How to Make The Seven Rules Of Life Work For You

Updated September 25, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Life can be complicated and challenging, but you can make it a bit easier by following some simple tips like the 7 Cardinal Rules of Life, developed by Stephen R. Covey. Covey was an educator, family expert, and bestselling author of many self-improvement books, including the well-known and inspiring bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, published in 1989.

The 7 Cardinal Rules of Life is not a book, but these ideas from Covey have inspired other authors to write books on similar themes. In addition, you can find many versions of posters displaying these timeless principles of staying positive and making the most of your life. The 7 Cardinal Rules of Life can remind you what to focus on and where to invest your energy so that you can enjoy life more. Sometimes, it can be challenging to follow these principles but, it is likely to be beneficial if you do. 

Here are Covey’s 7 Cardinal Rules for Life, followed by tips for putting these ideas into practice and making them work for you. Consider these rules to find more contentment and satisfaction with yourself and your relationships.

Let Go Of Negativity And Learn How To Be Happier In Life

The 7 Cardinal Rules of Life

  1. Make peace with your past so that it won't disturb your present.

  2. What other people think of you is none of your business.

  3. Time heals almost everything. Give it time.

  4. No one is in charge of your happiness except for you.

  5. Avoid comparing your life to others and judging others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

  6. Stop overthinking. It's all right if you don't know the answers. They will come to you when you least expect it.

  7. Smile; you don't own all the problems in the world.

Tailor The 7 Rules To Your Life

Applying these simple pieces of advice to practically every circumstance in life is possible. For example, many people find that letting go of burdensome ideas and unnecessary responsibilities is essential to their health and freedom. In addition, others find that overcoming offenses and being patient with yourself are vital forms of self-care. So here are some ways to apply these helpful rules to your daily life.

1: Make Peace with Your Past

The past can affect your present in unhelpful ways. An essential aspect of mental health is continuously looking ahead to the future and new, positive opportunities. No one can change the past. However, letting go of the past can help you keep moving forward each day. Here are some points to consider on that journey:

Forgive other people for offenses or past mistakes.

Forgive yourself for your missteps.

Let painful memories fade by choosing different thoughts.

Accept what has happened in your life.

Make new commitments each day.

2: Move Beyond What Other People Think Of You

We can never know another person's thoughts. When we fall into the trap of constantly worrying about what others think, we lose focus on our goals and miss new opportunities and connections. Instead, try to be true to yourself to attract the kind of people who truly belong in your life. When we do what makes us happy, the right people are more likely to come into our lives. 

3: Time and Healing

The best approach in life is often to let things heal without interfering. Life may seem difficult now, but by not dwelling on the past, you can often move forward and find happiness. Of course, it can be essential to acknowledge painful and damaging experiences from the past, but healing is more likely when you do not let the past take over and remove your focus on the present. Sometimes, when we don’t know the correct answer to a problem or what to do about it, a successful approach is to pay attention to what makes us feel better in the present and let time heal old wounds.

4: We Are In Charge Of Our Happiness

Happiness is a subjective feeling that is hard to measure. Nonetheless, one intriguing study found that people who believe they are in control of their happiness also reported that they were more content in life than people who thought their feelings of life satisfaction were in the hands of others. In this questionnaire, completed by 1,154 people, 89 % said happiness is something they control in their own lives. Of these, 32 % also reported that they were happier than the average response in the other group. In addition, the participants who said they were the least satisfied were five times more likely to believe that their contentment was not something they controlled. 


5: Avoid Comparing Yourself to Others, And Don’t Judge Others

Comparing yourself to others can quickly separate you from your natural talents and accomplishments, robbing you of joy. In addition, spending time judging the behavior and choices of other people also moves us away from focusing on our journey and challenges. In addition, we can never truly know what obstacles and problems another person has.  A more productive path is to consider each day as an opportunity to celebrate who you are and what you have. Choosing contentment and focusing on the good in your life are powerful ways to overcome habits of comparison.

6: Learn To Control Your Thoughts

Rehashing negative interactions, continually revisiting the past, and thinking over and over about negative ideas are all unhelpful behaviors. Brain researchers have found that these habits can damage the brain and nervous system, possibly contributing to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. They also discovered that prolonged negative thinking has a measurable effect on the ability to reason and recall events. Repetitive negative thinking is common in people with sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD,) and excessive life stress. All of these mental health conditions respond well to a variety of psychotherapy treatments.

For example, research shows that anxiety and depression can be effectively treated via in-person and online therapy. If you struggle with negative thinking, consider reaching out to a therapist to learn how to control your thoughts. 

7:  Smiling And Letting Go Of What You Can’t Control

There are things within your control and things outside your control. When people or circumstances are outside your control, recognizing this and not trying to control the situation can improve your mental well-being. Taking responsibility for things you can’t control can make you unhappy. Accepting the right level of responsibility can help you function within your limits. In addition, psychological research suggests that smiling, even when you don’t feel like it, can help you feel better, boost your immune response, and might even help you live longer. 

Making These Rules Work For You

By following these rules for life, you might find tension and worries melting away, giving you a new perspective on life and new energy to live to your full potential. However, if you are having trouble letting go or need to talk to someone, consider contacting a professional therapist to help figure out where you are getting stuck. BetterHelp's unique platform provides counselors who are only a click away, and one of the benefits of using an online therapy platform is its cost-effective results. This convenient process will match you with a highly-qualified mental health professional who can help you integrate these important rules into your life.

Let Go Of Negativity And Learn How To Be Happier In Life

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The seven rules for life are words of inspiration and wisdom from a bestselling and renowned author who wrote many popular books on self-improvement topics for business, family, and daily life. Practicing these ideas might help you decrease stress, increase happiness, and reach your life goals and potential. However, if you find it challenging to make positive changes in how you think and live, talking to a professional therapist can provide the support you need. In addition, online therapy through a platform like is a convenient and cost-effective way to get help. 

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