Hope, She Wrote: 20 Life Lessons I Learned in 2014
Well, friends, another year has come and gone! The end of a year is always a great time to reflect on everything we’ve learned the past 365 days, and what we can apply to our lives for the next year ahead. 2014 provided some great growth opportunities for me, and I wanted to highlight some of my favourite life hacks from over the past year, that will really help make the most of 2015. Cheers!
- Practice an attitude of gratitude. When you catch yourself complaining or in less-than-pretty circumstances, remember to be grateful. Counting your blessings is one way of practicing an attitude of gratitude. Fact: There will always be waves in each of our worlds that we’d rather not ride – stay positive and don’t “get worked” (excuse my surfer slang).
- Make friends with patience and longsuffering. Though they’re two of the most annoying virtues and fruits of the spirit, patience and longsuffering are two keys to successfully navigating life. Practicing patience doesn’t mean you stop working hard – quite the contrary. Remember, it takes 6 months to build a Rolls-Royce, and only 13 hours to build a Toyota. Patience can mean the difference between good and great for your life. Don’t settle.
- Choose joy. This was my slogan for 2014 (I’ve even got the statement secured on my office door!) and I’m carrying my joy straight through in 2015. True joy comes from within, and when we consistently practice #1 on this list, choosing joy gets easier.
- Start living TODAY. While memories are marvelous and planning ahead is smart, it’s also important to embrace the here and now. The ever-quotable Earl Nightingale once said, “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” True story. How we live, work, and act today has a direct effect on our tomorrow. Live wisely.
- Encourage others. The most effective leaders are those who motivate and encourage others around them. To encourage means to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope. We’ve each got the ability inside us!
- Slow down. When will we understand that using the word “busy” and having more items on our schedules than hours in a day is not cool?! I’m quite confident that no one will ever look back at the end of his life and say, “I wish I’d spent more time at work.” Slow down, decompress, get more sleep. Make time to just be. (**This is a major “note to self” for me, as practicing slowness is a daily personal challenge.**)
- Develop discipline. Get into a healthy daily routine, challenge yourself to face your fears, and keep going. Remember, discipline is choosing between what you want now, and what you want most (see also #2 on this list).
- Do one thing each day that takes you out of your comfort zone. Step outside the box, grow some courage, and go for it – it’s like my favourite surfer Laird Hamilton says: “You have to be willing to subject yourself to failure, to be bad, to fall on your head and do it again, and try stuff that you’ve never done in order to be the best you can be.”
- Change is inevitable, so make the most of it. Wherever you’re at in life, and whatever changes you’re dealing with – birth, death, love, heartache, career change, retirement – chart your change. Keep a journal (even if it’s of few words), to focus on the positive aspects of change. If we let it, change can help each of us build character.
- Watch your mouth. Proverbs 17:28 (KJV) says “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.”
- Don’t compare yourself to others. Theodore Roosevelt correctly said, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. You are the only you there will ever be. Learn to be content, gravitate to what inspires you, and be your best self. The only way to fulfill your life’s purpose is to be you.
- Influence is everywhere, so be careful with what and with whom you surround yourself. As long as we’re here on Earth, there will always be peer pressure (and jerks). Don’t lower your expectations or standards just because people don’t share the same values as you. And, be careful of your own actions, as you never know whom you could be influencing.
- Handwritten notes are powerful pieces of paper (and they’re also totally awesome). Texting might be easier, but there’s a saying about things that are easy…
- Take time to communicate. Make eye contact and speak thoughtfully! Like time, personal communication is a hot commodity. And unfortunately, with today’s technology, it seems as though few people know how to communicate effectively (see also #13 on this list). Remember, people have hearts; nurture them!
- Worry less. Worrying and fretting never serve to make a situation better; in fact, they can actually make things worse. That being said, as anyone with anxiety can attest to, the old adage “don’t worry” is easy to say and hard to practice. One way to help alleviate your worries is to serve others – look out rather than in.
- Get inspired! Break free of the daily grind and learn something new! Get outside for a walk; read a book; return to the hobbies you love. Make the time to get inspired.
- Authenticity is greater than approval. Better to be true to yourself than to betray your beliefs. Try as you might, you will never please every person. There will always be someone out there who thinks you’re a complete dork. Once you learn to not care what others think, personal authenticity becomes a whole lot easier.
- To have friends, you must be a friend. Even though it’s easy to get caught up in our own day-to-day lives, it is well worth making the effort to maintain friendships. I’m so thankful for friends who feel the same way.
- Being generous is a good habit to practice, especially when we learn to do it with love. “It is not how much we give,” as Mother Teresa said, “but how much love we put into giving.” When it comes to being generous, learn to plan ahead, to prefer giving rather than receiving, and to count your blessings so that you may be a blessing to someone else.
- Volunteering is a vital part of life. My life has been touched tremendously since I started volunteering. Maltbie Babcock once said, “the workshop of character is everyday life.” No matter your age, your career path, or your location, there are opportunities everywhere to give back.
Psalm 90:12 (KJV) says “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Each day is a new opportunity for us to learn, to live, and to grow; and I hope these truths help you and encourage you, wherever you’re at in your walk today.