A couple days ago, during a wonderful dinner with a good friend of mine, we talked about how crazy it is that it’s almost June. But then she reminded me that the past five months may have gone by quickly, but so much has happened since the new year – I quit my old job and decided to start my own business, started my blog, now I’m preparing for my first 1/2 marathon. The illusion of time is a funny thing.
This list of 33 life lessons reflects that same mentality – that the years of our lives may fly by, sometimes perhaps too fast or too slow, but when we really take time to analyze everything we’ve learned, the end result is magnificent.
1.The only meaning your life has is the purpose you give it yourself. If you consider our individual size in terms of the earth and the universe, we are all just cute little specks, like the amoeba of the galaxy, except about a gazillion times tinier. It is up to us to create our own meaning and know that even though we can’t create the sun, we can still add a little sunshine to our communities.
2.You can never know what it’s like to be someone else. Every person you meet has experienced years and decades of great and horrible memories that have been smooshed together to create the exact person they are. Everything they do, say, feel, etc is just an extension of all these messy pieces acting together. We can never understand it because we’ve never lived it. Act accordingly and treat people with respect, knowing we’ve all come from different places and experiences.
3.Don’t try to fit square pegs into round holes. I received this advice after asking my Dad for wisdom while going through a breakup. He reminded me that the breakup was for the best and that often, even though people show us signs that they’re not right for us, we ignore these signs and try to convince ourselves that things are working, even when they’re not. It is our job to decide when we’re forcing something even when it doesn’t exist. And then it is our job to gracefully walk away.
4.Do you know the golden rule? “Treat others the way they want to be treated.” Though the original “treat others how you’d like to be treated” expression is well-intentioned, it doesn’t reflect that all people are different and have varied ideas about what is right and preferred. It is not our job to see others as ourselves, but to see them as…them.
5.If all you’re doing is examining you’re not living. Sometimes it’s nice to just “be.”
6.Easy jobs are not necessarily a good thing. A year and a half ago I had a job that paid me well and was so freaking easy. At first, it sounded like a dream, but after a few months of feeling like I lacked any purpose for eight hours a day, I realized money and a relaxed work day were not worth feeling like I was regressing in my day-to-day life.
7.Time management is more like time priority. I once read somewhere that we should stop saying that we don’t have time for something and start saying, “it’s not a priority” and see how that feels. Often when we tell ourselves that we have too much to do, it means we haven’t prioritized our time and instead are trying to do everything at once. Thinking of time in terms of priorities also makes sure we focus on the things we love rather than just trying to “get it done.”
8.Don’t let pride cause you to forget why you’re fighting. One of my worst traits is probably that I’m painfully loyal. Does that sound like a good thing? Probably because I used the word loyal instead of stubborn. I have strong beliefs in the things that matter to me, but sometimes while arguing for my values, I have to stop and ask myself, am I still fighting because I believe the other person is wrong or because I don’t want to admit that my values aren’t perfect? This is a lesson I’m still learning at times, but it’s important to take the pride mask off occasionally and throw in the towel.
9.Read every day. The greatest way to get the greatest ideas is to read, read, read. There’s this amazing quote that goes like this: “Books are the hardbound drug of my choice.” I like that one a lot. Read every day to expand your mind.
10.There are few joys that equal a good book, a good walk, a good hug, or a good friend. All are free.
11.Make change a must. For the longest time, I knew I wanted to change: unhappy, unsatisfied, and unfulfilled, I knew I didn’t have freedom – not real freedom. The problem was I knew this intellectually, but not emotionally – I didn’t have the feeling in my gut that things must change. I knew they should change, but the change wasn’t a must for me, and thus it didn’t happen. A decision is not a real decision until it is a must, until you feel it on your nerve-endings, until you are compelled to take action. Once your shoulds have turned into musts, then you are ready for change.
12.The meaning of life. Giving is living. The best way to live a worthwhile life is simple, continuously grow as an individual and contribute to other people in a meaningful way.
13.Every day is a travel day. You don’t have to leave your country’s borders or get on an airplane to travel. Travel is seeing the world, your home, and yourself with new eyes, and you can do this every day of your life, no matter where you are.
14.Be kind to others. A smile, a “Hello”, and a “Thank You” can go a long way. Issue them often. Life at the core is made of all the interactions and connections…big and small – that we have with others. Be kind and bring out the best in yourself and others around you.
15.Remember what your parents taught you. It came from the most sacred place of love that exists.
16.At the end of the day, what matters most are the people in our lives. Every relationship – friendship, romantic, or otherwise – is a series of gives and takes. Every relationship has an US box. For the relationship to work, both people must contribute to and give something from that US box. Put them first every single day. Before work. Before the phone/computer. Before your hobbies. Treat them like they are everything, because they are.
17.Failure is good. We try so hard to avoid failure, but failure is the real evidence that we’ve tried. If you avoid failure, you avoid taking action. Expect and accept that it is a part of the experience. Learn from it and move on.
18.You aren’t always right. We think we have the answers, know what’s right and wrong, good and bad, best for ourselves and other people. But we aren’t always right. There’s always more than one version. There are many perspectives that are valid. Keep yourself open to that truth.
19.Little things matter. It’s not the big wins, the great accomplishments, or the status in life that really count. It’s the accumulation of little things – the quiet moments in nature, special time with our kids, seeing the smile on our spouse’s face when we walk in the door. Pay attention to these things.
20.Love is the answer. Love is why we are here. It is the force for good in this sometimes random and harsh world. Share it freely. Express it daily.
21.Be on the mountains. I use this term as a metaphor for living in the moment. When you climb to the peak, don’t immediately plan your descent. Enjoy the view. Be on the mountain. Just be.
22.If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody will. Don’t expect others to see gold where you can only see dust. If you don’t believe in yourself, if you don’t believe that you are capable, a worthy human being, chances are that nobody will.
23.Our attitude toward life will determine life’s attitude towards us. If you think life is unfair, and that bad thing always happen to you, chances are that life will treat you unfairly, and you will always have many reasons to complain about. Just how there is law of gravity, there is also a law of attraction, and based on this law, you attract in your life that which you think about all day long, you attract that which you are, because you see, like attracts like.
24.Loneliness is different from solitude. There is a difference between being lonely and being in solitude. When you are in solitude, you take advantage of it to get in touch with your inner self, to mediate and to quiet your mind, and that constant need to be around others in order for you to no longer feel lonely, will disappear. Wayne Dyer talks about this in such a wonderful way, saying that we can never be lonely if we like the person we’re alone with. If you like yourself, if you have no problem with your own person, if you have accepted yourself completely, you will be content with having some quiet time, away from all the noise. You will feel happy when alone and also when surrounded by other people.
25.Patience is a virtue. In order for things to happen, in order for anything to happen, we need to be patient. We first plant the seed of greatness and then we wait for it to grow, we allow it to grow; we take care of it and we protect it. Great things take time and we need to learn how to give time, time.
26.Courage is not the absence of fear. Fear, that crazy fear who won’t allow us to move forward, who won’t allow us to grow and transform our lives and of those around us will always be present in our lives. There’s no such thing as being fearless. There is only courage, which is the ability to take action in spite of fear – to feel the fear and do it anyway. Everyone’s afraid of something. I feel fear almost every day. Ironically, the stress and anxiety that comes about when we think about doing what we fear is usually more painful and uncomfortable than doing the damn thing and getting it over with.
27.Take care of your family. When everyone else abandons you, and you’re getting ready to do that thing where you curl up in some tiny little corner with your arms wrapped around your knees, crying like there’s no tomorrow, it’s usually your family that’s there to help you get back on your feet. I’d be no where without my family. Love your family as much as you know they love you. One of the most painful feelings in the world is to have your time with someone you love cut short unexpectedly, knowing that you could’ve done more but didn’t. Life is precious. Love your family with all your heart.
28.Don’t let little things get to you. Does it really matter who is right about who did what chore in the house? You might win the fight, but you lose the battle. Don’t sweat the small stuff because little things don’t matter.
29.No one is perfect. This especially holds true for people we put on pedestals. No matter how great or enlightened they are, they’re still human. Everyone makes mistakes and nobody is perfect.
30.Your gut is always right. Always, always, always listen to your gut. Whenever I’ve gone against my intuition, it’s been a disaster. Listen to your gut, it’s always right.
31.Express your emotions. I’m not afraid to let myself cry. It’s okay to let yourself feel your feelings, rather than pretend like they don’t exist. It’s possible to let life’s moments touch you, without allowing them to hurt you. It’s also important to express your emotions to others, rather than suppress them in order to avoid ruffling anyone’s feathers, or keep them inside for fear of embarrassing yourself. People deserve to know how special they are and how they have impacted your life. Assume no one else will spill the beans. Tell them yourself. Tell them often. Human beings need each other. We are only as good as the encouragement and support we receive from the people in our lives. Don’t underestimate the power of a letter of appreciation or thanks, either.
32.Live like you give a damn. You might feel like there’s a huge mass of time ahead of you, but it passes much faster than you think. Your kids grow up so fast you get whiplash. You get gray hairs before you’re done getting your bearings on life. Appreciate every single moment and always choose happiness.
33.I have a lot left to learn. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that I know almost nothing, and that I’m often wrong about what I think I know. Life has many lessons left to teach me, and I’m looking forward to them all.
If you got this far, Thank You. I feel empowered knowing that I’ve learned so many wonderful things in my life so far. But I need to remember that life is a process and most of the fun of learning comes from figuring out the lesson.