Remember in school, how some subjects never quite made sense no matter how many ways your teacher explained them? For me, that was geometry. For the life of me, I could not wrap my brain around how sines and cosines worked (or why I should care).
In the school of life, many of us struggle with our own lessons – truths we may have learned years ago but, have not been able to grasp. They’re our universal geometry class. Here are 10 of those lessons so that we all – me, too – can hopefully catch on for good.
1. Life is short.
We hear that all the time, and we know intellectually that it’s true. Even the oldest among us rarely live more than a century. Yet, when someone close to us dies, we are surprised every time. Like distracted teenagers climbing the stairs, we expect one more step than there is and stumble before we wake to what we’re doing and see what’s really there.
Lesson learned: Live life NOW. Don’t fear death. Fear missing out on an amazing life because you were scared to act. Death is not the greatest loss. Letting yourself die inside while you’re still alive is. Be brave. Be strong. Be terrified, and do the thing that scares you anyway.
2. Your life is yours – and only yours – to create.
Your life is your own. Once you’re an adult, no one can make a decision for you.Others can try to influence you, and they can take their journey next to you, but they cannot walk your path for you.
Your path must align with your own instinct and wishes. If it doesn’t you must switch paths (or create one). We hear people say, “Actions speak louder than words.” That’s true. So let your life preach louder than your mouth, so that your success screams for you in the end.
Lesson learned: This is your life, so make your own choices. Listen to your intuition, be courageous and be willing to leap without knowing where you might land.
A passionate jump forward is always worth the risk. Many of us have gotten stuck in jobs we don’t want, relationships that don’t serve us. We’re told to be patient, which sometimes is good advice. But patience doesn’t mean waiting – it means maintaining positivity while you pursue your dreams. You’ve climbed a ladder to get where you are. If you don’t want to be here, it’s better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb than the top of one you don’t.
3. Busy and productive are two different things.
We all know people who are all about their “busyness.” Busy people rush from appointment to appointment, running late and looking harried. They are off to work, meetings, parties, seminars, PTO. They barely sleep and haven’t spent time with their families in forever. But they fire off machine-gun bursts of emails from their phones, and their calendars look like presidential itineraries.
People who are constantly busy feel important. But how much are those people getting done?
Lesson learned: Busyness is not a life goal. Of course, all of us have waves of busy times. However, most of us have no real need to be that busy every day. If we catch ourselves in that cycle of busyness, it’s time to examine whether we’re living within our means, focusing on what’s most important and turning down commitments that don’t add to our lives.
Instead of staying busy, we can focus on staying productive. When we get things done, we have time for our own priorities and can live a life of purpose. The high of being busy isn’t worth living an unproductive live. Learn that now, not as youlay dying (see #1).
4. Failure comes first.
Remember when you were little and stood up for the first time? Me neither. But I bet you can picture a toddler grabbing a chair pulling herself up, toppling over, then crawling back to that chair and trying again.
From that earliest point in our lives, we understood that mistakes are inevitable. We didn’t sit on the floor and refuse to move because our first try at standing plopped us on our behinds. We’ve known all along that failures lead to success, yet we beat ourselves up all the time for failing as adults.
Lesson learned: Forgive yourself. Making a mistake is not a problem. Making the same mistake repeatedly and not learning from the mistake is.
If you’re paralyzed by fear of failure, you can’t succeed. So, make friends with failure. Fail better next time. You can’t master something without being a beginner first; and beginners fail. Stephen McCranie said, “The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.” He’s right. We may not have seen Da Vinci’s hideous beginner drawings, but guaranteed he didn’t have the skill to paint the Sistine Chapel from the start.
If your Sistine Chapel doesn’t happen for you right now, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Hang in there, and keep painting (figuratively). Sometimes things have to go terribly wrong before they can be right.
5. “Think” is not “Do.”
Carl Jung said, “You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.” In other words, without action, your intellect and analysis is useless. Success doesn’t look for people who are waiting around and thinking about it.
Lesson learned: You know that trite saying, “Good things come to those who wait”? That’s not true. Good things come to people who pursue their goals. So, ask yourself what is most important to you. Then, build your life around the answer by acting on it. Don’t wait until you feel completely ready to start. No one is completely ready to start – just go for it. You can always adjust course later.
6. You don’t need someone else to apologize in order to forgive them.
Contrary to popular opinion, forgiveness has nothing to do with the person who wronged you. Forgiveness is your capacity to see beyond the wrongdoing to the lesson and be grateful for each experience, positive or negative, in your life. When you forgive something done in the past, you release the hold someone else has on your present.
Lesson learned: Grudges waste today’s happiness. Whether someone has offered an apology for what he’s done or never acknowledges he’s done anything wrong at all, you have the power to promise yourself not to let a past no one can change affect the present.
Forgiveness does not condone behavior. Instead, it frees you of victimhood and lets you move forward.
7. You are not going to get along with everyone.
The people with whom you surround yourself influence your greatness. Think about your closest friends: You can be yourself around them, they encourage you. They probably even tell you when those pants look terrible on you. They support you and encourage you.
Now, think about people who leave you feeling drained, uncool, exhausted. Maybe right now you feel a tiny bit anxious just picturing them. Why are they in your life?
Lesson learned: There are billions of people on this planet. Not all of them are meant to be friends. Listen to your gut: If someone makes you feel down, tired or unhappy about yourself, stop associating with them. The earth is covered with people who can boost your energy and inspire you to grow.
8. There’s only one person who is required to love you. (No, I don’t mean your mom.)
One of the easiest things to do when we get older is forget our own worth. We start to see ourselves through the eyes of our detractors (those energy drainers in #7, for example), and in our effort to be nice to others we forget how important it is to be kind to ourselves.
Lesson learned: Just for today, let someone love exactly who you are today. You may see yourself as flawed, unattractive, incomplete. Let someone love you despite all those. Let that someone be you.You really do have to love yourself to accomplish anything else. Know how valuable you are, even if you think nobody else does.
9. Your possessions do not define you.
Chances are, you’ve been on a path to acquisition for a long time. You’ve been told to get a diploma,adegree, a steady job, a nice car, a house. You may have more than you need, yet the consumer-driven culture around you focuses on material things above meaningful connections and experiences. So, you keep getting. If it sounds like trickery, that’s because it is. And it’s time to stop trying to impress the rest of the world with unimportant possessions.
Lesson learned: Stuff is stuff. It has no influence on who you are. To break the cycle of consumerism, you must redefine your personal culture. You may want to stop watching TV, reading fashion magazines or absorbing hours of news every day. Whatever helps you fill your time with meaningful experiences with your friends, family, favorite things to do, your dreams, hopes and fears – stop giving your life away to marketing and mass media.
You occupy a space right now. That space is your life. If you’re wrapped up in what Kim and Kanye are doing or how many points King James scored instead of what your family is doing, you’re stealing your own power. If you’re working countless hours to make sure you dress, appear and act a particular way, chances are you’re missing out on your own life. Reclaim your mind. Live with less. Find the strength to fill your life with YOUR life.
10. The only constant in this world is change.
Everything is changing. In the time it’s taken you to read this article, things have changed. Sometimes change happens quickly, sometimes slowly. But it always happens.A split-second decision can change the entire direction of your life. Something unpredictablecan flipthe whole world on its ear. These changes happen all the time, and sometimes we don’t understand why.
Lesson learned: Embrace and accept change. When life is great, avoid the temptation to seek something better right away. Enjoy the moment, because it will change. When your situation is bad, know it, too, will change. Life doesn’t stop for anyone, so accept the rough times and know the end result will be worth the struggle.
By: Elizabeth Wise
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