There are a few principles I adhere to in regards to life that I have yet to find a flaw with.
The first one is about priorities, and what is important. Generally speaking, either you or someone you know can easily identify what is truly important by the level of effort behind something. If something is important, there will usually be a great level of effort given to that idea, hobby, relationship, etc whatever.
I define it simply as...
2. Level of effort
3. #2 will tell you everything you need to know about #1.
This simple ideology will tell you not only a lot about what is important to you, but what is important to the people you keep in your circle.
Generally speaking, people will find excuses to dismiss things that are unimportant, and put very little thought into applying energy to them.
"I'd love to workout, but I just don't have time." Excuse. Lazy and doesn't really care.
"I would have called but I was just so busy." Excuse. When someone is important you find a way.
Most people use excuses to lie to themselves, or to the other person. They believe it serves as a cushion to soften the blow of what they are really saying.
"I want you to feel this is important, but in all reality it's not. So I will try to let you down gently."
Sure, there will be circumstances that put people at a disadvantage they can't help sometimes. Maybe the phone really did die. Or maybe at this moment they really are too busy to get to the gym because of a new baby, a new job, taking care of a sick relative, etc.
But over the course of time you'll figure out what is important and what is not. Because the scales will generally most often tip towards what matters to them, and tip away from what does not.
Whereas with things people deem important, they will find reasons to constantly put them at the forefront, and give a significant amount of effort, and go above and beyond to see them through. No excuses are ever made as to why they can't make them happen.
You get up at 5 to get to the gym because it's a priority in your life.
You drive hours on end to see your friend, because that friendship means something to you.
You study for hours on end each evening because doing well in school matters.
You will suffer for the things that you want and desire, and you will dismiss the things you don't.
Life tends to be governed, in terms of applied effort, by these rules.
Most of the time people are self aware enough to know what really matters to them. But then question their own importance in someone else's life.
"Does what I want even matter?"
"Am I really important to this person?"
If over time, their energy isn't directed towards you or giving you the things you need, then those things aren't a very big priority in their life. And if that's what you need, then your best option is to find someone that places your needs at a higher priority. Trying to make someone else put you at the top of the totem pole is a very counterproductive way to spend your time.
This can be a hard and painful lesson to learn. But knowing it can save you a lot of time wasted on the wrong things, and the wrong people.
The second thing I've really figured out is everything you accomplish or work for in life will give you something, and also take something away. The vice-versa holds true as well. Anytime there is loss, there is something gained as well.
They aren't always equal in nature, mind you. And it's possible you're not even aware of what was lost or gained most of the time. Often it takes time for these things to manifest themselves, or for the fog to be lifted in order for you to see things more clearly.
In the show "House of Cards", Frank manipulated, lied, and back-stabbed his way up the political ladder. When he became Vice President, he went out on his back patio to have a smoke and a secret service agent escorted him. Befuddled, he asked why they had to escort him onto his own back patio. He was told it was mandatory.
Frank worked tirelessly to do everything he could to gain power. And in that gain, he lost some simple pleasures in life that he may have taken for granted before. It doesn't seem like much, but I can't imagine not being able to walk outside and enjoy the freedom of just being alone in my thoughts.
Not only that, his "secrets" were brought directly into the public eye. His wife smeared, and his reputation scrutinized in minute detail. Maybe his character felt that those things were just part of the gig, and he knew those things were come to the forefront once he was placed into a greater position of power. And maybe he was ok with that. Who knows.
What I do know is, gaining that much power meant losing a lot of things. Giving up a lot of privacy.
These particular examples are pretty easy to see in terms of the ratio of gain versus loss.
Other examples aren't always so clear. Loss of a relationship, loss of loved ones, loss of physical abilities, losing your job, or your house.
Initially, there may appear to be no upside, or nothing gained. But over time life seems to establish equilibrium, and bring things back to center.
I often think of the good, the bad, and the very bad times we go through as seasons in our life. People always feel like the good times won't last, and the bad ones will last forever. But neither are permanent. Nothing ever lasts. Even the bad shit.
How we weather these times are important. It's hard not to get too "up" when the sun is shining and everything feels lined up so perfectly in our life. And it's hard not to feel like you just injected a full syringe of depression when things come crashing down on top of you.
It's difficult to be optimistic in the face of adversity, and at times, even more difficult to let go of loss so we can grow and resume marching forward.
There's no "one size fits all" method that will work for everyone in this regard. Some scars are deeper than others, and some wounds take longer to heal. Life, in a metaphorical sense, is about battles fought. Sometimes we find victory on the other side, and sometimes we find defeat. Getting lost in the drunken joy of victory is easy. Pulling yourself out of the depths of defeat is what is hard. That is what will test who you are, and what you're made of. And I tell you, there will be times where you simply are not up to the task. That you just can't find the strength stand up at the moment, and take that first step. But on a long enough timeline, it will happen. You'll eventually get past it, scars and all, and move forward.
It will be slow at first. Agonizingly slow. But the further you get from what pains you, the easier it becomes to move with haste. And eventually you'll find the sun again, and shit will be rosy.
Without those depths, you'll never learn to appreciate what it means to find joy again. Without the shadows cast upon us, we'll never truly appreciate the warmth of the light.