Cardinal rules are the “fundamental rules upon which other matters hinge.” They are the core beliefs and concepts that make you who you are. They can be simple: be neat, be nice, don’t frown. They can be more demanding, complex: never go a day without paying someone a compliment, stay true to the things that keep you grounded.
Recently I had a long talk with someone older than me about the things they’ve learned in their life. She told me about her first day of college when, after her parents left and it was just her in her dorm room, she brainstormed her first list of cardinal rules. The combination of being in a new place and moving away from home for the first time had her worried. She didn’t want to lose the things that made her, well, her. So she stayed up and make a list of the ten rules that were most important to her. Rules that she was determined to follow.
She shared some of her most basic rules with me: “make peace with your past,” “move forward with purpose toward the things that matter: love, family, and friends,” and “give things time. It solves most everything.”
She inspired me to sit down and come up with my own list of rules. I’ve looked back at them pretty frequently over the past week. Writing down, physically getting down on paper, the things important to you is such a great exercise. It will remind you who are you and who you want to be.
Here are a few excerpts from my list:
Infect others with joy.
Don’t look back.
Smile. Even if you don’t want to, smile.
What other people think of you is none of your business. Let them think what they want.
Stop watching television. It’s not doing anything for you in the long run or bringing you closer to your goals.
Surround yourself with good people. Real people. Positive people.
Spend time with people while they’re still around.
I encourage everyone reading this to take a few minutes and write down your own cardinal rules. Each day, glance back at them. Try to be better.