This Codex Vitae, or “book of life”, is a collection of beliefs and concepts that inform my decisions and life. It is a work in constant flux which allows me to evaluate and question the way that I lead my life. It’s also a way to share philosophies, concepts, tools, and inspiration that have been helpful to me.
This codex is necessarily incomplete and out of date, and will always remain that way. However, creating and maintaining it has benefits to me that grow over time as I refine it and observe my beliefs, correcting course over time. I will edit this as needed and I will remind myself to question everything as often as I can.
If you’re not me, then read this with the understanding that you are different than me. The way I live my life should not determine how you live yours.
Create your own
I was turned on to the idea of creating this by reading Tony Stubblebine’s codex and following the related plan at Coach.me. In fact, many of the ideas here started out as direct copies of Tony’s items or from items in the codexes linked by Tony’s that I then evolved to represent my own point of view.
Meta-beliefs: beliefs about beliefs
Articulating beliefs can lead to a more efficient life. Knowing what your beliefs are reduces the need for self-negotiating or flip-flopping when faced with decisions and provides a consistent foundation. The process of articulating believes also helps you examine and question them.
Our understanding is quite limited and always will be. There are more questions than answers. Expect beliefs and tactics to change. Don’t hold on to them too rigidly. Humans are capable of intellectually agreeing with a concept while being unable to accept it or to act accordingly.
Perception will always be limited by bias. My bias includes elements of racism, sexism, and other ugliness instilled by my own culture, much of which I’m probably still unaware of. It’s a daily challenge to continue to become aware of my bias and work to counter it.
Principles and general guidelines
Measurement provides accountability. Actions can and should be measured, or at least estimated. Understanding the measure of your actions helps you make a positive impact.
When in doubt, have a bias for action over inaction.
Things that work are more important than things people claim will work. Pragmatic results offer more guidance than cultural status quo and accepted knowledge.
A sense of autonomy provides fertile ground for having an idea and then bringing that idea to fruition. This is not the same thing as individualism.
There is a limited amount of time and brain cycles in the day. Optimize your cognitive budget for spending those cycles on things that are important and enjoyable.
A days worth of busy work is of less value than a few minutes of the right work. Quality of work matters more than quantity. Learn to see the difference and to execute the work that has impact.
In a paper journal, an electronic journal, or a to-do application, write to-dos down. When anything that needs to be done sometime that’s not now, record it. Then move on with what you were doing with confidence that you’ll get back to that thing that just came up.
A productive day starts with a plan. Begin each day with a review of your to-do list with sense of what needs to be done, what steps you can take, and what the relative priorities are. You won’t necessarily complete your plan for the day — in fact, your day will rarely go exactly the way you think it will — but you will get much more done than if you have no plan at all.
Prioritize ruthlessly. The benefit of seeing things on a list is that you can make decisions about the next important thing to do, so use that benefit to structure your work.
Don’t be afraid to say yes, but it’s OK to say no.
Do the important and hard things first. They may not be as hard as you think they are. The accomplishment of clearing them off your plate will fuel you for the rest of the day.
Stop saying things are too hard. Don’t listen to your self-doubt telling you that you can’t do something. Either do it or don’t and move on.
Food is life. As my life has progressed, however, I’ve discovered that soy and wheat aren’t good for my life. Soy disturbs my intestines. Wheat gives me cold- and flu-like symptoms. This means I avoid soy and wheat at almost any cost. The result is that my ideal diet is pretty much what is currently called “The Paleo Diet.”
I should choose the grilled meat and vegetables every time it’s on the menu. Breakfast is best when it’s centered around eggs and bacon. Lunch should be the largest meal of the day. Dinner should be intentionally smaller and not the focus of the eating day unless it’s a special occasion.
People mean well when they try to accommodate my food needs, but often get it wrong. That’s ok. Food choices can be a reflex. And the instinct to substitute something for bread is strong.
Eat organic when possible, but don’t stress if it’s not possible. Avoid processed food. Freedom from the industrial food system is a privilege for the wealthy. Acknowledge that as such and don’t judge others for their choices.
I have a sweet tooth. Curbing the desire to eat sweets is a constant battle. Avoiding wheat eliminates many of the bad items, but wheat-free desserts can often be really high in sugar.
Low fat is a euphemism for high sugar. If you take the fat out, something else has to take its place.
The best way to ensure you know what you’re eating is to cook it yourself. Learning how to combine flavors and make delicious meals is a life-long process. So are using all the different cooking methods that are around, such as sous vide.
If there’s a vice that I forgive myself for, it’s ice cream — as long as I go for a walk to get it. Keeping ice cream or other sweets at home is not advisable.
Clothing and style
Style matters and it’s appreciated by other people, but I’ve typically been pretty much a t-shirt and jeans kind of guy all my life. Maybe it’s my way of limiting clothing decisions and saving cognitive budget. Maybe it’s because I’ve always had a pretty lousy self-image.
I should put more effort into a few clothing options and then lean on those most of the days when I couldn’t be bothered to think about what to wear.
I typically avoid outsized branding. I take care in the companies or groups that are promoted in the things that I wear and I only serve as a billboard willingly.
Mental and emotional wellness
I’ve fought with depression most of my life and that battle will undoubtedly continue for the rest of my life. Because of this, I have to pay close attention to the things that lead toward mental stability. I strive to begin every day with focus and end each day content.
Meditation every day is as essential to my emotional state as daily medication. Even ten minutes a day radically changes the amount of emotional resilience I have.
I’m an introvert. Quiet time alone is necessary. This is different than the time I spend meditating or doing things for work.
Travel and adventure recharge my soul. When I was single, I’d regularly head out on a road trip. I’m attempting to discover the equivalent I can apply to my married with child life.
This is the section for things that aren’t yet true. Maybe it’s an MVP.
I’d like to be a better communicator, leader, and parent. I’d love to be able to be more compassionate in my feedback to others. Mediate every day. Plan every day. I should retry things that I don’t like every now and then. I should study my mistakes.
I should be the change I want to see.
I want to live to be old — really old. I should eat better, exercise more often, and be thankful for every day I have on this planet.
Everyone has fears. I've always feared the end of the world in some way. When I was a kid, it was going to be nuclear war. These days, it's climate change — and not just any random aspect of it, but specially the collapse of marine ecosystems which could then change our atmosphere and food supplies. The science there is not pretty.
A more pedestrian fear of mine is that the biggest impact I will have had on the world is the work I did almost twenty years ago. On the other hand, I take a lot of strength from the fact that I do not need to prove myself on a daily basis.
Oh, and I also fear simply never being really fit again in my life, which will cut it shorter than it needs to be — assuming that underwater methane deposits released by warming temperatures in the Arctic do not cause something else first.