The Art of Life Handbook

On Thursday I remarked that companies have handbooks for their employees, so maybe I should make one for myself. I took my own advice and did it. Usually when I make goal or priority lists I phrase things as future-oriented (“I want to ___”) but this time I chose to phrase everything as the present (a tip I found in a fashion handbook!). I like the strong statement it makes.

The direct inspiration for this handbook was an off-week and the lists I made that Thursday, which helped me articulate the ideas that went into the handbook. But those ideas, in turn, are the result of lots of percolating and exploration over the past few years. If you’d sat me down in 2007 and asked me to make a similar handbook, I doubt it would have come out anywhere as concrete as this one.

Satsumabug’s Life-Art Handbook
Created March 2011

What do you want?
I want to be happy, in the moment and for life.

Ground Rules
To be happy:

  • I am attuned to myself, as well as connected with the world around me.
  • I have ample time for both work and play.
  • I enjoy an uncluttered home, a growing garden, my relationship with Erik, time with Lyapa, and my beautiful body.

To feel balanced (not overwhelmed):

  • I do one thing at a time, whenever possible.
  • I know what’s important during any given hour, day, week, or month. I have articulated my goals and my priorities, and I re-articulate them whenever necessary. I discard what’s not important to me.
  • I know the difference between importance and urgency. I know what needs to be done now, and everything else can wait its turn.
  • I don’t over-schedule or over-commit myself. I take on only what I can handle and what matters to me.
  • I don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I do only what I need to, realizing that saying no to some things means saying yes to what I most want.
  • I thoughtfully choose how to spend my time; time does not spend me. I know what I’m trading off.
  • I ignore all “shoulds” and listen only to my internal guide.

Ways to connect with the world

  • I blog, and read and comment on selected other blogs.
  • I take appropriate-length time to email the people I appreciate.
  • I make and take appropriate-length phone calls from loved ones.
  • I spend time with family and friends, when I want to and only for as long as I want to.
  • I regularly spend time outdoors.
  • I choose mindful outings at regular intervals.

Ways to connect with myself

  • I enjoy some quiet and still time, every day.
  • I spend time with my body, listening to her needs and desires, and nurturing her.
  • I eat mindfully and with enjoyment.
  • I move my body joyfully and regularly.
  • I present myself to the world in ways that make me feel at ease and at my most beautiful.
  • I choose activities I love.
  • I cultivate happiness.

When I work:

  • I cultivate lifelong fulfillment and self-expression, and raise global awareness.
  • I know which of my projects are most important to me, and which are most urgent. I know where I currently stand in all my projects.
  • I draw and paint regularly, for my own pleasure and to make it easier to express my vision.
  • I write regularly, for myself (morning pages) and on my projects.
  • I blog regularly, to build an audience for my work and to keep myself accountable and supported.
  • I read regularly, for my own enjoyment and to enrich my projects.

When I play:

  • I cultivate happiness and a sense of abundance and adventure. I tune in to myself.
  • I seek out adventures and new experiences.
  • I do not feel bad for “not working.” Play enhances work, and the division between them is not always solid.


That’s what I’ve got so far. There are definitely parts of this that feel stronger to me than other; for instance, I love all my “ways to connect with myself” but I feel the “work” section is still more vague than it should be (reflecting my own lack of focus). And you’ll notice the handbook makes no reference to many things that are important to me, like environmental sustainability or political action. But I’m not worried. I think this is already an amazing document and I can’t wait to start working from it and making it better all the time!

You know what else just occurred to me? With this handbook, I’ll never need New Year’s Resolutions again. I’ll just revisit the handbook every January to revise where needed, but most revisions will probably get made as I go along, since I’ll be living the book each day. 🙂