Today is my 51st birthday. That means my 50th year is officially over. For those who have been following, I have spent the past year reflecting on what I have learned from being alive for half a century. I have learned lessons from virtually all areas of my life: work, my garden and my favorite sport to name just a few.
But I thought I would wrap this “series” up with the overall life lessons that I have learned. I hope that these bring some value to your own life.
First off, as tired and clichéd as this might sound, it really is true: you only live once and life is short. You do not get another chance to do many of the things you think you can “do later.” You will not, or do not get another chance to do things “later.” In spite of your best intentions, you won’t, or you can’t, or you have too many responsibilities, or life just gets in the way.
Try to live your life so that you don’t have to wonder “what if” at age 50, or with regrets because you didn’t do the things you thought you wanted to do. DO THEM! Travel to the places you want to see, explore more, live where you want to live, love who you want to love, try work that you are interested in, to see how all of it feels, and how all of it fits.
Which leads me to this one: This is YOUR life, which I am sure sounds like a “duh” observation. Find out what truly makes YOU happy, will give you a happy life, and you will not just settle for whatever you stumble upon. Don’t tell yourself that this job is “good enough” or this relationship is “good enough” because good enough really isn’t.
Know what it is you want out of life, clearly define it, and then go after it, and do not stop until you get it. Do not let anyone or anything interfere with that goal. If you get it and don’t like it, then at least you will know that, and you can move on to something else.
Listen to yourself; listen to your own intuition and do not ignore the red flags that tell you something or someone is not right for you. Do not wait for it to get better. It does not. It only gets worse and the longer you wait, the harder it gets to move on.
Before you get serious about someone, know what you want out of a relationship or partner and what you cannot live without. And know what you do NOT want and what you can’t live WITH. Then do not settle for anything less, and do not think that he or she will change; she won’t.
Communicate and share your feelings. Tell the people that you love how you feel. Tell them you love them. Do not assume they know this; they might assume that you don’t because you never said it. And before you know it, they are gone.
Never apologize for who you are, for what you believe in, and for the way you live your life. It is your life so live your life according to what you believe, what you feel and what’s important to you. If you don’t, you will always feel conflicted.
Bad things happen in life; very few we have any control over. People you love will die, they will hurt you, you will lose jobs, friends, etc. But you are strong and you can face anything if you rely on your inner strength. Ironically, you become stronger by facing them.
Wonderful things happen in life that make the bad things easier to bear. Never forget this, even when things are horrible. Just look at the things that you feel make life beautiful; surround yourself with them and with the people who feel the same way about life. And do not let the bad things make you hard.
Do not let anyone else’s negativity or insistence that the world is bad make you stop believing this or start acting like it is.
Do not hold on to people that hold you down or hold you back. Good relationships of any kind are about bringing out the best in one another, not the worst.
You will make “mistakes” — lots of them. But don’t think of them as mistakes; think of them as lessons, as things you don’t want to do again, or as things that hurt you. The only way they are “mistakes” is if you keep repeating them, and keep letting yourself get hurt by repeating them.
Perhaps the biggest lesson of them all is this: do not let fear rule your life; it doesn’t protect you, it doesn’t make you stronger, and it doesn’t keep bad things from happening to you. It just makes you weaker, and it makes your life so narrow, causing you to miss out on so much of life.