Ten Life Lessons Learned Over Fifty Years on This Planet
It’s official… I turned fifty this month. And it’s the weirdest thing. On the one hand, I don’t particularly feel fifty. And people tell me I don’t look or act fifty. On the other hand, I’ve got fifty years of life lessons in how to be happy and fulfilled.
thanks so the wisdom gained from experience, I have good friends I can count on, a career I’m passionate about, and a healthy and loving twenty-two-year relationship with my husband.
As someone who came from a severely dysfunctional family and was diagnosed manic-depressive in high school, and again in college, I shouldn’t be this happy. But through much (very worthwhile) effort, I’ve found ways to become happy, positive, and way more even-keeled.
Which gives me a lot of hope that learning all these life lessons is going to help make this my best year, and decade, ever. So, I thought I’d share some of my hard-earned wisdom with you.
Here are the ten most powerful life lessons I’ve learned over the last fifty years:
- Quit worrying so much about other people. Unless they live with you, or you’re their caregiver, it’s a waste of time worrying about what others are doing, what they have or don’t have, and most importantly what they think of you. Because most of the time they’re not thinking about you anyway, and you could probably use to focus more of that time and energy on yourself.
- Everyone needs a set of core values. Core values aren’t just morals, or what’s right and wrong. Core values are the list of things that are most important to you and your happiness specifically. These are nonnegotiable. Once you’ve defined your core values, you can make decisions about who and what you let into your life accordingly.
- Just do the thing. For most of us, the majority of our decisions are not life or death. So, take the job. Make the move. Change your career. Try the new activity. Studies have shown that 85% of what we worry, fear, or stress about won’t ever come to pass anyway. Another 10% or so might come to pass but won’t be anywhere near as bad as we expected. And, one thing COVID has shown is that if you don’t do something today you might not get the chance again.
- Change your inner and outer dialogue and you can change your life. Work to eradicate negative words from your internal and external vocabulary including: should, can’t, hate, and try. Why? Because, what each of us perceives to be reality is made up of whatever is happening passed through a filter of our past experiences and our current beliefs. In other words, we each create our own, slightly different version of reality.Luckily, you can change your filter, and therefore your reality, simply by changing the way you talk to yourself and others.Words have power. If you say you can’t, you’re right. You can’t. Say you’re bad at something, and you’re right again. Ditto saying you don’t deserve something. Say you’re going to “try” to do something, and you’ve given yourself an out already. Positive affirmation also work the same way, but with better results.
- Figure out what makes you happy and focus on bringing more of that into your life. I discovered years ago that I’m happiest out in nature, and regular exercise and healthy eating help stem my depression. So, I built a career and a life based around outdoor recreation. And I married a man who felt the same. We’ve always committed to living in places that let us easily access mountains and rivers to play in, and we prioritize staying fit and eating plenty of veggies.
- Choose the people you allow into your life wisely. There’s an old adage that if someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. If someone isn’t positive, supportive, loving, and trustworthy they don’t deserve your time and energy. Not even if their family. For sure follow the three strikes and they’re out rule–which is even easier once you know your core values.
- Treat yourself like you would treat your best friend. You wouldn’t saying mean or negative things to your best friend. You wouldn’t flake on them in times of need. You wouldn’t encourage them to treat themselves badly. So, don’t do it to yourself. You’re the only you you’ve got, and you have to live with yourself or your whole life. You are amazing. Treat yourself that way.
- You’ve only got one body, take care of it. Get plenty of rest and whatever exercise you can do. Spend time outside. Go for a walk if you’re able. Meditate (seriously, if you struggle with getting stuck in negative thoughts and emotions, that shit works!). Eat whole foods and avoid processed foods, additives, colorants, preservatives and pesticides is much as possible. Stimulate your mind. Don’t spend your evenings eating crap food and drinking while vegging in front of a screen. It won’t do you any favors.
- Working longer and harder is neither a guarantee, nor a marker, of success. Neither is having lots of stuff. Growing up I had the idea that my worth was based largely on how hard I worked beaten into my head by my mother. Society tells us we should be consumers, and that if we only by this one more thing we’ll finally be happy and look successful. It’s a lie that keeps us on an endless, stressful treadmill. In fact, the less stuff I have, and the fewer hours I work, the more happy and successful I’ve become.
- Celebrate the smallest things every single day. The more positives you focus on, the more positives you’ll see in your life. If you look for and focus on negatives, you’ll get more of those. So, get excited about even the tiniest good thing.I’ll talk and think endlessly about a pretty flower that I saw, or an awesome bike ride I went on, or my success trying a new recipe, or even just how good my hair happens to look that day. Because focusing on positives makes me happy and satisfied, while focusing on negatives makes me stressed and depressed.
The bottom line is life really is what you make it. If you focus on making yourself into someone you love and respect, and working to build a life that brings you joy, you’ll be a much happier person.
It sounds corny but life really is a journey, not a destination. It’s a series of life lessons to be learned and applied. So, envision what you want and work towards it, but know that even if you get it, it may not look exactly like what you expected. And you may not get there how or when you wanted to.
That’s okay. Those are “shoulds” that only get in the way of your happiness. The key is to learn to enjoy as much as possible of each day, and each step on the journey, however it unfolds.
Got more wisdom to add? Please leave a comment below.
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