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38 Life Lessons You Should Learn Today

38 Life Lessons You Should Learn Today

For the full original unedited article visit Leo Babauta’s blog, Zen Habits

Today (April 30) I turn 38 years old.

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I’ve been on this earth for nearly four decades. Being in a city like Paris, where there are buildings that measure their age by the millennia, helps put that brief blink of the eye into perspective. But still, it amazes me that I’ve been around that long — I feel like I’ve barely begun.

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I’m not usually one to make a big deal about my birthday, but as always, it has given me an opportunity to reflect. I thought I’d share a handful of lessons I’ve learned — as a helpful guide for those just starting out.

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This post is for my children, whom I miss greatly across the distance of a continent and an ocean. I hope this will shine a dim light on the streets they have to navigate ahead of them, though I know they’ll still stumble as much as I have.

This is for you, Chloe, Justin, Rain, Maia, Seth and Noelle. I apologize for the length.

38 Lessons I’ve Learned in My 38 Years

  1. Always swallow your pride to say you’re sorry. Being too proud to apologize is never worth it — your relationship suffers for no good benefit.
  2. Possessions are worse than worthless — they’re harmful. They add no value to your life, and cost you everything. Not just the money required to buy them, but the time and money spent shopping for them, maintaining them, worrying about them, insuring them, fixing them, etc.
  3. Slow down. Rushing is rarely worth it. Life is better enjoyed at a leisurely pace.
  4. Goals aren’t as important as we think. Try working without them for a week. Turns out, you can do amazing things without goals. And you don’t have to manage them, cutting out on some of the bureaucracy of your life. You’re less stressed without goals, and you’re freer to choose paths you couldn’t have foreseen without them.
  5. The moment is all there is. All our worries and plans about the future, all our replaying of things that happened in the past — it’s all in our heads, and it just distracts us from fully living right now. Let go of all that, and just focus on what you’re doing, right at this moment. In this way, any activity can be meditation.
  6. When your child asks for your attention, always grant it. Give your child your full attention, and instead of being annoyed at the interruption, be grateful for the reminder to spend time with someone you love.
  7. Don’t go into debt. That includes credit card debt, student debt, home debt, personal loans, auto loans. We think they’re necessary but they’re not, at all. They cause more headaches than they’re worth, they can ruin lives, and they cost us way more than we get. Spend less than you earn, go without until you have the money.
  8. I’m not cool, and I’m cool with that. I wasted a lot of energy when I was younger worrying about being cool. It’s way more fun to forget about that, and just be yourself.
  9. The only kind of marketing you need is an amazing product. If it’s good, people will spread the word for you. All other kind of marketing is disingenuous.
  10. Never send an email or message that’s unfit for the eyes of the world. In this digital age, you never know what might slip into public view.
  11. You can’t motivate people. The best you can hope for is to inspire them with your actions. People who think they can use behavioral “science” or management techniques have not spent enough time on the receiving end of either.
  12. If you find yourself swimming with all the other fish, go the other way. They don’t know where they’re going either.
  13. You will miss a ton, but that’s OK. We’re so caught up in trying to do everything, experience all the essential things, not miss out on anything important … that we forget the simple fact that we cannot experience everything. That physical reality dictates we’ll miss most things. We can’t read all the good books, watch all the good films, go to all the best cities in the world, try all the best restaurants, meet all the great people. But the secret is: life is better when we don’t try to do everything. Learn to enjoy the slice of life you experience, and life turns out to be wonderful.
  14. Mistakes are the best way to learn. Don’t be afraid to make them. Try not to repeat the same ones too often.
  15. Failures are the stepping stones to success. Without failure, we’ll never learn how to succeed. So try to fail, instead of trying to avoid failure through fear.
  16. Rest is more important than you think. People work too hard, forget to rest, and then begin to hate their jobs. In fitness, you see it constantly: people training for a marathon getting burned out because they don’t know how to let their straining muscles and joints recover. People who try to do too much because they don’t know that rest is where their body gets stronger, after the stress.
  17. There are few joys that equal a good book, a good walk, a good hug, or a good friend. All are free.
  18. Fitness doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long process, a learning process, something that happens in little bits over a long period. I’ve been getting fit for five years now, and I still have more to learn and do. But the progress I’ve made has been amazing, and it’s been a great journey.
  19. The destination is just a tiny slice of the journey. We’re so worried about goals, about our future, that we miss all the great things along the way. If you’re fixated on the goal, on the end, you won’t enjoy it when you get there. You’ll be worried about the next goal, the next destination.
  20. A good walk cures most problems. Want to lose weight and get fit? Walk. Want to enjoy life but spend less? Walk. Want to cure stress and clear your head? Walk. Want to meditate and live in the moment? Walk. Having trouble with a life or work problem? Walk, and your head gets clear.
  21. Let go of expectations. When you have expectations of something — a person, an experience, a vacation, a job, a book — you put it in a predetermined box that has little to do with reality. You set up an idealized version of the thing (or person) and then try to fit the reality into this ideal, and are often disappointed. Instead, try to experience reality as it is, appreciate it for what it is, and be happy that it is.
  22. Giving is so much better than getting. Give with no expectation of getting something in return, and it becomes a purer, more beautiful act. Too often we give something and expect to get an equal measure in return — at least get some gratitude or recognition for our efforts. Try to let go of that need, and just give.
  23. Competition is very rarely as useful as cooperation. Our society is geared toward competition — rip each other’s throats out, survival of the fittest, yada yada. But humans are meant to work together for the survival of the tribe, and cooperation pools our resources and allows everyone to contribute what they can. It requires a whole other set of people skills to work cooperatively, but it’s well worth the effort.
  24. Gratitude is one of the best ways to find contentment. We are often discontent in our lives, desire more, because we don’t realize how much we have. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, be grateful for the amazing gifts you’ve been given: of loved ones and simple pleasures, of health and sight and the gift of music and books, of nature and beauty and the ability to create, and everything in between. Be grateful every day.
  25. Compassion for other living things is more important than pleasure. Many people scoff at vegetarianism because they love the taste of meat and cheese too much, but they are putting the pleasure of their taste buds ahead of the suffering of other living, feeling beings. You can be perfectly healthy on a vegetarian (even vegan) diet, so killing and torturing animals is absolutely unnecessary. Compassion is a much more fulfilling way to live than closing your eyes to suffering.
  26. Taste buds change. I thought I could never give up meat, but by doing it slowly, I never missed it. I thought I could never give up junk food like sweets, fried crap, nachos, all kinds of unhealthy things … and yet today I would rather eat some fresh berries or raw nuts. Weird, but it’s amazing how much our taste buds can change.
  27. Create. The world is full of distractions, but very few are as important as creating. In my job as a writer, there is nothing that comes close to being as crucial as creating. In my life, creating is one of the few things that has given me meaning. When it’s time to work, clear away all else and create.
  28. Get some perspective. Usually when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. In the larger picture, this one problem means almost nothing. This fight we’re having with someone else — it’s over something that matters naught. Let it go, and move on.
  29. Don’t sit too much. It kills you. Move, dance, run, play.
  30. Use the magic of compound interest. Invest early, and it will grow as if by alchemy. Live on little, don’t get into debt, save all you can, and invest it in mutual funds. Watch your money grow.
  31. All we are taught in schools, and all we see in the media (news, films, books, magazines, Internet) has a worldview that we’re meant to conform to. Figure out what that worldview is, and question it. Ask if there are alternatives, and investigate. Hint: the corporations exert influence over all of our information sources. Another hint: read Chomsky.
  32. Learn the art of empathy. Too often we judge people on too little information. We must try to understand what they do instead, put ourselves in their shoes, start with the assumption that what others do has a good reason if we understand what they’re going through. Life becomes much better if you learn this art.
  33. Do less. Most people try to do too much. They fill life with checklists, and try to crank out tasks as if they were widget machines. Throw out the checklists and just figure out what’s important. Stop being a machine and focus on what you love. Do it lovingly.
  34. No one knows what they’re doing as parents. We’re all faking it, and hoping we’re getting it right. Some people obsess about the details, and miss out on the fun. I just try not to mess them up too much, to show them they’re loved, to enjoy the moments I can with them, to show them life is fun, and stay out of the way of them becoming the amazing people they’re going to become. That they already are.
  35. Love comes in many flavors. I love my children, completely and more than I can ever fully understand. I love them each in a different way, and know that each is perfect in his or her own way.
  36. Life is exceedingly brief. You might feel like there’s a huge mass of time ahead of you, but it passes much faster than you think. Your kids grow up so fast you get whiplash. You get gray hairs before you’re done getting your bearings on life. Appreciate every damn moment.
  37. Fear will try to stop you. Doubts will try to stop you. You’ll shy away from doing great things, from going on new adventures, from creating something new and putting it out in the world, because of self-doubt and fear. It will happen in the recesses of your mind, where you don’t even know it’s happening. Become aware of these doubts and fears. Shine some light on them. Beat them with a thousand tiny cuts. Do it anyway, because they are wrong.
  38. I have a lot left to learn. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that I know almost nothing, and that I’m often wrong about what I think I know. Life has many lessons left to teach me, and I’m looking forward to them all.
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Leo Babauta

Founder of Zen Habits and expert in habits building and goals achieving.

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Last Updated on September 30, 2020

How to Live a Stress Free Life in a Way Most People Don’t

How to Live a Stress Free Life in a Way Most People Don’t

Learning how to live a stress free life may seem impossible, but the truth is that there are specific things you can do to begin eliminating sources of stress.

No, it doesn’t look like a made-for-television movie. No, it doesn’t look like something only people with extra time and money can do. It looks like your life—but without any self-created stress triggers.

Here are 11 ways to help you live a stress-free life:

1. Stop Overanalyzing Situations That Haven’t Happened

The first step to living a stress-free life is to stop overanalyzing imaginary scenarios. It’s easy to spend time in the world of worst-case scenarios. People tend to cultivate this world for one of two reasons.

First, because if you know what the worst-case scenario is, then it won’t surprise you when it happens. Second, if you know what the worst-case scenario is, then you can do everything in your power to control the universe so the worst case never happens.

If that’s really the world you want to cultivate, then become a professional risk assessor. If not, then ask yourself how you are benefiting from continuing to live that way.

Does it make you feel better about yourself and your life? Does it make you want to leap out of bed in the morning, eager to embrace the worst-case scenario? Does it bring you joy or fulfillment?

If your answer to these three questions is no, then stop living in the future and bring yourself back into the present.

2. Don’t Take on Other People’s Problems

The whole advantage of other people having problems is that they aren’t your problems. When you frequently take on other people’s problems, you get into the habit of enabling.

Let’s get crystal clear about the definition of enabling: enabling is the art of continuing to take responsibility for other people, thereby disallowing their personal responsibility[1].

It is of no service to other people to take on their problems because they can’t/won’t/don’t know how to fix the problem.

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It is of service to empower others to take responsibility for themselves and their lives, to encourage, teach, and motivate others to address their own problems. So stop enabling, and start empowering.

3. Get Present in the Moment

Being present in the moment involves being in your body and feeling your feelings—two things that lots of folks actually don’t know how to do.

Ask yourself these two questions: What does fear feel like in your body? What are you afraid of?

If you don’t know the answer to these questions, you probably aren’t present in the moment. Being present involves vulnerability, humility, and openness[2].

How to live a stress free life by being present

    The past and the future stop being so relevant and intriguing when you’re able to get in your body and feel your feelings. When you can do these two things, you actually want to be in the present moment.

    To get started, close your eyes, focus on your breathing, and watch your stress levels drop. Then, try these tips: How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying.

    4. Focus on What You Have, Not What You Don’t

    The easiest way to stop focusing on what you don’t have is by not watching TV commercials. Marketing teaches us to focus on what we don’t have, and advertising campaigns spend millions of dollars convincing us that we must have what we don’t yet have.

    Can you think of a marketing campaign that teaches you to enjoy what you already have without buying something to enhance it? Odds are you can’t.

    In a world dictated by Super Bowl commercials and Facebook ads, it takes stalwart focus to recognize what you have more than what you don’t. If you want a stress-free life now, get stalwart, and stop letting other people dictate your focus.

    In order to do this, try cultivating a gratitude practice to help refocus your mind toward what is good in your life. You can get started with this guide.

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    5. Stop Surrounding Yourself With People Who Don’t Make You Happy

    Honestly, what kind of people do you really like to be around with? People who get you, who see you clearly, who accept your flaws and all; people you can be yourself with; people who have shared interests?

    How many of those people are in your life? What characteristics do all of the other people in your life have?

    If you find that the people in your life aren’t adding anything positive, it may be time to make some changes. If you find that other relationships you have are downright toxic, start working to cut out those relationships immediately.

    6. Find a Job That Makes You Feel Good

    You don’t have to stay at a job just because it pays the bills. Most people spend more time working than sleeping. The average person spends 40 to 80 hours a week—or 2,000 to 4,000 hours a year—working. That is a significant investment!

    If your best friend or child told you that they were going to spend 4,000 hours giving their emotional, mental, and physical energy to something (or someone) that wasn’t going to value them, give anything back to them, or pay them what they were worth, what advice would you offer? Give that same advice to yourself. You won’t be stress-free unless you don’t learn this[3].

    Here’re 11 Signs That You Should Leave Your Job.

    7. Only Take on What You Can Handle

    Busyness is an addiction. Slowing down can actually be terrifying because it causes you to notice that you have feelings that you now have time to feel.

    I get it.

    By the time I slowed down, I had decades of busyness under my belt. I went into a tailspin depression because I didn’t understand how to be in the right relationship with my own emotions.

    When I finally figured out that feelings are just feelings and allowing them to express themselves is healthy and natural, I stopped experiencing withdrawal from my addiction to busyness and started figuring out the pace of life that felt best for me.

    Remarkably, I discovered that I don’t actually like being busy. What will you discover about yourself?

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    8. Let Go of Grudges and Anger

    For me, it took 20 years of adulthood to figure out that holding on to grudges and anger only hurt me. Lucky for you, though, you can benefit vicariously from my experience just by reading one short paragraph!

    No one is holding your feet to the fire, demanding that you hold on to grudges and anger. The energy of anger slowly eats away at your body, mind, and spirit, until one day you wake up more resentful than optimistic.

    One day, people no longer want to be around you because the stink of negativity is oozing out of your pores. One day, you even get tired of hearing yourself get angry. And the person or people you are angry at or holding grudges against probably haven’t been affected at all.

    Who gets hurt the most in that process of repeating negative thoughts? You do.

    Some good advice for you here: How to Let Go of Resentment and Anger

    9. Stop Reliving Your Past

    To live a stress-free life, you have to stop reliving your past. I know it seems like fun to compare everything in your present to your past, and to experience the present through past-colored glasses, but it actually isn’t.

    When you wear past-colored glasses, you can’t truly experience the present for what it is. Your boyfriend or girlfriend gets compared to a list of expectations and failed relationships rather than recognized for the unique blessing they are in your life.

    Your boss gets compared to all the bosses who came before her/him. Your friends’ ability to parent gets compared to your parents’ ability to parent.

    People, including you, deserve to stand on their own past-free merit.

    10. Don’t Complain About Things You Can’t Change

    There are always going to be people elected into office whom you don’t like, taxes that you don’t want to pay, idiot drivers who refuse to move out of the left-hand lane, and a person ahead of you in the check-out line who won’t stop chatting with the clerk.

    The great benefit of being human is that we get to experience all of what life offers us. To live stress-free is to learn to deal with this fact.

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    Dwelling on your frustration with something that can’t be changed doesn’t do anything other than drag you down. You are the only person who will ultimately decide how to respond to what is.

    11. Stop Living Through Other People’s Lives

    Someone else’s life is not your life. Your life is your life.

    What that means is you get to live your life in the way you want. You get to make ridiculous mistakes, take leaps of faith, and stuff things inside your handbag of fear just as much as the next person.

    Going through stuff is the whole great messy adventure of being human! Being alive and living life is terrifying and glorious and everything in between.

    Stop living through social media, trying to soak in all of the experiences everyone else is having. Focus, instead, on what it feels like to be you in this moment. You may find you like it.

    Final Thoughts

    An astounding thing happens when you reduce stress and anxiety, get into a relationship with your body, mind, and spirit, and just be yourself without judgment.

    Your life literally slows down. You stop wishing for the weekend. You begin to live in each moment, and you start feeling like a human being. You just ride the wave that is life, with this feeling of contentment and joy.

    You move fluidly, steadily, calmly, and gratefully. A veil is lifted, and a whole new perspective is born through improved mental health. And this is how you live a stress-free life.

    More Tips on How to Live a Stress-Free Life

    Featured photo credit: Drew Coffman via unsplash.com

    Reference

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