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13 Lessons Life Has Taught Me

13 Lessons Life Has Taught Me

You don’t have to learn life lessons the hard way. It would be senseless to do so when there is an easier alternative: Learn other people’s lessons by truly believing that they apply to you.

We are unique but we’re not all that special.

When it comes down to it, as humans, we’re all very similar. We have almost identical DNA and not surprisingly, we share similar experiences. This is great news because you can save yourself time, money and energy by learning lessons the easy way from others who have learned them the hard way.

Here are some lessons that have changed the way I live:

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1. It’s not personal. It rarely ever is.

The person who cuts you in line doesn’t want to cut you. They just want to get to the front. When you stop taking things personally, you’ll feel better and your relationships will improve dramatically. Even in cases when it is personal, your life will be better if you treat it as if it wasn’t. If you don’t believe me, I won’t take it personally.

2. Never make anyone feel small, including yourself.

I didn’t realize this until I read Kevin Hall‘s book, Aspire. He explains the Hindi word genshai, which means never to treat others — or yourself — in a way to make them feel small. The part about not making others feel small was obvious. What struck me was the inclusion of “or yourself”. It reminded me of all the times I’ve needlessly short-changed myself in the guise of modesty. I’ve come to realize that doing that was of no benefit to anyone.

3. If you stop stretching, you contract.

This is true for both the mind and body. Adopt a beginner’s mind and continue to push the limits. Don’t stop learning. The secret to youthful living is through flexibility. Yoga is an excellent way to stretch both your mind and body.

4. Everything is a lie.

I heard this first from Michael Ehling of Balance Coaching. Stop spending your time debating whether something is true or not. Imagine it to be all lies and choose the lie that’s going to make you take resourceful action. Sounds counterintuitive, but it works.

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5. Not giving up doesn’t mean holding on when you’re wrong.

When you know what you’re doing is right, but you’re not sure if you’re going to make it or want to give up because it’s too difficult, that’s the time to persevere. When you know you are wrong, but you want to hold on because you don’t want others to think of you as a quitter, it’s time to pivot.

6. Fail to succeed.

We’ve heard this many times, but how many of us are proactive about it? What were your last five projects and how successful were you? If you achieved most of them, you’re not stepping enough out of your comfort zone. Go bigger so you can fail…and learn.

7. Action is the only thing that counts.

Fairly self-explanatory: Don’t tell me, show me! I’ve found in my life that the best and only way to achieve my dreams is by taking action. Planning and talking about it has its place, but they are a complete waste of time if you don’t take action.

8. Everyone’s life is difficult.

So be kind.

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9. Almost always, being angry hurts you more than the other person.

When we get angry, we waste our own time and energy because we rarely achieve our intention. We usually want either the other person to feel as bad, if not worse, than they’ve made us feel, or we want to get their attention. It almost never works out this way. Most of the time, the other person is oblivious to our anger. Stop wasting time being angry — spend your energy and time on more productive activities.

10. Don’t regret not doing.

People usually don’t regret the things they do. They regret the things that they didn’t do. How often do you say, “I wish I…”? If it’s more than once a day, make a list of what you’ve always wanted to do and get started on it now. Don’t make a bucket list for things to do before you die. No one knows what will happen tomorrow. Make a look-forward list for things to do so you can live a happier life. You’re only your current age once. You’re already older than you were before you read this article. Get started now!

11. You are who you spend your time with, whether you like it or not.

You may think you have the will power and discipline to rise above the influence of your friends. You don’t. If you spend time with people who are in shape, you’ll be in shape. If you spend time with lazy people, you’ll be lazy. We all want to belong to a group and we do so by appearing similar to the group we want to belong to. Choose wisely who you spend your time with because it’s who you’ll become.

12. Stop keeping count.

Life is much better when you stop keeping track of all the favors you’ve done for other people. The only reason to keep track is if you expect something in return. If you do keep track and your favor is not returned, it’s hard not to feel a sense of injustice. I would feel the same way and that’s why I decided stop counting. Never really liked bookkeeping anyway!

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13. No such thing as multi-tasking.

This is one of the most common mistakes of productive people. We do tasks one at a time. Multi-tasking is the continuous back-and-forth switch between tasks. Every time we switch, it takes a while to warm up before we operate at full speed. Try scheduling dedicated blocks of time for each task. Don’t forget to include breaks so you can rest.

 

Continue learning life lessons the easy way by studying the lives of other people. You can:

  • read biographies
  • watch documentaries
  • interview people you admire.

Think about how their life lessons apply to you and find ways to incorporate the lessons they’ve learned into your daily life. This list of thirteen is a good start, but don’t forget to reflect on your own life lessons. One of the best ways to reflect is to share them with others.

What life lessons have you learned that might be helpful to other people?

More by this author

Robert Chen

Executive Coach

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

This is why setting priorities is so important.

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3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

1. Eat a Frog

There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

2. Move Big Rocks

Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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3. Covey Quadrants

If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

  1. Important and Urgent
  2. Important and Not Urgent
  3. Not Important but Urgent
  4. Not Important and Not Urgent

    The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

    Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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    You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

    Getting to Know You

    Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

    In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

    These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

    More Tips for Effective Prioritization

    Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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