This ‘life lessons' post actually came about courtesy of a friend. He said: “There's a ton of these kind of posts online, so why don't you do one”?
So, it isn't the most original concept, but no doubt there's something in here that will inspire someone, somewhere.
I wanted to make it 40 lessons learned because I'm closer to age 40 than 30, and that way the post would last 2 years before I'd have to update it. That's right, I'm 38.
I wrote around 20 or so straight off the bat, but then got a dose of writer's block. “Hmmm, what other life lessons have I learned?”
I took the train home from the cafe I was in and penned at least another 10 on route – there's something about taking yourself out of one environment and into another that breathes life back into your pen, so to speak.
So, for what it's worth, here's my list…
40 Life Lessons I've Learned on My Winding Road
- No one else can make you happy. Intimate relationships will distract you from yourself and offer temporary sanctuary, but facing your demons – your fears, insecurities, negative past experiences, wrong doings and shortcomings – requires you to look in the mirror, alone.
- Free yourself from attachment to material things. The persistent pursuit of the next best “thing” steals your freedom to think clearly and rationally, robs you of precious time and creates unnecessary additional stress in your life. It's quite simple; before you buy, ask yourself: do I really need this? Will it make my life less stressful, or a difficult task easier? Buy only what you truly need. Retail therapy is a distraction, not a cure.
- Work less, if you can. There will be no reward on your deathbed for all those extra hours you put in at the office, but there will be no regret for the extra time you spent with the people you cherish.
- Be wary of those who try to sell you ways to be “successful”. There will always be one more step, one more course, one more seminar, one more thing you need to do. First, question what the teacher defines as “success”, then consider that success isn't a magical place you will arrive at one day, where you experience a sense of self actualisation and everything falls perfectly into place. Those selling success in pretty packages already know this. They also know that chasing fantasy is a powerful drug and, like all drugs it will make you want more to the point it eventually drains you of your ability to think independently and make decisions with clarity . You are already successful. You exist.
- If you need a reminder of what happiness looks like, watch children playing together.
- If you want to understand mindfulness, watch children playing together.
- The monetary system doesn't work. It is a hard thing to admit that the underlying foundation of our culture, and the primary driver behind our education is in fact a fraud: a pyramid scheme that manipulates and exploits people, that deliberately creates war and division, that encourages us to put profit and material gain before each other, that destroys the very world supporting our existence – but it's true. The system won't change in my lifetime, but it will, one day. Maybe.
- Don't believe what anyone tells you. Do the research yourself. Sure, truth evolves over time, but the closer to it you are the better your life will be.
- There's no shame in being wrong, and no defeat in saying sorry. Accepting when you are wrong and apologising for mistakes that have affected others is a necessary healing process for both parties involved. It also helps you become a more compassionate, kind person.
- You can't change the world, but you can be the change. Don't neglect fighting for the things you feel passionately about because you think your voice is too small and that not enough people care. One voice is capable of creating a huge echo.
- When possible, go to bed early and wake up early. It is amazing how much more you get done and how much more zest for life you have when you wake with nature's curtain. Sleep is not something your health can afford to skimp on, either.
- Exercise every day. Humans are made to move. Our ancestors roamed approximately 19km a day. So walk, run, lift, jump, stretch. Whatever you can do, put aside time each day to oil your engine. It makes you feel wonderful; inspired, creative, enthusiastic, happy.
- Your health is your wealth. (I stole this from my Mum).
- You can't do everything in life, and those things you spend your time wishing you had done, you probably wouldn't have done them anyway. And those things you did, and the things you're doing now, you might not have done them if you'd done those other things, anyway.
- It is no lie that the best things in life are free: hugs, parks, friends, time spent with family, listening to music. Do as many of these things as possible, as much as you can.
- Let go of what you think life should be like, and what you think others should be doing. Expectation is a fool's guide to life.
- Let go of striving for perfection. Every time you think you are getting close, the definition will take on a new meaning in your mind. Things are already perfect; they are exactly as they are.
- Allow yourself to accept change and evolve with its inevitability. If you don't, you will always rue the past and fear the future.
- Engage in acts of kindness as often as possible. Giving is the greatest reward for your soul. Whether a helping hand or taking 5 minutes to stop for a chat, kindness is a gift that can breathe happiness and positivity into all of our lives.
- Life is too short to spend it living out the expectations of others. This is your journey. Make it your story.
- Don't rush through life chasing your tail. It might be cliche, but stop every now and again to look around and notice life. Meditation, chilling out and listening to music, or just sitting on your doorstep are wonderful ways to bring the mind home for a while.
- Don't spend too long doing things that make you unhappy. Sure, sometimes it's necessary to endure the mental pain awhile to get to the next stage on your ladder. But if too often you find yourself questioning whether you really want to do this, it is time for a change and a new direction.
- Be frugal. You need a lot less money to be healthy and content in life than you think – though marketers and our consumer culture will try and convince you otherwise. Most people spend their entire lives thinking about earning more money, only to earn more, spend more and still think about earning more. Mother Nature has no interest in money. She's going to take you anyway. Enjoy her while she lets you dance. Buy what you need to survive and thrive, not what you think you might need.
- Don't clutter your life with things. The more things you have the more things you have to worry about, the more things you have to pay for, the more things you have to tend to and concern yourself with, and the more things you're likely to convince yourself you need.
- Teach your children right from wrong and lead them away from danger, but don't push them to follow your footsteps through academia, sports and career choices. Teaching your children to be like you is the greatest disservice you can do them. Nurture their individual talents, encourage critical thinking by presenting all sides of the coin, and let them explore their unique personal attributes. This is their journey, not yours.
- You can't preach change. If you want to bring about change, present unequivocal facts and inspire through your actions.
- Be the change you want to see in the world. Simple.
- If something is worth doing it's worth doing with care and attention. You'll get far greater satisfaction from doing tasks methodically, and with great attention to detail, than by rushing through them in a bid to get more done.
- Only ever lend what you can afford to lose.
- Don't fall out with friends over politics, religion or morality. We evolve individually and are constantly at different places on our life journey. Evolving opinions are a necessary consequence of being human. Accept. Understand. Discuss.
- When things feel like they're getting too much in life, stop, sit down and take time out. Stop the doing and just be for a while. Take a nap, have a walk, do nothing. Your best doing will arise out of your ability to “just be”.
- This moment is all there is. Neither the past or the future exists. That's a fact. Don't let the past define who you are today, and don't let what you think the future might look like control your destiny.
- You are what you eat. So, where possible eat as many whole, unprocessed foods as you can. Mother Nature meant it to be that way.
- Avoid getting into debt as best you can. Banks sit and wait, from the time we go to school to when we start university and beyond, anxious to lend us money they don't physically have and charge us an extortionate amount of interest for the privilege. If you let debt become a dominating factor in your life, it will control your freedom and persistently infiltrate your thoughts.
- Do your best not to mix business and friends, unless money is not the goal.
- When you feel yourself getting angry and about to lose control, walk away. Aggression and violence breed the same and offer no solution, only temporary subjugation.
- If your kid(s) ask for your brief attention while you are busy, offer it without question. You'll never get that moment back if you don't.
- Don't listen to people who say you're too old or too late. If you feel like you can do it, you can.
- Make mistakes and remain a creative being. School teaches us that mistakes are bad and to be avoided, but mistakes are a valuable part of the creative process. No life-changing invention has been created, or fulfilling life lived, without a few mistakes along the way. Keep inventing, keep reinventing, keep failing (learning) and always explore your ideas as best you can.
- Do/watch something that makes you laugh every day, and smile as often as you can. These habits will increase your happiness three-fold, and spread contagiously to your family and friends and everyone you meet.
This is my list of life lessons: If some of these things resonate with you, great; write them down, post them on Facebook, or share with a friend by email. If you disagree with some of my points, that's great too; go and start your own list and live your life, your way.