When I first started blogging, there was a trend of people posting lessons they’d learned by a certain age (ie “53 I learned by the age of 53”; “24 things I learned at 24”; etc.) I loved reading through different life lessons- some humorous, some moving- and was touched by the candid openness with which bloggers tried to help their readers through life’s trials and tribulations.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, and I’m still not yet ready to continue blogging regularly, but it was my birthday a couple of weeks ago and I wanted to share this tradition.
Although I recently turned 33, I only managed to narrow my list to 37 items, so decided everyone gets a few bonus insights. Mostly, I’ve tried to limit the commentary as I wanted each item to speak for itself, as well as allow the reader to take from it whatever is needed, but in a few cases I’ve added some explanation or expanded on the lesson. In no particular order:
1. We live the life we design.
I mean this absolutely.
2. Sometimes no matter how rational, right, calm, emotional, or justified you are, you can’t win. Walk away.
3. “Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.” – Steve Jobs
4. If it’s not emotional, useful or beautiful, throw it away.
5. A good coat of lipstick and a brave face can hide a lot.
6. Before you speak, ask yourself: is it truthful? Is it necessary? And- is it kind?
-paraphrased from Sri Sathya Sai Baba
7. If you’re going to fight, be prepared to get hit.
8. Being human is the most beautiful thing of all.
9. A broken heart hurts worse than a broken bone. And you will survive both.
10. Everyone is worse than you and better than you in some way. You can learn something from everyone.
11. You can always start over, whether you believe that or not.
12. Sometimes it’s just your turn to be that guy. Laugh it off!
13. We don’t know what’s around the corner.
Things in life can change very quickly. In times of suffering I’ve found remembering this helps me keep moving forward.
14. The only real things in life are attitude and perspective. The same thing can happen to multiple people but it’s each of their attitude and perspective that changes the impact, effect and aftermath.
15. You cannot control anybody else’s actions. You can only control your response to them.
16. The older I get, the more I value kindness above all else.
There is a Plato quote I have tried to live by for years: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”
17. People show you who they are, if you’ll stop making excuses and pretending they’re not exactly who they keep showing you they are.
18. Let go.
19. The most important things in life can be summed up by the 7 L’s: Laughter. Love. Light. Luck. Life. Listen. Learn.
Years ago when I was still living in Montreal, I ran the eastern Canada region of an international youth organization for teenagers. My office was located in a community center. A special needs individual named Bill stopped by to visit often. People often overlooked Bill because of his mental and cognitive challenges. One day Bill sat in his usual chair in my office, told me about his day, and then explained that the most important things in life can be summed up by the seven L’s above. This is not a quote he’d heard somewhere else; it comes straight from his heart. Bill knew way more about life than most people I’ve met with “normal” faculties.
20. When determining life and career choices, I always felt I would stay in a job/ career as long as I felt both happy and challenged by it, and when that stopped, I would find something else. It is never too late to make a change, even very big ones, especially if you’re moving towards something more fulfilling.
21. Everyone is just doing the best they can.
22. People never really leave you. They come and go, and you need to give people the freedom to leave and come back, understanding and allowing that sometimes this can take years.
23. Often, when you think someone has an issue with you, or you are wondering what you did wrong, it’s really about them and has nothing to do with you.
24. Don’t take life too seriously. No one’s getting out alive.
This one isn’t an original, but I’m not sure what the real quote is or the source.
25. Common sense is not common.
26. Ultimately, every action and every choice are about the kind of person you want to be.
27. When I’ve been in overwhelming, upsetting or emotionally draining situations and feel like I’m drowning, I find it helps to connect with people outside of the situation (friends I haven’t seen in a long time, for example.) I am reminded that although what I’m dealing with seems enormous, it only impacts me, and I’ll get through it. There’s more to life than solely what’s happening to me at that moment.
I also try to put things in perspective by thinking how this doesn’t matter to millions of people in the world, so maybe it’s not as big as it seems.
Lastly, I ask myself whether any of this will matter in five or ten years from now. Most of the time the answer is no, which helps me regain perspective. Sometimes the answer may be yes (or certain parts of a situation may matter while others don’t), so I focus on those aspects and try not to get caught up in the others.
We all go through very difficult times. None of this is easy, but I’ve found it helps me regain perspective at times when I desperately need it.
28. We are all beings of light, and we are all connected.
29. It’s both a very big world, and a very small one, all at the same time.
30. “Your life is not defined by the seemingly big moments, such as whether you nail that interview. Your life is defined by which bus you get on.”
This is paraphrased from something a very dear friend’s father told her. She was facing a big challenge and was stressing about the outcome. Her father told her how when he was in school, he missed his first choice internship by a matter of hours; he should have confirmed his place in the morning, but since he waited until the afternoon, someone else filled the spot. Disappointed, he began working at his second choice. On the first day of that internship, he met a young woman who worked in that office, who later became his wife.
In life, it’s the seemingly insignificant moments that have the most impact. We are shaped both by the things we plan, but also by the smallest occurrences we wouldn’t have even thought to consider.
31. “You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. “
32. Anyone can be nice to you when they’re happy. It’s how they treat you when they’re angry that counts.
This doesn’t mean that how someone treats you when they’re happy doesn’t count. Of course it does. But pay attention to how someone treats you when they’re angry or upset with you, as that matters tremendously and can shape the relationship.
33. Just because you haven’t, doesn’t mean you can’t.
34. True strength is not doing something when you don’t care; it’s doing it despite caring so much.
35. Love is a verb, not a noun.
36. “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” –Leonard Cohen
37. I am never going to be anyone other than me. I am never going to be anything other than who I am.
BONUS- LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT.