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How to Use The Golden Rule to Improve Your Life

Updated on March 28, 2013

'The "Golden Rule" is a simple mechanism...' well, yes and no.

Stated as "Treat others as you would be treated" the Golden Rule sounds simple indeed, yet distilled into its components we see that there is much more here than meets the eye.

There are two main components to the Golden Rule; there is an outward component (treat others) and an inward component (as you would be). Applying the Rule to one's life requires one to look both outward and inward at the same time - an acquired skill that requires much practice to master.

On the surface it sounds like one is making a deal with the rest of humanity by making the first gesture of goodwill. In other words, “If I treat you as I want to be treated, you will treat me that way.” Often it works just that way, but it is not a mechanism that works universally, like magic, on every individual, making them treat you as you like. It is instead a method of thinking, a plan of action and a way of life.

To treat others as you want to be treated, you first must know how you want to be treated. Although this sounds elementary, it is actually more complicated than it sounds. Knowing what one wants requires deep soul searching and thought. Often we think we want something but when we get it we find it wasn’t really what we wanted after all.

A fun way to identify what you really want is to go though life as if you are shopping. As you go, you gather the things you think you want in your imaginary shopping cart. Perhaps you see people smiling and talking together. You say, 'Yes, I'll have some of that.' Next you see some people arguing and you say, 'No, thank you.' Perhaps you see a person wearing beautiful clothing, but with a sad face. You can put the beautiful clothes in your cart, but you can leave the sad face if you don't want it. You can pick and choose. After your cart has some things in it, you can have them bagged and take them home where you can look at them closely and decide whether you want to keep them or return them.

One great way to find out how you would like to be treated in life is to be mindful of (that is, to pay close attention to) your feelings as you deal with others in life. When are interacting with someone and you feel a positive feeling such as joy, happiness, well being, righteousness or peace, pay attention to how that person is acting and what they are doing or saying that makes you feel that way. In this way you will get ideas of how to inspire these positive feelings in others.

Why would you want to inspire positive feelings in others? Speaking from a purely selfish point of view, people who are experiencing positive feelings – joy, happiness, peace, etc. - are much more fun to interact with than people who are experiencing negative feelings like anger, fear or sadness. Of course it is not possible to make anyone feel a certain way, but one can try to inspire positive feelings in others if for no other reason than it makes life more pleasant to do so. One factor in our favor is that happiness is the natural fate of the healthy human.

There are some otherwise healthy people who will not respond to treatment. Some people are stuck on a path in which they view others‘ interests as all being opposed to their own and the universe itself as being against them. Understandably, they are sad. In many cases their reasoning has led them to decide to be sad and they are not going to change because you treat them nicely.

Nevertheless, it feels good to treat others well, and for that reason alone it is worth doing. The time of our life is limited. Why not spend as much of it as we can feeling good?

As you begin to observe your feelings during interactions with others you may discover things about yourself you did not know before. You may find you like some things that you did not think you did and that some things you thought you really liked, well, not so much. Self discovery can be a very enjoyable and satisfying experience, but more than this, it can help you teach yourself how to live happier. In observing and identify the feelings that give you pleasure you are, in fact, teaching yourself to seek out these feelings. Seek and you shall find.

When you discover something new that makes you feel good, try to share it. Projection of good feelings helps others feel better and the fact of their feeling better in turn reinforces your own good feeling. Projection and observation becomes a positive feedback loop that constantly helps you feel better about life.

Do you like to see happy faces?  Then smile!
Do you like to see happy faces? Then smile!

Smile and The World Smiles With You

Have you heard this saying? Well, it is to a great extent true. If, while you are paying for your groceries, for example, you are visibly happy to the cashier, chances are the cashier will be at least slightly nicer to you. If you make an effort to be kind and patient with the cashier, it is likely they will be kind and patient with you.

This principle is a powerful tool to improve your life. Although it may not always affect the people you use it with in the way that you intend, it has a good effect often enough to make a big difference.

In addition to making most people treat you better, going through life projecting happiness and positive thoughts makes you feel better. Consciously changing the attitude from negative to positive has been scientifically proven to help people feel better. Do yourself a favor and decide to think positively. If you do, your life will become more enjoyable almost immediately and will continue to improve as you go.

I wish you peace and happiness.


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    • Tom Rubenoff profile image

      Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States

      Good to see you, Brenda! Thank you.

    • Brenda L Scully profile image

      Brenda Lorraine Scully 4 years ago from Ireland

      well now, I so enjoyed reading this....... I think I understand now.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile image

      Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States

      That's a very good point, Express10. How can a person treat someone the way they would like to be treated if they do not know how they want to be treated in the first place? Many times it is the difference between what a person thinks they want and what they actually want that prevents them from treating themselves well. Truly, the first step on the path of learning to treat others well is to learn to treat yourself well.

      Thank you, Express10!

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 4 years ago from East Coast

      I enjoyed reading this. It's a good reminder that helps us towards balance. It's also important to note that there are some that actually do not know how they want to be treated and others may only know what they don't want, not what they do.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile image

      Tom Rubenoff 5 years ago from United States

      Good to see you, too, Petra. Life has gotten very busy for me lately in some very good ways, but I have missed being here and I am glad to be back. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

      Thank you, Ruby, for reading and providing that example of The Rule in action. A good mantra for peace and calm is to say to oneself, "There's plenty of time." Angry stressful rushing usually has no effect at all except to harm the one who is experiencing it. Thanks again.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This is beautiful Tom and it made me smile. The Golden Rule is so simple, yet, difficult if unhappiness fills your days. The cashier is a wonderful analogy. I experienced this at Walmart this week. I was in line and watched people's reaction to impatience, some were kind, others were in a hurry and were rude, by the time i reached the cashier she was visibly stressed. I told her that i was in no hurry, she smiled and thanked me. What i took from this observation, it dosen't help to get upset, you will get to checkout when it's your time in line, so go with the flow...Great article as always..Thank you..

    • Petra Vlah profile image

      Petra Vlah 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Hey Tom,

      I have been absent from HP for a long time, but I did not see you around since I returned (a few months ago) so I am happy to say hello. I love this hub and I know the true power of the Golden Rule that can change your life and that of people around you.