In 1953, philosopher Manly P. Hall shared his Ten Basic Rules for Better Living in his book by the same name. These rules were based on timeless principles for a good life. Though initially published 70 years ago, Hall’s insights on self-mastery, purpose, ethics, and relationships remain highly relevant for anyone seeking to improve their quality of life.
This article will summarize Hall’s rules for reducing stress, finding fulfillment, and relating to others harmoniously in the modern world. Topics covered include stopping worry, moderating ambition, the role of relaxation and humor, discovering individual purpose, avoiding harm to others, managing anger, and taking personal responsibility.
While society has changed since the 1950s, human nature has not. By learning from and applying Hall’s wisdom, we can lead more enriching, ethical lives despite challenges. The principles he shared serve as helpful guideposts for anyone sincerely working to better themselves and make the most of their life.
Here are the Ten Basic Rules for Better Living:
- Stop Worrying
- Stop trying to dominate and possess your friends and relatives
- Moderate ambition
- Do not accumulate more than you need
- Learn to relax
- Cultivate a sense of humor
- Find a reason for your existence
- Never intentionally harm any other person
- Beware of anger
- Never blame others for our own mistakes
1. Stop Worrying
Hall explains that worrying is not the same as being thoughtful and responsible. While problems deserve consideration, disturbing thoughts bring more fear and doubt without solutions. To stop habitual worrying, he suggests mindfulness meditation to calm the mind and interrupt negative thought patterns. Maintaining a sense of gratitude and abundance can make worrying seem less necessary. Being present-focused counteracts hypothesizing about hypothetical future problems. Affirming a belief in solutions that will work helps overcome fatalistic worry tendencies.
2. Stop Trying to Dominate and Possess your Friends and Relatives
Attempting to control others often backfires, creating conflict and resentment. Hall advises respecting others’ freedom and rights. Genuine relationships should be voluntary, not forced through domination. Reflect on what motivates your controlling tendencies – often, it stems from insecurity or lack of trust. Consider if you seek connection or merely submission. Foster secure attachment and mature love that welcomes mutual growth. Lead by inspiration rather than demands.
3. Moderate Ambition
While drive and initiative can be virtues, unchecked ambition has a high cost in health, relationships, and enjoyment of life. Hall recommends pursuing moderation, savoring leisure, and valuing non-material goods like knowledge and character. Set reasonable goals that align with your values so you don’t sacrifice meaning for achievement. Ensure restorative practices like sufficient sleep, weekends off, and vacations. Make time for relationships and hobbies so life isn’t solely about productivity. Appreciate small joys each day.
4. Do Not Accumulate More than You Need
Material excesses and superficial status symbols do not necessarily bring happiness. Hall suggests enriching the mind and spirit rather than endlessly earning and accumulating possessions. Be intentional about purchases and practice decluttering to avoid waste and clutter. Donate a percentage of income to charitable causes. Share your time and possessions with others through hospitality and generosity. Cultivate gratitude for necessities you may take for granted.
5. Learn to Relax
Hall emphasizes rest, recreation, and hobbies to complement work and counter anxiety. Relaxation clears the mind, boosts creativity, and prevents burnout. Balance responsibilities with leisure. Make relaxing a daily habit through reading, music, time in nature, or gardening. Take mini-breaks during work. Discover forms of recreation that help you recharge. Protect time for vacations and weekends. Learn to accept imperfection and say “no” so you don’t take on more than you can enjoyably manage.
6. Cultivate a Sense of Humor
Humor provides perspective on life’s absurdities and helps us take ourselves less seriously. Hall encourages laughing with, not at, others. Develop depth and compassion to appreciate life’s paradoxes. Seek out comedy and funny people. Poke gentle fun at yourself. Use jokes and laughter to lighten tense moments. Become an observer of your tendencies and gain the wisdom to chuckle at your follies. A playful outlook enhances all of life.
7. Find a Reason for Your Existence
Hall recommends pursuing a purposeful life of growth and contribution over material success. Connect with timeless ideals. Problem-solving abilities improve by expanding knowledge and self-awareness. Journal regularly to increase self-understanding. Identify how you are uniquely gifted to help others. Set meaningful goals for your relationships, personal growth, and community impact. Implement consistent practices like volunteering, creating, and learning that make your purpose come alive.
8. Never Intentionally Harm any other Person
This rule elevates compassion and the Golden Rule. Hall advises responding to harm with dignity rather than retaliation. A clear conscience from living with integrity provides lasting happiness. Before acting, consider the potential damage to others in your choices. Forgive readily. Speak with care to avoid verbal relationship damage. Set boundaries wisely when you must limit unhealthy behaviors while still honoring dignity. Assume good intentions while protecting yourself and others from abuse.
9. Beware of Anger
Anger often escalates conflict and damages relationships. Hall encourages patience, calmness, and self-control as alternatives. Prevent destructive outbursts by managing stress through sufficient rest, a balanced schedule, and healthy coping strategies. Cultivate equanimity through mindfulness, loving-kindness, meditation, and non-reactivity. Be quick to apologize after angry episodes. Seek help for unresolved pain that fuels chronic anger.
10. Never Blame Others for Our Own Mistakes
Taking responsibility for errors prompts learning and growth. Blaming others breeds resentment and a victim mentality. Hall advises honest self-examination and forgiveness as paths to progress. Adopt a growth mindset focused on improving, not harshly judging yourself or others. Recall times you were grateful others forgave you. Examine your role in problems first before blaming. Apologize sincerely when appropriate. Interpret mishaps as opportunities to build character.
- Let go of anxiety and trust solutions will emerge to avoid wasting mental energy on hypothetical problems.
- Respect the autonomy of loved ones rather than forcing control, which inevitably damages relationships.
- Balance ambition with rest, recreation, and valuing relationships over achievements for a more fulfilling life.
- Focus on enriching the mind and spirit rather than materialism and accumulation, as a focus on owning things often leads to dissatisfaction.
- Relaxing is prioritized through hobbies, leisure time, and breaks to prevent burnout and enhance creativity.
- Maintain perspective and laugh at the absurdities through developing wisdom and humor rather than taking life too seriously.
- Discover your talents and purpose beyond status or wealth alone to unlock your highest potential.
- Uphold the Golden Rule by avoiding harm and prioritizing compassion to gain peace of mind.
- Diffuse anger by cultivating patience, calmness, and forgiveness to prevent destructive conflicts.
- Take personal responsibility rather than blaming to foster honesty, growth, and strong relationships.
Manly P. Hall emphasized timeless principles of wisdom, self-mastery, purpose, and ethical living for a fulfilling life. His rules encourage managing our minds, emotions, and priorities effectively while nurturing compassionate relationships and contributing meaningfully to others.
By sincerely applying Hall’s insights, we can enjoy healthier, happier, and more peaceful lives even amid modern stresses. Though initially written seven decades ago, his practical philosophy contains enduring truths deserving of lifelong learning and application.
Hall’s principles remain highly applicable for reducing stress, strengthening character, and relating harmoniously with others in modern times. Reflect on which rules resonate most with your current situation. Small steps towards living them can brighten each day.