9 Lessons I’m Glad Life Taught Me
This afternoon my neighbor’s 16-year-old son interviewed me for a school project entitled “Lessons Life Teaches.” He came over to our condo with a white poster board that had nine words written on it. After a few miscellaneous introductory questions, he asked me to think about the words on the poster board for a few minutes and then, in the simplest way possible, explain what life had taught me about each one. Here are the nine words and what I told him:
Time passes quickly, and if you’re lucky enough, you’ll live long enough to marvel at the memories.
Picture yourself in twenty years walking past a park where you used to play with your friends when you were in kindergarten. While you’re passing by you notice that the park in now jam-packed with a new set of little faces. As you watch these kids swinging from the swing set and climbing trees together, you reminisce about simpler times and think about how these kids are going to grow up someday and do many of the same things that you’ve done. They will fall in love, and make mistakes, and fight adversities, and change their minds a dozen times about what they want to do with their lives.
But not yet, not now. At this moment swinging and climbing are sufficient feats for them. And although it would be nice if swinging and climbing were endlessly sufficient, you know they aren’t. You know life is infinitely more elaborate and beautiful – even in ways you have yet to experience – and that with each passing moment we all become a greater part of this elaborate beauty in every imaginable way.
When someone loves you, you know it. When they look your way, the world looks better. When they say your name, the world sounds better. When they kiss your skin, the world feels better. You know your soul is safe in their care.
But even more so than any physical interaction, there’s a silent connection between you that you can feel in your veins. You can sit in front of them for hours, without saying a word or moving a muscle, and yet still feel them with your heart. It’s almost like they’ve always been a part of you – like a long lost fragment of your essence has found its way home.
The single most important thing in life is what it all means to you. Life doesn’t come prepackaged with this meaning either; you create it. Doing so is rarely easy, but it’s always within your power and well worth the effort. You’ll be far happier for troubling yourself, rather than letting everyone else design your life for you.
Ultimately, the secret is to follow your intuition and make the most of the resources you have access to. Whatever comes your way, seemingly good and bad fortunes alike, you can always give these events meaning by transforming them into positive lessons and reflections, and then using them as stepping stones.
It’s impossible to know exactly how another person is feeling or what kind of emotional battles they’re fighting. Sometimes the widest smiles hide the thinnest strands of self-confidence and hope. Sometimes the ‘rich’ have everything but happiness. Realize this as you interact with others, long before you pass judgment. Every smile or sign of strength hides an inner struggle every bit as complex and extraordinary as your own.
It’s a sage fact of life, really, that every one of us encompasses a profound and unique set of secrets and mysteries that are absolutely undetectable to everyone else. Read Have You Filled a Bucket Today?
Sometimes you will have thoughts about yourself that even you can’t fully comprehend. Thoughts that aren’t true – that aren’t really how you feel – that don’t represent who you are today. But they’re running through your mind anyway and confusing your focus. Where do these thoughts come from? Perhaps they’re fragments of who you used to be or of who you thought you once were – an old ghost that still haunts your subconscious mind from time to time.
The good news is you’re not alone. If you could read the minds of other people, including those whom you love and admire, you’d overhear thoughts and nostalgic whispers that are constructive and true as well as some that are outdated and confused. The key is to realize that the latter thoughts are normal to have. We all deal with them. Maybe they’re a part of who we were. Maybe they’re part of an old mindset that we need to let go of. Regardless, they’re not part of who we ARE today – which is why we will eventually work through them, rise above them, and be perfectly OK in the long run.
Making money is pretty easy. Attaining true wealth is not. Most people have jobs and bring in an income. What’s difficult is to earn it by doing something that makes a positive difference.
Being a genuinely good person, helping others, and leaving the world better than you found it is what a truly rich life is. Its warm memories endure even when money and prominence fade, and it’s filled with the only kind of wealth you can take out of this world with you.
Knowing deep down that you counted – that someone else’s life would not have been as rich without you in it – that’s priceless. That’s something worth working for.
Lost opportunities, chances you didn’t take, feelings you can never get back. That’s part of what it means to be alive. It’s frustrating when you realize you’ve missed a good opportunity. Although you can’t go back and change the past, there’s still something positive you can do. You can choose to learn from your mistake and transform your regret for this missed opportunity into enthusiasm and commitment for seizing the next good opportunity that comes your way.
You can decide to look ahead, acknowledging the importance of what you missed, but also realizing that it’s not the end of the world. There are many roads leading to everyplace worth going. Look at every exit from one opportunity as a possible entrance to another. You just have to keep your eyes wide open, looking forward in the direction of the next chance to get it right.
Holding a resentful grudge is like drinking toxic venom and waiting for the other person to grow ill. It’s an exercise in futility. And just as toxic venom is to the human body, so is resentment to the human spirit – even one tiny bit is bad for you.
Don’t magnify life’s difficulties by filling your mind with resentment. Instead, ease your burdens by choosing to let them go. If you feel resentful feelings starting to take hold, stop and consider the fact that there’s nothing to be gained by bringing yourself down over what has already happened.
Let today be the day you stop letting the ghosts of yesterday haunt you. Let today be the day you stop poisoning yourself with needless hatred. Forget about getting even with someone who hurt you, and instead get even with those who have helped you. Read The Soulmate Experience.
You have an immeasurable power within yourself to make positive changes in your life. When something is troubling you, don’t ignore it; make a commitment to change it. Don’t sit around in awe of how unhappy you are and at how unfairly life is treating you. Instead, be amazed at how swiftly and effectively you can do something about it. A positive reaction is yours to make.
Your past is unchangeable. The future depends on your decisions and actions in this moment. Right now you have power. When the world feels like it’s crumbling down around you, that’s a valuable signal. It’s your heart’s way of telling you to get going and make an overdue change. You have plenty of suitable choices if you’ll simply make an effort to discover them. Pick the best one, put it into action, and take control of your life.