Introduction: A Multitude of Laws
Most educated people have heard of God’s laws (contentious, confusing, conflicting and confounding), the law of Gravity, the law of Thermodynamics, the law of the Land, Parkinson’s law, Murphy’s law and so on. Most are named after the author of a succinct observation described by the law. Laws range from A (i.e., Aitken’s law – describes how vowel length is conditioned by environment) to Z (Zipf’s law – a linguistic observation that a few words are used often but most are used rarely).
As the wellness field grows and evolves, perhaps it’s time for a REAL wellness law-or many such laws. If so, why not associate as many as possible with one’s own name?
Grandiose, perhaps, but if I don’t do it, someone else surely will and that person just might make a mess of it. Wellness in corporate America and elsewhere in the world is described and presented in wildly inappropriate and dysfunctional ways; why not eradicate the babble with a few transformative REAL wellness laws? Such laws, if they make sense and lead humanity to sounder thinking, might well contribute modestly to improved health and life outcomes.
By the way, one does not have to formulate a law that is named in his/her honor or even be aware of a law to be affected by and to live in accordance with it. We have all complied with Galileo and Newton’s laws about gravity, well before we became aware of them.
Anyone who wants a law to bear his or her name should present some credentials. Mine are modest, simple but adequate for the honor. As of this writing, I have written 15 books, posted well over a thousand essays at Seekwellness.com/wellness, 74 eight to twelve-page hard copy wellness reports commencing in 1984, 657 weekly electronic REAL wellness newsletters, at least a thousand lecture presentations in a dozen countries while spending 43 years (since 1970) dreaming about the ways to and chances of vastly improved environments and cultures for greater health and happiness.
All of which has led to this moment-the time when I offer the universe Ardell’s two laws of REAL wellness.
Ardell’s 1st Law of REAL Wellness: Random Chance, Natural Selection and Contingencies Trump All Else
Life’s largest events often follow random, seemingly inconsequential small actions of which we remain unaware.
Secular rational freethinkers place stock in knowledge, commitment, reason and persistence in shaping and fine-tuning lifestyle habits. We embrace perspectives and behaviors on matters existential and otherwise designed to render positive states of enjoyment and well-being. We consciously seek happiness, freedom, physical fitness, love, mutually satisfying relationships and multiple skills. What matters most, what affects our successes and outcomes, appears more or less to be under our field of control. Alas, this functional and preferred way of thinking is largely illusory. There are three far more consequential realities not under your influence in any way. Furthermore, these three factors render the quality and duration of your existence unpredictable and unknowable. They are: 1) random chance or fortune; 2) natural selection; and 3) contingencies.
Ardell’s 2nd Law of REAL Wellness: Relative to Ardell’s 1st Law of REAL wellness, other REAL wellness laws don’t amount to much.
Considering the immense black hole power of the first law, additional such laws play a modest role in efforts to shape life quality and longevity.
But, that does not obviate the case for added laws of REAL wellness. The fact is that most of the eponymous laws on the books are useless to most people but are yet of interest and even helpful for a few. I’m in my eighth decade; I’m not aware of any occasion when I would have benefited from an awareness of Aitken’s law or Zipf’s law. I heard of neither until I began the research for this essay. Ditto tons of other laws.
Relative to the 1st law above, this law and those that follow do not amount to much. Nevertheless, I hereby offer a few more, just the same. They can’t hurt.
Ardell’s 3rd Law of REAL Wellness: Finding your passion is fine but keep going-become great at it.
Since few of us enjoy royal lineage or handsome trusts that assure first-class travel in life with little or no need for labor, we must choose trades of sorts to pay our way through life. Thus, we are wise to adopt a long-term goal of studying and laboring at a trade that will prove enjoyable and satisfying, as well as properly remunerative.
When this challenge is met, your way of earning a living won’t seem like work.
Thus the 3rd law – master a passion. Start by following varied interests and, after years and years if not decades of trial and error, settle into one of them, immersing yourself in it.
Be somewhat realistic but guard against premature realism-while not everyone can get elected, be in the movies or play in the NBA or NFL, a select few can. Focus on what excites talents and gifts. Put in the time required to qualify for Carnegie Hall (i.e., practice, practice, practice-take account of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule).
The goal here is that at some point in your career somebody, somewhere, for some good or strange reason, will pay you to do what you enjoy doing-because you are so spectacular at whatever it is you have honed to a level of artful mastery.
Robert Frost expressed the idea of this law in his poem “Two Tramps in Mud Time:”
My goal in life is to unite my vocation
with my avocation.
As my two eyes make one in sight.
For only where love and need are one
And work is play for mortal stakes
Is the deed ever really done
For heaven’s and future’s sake.
Ardell’s 4th Law of REAL Wellness: Better to chase after fun than to flee from pain.
Forget an ounce of prevention. That may indeed be worth a pound of cure, but even a grain of REAL wellness is worth a ton of prevention. Prevention is so old school-it’s vintage medical thinking focused upon avoiding negative outcomes. Furthermore, there is no fun in working so as not to experience a negative outcome.
Instead of preventing something, pursue positive results via proactive initiatives that amuse and satisfy. REAL wellness initiatives guided by reason, exuberance, athleticism and liberty are more likely to be exciting and enjoyable. Such efforts will reinforce good intentions far more than waiting around for negative states not to occur thanks to preventive strategies!
Naturally, SOME prevention is good. Birth control prevention is good, disease prevention is good-you get the idea.
Ardell’s 5th Law of REAL Wellness: Scrutinize the role you played in any scene, good or bad, and make adjustments.
Make personal responsibility your default setting. Yes, initially it is easier, cheaper and more convenient to blame, excuse, deny and/or ignore responsibility than to embrace it. Such are the current default settings in most cultures, including our own. In the long if not medium range, however, it is healthier, more satisfying and more effective to assume at least some degree of responsibility. This approach allows you to make adjustments independent of actions by others. Your own actions are the surest steps to supporting your interests.
Ardell’s 6th Law of REAL Wellness: Dead, bloated rhino equivalents are the staff of life.
All aspects of REAL wellness are not likely to be equally important for everyone. We’re all quite different in so many ways, though we are alike in many ways, as well. But, our circumstances, resources, capacities and the like vary significantly. Among the most important elements for enjoying life must be the experience of plentiful DBRU equivalents, an active interest in and life-long openness to new meanings and a commitment to and maintenance of a remarkably fit body.
Therefore, in addition to mastering an understanding and acceptance of the reality of Ardell’s 1st Law of REAL Wellness, make a point of always trying to look on the bright side of life. If the latter seems difficult, take comfort from the words expressed by the mother of Woody Allen’s character in Annie Hall. Having just read that the universe is expanding, Allen’s character laments that he’s too worried to do his homework. “Someday it will break apart and that will be the end of everything.”
“But,” his Mother snaps, “you’re here in Brooklyn! Brooklyn is not expanding.”
Wherever you are, whether it’s expanding or not, don’t worry about it. You don’t have enough time left to waste energy on such trivia as an expanding universe-or much of anything else. Get on with your life, focus on the bright side of life, find ways to have some fun and bring back to conscious awareness my 1st Law of REAL wellness. All will turn out for the best if random chance smiles upon you, if the natural selection processes that led to your creation turn out to be fortuitous and if the contingencies that got you where you are and those straight ahead turn out in your favor.
Consider Robert Green Ingersoll’s response to a reporter’s question in 1898:
No one should fail to pick up every jewel
of joy that can be found in his path.
Everyone should be as happy as he can,
provided he is not happy at the expense
of another, and no person rightly constituted
can be happy at the expense of another.
So let us get all the good we can between
the cradle and the grave; all that we can of
the truly dramatic; all that we can of music;
all that we can out of art; all that we can of
enjoyment; and if, when death comes, that
is the end, we have at least made the best
of this life; and if there be another life, let us
make the best of that.