that we can achieve any level of contentment. If any one aspect is allowed to be unbalanced we will be unhappy. Perhaps I should have listed the spiritual aspect of life first, because it is only when we have a healthy and balanced spiritual life that it is possible to have balance in the other areas. Some 1600 years ago, the great Augustine of Hippo wrote: "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you." An historical examination of the lives of people will demonstrate that trying to find contentment and happiness to the exclusion of a firm faith in God leads to pain and unhappiness no matter how wealthy we are, what our health is and whatever the other areas of our life are like. One of my favorite quotes is from an unknown author:
"The highest courage is to dare to be yourself in the face of adversity. Choosing right over wrong, ethics over convenience and truth over popularity. These are the choices that measure your life. Travel the path of integrity without looking back, for there is never wrong time to do the right thing."
All major religions teach the two fundamental truths: love of God and love of neighbor. That means the second most important part of our lives is our relationship to others. If our life does not include contributing to the good of others it will be lacking in an essential part of living a happy and successful life. In fact, some of history’s most outstanding achievers have been people who dedicated their lives to helping others. One of the classic books on the basics of getting along with people is Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People. It is this dual art of contributing to the well being of other people and getting along with other people that one must learn. The rest of living is in second place to these two fundamental rules for happiness.
All of this really depends upon our mental attitude because reality is not what is real, but rather what we see with our mind’s eye. What we tell our self about our experiences becomes our reality whatever the actual facts. So all of life is dependent upon our mental process, our attitude and what we say to ourselves in our minds. This life long process of self knowledge is not one of being self centered. It is one of taking the time to examine our attitudes and to try to shape them to see events in our lives in a positive way.
I’d also like to encourage you to have the courage to seize the moment when it arises. Opportunities in life are often like a moving train and if we don’t get aboard when we have the chance we may miss the train forever. Someone once wrote:
"In youth, because I could not be a singer, I did not even try to write a song;I set no little trees along the roadside, because I knew their growth would take so long,
But, now from the wisdom that the years have brought me, I know that it may be a blessed thing to plant a tree for someone else to water, or make a song for someone else to sing"
Theodore Roosevelt said this best. He was the twenty sixth president of the United States and in Paris in 1910 he gave a famous speech which contained these words:
"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat."
Shakespeare wrote "Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt." Courage to attempt the difficult, to try the unknown and to do what is right when it is challenging is a attitude of mind we should all work to achieve.