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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 August 16, 2018

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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The power of habit

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to make a reminder works for you

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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