I don't believe there is a meaning to life. I don't believe life has any assignments. I don't believe we have to earn anything.

Instead, I believe life is to be enjoyed. This moment is to be enjoyed. And the next moment as well. And enjoying life shouldn't be difficult.

Three words sum up my principles: joy, grace, and ease.

When I encounter problems, my mind goes back to those three words. Sometimes silently affirming "joy, grace, and ease" is all it takes to guide me out of minor aggravations, such as when I'm troubleshooting minor tech issues on a device.

For larger problems and unexpected situations, however, affirmations may not be enough. I may be paralyzed by indecision. Anger or sadness may grip me – the opposite of the joy I want to feel.

In those moments, I find it helpful to ask myself three questions

  1. Am I surviving, or thriving? I call this The Survivor Question.
  2. Do I need to worry about this? For reasons I'll explain, this is called The Birthday Question.
  3. What timeline am I creating? This is the Timeline Question.

The survivor question

I am my own nastiest critic. I say things to myself that are too cruel to say to others. Whether it's dwelling on past mistakes or worrying about the future, these depressing thoughts boil down to two words: I can't.

"I can't" is the call to retreat. It is to concede defeat before ever playing the game. "I can't" means "I'll play it safe."

When you're safe, you survive. You may be stuck in unhealthy routines and bad habits. But they haven't killed you yet. And you feel safe by thinking and doing what's familiar to you. The price of surviving, however, is feeling miserable.

To ask, "Am I surviving, or thriving" is to ask, "Am I the person I want to be?" That is, am I as happy as I want to be?

The Survivor Question helps me make decisions that a happy person would make. Decisions in accordance with joy.

The birthday question

Imagine a birthday party for an 8-year-old child. All of her friends are present, but so are adult friends of her parents. You're one of them.

Would you say to the child, "Why are we celebrating when there's war in Ukraine? When climate change is destroying the planet? When democracy is in peril in America?"

Would you say, "Hey kid, that birthday cake will make you fat. And these gifts and toys are junk. Don't be brainwashed by the selfish, Earth-destroying consumerist culture!"

I doubt that you would say anything like that. It's not a child's job to be anxious about the world's problems. You're probably a kind enough person that you wouldn't ruin a child's birthday with tactless outbursts.

Perhaps you can extend that same graciousness to yourself.

Over the years, I've paid less and less attention to the news. Most of it serves to only make me angry or sad. Very little of it directly affects my daily routines and responsibilities.

If I wouldn't ruin a child's birthday party with bad news, why should I ruin my own day?

When I do encounter a news item that might trigger strong emotions, I think of The Birthday Question in order to give myself some grace. Do I need to worry about this? Do I need to debate others about it? Why deal with the aggravation?

If I refuse to worry about things I can't control, I reduce the number of negative thoughts that enter my life. I should be as kind to myself as I would be kind to a child.

The timeline question

I am the conscious creator of my reality. Nearly every moment, I make decisions that change the course of my life.

For instance, I often read or hear things and a sarcastic, crass, or insulting response crosses my mind. This leads to a decision point: I can choose to be obnoxious and hurtful, or choose to keep silent.

If I choose to offend other people, then I've created a world in which I must deal with the consequences of my own behavior. If I choose silence, I've chosen a more peaceful world, a world where I have fewer problems in dealing with others. A world of greater ease.

But it's not just in relationships where I can choose ease. Tackling problems when they're small creates a sense of satisfaction with fewer things to worry about.

The Timeline Question encourages action that prevents or solves problems. It also encourages positive steps: shall I work out or sit and stare at my phone? I think I'll choose the timeline where I become healthier. This circles back to the Survivor Question: to choose to be the person I want to be.

Perhaps the Survivor, Birthday, and Timeline questions will be as helpful to you as they have been to me. In any case, may your life be one of joy, grace, and ease.