Another year has passed and I get to celebrate today the last 364 days of my life. We grow older every day and then, once a year, we have this celebration when we can look back on how it went and how we plan to go forward. You can imagine I am more inclined to reflect on this day than to actually party, but I guess this is my way of celebrating.
Every time I stumble upon a x number of lessons learned in x number of years I like to go through them and read what others learn in their lives. This year I’ve decided to make a list of things I learned myself; many of them are lessons I keep on learning as it seems that it’s not easy to make some things stick. However, I hope you enjoy reading my list and hopefully, at least 1-2 items on my list are on yours too.
Here it is, the 31 lessons I learned by now.
- It’s all about the process. This may be the most important lesson, as life is not about where we end up, but rather about the experiences we had. Yes, I spent years focusing on results. I still have the result I want in mind, but I know now that life is not about that one day or about that one moment or about that one thing. It is about putting in the work, the effort, the smiles and hanging out with people just because. It’s about building it up, not about having it all wrapped and finished. If not for something else, then because of the fact that the process is way longer than the time actually spent enjoying the result. Thus, focusing on the process, life simply feels better;
- Doing something and being motivated to do it can be two separate things. If I were to do things only when I feel I am in the mood to do them, I guess my life would look much more different. I won’t lie, I gave that a try and it did not work well for me. Life is about building things, as I wrote before, so one needs to be consistent and do the thing. Write each day to complete an article or a book, do the workout, go for a walk, make the call, post the picture. Don’t wait around to be motivated in order to live the life you actually want to live. It may never come.
- Knowing something and implementing it are two different things. We all theoretically know a lot. There are things we just know both theoretically and practically and all is good. But there are some things we know in theory, but then we don’t practice them. And life happens and then one day we are struck by how long it actually took to learn something we thought we had already known. One of mine was that life is a process. Another was not judging people based on what they say or do [I should have stopped at not judging people].
- It’s ok to change your mind. We learn, we grow. We have more information, we lived more, we just simply saw the negative consequences of some decisions. We can and should change our minds when new evidence presents itself. Besides, the world evolves and changes, so why wouldn’t we?
- When we are confronting with needing to make a decision, we know what to do. We just know. We may be afraid to put it into practice and of its consequences, but we do know what we want or what we should do. We may lack courage to put it into practice. We may not like the consequences. We may be afraid of how others will perceive us…But doing the right thing for us first is actually a sign of respect towards the other persons involved, even if it does not seem like that at first. It’s much harder to supporting the others when you haven’t taken care of yourself too.
- We need to select those whose opinions actually matter to us. Well, I am not saying that everybody’s opinions should matter, but I can’t go into the other extreme either. If you want to get a job, what the hiring staff or a client think of you is extremely important. If you want to be part of the group, the opinions of those people are important. I am not saying one has to change themselves or to pretend to be someone they are not in order to get a job or be part of a group. What I am saying is that what some people think of you matters, as they are the ones who support you to live the life you want. No matter how hard one tries, nobody met success on their own. Someone gave them a chance.
- Life is not that much about choosing between option 1 or option 2, but more about making option 1 and option 2 coexist. There are people who try to simplify things, to paint a black and white picture and to position themselves in opposition to something. But life on Earth is actually more about inclusion and acceptation and making things work. We can spend our time arguing and discussing and opposing and then at the end of the day discover that not much was done. Thus, a better strategy might have been to find a workable middle. It’s rarer than we’d like that the good and the bad are clearly shaped.
- Everyone can be someone who teaches us a lesson. So treat people the way you’d like to be treated if you were in their shoes. Oh, and when you treat someone who works in services with superiority, it doesn’t say you are someone important. It just says you have no good manners and so, nobody will invite you to dinner. 😉. Be kind.
- Start where you are. In an ideal world, things would be as we want them to be. I’d be waking up in a house surrounded my nature, do my 30 minute workout, take a shower while the coffee is making, connecting with colleagues via e-mail and then start writing. I’d have lunch, I’d read, go for a run/swim/walk and then came back to read some more. I’d have dinner and hang out with the boyfriend and the dogs. In reality, we are where we are, which is far from forests and nature, don’t live in a house and have zero dogs. I talk more than I write, but when haven’t I done this? However, I still work out, I still try to include writing and reading in my life and make time for fun. It’s not perfect, but it’s fine. If we want to ever live the life we want to live, we need to audit our current reality and start doing the things we can within the given context. Little things in life can produce as much unhappiness and dissatisfaction as lying to yourself or refusing to accept facts. It’s not good nor bad. It’s what it is. So let’s start from here.
- Do it now for your future self. Your future self will not have more time, more money, read more books, do more sports if you don’t start putting in the effort now. You will not have more time to read if you don’t make time now. You will not be stronger if you don’t work out now. You will not afford to buy an apartment if you don’t start saving now. You will not have more to save in the future if you don’t invest in your education and/or business now. Basically, not much will happen in the future unless you start preparing now. Feeling sorry for yourself and watching videos online doesn’t solve problems. At least not on the long term.
- Doing Sports is not only a practice of the body, but of the mind and the spirit too. It can make you happy, it can make you strong, it can make you feel great about life in general. Just try it. It is great to relieve stress and to unwind after a hard day at work.
- Take pictures and make videos. Especially of the random things. It is what will bring so much job in the future. Also, take selfies. It is corny and it totally means that you are self-involved, but take them. You’d one day find the pictures, look at them and realise you actually experiences so much and that you are much more resilient than you thought. Among my regrets is not taking a selfie in front of the Barnes & Noble bookstore on 5th Avenue in New York City. It pops in my mind regularly and I get a feeling of nostalgia every time I think about the hours spent there.
- Eat the good food. Oh, food. Just taste the food, eat enough calories, make healthy, nourishing choices that actually make you feel good. Make sure you eat when you are hungry and plan your meals a little bit, in order to make sure you are having enough nutrients. Don’t eat because you feel bored, stressed, upset, angry, happy or other emotions. Food is fuel for the body, not reward or punishment for good behaviour.
- People will judge you anyway. No matter what you do and how you do it, people will have an opinion of it. Some will like it, some will not. Some will tell you, some will not. It’s better to be judged for things you enjoy or for the things you actually believe in than for doing things you don’t want in order to impress others. You can’t please everybody or convince them all to like you or be your friend. Some people will hate you, some will ignore you, some will love you and some will not even know you existed. It’s fine, just make sure you spend enough time with those you love and love you back.
- Focus on this moment. When you feel sad or anxious or are tired of life, try taking a few breaths and focus on where you are now and on how you feel. There’s something about being present in our lives right here, right now, that it’s just calming and makes it all seem balanced. It’s ok to just be. I like to focus on how I am feeling, on how it feels moving a little bit, on how my clothes feel, how it smells around me, how warm it is and what I am seeing in my surroundings.
- People will not change because you want them to change. This is probably the most painful life lesson of all. People do things. Some things really hurt you. But they will not stop doing those things because you want them to stop. Each person lives their own life, so instead of being upset because people don’t do what you want them to do, be there for them or move away. If nothing else, focus on what you are doing.
- Time goes by anyway. We have some freedom in choosing what we want to do with the time we have available. We can read, we can go for a run, we can learn a new skill, we can watch TV, we can cook, we can spend time with friends and so on and so forth. The thing is that if there is something we really, really want to do in life, we should do it because life is too short to live with that regret. If you want to learn something or to start doing something new, just start small. We are never too old, we just think we are too old. We can let this thought stop us from becoming who we want to become or we can use the time we have available to progress with our plans. We say If I start this now, I will be 38/42/48/56/70 by the time I will finish the programme, so it’s too late. My point is that we’ll be those ages anyway [hopefully], even if we start investing time in what truly interests us or not.
- It’s ok to let relationships go. Some people are in our lives temporarily. It hurts when they stop being there, but in a way, they are part of who we are. We’ll always have that to treasure.
- Love is not enough. Now, maybe we should differentiate between love, as a strong emotion, and love, as a verb. Love, as a strong emotion, is not enough for having a good relationship. There needs to be compatibility, shared interests, the willingness to let the little things go, respect for the other person, availability for the relationship, commitment to the relationship and, as one friend taught me, the willingness to choose the same person day in, day out. We can love someone without being in a relationship. We can love someone enough to let them go because staying with us means they will not live the life they actually want to live. We can love people who died. But love, the feeling, alone will not make any two people be compatible. On the other hand, love, the verb, might. So there is still hope.
- Time doesn’t make things better. It just doesn’t. It may help us accept things, but it will not change things just by itself.
- Doing the right thing is not always easy or clear. Doing the right thing may hurt you. doing the right thing may hurt others. Doing the right thing for you may sometimes mean feeling like you are against the world. Just do the right thing for you. Those who really love you will understand and be there for you, even if they agree with you or not.
- Mostly, we regret the things we didn’t do. Think about it. What happened, happened. We are sorry for what didn’t happen. Like, you are not sorry you went to the party, you are sorry you didn’t stay home and read for the exam when you don’t pass the test. You are not sorry you played all the video games, you are sorry you didn’t go out there and met people. You are not sorry you focused on your career, you are sorry you didn’t also have children. You are not sorry you got married and had the children, you are sorry you didn’t spend more time travelling, meeting people and having fun. It’s all about the fact that we can’t have it all because there’s not enough time, talent, resources, so we just have to make it work with what we have. And also, because we are at it, when there’s something we regret, we don’t regret it all the time.
- We can do most things we want. We just have to then live with the consequences of all that. Make sure the anticipated consequences are something which will bring you joy on the long term. At least once in a while.
- Some decisions are made more than once. When you quit something that you like but is harmful for you, you don’t just make the decision to quit once. You make it every day. You make the decision every time you want it again. Like smoking. You don’t just quit smoking. You will have to make the decision to quit smoking every time you want a cigarette or think about a cigarette. Otherwise, it may not count. I guess the reverse is true as well; you don’t make the decision to be in a relationship or to have children once. You need to make sure you will want to make the same decision every time, in order to live up to your partnership or parenthood standards.
- Having liberty is actually difficult. I guess we all spend time when we are children thinking about the days when we will be able to decide and to do whatever we want. Well, it sometimes seems as though it is actually harder to do the things you tell yourself you need to do. When there are restrictions, at least there are some limits and one can get creative. When anything goes, it feels much more dire to make the right decision and basically to get to work.
- Most errors can be solved. We might not like the way, but we can find solutions for most of our problems. Some of the things that cause us stress, headaches and pain are things which if done wrong, they can be fixed.
- Respect is not earned, but given and withdrawn. I keep hearing this “respect is earned”, “earn my respect”, thing. My experience taught me that what actually happens is that people give you a shot because they want to give it to you. Whenever you break that trust, they take it away and get upset not for what you, a stranger practically, did, but because they made a mistake when they trusted you. So, don’t try to earn people’s respect. But try to live up to the trust the people you respect are putting in you.
- It’s not a matter of doing what you like. Most people like to do the things at which they are good and which are socially valuable. So, give the things in which you are interested a try. They may get to be your passion someday. I was not passionate about Microsoft Excel when I started using it. But you should hear me now. [or not, most people think it’s/I’m weird].
- Don’t get married thinking people will change their minds with time. If she says she doesn’t want kids, it is better to consider that it may actually be true. If you want kids, make sure you are with someone who wants children too. If you want to get married, make sure you are with someone who wants to get married. If you want to travel the world, find someone who makes your travels great, for which, them wanting to travel should be a given. People won’t just change because you wish they would or, worse, because you tell them they need to change. Time may make someone change their mind, but are you willing to be with them no matter what? If you don’t and break up and then you hear they actually did get married or had children or travelled around the world, don’t be sad. It does not mean they would have done any of that with you [so, ok, you can be a little sad].
- Live by your values. The values we hold are not something we have and which simply manifest in our lives. We practice values in our lives through the choices we make. Just make sure the choices you make on a daily basis mirror your values. When you act against your values, you will know because it feels like you did something wrong [I’m sure you know that nagging feeling]. And if you have any consciousness, you will not feel better until you undo what you did. And it may cost you more than it would have cost you to make the right thing in the first place. Just think before you talk or do.
- Your only competition is you. Unless you play for a team or something. When you start comparing your life with that of others, you’ll always find someone who is richer, prettier, fitter, smarter, more successful than you are or better than you are. It is just a fact [with one exception, there has to be someone who is the best, so congratulations if that someone is you]. If you envy someone, think why, be thankful and move in that direction if that is what you want and if that is something you can change. Being jealous of someone else is a good indicator that there is something in their life that we want for ourselves too. Identify what that is and go out there and get it. Most of the times, there is enough for all those who want it.
Far be it for me to say I got this all down. There are lessons I unfortunately had to learn over and over. And I still do or need to be reminded of them. You know, bottom line is that we need to do the best we can where we are, in order to make sure we live on a nice planet. We don’t need to be happy all the time, but I find it crucial to at least find life rather better.
Did any of the life lessons above resonated with you? How do you practice it? I’d love to read about your experience. You can leave a comment below or e-mail me if you’d life that better.
Make today count!