Throughout human history, there are cutting-edge thinkers whose words and wisdom stand the test of time.

Image: Tolstoy the maverick

Source: Sarah Wilson

Today we look at an odd assortment of rules to live by from the Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy, born in 1828 and died in 1910. Many will bring a smile and most are still sage advice, almost 150 years later.

You may know Tolstoy as the author of the famous books War and Peace and Anna Karenina, while striving to live a rigorously virtue-filled life. His level of commitment was unique for the times. He was a maverick in so many ways.

The website Tolstoy Therapy has posted a selection of these rules, which commanded him as follows:

    • Wake at five o’clock
    • Go to bed no later than ten o’clock
    • Two hours permissible for sleeping during the day

    • Eat moderately
    • Avoid sweet foods
    • Walk for an hour every day
    • Visit a brothel only twice a month
    • Love those to whom I could be of service
    • Disregard all public opinion not based on reason
    • Only do one thing at a time
    • Disallow flights of imagination unless necessary

To this list of precepts drawn up at about the age of 25, Tolstoy later added these:

  • Never to show emotion
  • Stop caring about other people’s opinion of myself
  • Do good things inconspicuously
  • Keep away from women
  • Suppress lust by working hard
  • Help those less fortunate

Not bad! I think I’ll work on most of them, not all though! I’ll keep showing emotion and I probably won’t find time for a two hour nap. And hey! I’ve already nailed that one about avoiding the Brothels!

Yyyyyesss! One down!

In particular, I loved Stop caring about people’s opinion of myself.

I have three teenagers of my own and some younger nieces and nephews. Sometimes it pains me to see how much pressure they feel to fit in. It seems all about “shame” these days. If you don’t have the right brand of jeans or phone, there’s some shame there.

But what I’ve also noticed, is that we adults don’t make things better! We will shame our teens again for caring too much about their image. We frame caring about what people think as shallow and petty. They can’t win!

Image: A Chicken egg cracked open with little foot prints walking awaySo… in thinking about Tolstoy’s advice, I searched for an article that might break this down better. If you know a kid whose world is challenged by caring too much about what other’s think, click here for a great article on how to handle this sort of situation. (It’s sage advice for adults too!) Scroll down to the 7 Tips for working things out. They are really quite good!

Here’s one great piece of advice from their excerpt…

“Don’t Compare Your Insides to Other People’s Outsides”

There’s a saying I really like: “Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides.” One of the big, big mistakes we make in assessing ourselves is that we constantly compare our insides to other people’s outsides. Inside we may be feeling frantic, or worried, or any number of things. And on the outside, other people look like they’ve got it all together. The end result is that when you compare your insides to other people’s outsides, you come up short—and that’s especially true if you’re a kid. Children and teens compare how they feel to the way other people look all the time. So if your child is feeling anxious and afraid and all the other kids look like they’re having a good time, your child is going to feel out of place and different. And meanwhile, all those other kids feel anxious and uptight, too, and when they look at your child, they think he looks like he’s okay. So the key is to teach your child not to compare himself to others, but to really to do what he’s comfortable with inside. 1

Beautiful! I suspect that’s what Tolstoy had in mind as well. He wrote so much about emotion, deep fears and our responses to what we imagined in the other. He probably would have agreed with that passage.

That’s all for today on Ever Widening Circles folks. Think of Tolstoy: do some good things inconspicuously, walk 1 hour every day, and disregard opinions not based on hard facts. You’ll be better able to make it a great day!

Stay open, curious and hopeful!

~ Dr. Lynda

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  1. Lehman, James. “When Your Child Says, “I Don’t Fit In”” Empowering Parents. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2015. <>.

Dr. Lynda is a dentist, artist, global traveler, and philanthropist who looks for potential and shares it with the world.