25 Lessons I’ve Learned In 50 Years

Life Lessons

This is a guest post by Barrie Davenport of Live Bold and Bloom.

For anyone under 50 reading this, I have some good news for you.  50 is pretty darned good!

I even surprise myself by writing this, because believe me, I never thought the day would come when I would embrace being half a century.  But it has arrived, and it doesn’t stink.

Yes, yes — there are the inevitable physical changes that are quite unsettling.  Things do start to droop, wrinkle and expand.  Sometimes you will catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and wonder who that middle-aged person is.  On the outside, you may look like a grown-up, but on the inside it’s crazy how you still feel like you are 30.  Or younger.  (Ask my teenagers.  They hate that about me.)

When I was in my 30’s and 40’s, I took life much more seriously.

In fact, I think I was mysteriously older then than I am now.  Is that possible?  When you are busy building a career, raising children, accumulating stuff, and creating a lifestyle, you are defined by that busyness.  It’s serious work.  You have to make money to pay for the lifestyle.  Your kids need to be raised right lest they become a scourge on society and embarrass you by living in a trailer and eating bugs.

Those years are fulfilling and wonderful, but they also are fraught with upheaval and angst.  Things that once didn’t matter when you were younger, like having the right cocktail napkins or winning yard of the month, somehow matter so very much.  We struggle toward some kind of perfection and achievement that is ‘out there’ somewhere.

I don’t know about you, but I have spent a lot of time trying to create the self I thought I should be.  I cobbled together the perfect me made from pieces of this and that.  The clothes I wear, the neighborhood we live in, the car I drive, the friends I have.  It looks pretty nice from the outside.  And much of it is nice on the inside too.

But I spent way, way too much time in the work of crafting myself, and far too little time just being myself.

When you are spinning your wheels to maintain this beautifully crafted life, you miss out on a whole lot of real living.

If I were able to time travel and visit my twenty or thirty-year-old self, there are some things I would really like to teach me.  Since I can’t do that, hopefully you will benefit from some of the lessons I’ve learned over the last 50 years.

  1. 50 doesn’t feel like 50.  It doesn’t feel like the age you imagined when you are in your 20’s or 30’s.  For the most part, it feels the way you feel right now.  But smarter and more confident.  You also have more time and resources to enjoy life.  So don’t fear it.  Look forward to it.
  2. Experience life before you settle down.  Whatever it is you want to do or experience, do as much of it as you can before you have children.  Especially travel.  Live in a hovel and drive a beat-up Dodge Dart if you have to.  But go have some really great, amazing, mind-blowing experiences.
  3. Money and stuff are not all that important.  Yes, you want enough to be comfortable and do the things you want to do.  But accumulating for the sake of accumulating is so boring and empty.  Feed the soul, not the ego.
  4. Don’t try to impress people.  That’s an act that brings nothing but a momentary ego boost.  Be real with people instead.  Connect with fewer people on a level that is deeper and more profound.
  5. Let your kids fail.  Your kids will be okay, even if you think they are headed for the juvie right now.  Don’t come to their rescue all the time.  Don’t manage every detail of their lives or over-schedule them with tao quan dao or viola lessons.  Give them some boundaries, and then relax about them.
  6. Bad things will happen.  Part of living and getting older is experiencing upheavals in life.  People lose jobs, get divorced, die.  When you are younger, and things have gone pretty well, this can be shocking.  The bad things won’t kill you.  You will learn from them if you allow it.
  7. Not much is worth fighting about.  If you can avoid it, don’t fight.  Step back from arguments with your spouse or family member or neighbor.  When you feel anger surging up and you want to say that snarky thing on the tip of your tongue, just close your mouth and walk away.  Let yourself calm down.  You don’t have to be right or win the argument.  It just doesn’t matter that much.
  8. Little things stick with you.  So pay attention to them.  Like watching your child sleep.  Preparing a meal with your family.  Sharing a great laugh with an old friend.  That is the real stuff life is made of.
  9. Keep having fun.  Fun is way underrated.  With all of our responsibilities, fun seems like an indulgence.  It shouldn’t be.  It should be a requirement.  Remember what you did to have fun when you were younger, and go do it again.  Leave the house messy and the yard un-mowed for the weekend.  You will remember the fun, not the clean house or yard.  Make time for fun.
  10. Make things simpler.  Pick the five most important things in your life now, and focus on those things.  Let the other stuff go.  Let go of the activities, the events, the commitments, the shopping, the to-do lists.  Stop the busyness and really enjoy the important things you have right now.
  11. Keep your brain active.  Don’t get into a mental rut.  Do new things, learn new things, explore new ideas in all areas of your life.  Keep challenging yourself and your mind.  Be curious and interested in the world around you.
  12. Hang out with younger people.  Stay connected with what the generation behind you is doing and thinking.  Establish friendships with them.  You will benefit and learn from each other.  Don’t act superior, because younger people may know a whole lot more than you do!
  13. Keep exercising and eating healthy.  You know this, but I’ll remind you anyway.  The older you get, the more important a healthy lifestyle is.  In my 20’s, I could shovel down a Wendy’s hamburger and fries every day and never see the difference.  Now I just look at a hamburger and my butt gets bigger.
  14. Manage aging, but why fight it?  You can spend a fortune on face creams, plastic surgery, hair growth formulas, and botox, but eventually you realize you are fighting an uphill battle.  Groom yourself nicely.  Stay fit.  Have unsightly things removed.  But accept the beauty of aging.  A striking mature man or woman is much more attractive than someone who looks overly taunt, tanned or top-heavy.
  15. Everyone doesn’t have to like you and vice versa.  One of my friends likes to say, “She’s not in my cluster.”  Sometimes there are people in your life who are just not the right fit or who drain you dry.  It is fine to back off from them or even let them go.
  16. Marriages evolve and change.  The feelings you had for the man or woman you married will mutate and evolve several times over the life of a marriage.  Hopefully you will evolve in the same direction or at least embrace and accept the changes in the other person.  It takes work, and sometimes it takes counseling.  Don’t gloss over those changes or you may wake up next to a stranger one day.
  17. Yes, you can still have great sex.  When I was in my 20’s, I thought you stopped doing it when you were in your early 40’s.  I assumed middle aged people would no longer want to disrobe in front of each other.  I’m happy to inform you that this is not the case.
  18. Tend to your friendships.  Especially your oldest friendships.  These are the people who know and love you best, in spite of your flaws.  Treat them like the precious gems they are.
  19. Stop worrying.  Worry does absolutely nothing productive.  In fact, it is counterproductive.  The more you worry, the more you reinforce the problem or concern in your brain.
  20. Everything is not always black or white.  Life is often very ambiguous.  Sometimes there isn’t a right or wrong decision or choice.  Things are not always completely clear.  You may not get THE answer, so you just have to wing it.
  21. Take action on your dreams.  If you’ve been putting things off — a new career, more education, the big trip — start taking action right now to make it happen.  Don’t dream about it anymore.  Start doing it.
  22. Don’t dwell on your wounds.  Everyone has something that has caused pain and has been limiting them in some way.  If you need help to deal with it, then get it right away.  Don’t let the past limit your future.
  23. Embrace change.  As uncomfortable as it is sometimes, change allows us to stretch and grow.  New things feel awkward and scary at first, but those feelings go away, and you are left with something bigger and bolder in your life.
  24. Be vulnerable.  Allow yourself to feel, to be open and authentic.  Tear down any emotional brick walls you have built around yourself and feel every exquisite emotion, both good and bad.  This is real life.  This is how you welcome new opportunities.
  25. Count your blessings every day.  I know, this is a refrigerator magnet line, but practice it daily anyway.  There is so much good, so much beauty, so much love in your life.  What more do you really need?  You have so much right now, you just need to pause long enough to appreciate it.

Barrie Davenport is a personal and career coach and the founder of Live Bold and Bloom, a blog about bold and fearless living.  Download her free ebook, How to Live a Meaningful Life.

Photo by: Pierre Pouliquin

44 Priceless Moments Money Can’t Buy

What Money Cannot Buy

If the economic downturn has clouded your mind with worry, then our new sister site, What Money Cannot Buy, is for you.  Over the past few weeks, What Money Cannot Buy users, a positive, resourceful group of individuals, have submitted dozens of simple pleasures and priceless moments that make them happy and don’t cost a dime.  So ignore the gloomy news forecasters and get your bliss on for free.

Here’s a sample of 44 entries that were recently submitted to the site:

  1. Realizing you were smiling the entire time you were talking to someone, right after you hang up the phone.
  2. The warm coziness of my own bed after I return home from a long business trip.
  3. Playing Rock-Paper-Scissors to settle a decision with one of your friends.
  4. When a wild animal is tame enough to eat food right out of your hand.
  5. Crying on my sister’s shoulder.  Without the help of my family and close friends, I would be lost in a world of emotion, stress, and confusion.
  6. Picking and eating fresh fruit right off the tree.
  7. The joy of watching a baby smile.
  8. The proud look on my 4-year-old son’s face when he learns a new skill.
  9. The bittersweet emotions that rush through your body on the very last day of high school.
  10. Time with the love of my life.  Last May, my husband of 27 years was diagnosed with cancer and given 3 to 6 months to live.  We prayed, cried, loved, and laughed.  Now, 11 months later, we are still savoring every smile, kiss, and breath.  We know these moments will end sooner rather than later, but we are so grateful for the time we do have together.
  11. The rush you get when you’re driving on the open road and your favorite song randomly plays on the radio.
  12. The comforting sound of my father’s car pulling into the driveway when he finally returns from a long business trip.
  13. When my baby girl looked up at me and said, “Daddy!” for the very first time.
  14. Seeing two elderly folks who are madly in love.  It’s a sight of love that has surpassed the tests of time.
  15. Kissing in the rain.
  16. The feeling of cool morning grass under your bare feet when you walk out to get the newspaper at sunrise.
  17. Beginner’s eyes.  You’ll never see it again for the very first time.
  18. The sound and sight of ocean waves.
  19. The feeling you get inside when you go out of your way to make someone’s day a little brighter.  Doing something nice and unexpected for somebody else doesn’t always require money, and often the gesture has more meaning when it doesn’t.
  20. A good photograph of a special moment.  It transforms the moment into a tangible keepsake and helps make the memory of that moment last a lifetime.
  21. A rainbow breaking through the storm clouds on a calm, rainy summer afternoon.
  22. The exhilarating rush of adolescent love.  Those magical moments of adolescent lust and affection that only you and one other person rightly remember.
  23. The little kicks and pokes I feel daily as I enter the last month of my first pregnancy.  It’s truly remarkable!
  24. Sharing a good laugh with friends and family.  Some of the most memorable moments in my life have been moments spent in laughter.
  25. The excitement of swinging on a swing as high as you possibly can.
  26. The simple fact that I can read the sincerity in her eyes when she says, “I love you.”
  27. The awesomeness of skipping rocks across water.  It doesn’t matter how old I get, this one never gets old.
  28. The tears of joy that flow when you see your beloved for the first time after a 10 month deployment to Iraq.  All the months of struggle and loneliness are washed away the second he gets off that plane.
  29. The soothing comfort of an old familiar smell.  Earlier today pulled into my parent’s driveway after being away for over a year.  I could smell familiarity in the air – the scent of the pine tree in the neighbor’s yard.  And as I headed through the front door, more familiar smells consumed my senses.  Gosh, it feels good to be home.
  30. The keen wisdom my grandfather has acquired slowly over the course of 86 years, and the amazing stories and life lessons he shares with me every time I visit him.
  31. A first kiss.  The sweet rush of butterflies in your tummy when you kiss someone special for the very first time.
  32. When you look into the eyes of your best friend and know, without a doubt, that you can trust her.  You can see it in her eyes and you can feel it in your heart.  She has no ulterior motive.
  33. The first sight of daffodils poking through the snow after a long, hard winter.
  34. The realization of true love.  The warm feeling you get many years after your first kiss when you realize you married the right person.
  35. The surreal beauty of watching lightning strike in the distance.
  36. An unexpected compliment.  It seemed like just another dreary Monday morning, but when she walked into my office and said, “I love your shirt! That color looks great on you,” it brightened the rest of my day.
  37. A peaceful, romantic picnic with your significant other on a warm sunny day.
  38. The joy of telling an interesting true story.  One of the most enticing roles we lead in life is that of a storyteller.  There are few things more satisfying than telling a true story that others enjoy listening to.
  39. The feeling of self-confidence is unquestionably priceless. It cannot be purchased with money, but it can buy you more opportunities and take you farther than any amount of money ever could.
  40. The excitement of a white Christmas.
  41. A pillow fight with two of your best friends.
  42. When my cat snuggles up on my chest while I’m laying on my back.  He’s so warm and fuzzy and cute.
  43. Grilled steak and potatoes home-cooked for me by my husband on a lazy Friday night after I’ve had a long week.  Nothing beats sitting at home in my pajamas and eating my favorite food, made by the man I love, with the man I love.
  44. When the song on the radio ends right as you pull into the driveway.

If you enjoyed these simple pleasures and priceless moments, be sure to check What Money Cannot Buy every day for a quick, fresh dose of positive content.

Photo by: Ricky David

How To Reprogram Your Mind For
Self Improvement

Reprogram Yourself For Improvement

‘How To Reprogram Your Mind For Self Improvement’ is a guest post written by Justin.

One of the most fulfilling things a person can do is take some kind of action that causes them to improve in a certain area of their life.  Think about this from your own perspective for a second.  Remember a time when you accomplished something that proved you had become better?

For me, when I first began my entrepreneurial career, one of my goals was to be a professional speaker.  Despite how nervous I would get before a talk (mostly due to a total lack of experience), I got out and started speaking.  I was mediocre at best.  But I kept trying, learning, studying and practicing.  When the opportunity came to speak to a huge group of new university students, I delivered my most confident and inspiring talk to date.  I still remember the rush of excitement at the end of the talk when a bunch of the students lined up to speak to me and ask me questions at the end.  I knew I had taken a step in the right direction.  The real win: I was improving and it was an awesome feeling!

For the past 3 years, I have spent most of my time developing my business and implementing as many self improvement ideas as humanly possible.  What I realized along the way was that I was not merely improving, but I was actually reprogramming my mind to get rid of old habits and beliefs and instill new, more empowering ones.

So here are 7 techniques that will help you reprogram your mind to create a new and improved you:

Study the work of a role model.

Find someone who is already living and producing results at a level you admire and aspire towards.  They could be an author, speaker, actor, blogger, professor, etc.  The key is to study these people.  Read books or articles they have written a number of times.  Study their mannerisms when they speak or perform.  Notice the way they carry themselves publicly.

Ultimately, the goal here is to understand how they think so that you can emulate the same kind of thinking in your life.  I’m not saying you should try to be like the person, because we are all unique and we need to celebrate our uniqueness.  Rather, I am suggesting that you figure out the intangibles that made this person so admirable to begin with and incorporate those intangibles into your own behavior.

Learn to trust the sound of your own voice.

There are more than enough self improvement books that talk about the power of affirmations.  I am not here to argue the validity or the science behind affirmations.  What I will say is that from my own personal experiences, when you repeat a set of instructions to yourself over and over again, you eventually start to believe your own voice.

Here is a quick process you can follow to create your own digital affirmations that you can use in your own reprogramming process.

  • Write out a description of your ideal outcomes in all the various areas of your life.  This can include business, financial, relationship, health, etc…
  • Record your voice reading these statements with as much feeling and belief as possible.
  • Use software like Garageband to overlay some relaxing or new age style music faintly in the background.
  • Export as an mp3 file and listen to it on low volumes as you work, exercise, sleep or during any activity where you feel it works for you.

For the analytic people out there, you cannot measure the benefit of this exercise directly but I will say from personal experience that it has been a technique I have used to help achieve a number of my more difficult, longer-term goals.

Hang out with an influencer.

I think most people buy into the idea that we become a product of our environment.  What better way to reprogram yourself for improvement than spending time with someone who inspires you.  When I first got started in business, I was struggling to pay the bills and find enough clients to keep me going.  Even when I did find clients, I did a terrible job billing for my time and I was not recognizing my own value as a service provider.

I was lucky enough to meet another business owner who had built a number of successful companies and had already been through all of the tough business lessons that I had yet to be exposed to.  Over time we became friends and I was able to absorb an incredible amount of information about business, mindset, dealing with clients, social skills, etc. – all of the things that made him so talented at business.

The challenge here is that you can’t just walk up to someone and ask them to be your friend.  It is tough enough to find a decent influencer, but when you do, you have to make sure that you take interest in them and express your desire to learn from them.  At the same time, show them that you value their time and bring something of your own to the table.  If they feel they can also learn from you and your life experiences, they will be far more willing to hang out with you.

Wage a war against the crybaby in your head.

Have you ever had an idea that totally captivated your imagination and inspired you to think about a life far beyond the one you are living today?  If so, were you also among the majority of people who had that cynical, crybaby, negative voice pop up and immediately tell you all the reasons why this new idea could never come true?

Instead of falling victim to this defeating voice, try turning the tables.  Picture that voice as a vicious enemy trying to steal your life, power and happiness away from you.  Challenge the voice.  Question its authenticity.  Question its reasoning.  Get pissed off if you have to.  Make it powerless against your will.

Realize that you have the choice to replace that voice with a more encouraging, faithful and friendly one.  A voice that will consider your goal as not just a possibility, but a probability.  A voice that does not look externally for validation before taking action, but rather uses self belief as its driving force.  A voice that realizes that any person who has ever achieved greatness had to do so against similar odds and that all things are possible to those who commit to their vision.

Use new relationships to develop a new persona.

When you meet someone for the first time, they have absolutely no idea what you are like to hang out with.  If you have been shy and timid your whole life, the best time to come out of that shell is when you meet someone new.  If you are at a networking event and someone walks up to introduce themselves, your old self may have quietly shook their hand and looked down in embarrassment.  Why not use the opportunity to develop a new persona?

Instead of being shy and timid, greet the person with a big smile.  Look them in the eye and project your voice with confidence as you say your name.  Have an interesting question prepared that immediately gets the person engaged.  Instead of asking what they do for a living (the standard), ask them what their favorite restaurant is or ask them about a hobby they are passionate about.  Let their enthusiasm to share their passion enhance your confidence level and energize your own enthusiasm.

If you practice this often enough, you will eventually become that new person and you no longer have to practice.  It will be who you ARE!

Acquire a competitive edge.

I don’t know about you, but when I am put in a position where I’m competing against one or more people, my motivation shoots up to a whole new level.  I have talked to many others who experience the same.

When you compete against someone, in any area of life, you setup two incredibly powerful forces.

The first is the desire to be triumphant.  Imagine the excitement someone must feel when they win a gold medal in the Olympics.  They have achieved a personal dream and they get a flood of recognition from friends, family, media, fans and ultimately their entire country.  What person would not love this kind of validation of success?  The same kind of triumph can be experienced (maybe not at the same level of intensity) when you win a competition that you have been involved in, no matter how small it may be.

The second (and more powerful) force that gets created in competition is the desire to avoid defeat.  Most humans instinctively associate any form of loss with pain and in most cases, will do anything necessary to avoid that pain.  If you enter some kind of competition that will help drive you towards your goals, this pain avoidance force may be the deciding factor in your success.

Use competitive scenarios to drive you forward but remember to detach from the outcome.  If you happen to lose your competition, don’t get down in the dumps.  Focus on what positives came out of it (usually a drastic increase in results) and continue moving towards your goals.

Get up early and invest this extra time in yourself.

Our minds are the most calm and open to influence when we first wake up.  As the day goes on, we get busier and the number of demands and requests increase.  Most of us in today’s society are extremely busy trying to balance work, family, social life and so on.  It is very easy to get to the end of a day and still have a pile of items on your to do list that did not get completed.

Early morning is an ideal time to create some personal time for your own development.  Unless you are in a job that forces you out of bed at 5am, you probably have no obligations at that time of day.  Instead of sleeping until the last possible minute, try getting up an hour or even two hours earlier than you have been.

Use this time to appreciate the stillness of the world.  Get into a headspace of clarity and focus on what you are trying to create for your life.  Study empowering books and self development training programs.  Write out your goals.  In essence, do whatever you can to condition your mind so that you are creating the ideal life for yourself.

By the time the rest of the world is waking up, you will have already invested more time in yourself than most people will for a month.  The energy you get from doing this can carry you through the rest of your day and you will be in a much more productive frame of mind.

For the past few months, I have been starting my day just after 5am.  This video shows some of the things I do to get ready for my day.  Maybe it will give you some ideas:

Do you use any of these techniques?  Do you have some of your own that have made a major impact on your life?  I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Also, I highly recommend these best selling self improvement books:

Justin Popovic runs a success coaching blog at igniteyouressence.com and he also trains entrepreneurs how to develop and market their own dynamic web presence using WordPress at WordPress for Business.

Photo by: Thomas Hawk

What We Have Been Searching For
All Along

Searching For All Along

Far From Perfect

About a year ago on his 30th birthday, after spending his entire adult life loosely dating different women, he suddenly decided he was ready to settle down.  He wanted to find a real mate… a lover… a life partner – someone who could show him what it meant to be in a deep, monogamous, trusting relationship.

So he searched far and wide.  There were so many women to choose from, all with great qualities, but none with everything he was looking for.  And then, finally, just when he thought that he would never find her, he found her.  And she was perfect.  She had everything he ever wanted in a woman.  And he rejoiced, for he knew how rare a find she was.  “I’ve done my research,” he told her.  “You are the one for me.”

But as the days and weeks turned into months and years, he started to realize that she was far from perfect.  She had issues with trust and self-confidence, she liked to be silly when he wanted to be serious, and she was much messier than he was.  So he started to have doubts – doubts about her, doubts about himself, doubts about everything.

And to validate these doubts, he subconsciously tested her.  He constantly looked around the apartment for things that weren’t clean just to prove that she was messy.  He decided to go out alone to parties with his single guy friends just to prove that she had trust issues.  He set her up and waited for her to do something silly just to prove that she couldn’t be serious.  It went on like this for awhile.

As the tests continued – and as she, clearly shaken and confused, failed more and more often – he became more and more convinced that she was not a perfect fit for him after all.  Because he had dated women in the past who were more mature, more confident, and more willing to have serious conversations.

Inevitably, he found himself at a crossroads.  Should he continue to be in a relationship with a woman who he once thought was perfect, but now realizes is lacking the qualities that he already found in the other women that came before her?  Or should he return to the lifestyle he had come from, drifting from one empty relationship to the next?

Every Light Casts A Shadow

When he showed up at my door this evening looking for answers, this is what I told him:

One of the greatest lessons we get to learn in life is that we are often attracted to a bright light in another person.  Initially, this light is all we see.  It’s so bright and beautiful.  But after awhile, as our eyes adjust, we notice that this light is accompanied by a shadow – and usually a fairly large one.

When we see this shadow, we have two choices: We can either shine our own light on the shadow or we can run from it and continue searching for a shadowless light.

If we decide to run from the shadow, we must also run from the light that created it.  And we soon find out that our light is the only light illuminating the space around us.  Then, at some point, as we look closer at our own light, we notice something out of the ordinary.  Our light is casting a shadow too.  And our shadow is a bigger and darker than some of the other shadows we’ve seen.

If, on the other hand, instead of running from the shadow, we decide to walk towards it, something amazing happens.  We inadvertently cast our own light on the shadow, and likewise, the light that created this shadow casts its light on ours.  Suddenly, both shadows begin to disappear.  Not completely, of course, but every part of the two shadows that are touched by the other person’s light illuminate and disappear.

And as a result, we each find more of that bright beautiful light in the other person – which is precisely what we have been searching for all along.

Photo by: Antony Chammond