40 Simple Rules to Live By, Ranked (v. 2.0)

Too bad these rules to live by aren't as easy to follow as they are to understand. But try your best to abide to live your best life.


Here are my favorite short and simple rules to live by. I’ve collected them over decades of researching and experimenting.

To force myself to prioritize, I’ve ranked themโ€”#1 being the most important. My rule for these rules: When two rules conflict, choose the highest ranked.

In keeping with the rules themselves, they are continually evolving in a mostly positive direction (I hope!).

As you read through, consider asking yourself:

Which of these rules are you breaking?

Or, at least, which could you do better at applying to improve your performance at the game of life?

What would someone else say about you?

If you were to ask a close friend which of these rules you don’t follow very well, what do you think they would say?

What’s wrong with these rules?

I hope you disagree with some of them. Let me know your feedback in the comments or by email.

Live Your Own Story

  1. โœ‚๏ธ Be the editor. If your life storyโ€™s no good, it’s up to you to do something about it.1More: Hold yourself accountable and take control of your life story.
  2. โœ๏ธ Be editable. โ€œThe man who views the world at fifty the same as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.โ€ – Muhammed Ali.2More: Understand the difference between personality and identity. Embrace being a quitter.
  3. ๐Ÿ‘ Be positive. Anything that goes wrong is a plot twist that makes your story more exciting.3More: How to make your life more exciting.
  4. โœ๏ธ Be the writer. With every decision, ask yourself, “Which action is most likely to make for the better story?”
  5. โšก๏ธ Be unfollowable. Lead an extraordinary life only you can live.4More: Live an unconventional life.

Play Well With Others

  1. ๐Ÿ† Be competitive. But be slightly more cooperative to win at life.5More: Win life without competing.
  2. โš”๏ธ Be disagree-able. “The only thing worse than having toxic arguments is not having arguments at all.” – Ian Leslie.6More: Seek demotivational speakers and be one, don’t argue like a Neanderthal, change minds strategically, and reap the benefits of conflict.
  3. ๐Ÿ›ข Be a squeaky wheel. “Most people never ask. And that’s what separates, sometimes, the people that do things from the people that just dream about them.” – Steve Jobs. 7More: What I learned from a book on how to ask for help.
  4. ๐Ÿฆฎ Be helpfully influential. “The only way to influence people is to talk about what they want and to show them how to get it.” – Dale Carnegie.8More: The “belief-remodeling” strategy to change someone’s mind.
  5. ๐ŸŒป Be inoffensive. Seek to unite and never separate with your actions and beliefs.
  6. ๐Ÿคฉ Be a role model. Lead by example and don’t do things you wouldn’t want everyone else to do.

Understand Yourself

  1. ๐Ÿงฌ Be Homo sapiens. Move a lot in fresh air, eat regular foods at irregular intervals, rest when needed, and spend quality time with other Homo sapiens.9More: Ditch the gym, eat intermittently, and periodically escape into the wild.
  2. ๐Ÿ‡ Be in control of your emotions. “Feeling is for doing,” so if your feelings are out of control, so are your actions.
  3. ๐Ÿฉน Be unoffendable. The only identities worth keeping are anti-fragile.10More: Identity vs. Personality.
  4. ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™‚๏ธ Be realistic. You can’t do anything you put your mind to, so make the most of what you’re made of.11More: Understand your wiring, nurture your nature, and beware false growth mindsets, then apply these strategies to be your best self.
  5. ๐Ÿ‘‚๐Ÿพ Be advise-able. “The advice you donโ€™t want to hear is often the advice you need.” – Oliver Burkeman.12More: The exercise I tried for listening to unwelcome advice.


  1. ๐Ÿ‘€ Be a vicarious learner. “You shouldnโ€™t have to try it to learn not to pee on an electric fence.โ€ – Warren Buffett13More: Learn the less-hard way.
  2. โš–๏ธ Be actively open-minded. “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” โ€“ John Maynard Keynes.14More: Open your mind and keep it that way, steer clear of the self-justification vortex.
  3. ๐Ÿ”Ž Be discerning. “Pay attention to what you pay attention to.” โ€“ Amy Krouse Rosenthal. “Itโ€™s not information overload. Itโ€™s filter failure.” โ€“ Clay Shirky.15More: Avoid information overload. Thought-experiments on the value of following the news.
  4. ๐Ÿ”ฌ Be curious. Learning is more rewarding than knowing.16More: Ignorance isn’t bliss.

Take Action

  1. ๐Ÿงช Be innovative. Explore and experiment. Collect feedback. Act on it. Repeat.
  2. ๐ŸŽฌ Be regret-able. Have a bias toward action that may increase short-term regret but decreases it in the long term.17More: Don’t minimize regret.
  3. ๐Ÿ›ก Be downside-protective. “Never risk what you have and need for what you don’t have and don’t need.” โ€“ Warren Buffet.” “The most important part of every plan is planning on your plan not going according to plan.” โ€“ Morgan Housel. 
  4. โณ Be impatiently patient. “Impatience with action, patience with results.” – Naval Ravikant.18More: Urgently be more patient and develop the habits of a gardener.
  5. โš’ Be a doer. “It’s easier to act your way to a new way of thinking than think your way to a new way of acting.” – Jerry Sternin19More: Avoid diabetes of the mind and try new things like these.

Challenge Yourself

  1. ๐Ÿ‹๏ธโ€โ™‚๏ธ Be proactive. Creating your own discomfort leads to a lot less discomfort than letting discomfort come and push you around.20More: Now’s the time to push yourself to keep your comfort zone from suffocating you.
  2. ๐Ÿ˜จ Be fear-full. “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” โ€“ Joseph Campbell.21More: What scares you the most in life?
  3. ๐Ÿง—โ€โ™€๏ธ Be resolute. “If you don’t know what to do, do the hardest thing possible.” – Alex Hutchinson. “Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.” – Jerzy Gregorek.”
  4. ๐Ÿ”— Be balanced. Your life is only as strong as its weakest link.22More: Train your comfort zone with a “life workout plan.”

Enjoy Yourself

  1. ๐Ÿšฐ Be successfilling. Success is not a permanent state, so focus on the act of succeeding. “A great achievement is one that leads to more great achievements.” – Kenneth Stanley. 23More: Definition of success.
  2. ๐Ÿ‘… Be seriously unserious. Take great care to avoid sticks up your butt, which make it impossible to move freely.24More: Try a “funth,” a fun month. Release your handbrakes.
  3. ๐Ÿคธ๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ Be joyfully anti-complacent. Fill your days with presently enjoyable challenges that make your future days even better.25More: Make your perfect day perpetual. See my summary of The Molecule of More for more on balancing dopamine with “Here and Now.”
  4. ๐Ÿ™ Be grateful. “If you arenโ€™t grateful for the things in your life, you shouldnโ€™t bother getting more things in your life, because you also wonโ€™t be grateful for them.” – Tynan.26More: The story of how gratitude saved Kim and my relationship.

Prioritize Relationships

  1. โ›‘ Be unselfish. The hedonic paradox: Happiness, however you choose to define it, comes not from pursuing it for yourself, but from helping others (including your future self) find it.27More: Solve problems for a career and a purpose, be nice to Future You, and let other people help you.
  2. ๐Ÿค— Be appreciative. “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” – William James.
  3. ๐Ÿ‘‹ Be social. “No road is long with good company.” – Old Turkish proverb.

Set Yourself Up For Success

  1. ๐Ÿˆ Be home-field-advataged. Live in a physical environment that tilts the playing field to your advantage.
  2. โš™๏ธ Be systematic. “We don’t rise to the level of our goals; we fall to the levels of our systems.” – James Clear.28More: Have systems over goals and organize your life.

Maintain Perspective

  1. ๐Ÿช“ Be a problem-preventer. “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” – Henry David Thoreau.
  2. ๐ŸŒฒ Be long-term strategic. There are a thousand plucking from the tree of pleasure to one who is growing from the root.29More: Life’s optimal level of difficulty is not so hard, so practice radical moderation.
  3. ๐Ÿฅ… Be inner-scorcarded. Rather than play others’ games, shoot for your own definition of winning at life.30More: How to define it and measure it.


  1. ๐Ÿดโ€โ˜ ๏ธ Be a rule-breaker. “When any rule or formula become a substitute for thought rather than an aid to thinking, it is dangerous and should be discarded.” – Thomas Phelps.

Shoutout to Dru Riley’s 100 rules to live by, which I contrasted to my previous version of this list to fine-tune it.

If you’ve got your own rules to live by, or have found another list you like, please share them with me in the comments or via email.

About the author

๐Ÿ‘‹ I'm Chris. Everything you read on TheZag.com is my fault. This site is like a gym for your comfort zone, full of challenges to make your status quo sexier. Join my 'Consider This' newsletter for a fun new challenge every 10 days. Try it!

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