the three foundational principles for perennial success (3/3)

[This three-part essay is an excerpt from my book, Elevation.]

Principle#3: Always Be Kind and Compassionate

We need to be able to detach ourselves from the rude remarks and the negative criticism that comes our way and not hold on to them. Irrespective of what’s going on outside, we should always be kind and compassionate inside. There is no point in letting other people’s emotions and their behaviors affect our inner calm and tranquility. 

To paraphrase Epictetus, it’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. The moment we start letting other people disturb our mental peace, we let them dictate our lives. We need to surrender, let go and embrace the flow of life. 

A great way to align back to the calmness inside us is to meditate daily. Life is short and we are wasting our precious time if we let the negativity around us affect our thoughts and emotions. Instead of resisting, all we must do is just accept the current situation and move on.

We need to work on improving our environment and what kind of people surround us, but we should always be detached by how other people perceive us and even if they show us lack of respect. As Don Miguel Ruiz writes in his book The Four Agreements, “Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.” Instead of reacting instantly, we should be kind and compassionate. We are doing this not for others but for ourselves… for our sanity and our mental well-being.

When we are kind and compassionate, we have better access to the happiness inside us. It’s important that we start with a blank slate every day and try to be the best that we can be and do the best that we can do. 

Even if other people are wrong, we can state our opinions in a respectful manner but we should never participate in arguments. We need to control ourselves in those heated moments because the truth is that arguments don’t lead to solutions and are futile in every respect. 

So, no matter how other people treat us, we should always treat them with kindness, compassion, and respect. We should respond rather than react, and change our focus when we observe negative emotions and thought patterns beginning to develop. When in doubt, we must choose wisely and ask ourselves one simple question:  “What will my bigger self do?”

The following words of Marcus Aurelius from Meditations can be a great reference point for us when we are faced with interpersonal challenges and conflicts:

“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own – not of the same blood and birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are obstructions.” 

. . .

The key to living a great life is self-mastery and when we practice these three foundational principles, we become more productive, happy, relaxed and peaceful. 

We must live by the golden words of Lao Tzu: “Mastering others is strength. Mastering oneself makes you fearless.” 

These principles are not only important for our personal success and well-being but also for the success and well-being of the people around us. The best way to bring a positive change and inspire others is to start changing ourselves. The ripple effect not only makes our lives better but also adds value to other people’s lives. We should always remember this as we go through the journey of our lives.