I am a HUGE fan of James Altucher. Anyone who has talked to me in the last year is well aware of my admiration for him. I get his newsletter and read his blog http://www.jamesaltucher.com/. His philosophy reinforces my own beliefs and he puts a spin on them that makes me think. One of his daily habits that he advocates everyone acquire is to make a list of 10 ideas every day. They can be good ideas or bad ideas, in fact, sometimes the bad ideas are the best ones.
I try to adhere to this daily habit but rarely do I actually achieve it. Last December I was on vacation in Florida and I decided to try and write down 10 life lessons I’ve learned in my almost 57 years. I came up with the list below and have tried to expand on each thought as I was able:
Lesson 1: You can love someone with every fiber of your being and still tell them good-bye
Saying good-bye to someone I love is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s hard to accept that while you still love someone you’ve got to love yourself more. Stepping away from a negative person or relationship is integral to your personal growth but sometimes growth hurts.
It’s really hard to open myself up to discuss this phenomenon with personal insight. I will say that I spent five years in an on-again off-again relationship with a man who I loved deeply. He was not in the same place and I spent most of those five years telling myself I had to let go. I kept trying and kept being pulled back in. 2015 is my year to move forward without any interaction with this man.
Lesson 2: You can take a flying leap off the grid and still land in a soft place
We’ve been raised to play it safe and to play according to the rules. While that mindset is often important for the functioning of society, sometimes the rules are just there for the sake of being rules. It’s hard to let go of convention and take a flying leap into the unknown. For myself, I want to live and die knowing that I tried whatever felt right to me, not just the things that society said were the right things to do.
I’ve talked a lot on this site about leaving my corporate job last year. What I haven’t shared is that this is not the first time I’ve gone off the grid. I walked away from a good paying job in the early 90’s and yet another one in the early 2000’s. Every time I have survived without conforming to the vision of what success looks like. Obviously, I went back twice, but this time I’m determined not to return to corporate America.
Lesson 3: When the Universe speaks to you, listen. Really listen.
We have all asked to be shown the way or to receive certain things. What we don’t always do is recognize when we’re presented with the path we’ve asked for. As humans, we tend to have a pre-conceived notion of how things are supposed to look.
My favorite personal story is when I was asking in my life for a “nice” man. I prayed for that daily. One day I was at work and I was texting someone as I approached the door to leave. One of the men at work asked me if I needed to be walked to my car since it was had gotten dark outside. Without even looking up, I said “No, thank you.” He asked again and I gave him the same response. As I walked outside and towards my car the reality of what I’d just done hit me: A nice man had approached me and I hadn’t even looked up much less responded appropriately because it wasn’t a setting I was expecting. This was a classic case of not paying attention when the Universe spoke.
Lesson 4: Things are going to happen. How you respond determines if they’re bad, good or indifferent.
People tend to think bad things happen to them. I believe things happen and I get to choose how I respond to those things. Nothing is good or bad unless I determine it is.
My life hasn’t been all sunshine and butterflies but I decided years ago that I refused to be defined by the bad things that had happened in my life. I prefer to think of the things that have caused me unhappiness as fires I have gone through. Fire strengthens steel and I consider myself as strong as anyone.
Lesson 5: Loving someone is always the right thing to do. They may not love you back, but you’re never going to cause harm by loving.
Our society seems to have taught us that loving someone makes us weak and vulnerable. Vulnerability is frequently looked at as an undesirable trait. As a result, many people are afraid of loving or reaching out and letting someone know you love them because they’re afraid of being hurt.
In my 56 years of life I have never seen anyone hurt by being loved. They may be hurt by other emotions masquerading as love, but never by love itself. It’s hard and challenging to not automatically go into self-protection mode, but I try to be willing to open my heart and love, even if there’s a good chance I’ll be rejected or left hanging out on that limb.
Lesson 6: Life will serve you the lessons you need. You can either learn the lesson or continue to be served the same situations over and over.
We all come to this world with things to deal with. We have issues and patterns we establish in our lives to help us grow and learn. When you continue to live the same pattern over and over without learning, you hamper your ability to grow. If you don’t grow, you stay in the same emotional place. No thank you.
The hard part for me has been recognizing the patterns and then taking the time to actually work on moving past them. Some of the lessons I’ve been able to move on from. Others I’m still working on.
Lesson 7: Bitterness and anger will back up on you just like a clogged drain. You need to acknowledge them, address them and learn from them, but never drown in them.
Anger is a direct descendent of fear. It’s a primitive response honed to protect us from harm. I know that I personally used to have a huge anger. An anger that could fill a room and make large men step away from me not even realizing they were doing it.
In my journey through life I’ve tried to move past that anger. I went through a stage where I thought that since I was working so hard on my patterns it was no longer okay to get angry. So I held it in and developed a nasty illness that expressed my anger by making me violently ill. Once I realized this was what I was doing, I’ve been trying to learn how to deal with my anger. It’s been a difficult task to learn how to be angry without going into rage.
One of the best tools in my arsenal was a philosophy used by Marty Schottenheimer, head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, from 1989 to 1998. Marty used to have a “12 o’clock” rule. You could discuss the game, moan and groan over losses or celebrate over wins, until midnight. After midnight it was a new day and time to look forward to the next game. That philosophy works well for me.
Lesson 8: The brain and the heart may always communicate with each other, but they don’t always agree.
For years I’ve known that my heart isn’t always in synch with what my head knows. I think we’ve all been through times in our life when the heart keeps urging us to do things that our brain knows aren’t in our best interest.
It turns out that science is now proving that the heart actually has its own neuropathways that are as capable as the brain at “thought”:
Back in the 1960s, research conducted by John and Beatrice Lacey—pioneers in the field of psychophysiology—showed that the heart has its own reasoning that is not determined by directives from the brain. Subsequent investigations revealed an actual pathway and mechanism allowing the heart to send messages that inhibit or facilitate electrical activity in the brain. – Your Heart and Stomach May Be Smarter Than You Think, Rewireme.com, Dec 3, 2013 http://www.rewireme.com/explorations/your-heart-and-stomach-may-be-smarter-than-you-think/
This knowledge doesn’t mean that you should always let your heart overrule your brain, but, for me, it means I have to honor my feelings and try to listen to both my heart and mind. The most challenging part is to forgive myself when I let the heart win even when the brain knows better.
Lesson 9: You cannot expect rational behavior from an irrational mind.
I don’t think I’ve been exposed to more irrational people than the average person, but I do know I’ve seen enough to have learned a few things. Primarily, I’ve learned that reasoning with someone who is incapable of reason is a waste of both your time.
I recently dealt with a man who came into the gym where I work who was not coming from the same reality I was. I started dealing with him with logic and professionalism and did not make an inch of headway. I was not able to get through to him until I took an emotional step back and tried to feel the pain he was coming from. That allowed me to reach him but the flood of emotion that I was hit with stayed with me for a good day. I honestly cannot tell you if I’d be willing to do that again.
Lesson 10: Don’t put your life on hold for someone else’s dream
How many times have we all done this? Studied for a career because our parents wanted us to; moved from a town or city where we had roots to follow someone we loved; stayed in a job we were miserable in because it gave us the prestige society dictated we need?
I am all for working together with those we love to plan a life that benefits everyone. What I cannot support is one person totally giving themselves away for the happiness of another. Too often we put off our dream thinking we’ll get to it “someday” only for life to shift and “someday” doesn’t look the way we thought it would when it gets here.
These are the lessons that came to me while sitting on a sunny deck in Florida. Re-reading these months later while sitting inside on an overcast spring day in Missouri they still resonate with me. I hope anyone reading them will find some ideas worth thinking about even if your lessons have taught you differently.