Door Number Twenty: Clean Living

wall-e-and-cleaning-robot

“Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world.”
~George Benard Shaw

From an early age most of us are taught the importance of cleaning up ourselves. Whether it be the countless pleas to clean our rooms as children or the simple hygienic act of brushing one’s teeth cleanliness is a virtue emphasized by our society. Unfortunately, as we get older and find ourselves in a position where accountability falls solely on our shoulders, it is easy to allow many elements of our life to become messy and disorganized. However its important we don’t allow the dirt in our lives to devolve to a point where our surrounding begin to resemble the trash compactor on the Death Star. And if that imagery isnot convincing there are a many other benefits to maintain a clean life style.

A clean environment helps promote clarity of mind. When one’s external surroundings are messy and out-of-order it leads to a cluttered mind. Take any modern office place. They are kept clean and well-organized to promote clear thinking. In addition one has to think legendary victories like that of the Races of Man and Elves over the forces of Mordor were helped in part due to their flawless superiority in this area. And if the champions of Middle Earth think it’s a good idea, it’s probably worth investing some time into.

Cleanliness promotes self-confidence. Good hygiene is paramount to maintaining one’s self-esteem. When you look and smell better, you feel better. Furthermore, when one’s living and workplaces are maintained and kept at an optimal level of order its easier to justify hosting social events. which in turn increases your standing among others. Another notable boost to one’s confidence. Besides, would James Bond have been as nearly as effective of a 00 agent had he not maintained an immaculate image? Of course not, that award-winning confidence would have been replaced with an awkwardness more akin to James Joyce than James Bond.

Being clean is good for your health. Probably not the most revolutionary benefit of keeping clean, but arguably one of the most important. Take food preparation. Food prepared in unclean environment can lead to a number of food-borne illnesses. Furthermore, when one operates in a cluttered environment merely walking from one place to another can be hazardous to one’s well-being. Don’t believe me, just ask Lord Blackwood. So while sometimes cleaning seems like a chore, your life could depend on it.

The values of cleanliness in one’s life not only keeps the mind clear, but also promotes self-confidence and good health. While most of us probably maintain a base level of organization in our lives, by placing more focus on it, we should be able to enjoy the full extent of these benefits. In addition, by practicing this door in our individual lives we contribute to a brighter, more appealing society. Leading us away from the dystopian future of Wall-E and towards the more ideal future chronicled in the inspirational speeches of Barack Obama and the Star Trek universe.

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Door Number Fourteen: Taking Time to Travel

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” ~ Lao Tzu

As we travel through life it is easy to stay content where we live. Between the financial demands of everyday life and the time constraints placed on us by our careers, family, and other responsibilities its sometimes hard to fathom fitting in a journey away from home. In addition,  the sense of security one gains from being somewhere familiar is hard to argue with. However, much like Bilbo Baggins, in order to live a truly fulfilling life it is imperative one makes time to voyage there and back again every once in a while.  Which is why there are a number of reasons taking time to travel is yet another door that must be opened on the quest to find one’s fifty doors.

Travel broadens perspective. The danger of staying in one place for any extended period of time is it becomes increasingly less likely we will be forced to confront ideas and viewpoints we are uncomfortable with. It is not they won’t present themselves, but when we are in a place of familiarity, we have many inherent safeguards that allow us to filter them out. Whether it be visiting another city 300 miles away or a country 3,000 miles away, when we expose ourselves to new outlooks in place we have never been, we are able to lower our defense enough to open our eyes to a larger world. Just like Luke Skywalker, if we ever want to learn the ways of our personal force it is necessary we leave behind our personal Tatooine from time-to-time.

Travel expands a sense of community. The greatest detriment to a productive society is fear of one another. When we huddle into like-minded communities afraid to engage with those different from us, we create a culture of distrust not conducive to an open and free society. By leaving behind our local support networks and social circles for lands unknown we allow ourselves to interact with those much different from us in their backyards. More often than not, this causes us to realize no matter where we come from, fundamentally we share a great deal in common. This alleviates our initial anxiety allowing us to see ourselves as part of the larger society that comprises our world.

Travel disrupts complacency. The older we get the faster time seems to move. In light of this, it becomes easy to fall into a comfortable routine. This state of being can cause us to become rigid and lose the creativity needed to pioneer innovative solutions to life’s problems. By traveling we pull ourselves out of the monotonous machine of our existence and force our minds into a state of refreshed vigor. While in many cases this may only be a temporary respite from the daily grind, it has the potential to refresh our mind enabling us to escape the downward spiral into contentment disguised stagnation. Only then are we truly awake.

The door of travel must be opened regularly throughout our lives to not only broaden our perspective and expand our sense of community, but to disrupt the day-to-day complacency plaguing us as we grow older. There are many factors in our life that may make this difficult. Be it financial or time constraints, we must find a way to overcome these challenges in order to see the corners of our world yet undiscovered. As with any good investment, the short-term costs of making this a priority are far outweighed by the long-term benefits. After all, as the venerable Saint Augustine once said, “The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”

Door Number Thirteen: Finding Physical Fitness

 

“Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.” ~John F. Kennedy

For many of us, finding the time and effort to exercise seems about as likely as a simple walk into Mordor. All Tolkien references aside, staying in shape is hard. Not only do we have to find the motivation to actually make our bodies suffer through a light jog or weight routine, we also have to set aside time out of an already busy day. Coupled with the ease of access to unhealthy foods, it is no wonder the United States leads the world in obesity. But, I digress. Despite these difficulties, it is vitally important we find a way to open the door to exercise in our lives for more reasons than one.

Physically fit people are happier. Numerous studies and scholarly research has shown those who are more active and physically fit tend to live happier lives. Endorphins are released when one exercises, leaving the individual happier and more relaxed. Furthermore, when one regularly works out their self-esteem increases exponentially. Furthermore, there is the sense of accomplishment one receives from completing a workout that is hard to compare to. The factors ( as well as many others) make the case for why striving for a state of constant physical fitness leads to a more satisfying outlook on the world.

Physically fit individuals live longer. Another common sense point, that I’m sure  is backed up by a number of studies. Besides, do you think the Highlander would have lasted as long he did without an intense training schedule? Me neither. While there are sure to be exceptions to this rule, as no amount of exercise can save us from getting hit by a bus or struck by lightning, the fact remains that taking care of one’s health greatly increases life expectancy. Until we find the legendary Fountain of Youth or manage to create the mythical Philosopher’s Stone it is the best method out there for prolonging the limited time we have in this life.

Pursuing physical fitness increases our focus. In a world constantly bombarded by distractions, one of the most difficult challenges we face is a lack of focus. While it might seem counter intuitive to add another obligation to our already busy schedules, doing so actually assists in improving our ability to direct attention to all the elements within our lives. The happiness and relaxed state we feel give us the ability to overcome the stress and distractions that would otherwise impede our focus on the goals set out before us. Furthermore, when our health is in a good state we are able to dedicate resources often times caught up in combating preventable ailments to other more lofty professional and personal aspirations. Like catching up on one’s favorite blog for example.

There are plenty of reasons why maintaining physical fitness in one’s life is important. Happiness, a long life, and finding a greater level of focus all increase the level of our contentment. While perhaps the most obvious of doors we should make an effort to open, it is most often times the one easiest to ignore. The key is starting slow. Finding an activity that promotes one’s health and is also enjoyable. For some, maybe it’s training for a marathon. While for others, it may be as simple as taking a walk around the neighborhood every night after work. Whatever it may be, the secret to success lies in persistence. Continually striving to engage in an action that better’s one’s health will lead to a world of possibilities once thought impossible. Besides, it is impossible to become a Jedi if one can’t even manage to run a mile.

 

 

Door Number Twelve: Helping Others

“Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.” ~Booker T. Washington

As we continue our ongoing quest to satisfaction it is important to remember it’s not just about us. What this means in context of pursuing our personal doors to happiness is that we should always dedicate a part of our time to volunteering for causes and activities that benefit other people. This can mean  cleaning up your local park or spending time mentoring at-risk kids. There are almost an endless number of organizations who are looking for help in furthering their goals of making the world a better place. Many of which can be found here. You might be asking yourself how helping others will improve the quality of your life. Well, as usual, there are a number of reasons.

When we volunteer and focus on bettering other people’s lives, our problems lose some of their prominence. Do you think Aragorn ever would have got over his personal demons and fulfilled his destiny to unite the Race of Man under the flag of Gondor if the quest to help Frodo destroy the one ring hadn’t distracted him from the personal doubts and elf-related romantic troubles. While possibly an extreme example, the simple fact remains: by focusing on the plights of others the obstacles standing in our path lose prevalence to the more pressing concerns of our new-found mission. This increased sense of positive progress increases our ability to take the needed steps to accomplish personal goals otherwise thought impossible. And if we’re lucky, maybe we’ll even land that elf prince or princess of our dreams.

The act of improving the lives of others gives us a greater sense of self, which in turn improves our self-esteem. When one commits a selfless act something happens. All of sudden a realization dawns on the individual that they can positively impact the lives of others. Realizing we can improve the station of others is an empowering feeling. Take the simple act of donating money to your local school’s sports team in order to help them afford a trip to a playoff tournament. Knowing that your small contribution could make the difference between a student athlete participating in an event with the potential to set them on a path of personal success otherwise unobtainable should make anyone feel pretty good about themselves. This can be expanded to any volunteer experience. A winning proposition for all parties involved.

Serving others improves our communities. Probably the most straight forward benefits of helping one another, is also the most compelling. No matter who we are, or where we live we are all part of a community. Luke Skywalker had the Rebel Alliance, Batman had Gotham City. What they understood, and what we can learn from, is that our standard of living is directly tied to well-being of those around us. If we focus solely on ourselves, and don’t work to make the world better for everyone around us we are doomed to living in a world not as great as it could be. We owe it to ourselves to be the personal heroes we are capable of being.

On the pathway to a complete life it easy to forget about the importance of serving others. However, once we realize this type of volunteerism enables us to take the focus of our problems, increases our self-esteem, and make the world a better place it becomes clear this is a necessary component to finding our fifty doors. Of course we can’t all be Mother Theresa. Life is busy, and finding times to selflessly spend time on behalf of others is not always easy. However, by realizing this is a priority that will enable us to find many of the other doors we are looking for it will be far easier to find the time to embark on such a worthy endeavor.