If the Pope were your boss, he would be the best boss you ever had. And today he wants you to be happy. In a laid-back interview with the Argentine paper Viva, Pope Francis gave us a quick update on his own 10 Commandments. Not on rectitude, but on how to be happier. They’re good. They’re very, very good.
The Pope’s 10 Tips for a Happier Life
1. Fugghedaboutit. The Pope actually invoked the Italian expression that translates as, “Move forward and let others do the same.” It’s easy to think of your competitors as enemies. Your misfortunes as treachery instead of solid lessons. But every day you have the choice of dwelling in the past or moving on.
2. “Be giving of yourself to others.” It costs nothing to give up your seat on the train. Smile at a loud child instead of scowling. We often forget that we can be just as kind to ourselves. For nothing. Every time you scold yourself, I’m late, I’m sloppy, I’m never going to get this job: you could just as easily say, I’ll try to do it better next time. Extend this generosity to others. Do it just for variety. “If you withdraw into yourself, you run the risk of becoming egocentric. And stagnant water becomes putrid.”
3. “Proceed calmly.” We’ve talked about how this can make you rich. But can it make your life richer? Turn procrastination into careful study, recognize when you are acting on fear or anger. Leave a minute early if it means not being in a panic and 10 minutes late.
4. If it has a screen, turn it off. “Consumerism has brought us anxiety.” He meant specifically for parents to set aside time to play with their children. But how many dates have you witnessed through the constant drip of Instagram and email checking? As winter approaches, it’s really easy to sack out with Netflix and never speak to another soul. I would add that I’m totally cool if he wants to claim Papal Infallibility on his last point: People who eat together need to turn off the TV when they sit down.
5. Sundays should be holidays. No matter what your particular religious concept: take the damn day off. I struggle with this one. All week I fantasize about how much stuff I’ll get done on the weekend. Then it’s over, and I wonder where it went. Monday comes around and I’m exhausted. “Sunday is for family.” Call your mother. Just because.
6. Find innovative ways to create dignified jobs for young people. I didn’t expect that. But then I tried to think of my career: I can remember every time I had a menial job and the boss came down and said I needed to do something of actual value. Those guys made me feel useful. Like I mattered. Now that I’m a boss it’s time to pay it forward. Pope said so! “We need to be creative with young people. If they have no opportunities they will get into drugs” and be more vulnerable to suicide.
7. Respect this lovely planet of ours. “I think a question that we’re not asking ourselves is: ‘Isn’t humanity committing suicide with this indiscriminate and tyrannical use of nature?'” There will come a time where our version of being earth-conscious will seem laughable to our children. They will ask why we clipped our plastic six pack rings and then threw them in the ocean. If you want to do something awesome right now: give your old phone to Rainforest Connection.
8. Drop the negs. “Needing to talk badly about others indicates low self-esteem. That means, ‘I feel so low that instead of picking myself up I have to cut others down.’” Forgive me father, for I have sinned. I’ll go ahead and admit that I’m a sunny person, I like jokes, but I have one friend that I get negative with real quick. Sometimes I find myself storing up dumb things I’ve seen people do, others’ misfortunes, just to tell her about it later. Are we laughing? Sure. But I’m still carrying it around until the second I see her. “Letting go of negative things quickly is healthy.”
9. Listen more. “We can inspire others through witness so that one grows together in communicating. But the worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyses: ‘I am talking with you in order to persuade you,’ No. Each person dialogues, starting with his and her own identity. The church grows by attraction, not proselytising.” I don’t run a church, but I do run my life. It’s a wonderfully freeing feeling when you drop your own agenda and try and listen to others. Problem at work? Girlfriend and you not getting along? Don’t try and fix anything. Go and listen. Listen to others with the same problem. Listen to each other.
10. Peace out. “We are living in a time of many wars,” he said, and “the call for peace must be shouted. Peace sometimes gives the impression of being quiet, but it is never quiet, peace is always proactive” and dynamic. The Irish writer Colum McCann once said, “We all know what war looks like, but we don’t know what peace does.” This goes straight back to rule #1. Peace is an everyday thing. We have so little time with the people we love on this still habitable planet. Also, if you can’t go to the Middle East with the USO (I did; it was awesome), you can still donate (Al Roker just ran a weather-a-thon for 34 straight hours to raise money for the USO). There are men and women in harms way all over the globe, and it’s is our job to care for them. Until everybody comes home.