There are Only Three Rules in Life According to Stephen Hawking

7 min read

Education & Career Trends: January 9, 2023

Curated by the Knowledge Team of  ICS Career GPS

Ultimately, whatever direction we decide to go in will determine our entire reality.

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It’s been said that a year after a person wins the lottery and a year after a person suffers an injury that leaves them paraplegic, their happiness levels are almost the same.

The elation of winning the lottery has faded away and “normal” life resumes. And after a year of someone being injured, their injury has been accepted and life carries on. It’s different, but that’s okay.

Ironically, some of those who win the lottery may even suffer bouts of depression while those who incur such a terrible fate often feel happier and more free.

For Stephen Hawking, this was the case.

That’s why he said:

“My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.”


“Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.”

After suffering from such a debilitating disease as Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) there’s not much hope or time left.

Most people perish within two years of being diagnosed. However, much to the man’s spirit, Stephen Hawking outlived the disease by a whopping 50 years!

Interestingly, he died on the morning of Albert Einstein’s birthday at the ripe old age of 76.

“The victim should have the right to end his life, if he wants. But I think it would be a great mistake. While there’s life, there is hope.” — Stephen Hawking

So, let’s look at Stephen Hawking’s three rules for a happy life as they’re beautiful and profound and worth a listen.

One — remember to look up at the stars

What does this mean?

By looking up at the stars we see that we are a part of something much bigger, more mysterious, and completely unknown. In short, it puts things into perspective.

When we’re caught up in our own lives, we can begin to believe in our own importance and thus do selfish things. Or, at least, I can.

Carl Sagan captured this better than most when he wrote his beautiful passage called the Pale Blue Dot.

It was inspired by an image that was taken — at Sagan’s suggestion — by Voyager 1 on 14 February 1990. As the spacecraft departed its station, it turned and looked back at its home planet (us).

Voyager 1 was about 6.4 billion kilometres (4 billion miles) away at the time, and approximately 32 degrees above the ecliptic plane when it captured this portrait of our world.

Caught in the center of scattered light rays (a result of taking the picture so close to the Sun), the Earth appears as a tiny point of light, 0.12 pixels in size.

Here are Carl Sagan’s thoughts after seeing that image.

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

So, remember to look up at the stars. They keep us humble.

Two — never give up work

What does this mean?

Hawking’s advice goes against the current norm. Most people nowadays can’t wait to finish work or get it over and done with it.

However, I believe (and so did Stephen Hawking by the sounds of it) that turning passion(s) into work means that work never wants to be given up because it comes from the heart and soul.

Maybe that’s what Rumi meant when he said:

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”

So, this is one of the secrets to finding purpose and meaning in life:

This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realise it is play.” — Alan Watts

Three — if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away

What does this mean?

I(the author) know this well from my own life.

It can blindside me if I’m not careful, especially when it comes to long-term relationships.

My perspective on relationships has changed over the last five years, in particular, thanks to something Ram Dass said:

What you meet in another being is the projection of your own level of evolution.

This philosophy requires full ownership. There is no one else is to blame. They’re only a mere reflection of my own stuff and without them, I certainly wouldn’t be able to see what biases, trauma, and other prejudices I have.

This quickly turns any blame into gratitude.

And this helps me to learn from my relationships and ultimately grow into a better version of myself.

I will always be in love with love.” — Keanu Reeves

And I will too, Keanu.

When all is said and done, there are only two choices in life: to choose love or to choose fear. Ultimately, whatever direction we decide to go in will determine our entire reality.

Choose love. It’s more fun.

To Recap

To recap, here are Stephen Hawking’s three rules for a happy life once again:

“One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.

Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it.

Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away.”

Have you checked out yesterday’s blog yet?

Important tips for student entrepreneurs to consider

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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