I’m sitting here on the tenth anniversary of a dear friend’s passing, thinking about the last conversation I had with her. With a soft, weak voice she told me her only regret was that she didn’t live every year with the same level of love, passion and purpose she had in the final two years of her life, after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. “I’ve accomplished so much recently. And I’ve touched so many people,” she told me. “If only I had listened to the good advice of my elders—if only I had known—I would have started sooner. I wouldn’t have wasted so much time on drama and distractions that don’t matter.”
My friend’s words were hard to hear in that moment, for many reasons. And although her sentiments—her lessons—were concepts I had listened to others say a hundred times before, I had never truly heard them until that moment. My heart broke wide open for her, and for me. It was downright painful to see the glimmers of regret in her eyes, and then to realize that I too had wasted time … that I too had let so much good, common sense advice go in one ear and out the next.
For a decade now, I’ve lived with my late friend’s words echoing in the back of my mind. I’ve let them guide me through thick and thin. And I’ve also committed myself to hearing more good, hard advice, and living by it. The list below is a highlight of that advice—some hard things I remind myself of often … some hard things we all need to hear sometimes.
- When you hear only what you want to hear, you’re not really listening. Listen to what you don’t want to hear too. That’s how you grow.
- Fantasizing about other times and places can be dangerous. Don’t cling so tightly to the past, or dream so fervently about the future, that you miss out on the real value and beauty that is here and now. Don’t live entirely in your head. Don’t miss your life!
- You often waste your time waiting for the ideal path to appear. But it never does. Because you forget that paths are made by walking, not waiting.
- You will never feel as confident as you want to feel. Stop believing that you should feel more confident before you take the next step. Taking the next step is what builds your confidence.
- Distractions will get the best of you if you let them. Study your routines, figure out where your time goes, and remove distractions. You become a true master of your life when you learn how to master your focus—where your attention goes.
- There’s a big difference between empty fatigue and gratifying exhaustion. Know the difference. Life is too short. Invest in the activities (and relationships) you deeply care about. Value what you give your energy to. Focus on what matters and let go of what does not.
- Self-neglect is super common. Realize this! Your needs matter. Do NOT ignore them. At times you have to do what’s best for you and your life, not just what’s best for everyone else. There’s absolutely nothing selfish about self-care and self-love. We can’t give what we don’t have. Enrich your life and you’ll be life-giving to others, too.
- You don’t give yourself enough credit sometimes. Remember that time you thought you couldn’t make it through? You did, and you’ll do it again. Don’t let your challenges get the best of you. Appreciate how far you’ve come. You’ve been through a lot, but you’ve grown a lot too. Give yourself credit for your resilience.
- Your response is always more powerful than your circumstance. A tiny part of your life is decided by completely uncontrollable circumstances, while the vast majority of your life is decided by your responses. Where you ultimately end up is heavily dependent on how you play the hands you’ve been dealt.
- Everything gets a bit uncomfortable when it’s time to change. That’s just a part of the growth process. Things will get better. Be patient.
- Patience is not about waiting. Patience is the ability to keep a positive, focused attitude while working hard to move your life forward.
- New, good habits don’t form overnight. It takes roughly 66 days to form a habit. So for the next nine weeks, look at the bright side of your life, and you will rewire your brain. Then apply this same principle to other areas of your life. (Angel and I build small, life-changing habits with our students in the “Goals & Growth” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
- Mental strength is incredibly important, and easily overlooked. Go to environments that expand your mind. Spend time with people who truly inspire you. Read books. Learn. Grow. Get better. Your life is your choice.
- Old patterns are hard to break. Be aware. Act consciously and consistently. Don’t fall back into your old patterns. Toxic habits and behaviors always try to sneak back in when you’re doing better. Stay focused.
- Sometimes it’s better to let go without closure. Actions and behavior speak volumes. Trust the signs you were given and gracefully press on.
- If you always play the victim, you will always be treated like one. Life isn’t fair. But you don’t have to let the past define your future. Try to take life day by day and be grateful for the little things. Don’t get caught up in what you can’t control.
- Life doesn’t always give you the circumstances you want. Life gives you the circumstances you need … to learn, to grow, and to fall in love.
- When you really pay attention, everyone and everything is your teacher. Take time to observe and listen. Take time to learn something new.
- No one wins at chess by only moving forward. Sometimes you have to move backward to put yourself in a position to win. This is a perfect metaphor for life.
- Your hardest challenges will teach you your best lessons. There is an opportunity in every difficult situation to understand yourself more deeply, and also to improve your life. Take one small step at a time.
- The vast majority of your stress is self-inflicted. And the most powerful weapon you have against stress is your ability to choose one thought over another. Learn to manage your thoughts, before your thoughts manage you.
- Your mind will forever produce negative thoughts. So the goal isn’t to get rid of all your negative thoughts. That’s impossible. The goal is to change your response to them. In fact, the strongest sign of your inner growth is realizing you’re no longer worried, stressed or pained by the things that once used to drain you.
- Calmness is a superpower. The ability to not overreact or take things personally keeps your mind clear and your heart at peace. Once you begin to value your inner peace over your need to react and be right, you will in fact experience more inner peace, and happiness.
- You are holding on to things that hold you back. When things aren’t adding up in your life, begin subtracting. Life gets a lot simpler when you clear the clutter that makes it complicated. Not everything and everyone you lose is a loss.
- “Busy” is mostly just an excuse. In a world with so much noise and clutter, you must make room to hear yourself and others. Embrace silence and space. Breathe and listen. Be where you are. You’re where you’re supposed to be at this very moment. Every step and experience is necessary, and can be enhanced with your presence.
- You ignore your inner voice too often. Give yourself the space to listen to your own voice—your own soul. Too many of us listen to the noise of the world and get lost in the crowd.
- You often seek validation from the wrong sources. You will never find your worth in another human being—you will find it in yourself, and then you will attract those who are worthy of your energy. So stop waiting for others to tell you how impressive you are. Impress yourself. Show yourself that you can grow and get better. It’s never about competing with others. In the end, it’s just you vs. you.
- Popularity is irrelevant. Forget popularity. Just do your thing with passion, humility, and honesty. Do what you do, not for an applause, but because it’s what’s right. Many of the kindest gestures you’ll ever make, and the most important things you’ll ever do, will never be seen publicly. Do them anyway.
- You have been impressed with some people for the wrong reasons. Be less impressed by money, titles, degrees, and looks. Be more impressed by generosity, integrity, humility, and kindness.
- People will not always tell you how they feel about you. But they will always show you. Pay close attention.
- Your expectations of others cause you unnecessary pain. Don’t lower your standards, but do remember that removing your expectations of others is the best way to avoid being disappointed by them.
- You will end up heartbroken if you expect people will always do for you as you do for them. Not everyone has the same heart as you.
- Life is too short to argue and fight. Remember to be selective in your battles. Peace can feel better than being right. You don’t need to attend every argument you’re invited to. Count your blessings, value the people who matter, and move on from the drama with your head held high.
- You will gradually attract people that think and behave like you. If you want to be surrounded by positive people, you need to be positive too. And the opposite is also true. So do your best to surround yourself with people who push you to be your best. Less drama—less mess. Just higher vibrations and intentions.
- You need to learn to be more human again (we all do). Don’t avoid eye contact. Don’t hide behind gadgets. Smile today. Ask about people’s stories. Listen. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Relationships” chapter of our book.)
- Sometimes you subconsciously dehumanize people you disagree with. Be careful. In our self-righteousness, we can easily become the very things we dislike in others. Ultimately, the way we treat people we disagree with is a report card on what we’ve learned about love and compassion. Every single person you meet is afraid of something, loves something, and has lost something. Know this. Respect this. And be extra kind.
- “Bad” people can change for the better. If somebody is working on themselves and changing for the better, it’s unnecessary to keep bringing up their past. People can change and grow.
- Forgiveness is necessary for personal peace. Forgive others, not because they absolutely deserve forgiveness, but because you absolutely deserve peace. Free yourself of the burden of being an eternal victim.
- Life will take things from you, and give things to you, gradually and continuously. It’s funny how we outgrow what we once thought we couldn’t live without, and then we fall in love with what we didn’t even know we wanted. Do your best to embrace life’s uncertainties. Some of the best chapters in your life won’t have a title you feel fully comfortable with until later.
- Everything you have right now is in the process of changing again. Look around, and be thankful for your life right now. For your health, your family, your friends, and your home. Nothing lasts forever.
Before you go, let me ask you a quick question:
- Which point above resonates the most with you right now?
And how might reminding yourself of it, daily, change your life?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
Also, our next annual Think Better, Live Better conference is taking place February 10-11, 2018 in San Diego. Sign-up here to be notified the moment tickets go on sale, and you will also be automatically qualified for a discounted early bird ticket (while they last).