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20 Lessons From Life I Learned the Hard Way

Life lessons have a way of piling up as the years go by, but I can only imagine what it would be like to know these truths from the very beginning.

Mistakes-Precious Life Lessons
Mistakes-Precious Life Lessons

There is great joy in learning, so I have no regrets about learning these lessons from life the hard way.  The end product (a consistently improved version of myself) makes it well worth the time, effort and tears.  I hope you feel the same way as you join me in reflecting upon life lessons learned and moving forward to continue this  journey.

20 Life Lessons

1. Your real age isn’t determined by your date of birth. Age only matters to the extent that you feel old or young.  It doesn’t matter how many years have gone by when you’re living life from a state of wonder, positive expectation, and joy.  That attitude in itself is the fountain of youth.

2. Sometimes good is better than perfect. To the extent that waiting on the one perfect moment means missing lots of very good moments, perfectionism is highly overrated.  Be the best parent, spouse, friend, businessperson and human being that you can be.  Strike a balance and keep moving rather than spending your life in a “not quite good enough” frame of mind.

3. The cover often misrepresents the book. People and things aren’t always what they seem, so it’s important to keep an open mind and to observe without judgment as much as possible.  A person who seems angry or mean may really just be scared to let others get close. An idea that sounds absurd may actually be an amazingly creative solution that will change the world as we know it.  Consider all possibilities.

4. You are not responsible for the feelings, thoughts and behaviors of others. Trying to please everyone and/or fix their problems may seem admirable on the surface, but the controlling nature behind this behavior doesn’t do anybody any good.  The best thing you can do to help others is to let go, get out of their way and stop trying to control every outcome.  Instead of blaming yourself or holding yourself responsible for “making” others happy, give that responsibility back to its rightful owner.

5. You are responsible for your own feelings, thoughts and behaviors. It is a waste of time to cast blame on your parents, the government, or anything else outside of yourself.  As long as you have control over your thoughts, you have control over the true quality of your life.

6. The problem of the moment doesn’t define your life. You can stop yourself from overdramatizing and becoming too vested in limiting beliefs by putting unwanted circumstances into perspective. Consider how much the problem you’re dealing with will matter in a month, a year, 10 years.  By realizing that the issue is temporary, that you will survive and that life will go on; you can change your thought reactions, which will in turn change the way you feel and respond.

7. Statistics are often wrong or misleading. If you doubt this, remember that studies once showed that cigarette smoking was good for your health. Each day the consensus will change on what is good for you versus what’s likely to kill you, what’s likely to make you rich versus what’s financially foolish.  Remember to weigh this information against the anxiety and stress that it causes.  You are not limited to outcomes that are likely, predictable or expected.  You are unlimited. Listen more closely to the knowing of your own soul (intuition) than to any other source.

8. Your answer is not always the answer. You can save yourself a lot of grief by realizing that there is not just one right way.  If something sounds right, feels right, looks right or works out right for you; it may be your truth.  But that doesn’t mean it is THE truth.  Be easy with your expectations of others rather than trying to force your way.  With any luck, the same respect will be given to you.

9. Like it or not, you need others. You may want to believe that you need no one, but the truth is that none of us are that self-sufficient.  It is in our nature to need each other in order to truly experience life and to evolve in our humanity.

10. Labeling is irrational. The habit of labeling a whole based on one part is the root of much disappointment and misunderstanding.  Before you attach a negative label to yourself or someone else, remember that a bad apple doesn’t have to ruin the whole bunch.  Similarly, a person with a bad attitude isn’t necessarily a bad person; a failed attempt to implement an idea doesn’t mean the idea is worthless; a stupid mistake doesn’t make you stupid.

11. Growth, change and improvement don’t necessarily feel good. To expect success without difficulty in life is like expecting to fly without leaving the ground.  It is completely normal to experience discomfort and pain as you move forward in life.  Be willing to stretch yourself and to leave your comfort zone. Each time you get over a hump, you’ll realize it was worth the sweat.

12. The past has passed. The sooner you accept that you can’t change the past, the sooner you can begin to live.  Life is happening now, but you’ll miss it if your mind is stuck in a time that is no longer yours to seize.

13. It is okay to be wrong. It’s impossible to learn if you’re obsessed with being right all the time.   It is only by making peace with your own flaws, mistakes and misunderstandings that you make room for your expansion and growth. The person who thinks he knows everything learns nothing.

14. Losing the argument is better than losing the relationship. Even if you’re sure that you’re right, there are times when it’s best to throw in the towel. If a person is vested in maintaining their point of view, agree to disagree and move on.  Rarely is arguing worth the damage that it may cause.

15. Victimization is a choice. Everybody experiences harsh circumstances in life, some more extreme than others. In every case, fortunately, the choice is yours to either remain a victim or live as a survivor.  One option is empowering and the other degenerative, but both options are always within reach.

16. Money does not create happiness. If money was the secret to happiness, there wouldn’t be so many rich people using illicit drugs and committing suicide.  True happiness is something that comes from within, and you can have it no matter what (if anything) is in your bank account. The best car, house, jewelry, clothes and shoes in the world are no comparison for inner joy.

17. The half empty glass is also half full. Much of life is about perspective.  You can look at the whole picture and focus on the positives, or you can set your sights completely on what’s wrong.  When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at get better and better.

18. You need your friendship. There is nobody more deserving or more in need of your friendship than you.  Yet negative thinking, self blame, and unreasonable expectations threaten to stand in the way.  Improve your life by first improving your relationship with yourself. Be kind, gentle, compassionate and forgiving. Treat yourself as you would your best friend. Better yet, become the best friend that you’ve ever had.

19. Holding a grudge won’t hurt the person that hurt you. Letting go is hard work, but you do yourself a disservice by harboring resentment. To forgive is to take a load off your own heart, therefore setting yourself free from the bondage of a grudge.  Whether or not you forgive, the only person truly impacted by your choice is you.

20. The majority only rules if you let it. You may crave approval from family, peers, and society as a whole; but there are times when the best choice for you is to follow an unpopular path.  Never be afraid to trust your inner guidance. It won’t always lead you where others want you to go, but it will lead you to the lessons and experiences necessary for your expansion.

Photo credit: Gaetano Matteazi

It’s comment time. Did you enjoy reading these life lessons? What are some of the lessons from life that you have learned the hard way?

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