post written by: Marc Chernoff

10 Gifts You Deserve to Give Yourself


10 Gifts Only You Can Give Yourself

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”
―Mae West

This morning a close friend of the family passed away far too early.  While I’ve spent most of the day grieving, I’ve spent the last couple hours thinking about the fact that our lives are sometimes much shorter than we expect them to be, and that each moment is a miracle – perhaps an obvious thought that simply sinks in a bit more on a day like today.

As I sit here, one question keeps dancing around my mind:  What can you do with your moments to maximize their value?

An answer that immediately comes to mind:  Use them to give yourself priceless gifts nobody else can give you…

1.  An open mind in full acceptance of life’s changes.

You’re not the same person you were a year ago, a month ago, or a week ago.  You’re always growing.  Experiences don’t stop.  That’s life.

Sometimes there are things in our lives that aren’t meant to stay.  Sometimes the changes we don’t want are the changes we need to grow.  Growth and change may be painful sometimes, but nothing in life is as painful as staying stuck where you don’t belong.  The bottom line is that you can’t reach for anything new if you’re holding onto yesterday.  You may think holding on makes you strong, but often it is letting go and starting anew in the present.

2.  A meaningful path and purpose.

If your life is going to mean anything, you have to live it yourself.  You have to choose the path that feels right to YOU, not the one that looks right to everyone else.  It’s always better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb, than the top of the one you don’t.  So don’t wait until you’re halfway up the wrong ladder to listen to your intuition.  Every morning, ask yourself what is really important, and then find the courage, wisdom and willpower to build your day around your answer.

In the end, it’s not what you say, but how you spend your time that counts.  If you want to do something, you’ll find a way; if you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.  (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Goals and Success” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

3.  The time to do what truly matters.

Identify what’s most important to you.  Prune nonessential commitments.  Eliminate as much as you possibly can of everything else.  No wasted time, no fluff, no regrets.

The mark of a successful person is the ability to set aside the “somewhat important” things in order to accomplish the vital ones first.  When you’re crystal clear about your priorities, you can painlessly arrange them in the right order and discard the activities and commitments that do not support the ones at the top of your list.

4.  The space to BE, without needless worry.

If you think and you think and you think, you will think yourself right out of happiness a thousand times over, and never once into it.  Worrying doesn’t take away tomorrow’s troubles, it takes away today’s peace and potential.  Stop over-thinking everything.  Life is too short.

Your biggest limitations are the ones you make up in your mind.  The biggest causes of your unhappiness are the false beliefs you refuse to let go of.  You are capable of far more than you are presently thinking, imagining, doing or being.  You will, however, become what you habitually contemplate, so clear your mind and let your hopes, not your fears, shape your future.  How?  Meditate.  Run.  Set your mind free.

5.  Permission to be imperfect as you grow.

You may not be where you want to be yet, but if you think about it, you’re no longer where you once were either.  You have good reason to believe that you can trust yourself going forward.  Not because you’ve always made the right choices, but because you survived the bad ones, and taken small steps in the right direction.

Focus on the right things and just do the best you can.  Don’t allow yourself to be crippled by stress and self-loathing.  Everything is only as it is.  There’s no reason to let it destroy you.  Breathe.  Let every moment be what it’s going to be.  What’s meant to be will come your way, what’s not will fall away.  And remember that a great gift may not always be wrapped as you expect.  (Read The Last Lecture.)

6.  Reassurance of being ENOUGH.

Tell yourself, “I am ENOUGH.”  Accept your flaws.  Admit your mistakes.  Don’t hide and don’t lie.  Deal with the truth, learn the lessons, endure the consequences of reality, and move on.  Your truth won’t penalize you.  The mistakes won’t hurt you. The denial and cover-up will.  Flawed and vulnerable people are beautiful and likable.  Liars and phonies are not.  Every beautiful human being is made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions and finished with unique edges.

You are YOU for a reason.  Ignore the distractions.  Listen to your own inner voice.  Mind your own business.  Keep your best wishes and your biggest goals close to your heart and dedicate time to them every day.  Don’t be scared to walk alone, and don’t be scared to enjoy it.  Don’t let anyone’s ignorance, drama, or negativity derail you from your truth.

7.  The right relationships.

Not everyone will appreciate what you do for them.  You have to figure out who’s worth your attention and who’s just taking advantage of you.  If your time and energy is misspent on the wrong relationships, or on too many activities that force you to neglect your good relationships, you can end up in a tedious cycle of fleeting friendships, superficial romances that are as thrilling as they are meaningless, and a general sense of wondering why you always seem to be running in place, chasing affection.

Choose yourself rather than settle for those who treat you as ordinary.  YOU certainly aren’t.  Never settle for being someone’s “option” when you have the potential to be someone’s “first choice.”  You are the sum of the people you spend the most time with.  If you hang with the wrong people, they will bring you down, but if you hang with the right people, they will help you grow into your best self.  The RIGHT people for you will love all the things about you that the WRONG people are intimidated by – that’s what you need to look out for.

8.  Self-education.

As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever.”  Life is a book and those who do not educate themselves read only a few pages.  When you know better you live better.  Period.

All education is self-education.  It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in a college classroom or a coffee shop.  We don’t learn anything we don’t want to learn.  Those who take the time and initiative to pursue knowledge on their own time are the only ones who earn a real education in this world.  Take a look at any widely acclaimed scholar, entrepreneur or historical figure you can think of.  Formal education or not, you’ll find that he or she is a product of continuous self-education.

9.  A chance to touch your dreams.

Everyone dreams, but not equally.  Too many people dream only at night in the quiet of their own minds, and then awake to find it was all an illusion.  Don’t be one of them.  Dream by the day instead.  Be one of the people who dream with their eyes wide open, and who works to make them come true.

Rest when you are tired, but don’t give up.  You never know what’s just around the corner.  It could be everything you’ve been working for, or it might be just another mile marker on your journey.  Either way, when you keep putting one foot in front of the other, one day the next step you take will be the one that carries you to your goal.  (Read Tuesdays with Morrie.)

10.  The freedom to express your whole truth.

The greatest and most gratifying experiences in life cannot be seen or touched.  They must be felt with the heart from the inside out.  There’s nothing more inspiring than the complexity and beauty of human, heartfelt feelings.  Sadly though, many people let the fear of judgment numb and silence them.  Their deepest thoughts and feelings often go unspoken, and thus barely understood.

Do NOT let people invalidate or minimize how you feel.  If you feel something, you feel it and it’s real to you. Nothing anyone says has the power to invalidate that, ever.  No one else lives in your body, or sees life through your eyes.  No one else has lived through your exact experiences.  And so, no one else has the right to dictate or judge how you feel.  Your feelings are important.  Don’t let anyone lead you to believe otherwise.

Your turn…

Which of the points above are you struggling with?  What gifts do YOU need to start giving yourself?  Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with us.

Photo by: Trey Ratcliff

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37 Comments

  • I am, sincerely, looking forward to the upcoming year as a year for positive change. I’m looking to change careers and follow a life-long passion of mine. I’m hoping that all 10 of these things will be a part of that transition. I’m trying to create a happier life for myself and my partner. There has to be more to life than just existing to pay bills.

    Thank you for this entry, and thank you for your book. You are helping me give myself the gift of change.

    PS: I’m sorry to hear about your loss.

  • Great post! I’ve been struggling with actually living in the present because I’m so focused on the future. Reading this post has really inspired me to continue striving to improve and live my life to the fullest.

    And, of course, my condolences to you and Angel for the loss of your friend.

  • Based on these words from your book…

    “Don’t ever hesitate to give yourself a chance to be everything you are capable of being. It’s better to cross the line and suffer the consequences of a lesson learned, than to just stare at that line for the rest of your life and always wonder. Remember, courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid; courage means you don’t let your fear stop you.”

    …I have spent the past month of my life giving myself the gift of courage, and using it to chase a dream I’ve been thinking about for a long while. So far so good. Thank you! I will say a prayer tonight for your friend.

  • Mine is very much like #5 in your list…Permission to laugh at mistakes, then let them go gently. It’s learning to use mistakes as a tool for growth, not a club to beat us into submission.

    Merry Christmas, M. & A.!

  • Beautiful! Thank you :)

  • I agree with you on that. The only thing that is constant in this world is change. Although some things happen and hurt us so much, in time we will get healed. Just be positive and continue living. Everything has its reason that is why it’s happening. Things will be alright again.

    Merry Christmas!

  • I really enjoyed some of the points you made in this article. We all have a tough life and I think accepting that each of us have problems that are out of our control can help us grow. No, we cannot change the past, but embracing “what is” is helpful, and if we continue to push ourselves beyond our comfort zones will make life much more rewarding for each of us.

  • Another great post!
    I really like number 1 as it’s so important to remain flexible & adaptable in life - you just never know where it’s going to take you! That’s exactly what being resilient is all about & it’s something I include in most of my coaching sessions and organisational workshops because it is so powerful.
    Thanks again for all the inspiration you give & Merry Christmas from Happyologist! :)

  • Thank you for your articles, they are like a candle in the darkness.

  • I struggle with feelings of guilt just for being myself. I’ve lived my life according to everyone else’s expectations; in the process, I’ve been unhappy and sad. I’ve been scared to simply be “me” all of my life. I’m in the process of changing the wrong direction into the right path for me. I know it will undoubtedly cost me the “conditional” love I’ve been so “fortunate” to experience most of my adult life…quite frankly, I look forward to turning the loss into something positive and meaningful. Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom-it’s brought light into my life and it’s given me the strength to push forward.

  • Beautiful!!

    This hit home like a grand slam. I feel, literally like you were speaking to me for everything touched upon is where I am. This is so true: ‘What’s meant to be will come your way, what’s not will fall away.  And remember that a great gift may not always be wrapped as you expect.’

    My eyeballs pretty much fell out of my head and went back in lol

    Thank you and my sincere condolences..

  • Great posting as we enter 2014. Finding “Right relationships” is really important. Shedding relationships that are exploitive is an important life task. Finding those that celebrate your growth, mentor and fulfill is something that is very important. Your postings are always inspiring. Thank you!!

  • I just needed to hear this so much. Thanks. I especially liked number 5. It really helped me deal with specific issues I am facing.

  • For the very first time I disagree with one point here. In number 8:

    “All education is self-education. It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in a college classroom or a coffee shop. We don’t learn anything we don’t want to learn.”

    My estimation is that 90% of all people who dislike/hate their jobs is because they took a job or came into a relationship to fill a gap, and it turned into a default career or long-term relationship. It starts off as temporary, then gets permanent over time. By the time you want out, it looks like its impossible to do so. People learn about office/sexual politics, infidelity, loss, pain, etc. out of unavoidable confrontation with it.

    The only advice I ever heard to help this chronic issue is “Avoid getting good at something you don’t want to do permanently.” Diatribe over.

  • Thank you for this post.

    I’m currently struggling so much with #4. I don’t feel like I am missing anything in my life. After a year of job hunting, I finally have a job I love. I have a wonderful family and boyfriend. I have friends who make me happy and give me positive energy. I feel privileged and grateful for the life I have. But for some reason I can’t stop thinking. And in my case, thinking is a big problem as my mind is filled with negative thoughts, fears, irrational thoughts, worries etc… and I can’t relax. My body is present in the real world, my mind is long gone in a horrible fantasy world. My anxiety starts soaring and I can’t eat, my whole body starts shaking, my chest hurts and finding happiness or trying to focus on all the positive things in my life seems impossible when that happens. I don’t know what to do.. my brain is killing my personality, happiness and maybe my relationships (with my family, boyfriend, friends) if it continues like this. I’m trying to accept/embrace my feelings but I can’t when nothing about my anxiety makes sense.

    Anyway. This post made me feel more positive. I know I can change, but maybe for the change to come, I have to truly believe it, not just “know” it.

  • These are the power words for me: Not everyone will appreciate what you do or them. You have to figure out who’ worth your attention and who’s just taking advantage of you.

    I need to figure out the right relationships in the year2014 and onwards. Thanks again for a reminder, Chernoff. Love and respect!

  • Thank you for the great article. All the points listed are the things we all could use reminding of from time to time. I’m very thankful for the reminder today. Moving into the new year, I will have this printed and placed on my refrigerator so I will be reminded of these each day to bring me a better 2014.

  • Marc and Angel, I’m so sorry for your loss. This is a beautiful post and you are appreciated by so many people. Thank you. “The Last Lecture” is one of my favorite go-to’s when I’m feeling down, and I’ve watched it often.

    I think this is the best list I’ve read of yours so far:

    “What’s meant to be will come your way, what’s not will fall away. And remember that a great gift may not always be wrapped as you expect.” Ha! I’d say it’s never wrapped as you expect, but the surprise in it is usually better.

    “Don’t be scared to walk alone, and don’t be scared to enjoy it.” What if it isn’t fear at all and you’re not scared to enjoy walking alone, you just don’t want to walk alone and simply want someone to share it with but are forced to be alone anyway? What then?

    “If you hang with the wrong people, they will bring you down, but if you hang with the right people, they will help you grow into your best self. The RIGHT people for you will love all the things about you that the WRONG people are intimidated by…” This is so true. In the positive, it’s made me a stronger, wiser person, but it feels like a lot of time was wasted figuring it all out. Senseless time wasted that could have been put to better use.

    9) “Rest when you are tired, but don’t give up.” This is the one I’m struggling with. I don’t know the difference between giving up before its time or if it’s merely letting go of something that wasn’t meant to be. I know I was exhausted and needed the break, and that it was hurting me. It felt like I’d finally accepted that I had to give up something that wasn’t meant to be and it was the right thing to do. But now, every instinct I have is screaming that the story isn’t over yet, that there is still more work to be done and the timing was just wrong in that moment.

    So I no longer know if I’m just holding on because letting go hurts too much, or if I’m holding on because it’s meant to be, but at a later time and I just need to stay strong, persistent and vigilant. Even at the time, during all the emotional garbage I was dealing with, the ending felt “off.” Now that I can see things more clearly, it feels even more “off,” like something just wasn’t “right” about it. So, do I trust my instincts and hold onto hope, or do I give up, let it go and move on? I honestly don’t know.

    And just to add a new twist to the drama, a while back I mentioned I’d been having dreams that someone said they weren’t interested in my project/ideas, and then implemented my ideas behind my back without me. I was paranoid for weeks trying to figure out who was stealing my work, and by chance, I found a character and storyline on a TV show that a writer I knew two years ago pillaged from one of my scripts. So, I finally found my answer and chose to chalk it up as a lesson learned about the “right” people versus the “wrong” people. This person took something special and unique (and what he knew was extremely personal to me) and turned it into something ordinary and forgettable. The competition didn’t bother me, because I knew I could make it special and unique again, and it’s inspired me to create something even better. The dreams stopped and I realized the paranoia and anticipation of the theft was much worse than the theft itself.

    And then last night I had another dream about a man stealing my ideas/work. He had this smug smile on his face, like it was a joke and a game to be won, like he only did it to prove something to me. Only this time in the dream, I took my ideas/work back and told him he couldn’t have them. Not being a victim felt good and I now know exactly who this writer is. This is the same writer who told me Shakespeare was a great writer because he stole his ideas from other writers. At the time, I told him Shakespeare was a great writer because he turned those ideas into something genius. He created something that expanded those ideas and made them evolve into something better than they were. He didn’t diminish and hurt them. This writer then quoted Picasso and said something like “Good writers write. Great writers steal.” I told him Picasso was an idiot and got it backwards, that great writers write and create, and talentless hacks steal. I mean, you can only fake it for so long, and karma is a bitch when you build your life on hurting and screwing over other people.

    So now, between my dreams and my instincts, it feels like I’m being given a message that resting time is over and it’s time to fight/try again and not give up, but this is in complete conflict with reality and the rational part of my brain. So am I delusional and being stubborn, clinging to something that isn’t meant to be, or do I try again to convince them to just freaking read the scripts and let me pitch my creative vision to them?

    If you’re feeling up to it, I’d be so grateful for your insights and any advice you might have on this.

    Thank you.

    Melissa

  • Hello! Thanks for this lovely post…. I started following you when a friend, Courtney, suggested I do so… I have been and still am in the process of turning my life around. Therefore I have already worked really hard on gifts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10… I need to work on 7 eventually… but for now, 1 got me in tears. I know there is more of my past I need to let go of… I never really fitted “here” anyway… but with all the changes I made to my life in the last 6-7 years, the gap has only grown. I have let go a lot of stuff/people… but there are a few more steps I need to take… and once I am done with making those changes (one involves moving to another part of Canada with my husband and son which will leave half of his family here as his dad and I are history), I will be ready to work on rebuilding new relationships. I know I have to do this…I have felt it, but tried to denied it or make up excuses for not doing it for a few months now… hearing it from you, that it would be a gift I need to give myself was a blessing. I know it will not be easy… but no change I have made so far were… and they brought me to grow and get closer to my dream life… there is just a few more steps and I will be there… I have no right to give up!!!

    Thanks for reminding me!!!
    love&peace,
    nath
    xox

  • Thank you so much for this. I need to give myself several of these gifts, and this coming year I’m going to make it happen.

  • love love love

  • Nice tips, I am looking forward to overcoming my fear and negative thoughts. I want to have a positive mindset toward my dreams and career. Thank you for these wonderful eye openers.

  • Great read! Really cheers you up. Thanks!

  • Hi! Thank you so much, as always. I could connect to this article in every aspect. I just dropped out of an engineering college to pursue mass communication. Right now I am in great self doubt about whether I made the right decision or not. With no college friends around, I have gotten really lonely and have no clue as to where my life is going. I have a lot of spare time with me until I apply for another college, but I feel that a lot of negative things have grasped me and I am afraid to move on.

    Thanks for this article again. I’ll try to apply it in my life.

    PS: I am really sorry for your loss. May your friend rest in peace.

  • Happy New Year to everyone. I, too, am enjoying the wealth of good thoughts and inspiration in your book that I have in hard copy. Thank you so much for writing it.

    I give high importance and weight to your #10 here - “The freedom to express your whole truth” as that is not an easy thing to do in relating to other people close in your life. Sometimes it feels like I am putting the people I care for “to task” to ask them to stop and think and comprehend what I am trying to give them. If I take the time to understand someone and get to know them, it is hoped that this person wishes to do the same for me. Our lives are too busy and hurried too much of the time. I need to remember every day to make my personal exchanges count more in life.

    Thank you for your wonderful offerings on your website, newsletters, and book.

  • Great article, which I am sending to my 3 children. The quote by T. E. Lawrence that I believe may have inspired your number 8 has been on my bulletin board for years. Just wanted to give him a mention.

  • Marc and Angel, I love your mails and lists, they speak to me every time one pops up in my mailbox, and whilst I always nod and reflect on your words, I have done very little with the guidance. I do have an amazing life that is filled with blessings, but it is not my purpose and passion. One of your earlier comments mentioned not getting good at something you don’t like, that would be me.

    I never post comments on articles, and by doing it this time, it is my commitment to myself to take actions to follow my passion. Thank you for inspiring me, and many many others, I pray that your words reach many many more people in 2014.

    Also, my condolences for your loss.

  • First of all, I´m sorry for your loss.

    Many times we do not realize our true value, we get carried away by the routines or of living by the rules of others and do not give ourselves the real priority we deserve. A big and bold post. Thank you very much, you have allowed me to expand my personal perspectives.

  • I am always amazed at how both of you write such good articles… Seriously I am more than happy to be part of your mailing list!

    Once again thanks for an amazing post.

  • As always, this is a lovely post. Thank you for the reminders.

  • Marc and Angel, my condolences on the lost of your loved one. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and feedback on another wonderful post. This is perfect to reflect on as we move into another year!

    I often pass this blog onto others in my life who I feel may benefit from it that day. Thank you so much for bringing so much positivity to others’ lives!

    Happy New Year to All!

  • @Susan Rae: Sounds like you’re on the right path and embracing all your gifts. =)

    @Alex: You’re making the right choice. Don’t be scared to step out of line. It’s OK to go off the beaten path, as long as you know why going a different way is right for you. Some people may resent the freedom that you create in your life when you choose to be true to yourself. If you come across these people, ignore them and carry on.

    @David Rapp: I see what your saying but I also believe that you always have a choice. For example: If you hate your job, you’re choosing to make a living to pay your bills. You are not forced to do or learn anything new, you always have a choice. Obviously some situations reduce the feasibility of certain choices, but they are still available. Great insight though, as always. Thanks.

    @Melissa Webster: Listen to your soul. Trust your intuition; it will rarely lead you astray. If it doesn’t feel right in your gut, then it probably isn’t. So stop worrying about what you’re supposed to do and start doing what you know is right. Just live your truth and be sure YOU aren’t the one who is disappointed in the end.

    @All: Your comments and thoughts are heart warming. Thank you! Our first and last love is self-love, and if we can’t love and respect ourselves, no one else will be able to either. Spoil yourself rotten… as we head into the New Year. =)

  • I like number 5 and the comment to focus on the right things and do the best you can, especially in regards to our aging. It doesn’t have to be perfect for a meaningful life.

  • My condolences on the loss of your friend. Wonderful post. I felt that number 4 was directed specifically to me. I spend my life worrying (right now about snow) and sewing. (I get lots of sewing done in snowstorms. Can’t go anywhere.) Thank you.

  • Excellent list and suggestions.

    I think an especially important one is giving yourself permission to be imperfect as you grow.

    Too many people want to be perfect or achieve success instantly and they expect the road to success to be smooth and perfect as well.

    For anyone reading this that has achieved true lasting success in life I’m sure they can testify that it didn’t come without a number of hardships and bumps along the way.

  • #2 and #6 for myself.

    These are the words I should always remind myself of:
    “It’s always better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb, than the top of the one you don’t. So don’t wait until you’re halfway up the wrong ladder to listen to your intuition.”

    “Don’t be scared to walk alone, and don’t be scared to enjoy it. Don’t let anyone’s ignorance, drama, or negativity derail you from your truth.”

    Amazing site you got here. I am now a BIG fan.

  • “Reassurance of being enough” . This is super recharging for anyone. It moved everything on me. I have read number 6 several times and I can’t get enough of it. It makes me feel I can move mountains.

    I really appreciate this effort and these wise words from you guys.

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