First published on elephant journal
I believe the way to live a meaningful life is to always do the best I can—for myself, for others and for the world around me.
But I also know that all of us are always doing the best we can in any given moment.
It’s just that some days we are capable of doing better than others. And some days, the best we can do is nowhere near the best of our capability.
And so, while I share this advice on how to give a good life, it’s with that in mind. Let’s not use this as a stick to beat ourselves with. Let’s just do the best we can do today.
The instructions below are said to have been written on the wall in Mother Teresa’s room and are based on ‘The Paradoxical Commandments’, originally written by Kent Keith. But this is actually an adaptation to what Mother Teresa had—her wording was more closely associated with Keith’s.
However, the variations are minor and I just happen to prefer this version:
People are often unreasonable, irrational and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
Conceptually, these are simple instructions. But applying them to our daily actions can be challenging.
Is it not worth it to bear these in mind and make an effort to apply them? Because, if we manage to do this, we could all die content in the knowledge that we’ve contributed to a better world.