Be brave. Say what you need to say. When you don’t speak up, there’s a lot of important stuff that ends up not getting said.
About a decade ago a coworker of mine died in a car accident on the way home from work. During his funeral several people from the office were in tears, saying kind things like, “I loved him. We all loved him so much. He was such a wonderful person.” Of course, I started crying too. But I couldn’t help but wonder if these people had told him that they loved him while he was alive, or whether it was only with death that this powerful word, “love,” had been used without question or hesitation.
I vowed to myself then and there that I would never again hesitate to speak up to the people I care about and remind them of how much I appreciate them. They deserve to know they give meaning to my life. They deserve to know I think the world of them.
But this wake-up call taught me something even bigger than that. Not only did it teach me to speak up to others, it taught me to speak up to myself too, about my attitude, my self-respect, my dreams, and so forth. Because the harsh truth is, we never know. We never know when everything will change. When great opportunities will pass. When everything we take for granted will be taken away. We don’t know when later will be too late.
Don’t let this reality depress you; let it motivate you. Let it push you to say what you’ve been meaning to say all along, to others and to yourself…
- “I love you.” – Love rarely ever knows it’s own depth until it’s taken away. So don’t wait around. If you appreciate someone today, tell them. If you love someone today, show them. Hearts are often confused and broken by thoughtful words left unspoken, and loving deeds left undone. There might not be a tomorrow. Today is the day to express your love and admiration.
- “Thank you.” – For my 17th birthday, many moons ago, my grandfather on my mom’s side gave me four used flannel shirts he no longer needed. The shirts were barely worn and in flawless condition, and my grandfather told me he thought they would look great on me. Sadly, I thought they were an odd gift at the time and I wasn’t thankful. I looked at him skeptically, gave him a crooked half-smile, and moved on to the other gifts sitting in front of me. My grandfather died two days later from a sudden heart attack. The flannel shirts were the last gifts he ever gave me. I regret the small thing I didn’t say when I had the chance: “Thank you Grandpa. That’s so thoughtful of you.”
- “I am a good person who is worthy of my own love and respect.” – Human beings can withstand a week without water, two weeks without food, many years of homelessness… but not loneliness. It is the worst of all agonies. And what’s the worst kind of loneliness? The kind you can’t escape – when you are uncomfortable with yourself. The truth is, a partner, or even just a friend, can add lots of beauty to your life, but they can’t fill a void that exists within you. You alone are responsible for your own fulfillment. If you feel hopelessly lonely whenever you’re alone, it means you’re in bad company. It means you need to work on your relationship with yourself first. (Angel and I discuss this process in detail in the “Self-Love” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- “I can’t always win, but I can always learn and grow.” – Don’t confuse poor decision-making with your destiny. Own your mistakes. It’s OK; we all make them. Learn from life experiences so they can empower you! What we call our destiny is really just our character, and that character can be enriched. The knowledge that you are responsible for your actions and attitudes does not need to be discouraging either, because it means you are free to change your destiny. Yes, the past has shaped your feelings and perspectives, but all this can be altered if you have the courage to reexamine how it formed you. You can always alter your chemistry provided you have the courage to dissect your elements.
- “It’s time to do something positive.” – The next time you have the urge to complain, stop and ask yourself what it is you truly want. Do you just want to complain or do you want to improve your situation? Somewhere within each complaint is a genuine desire to improve things, but the complaint by itself is never enough to make it happen. So make the choice not to aggravate a bad situation with your complaints. Choose instead to improve it with your positive thoughts, ideas and actions.
- “I CAN do this!” – The obstacle is never enough to stop you. What stops you is your belief that you can’t get past the obstacle. The problem is not that you have too much of this or too little of that. The problem is, you’re waiting for perfect conditions that don’t exist. The achievements that really occur in life, take place in reality. The things that really get done, get done in an imperfect world. Don’t make excuses for why you can’t get it done. Focus on all the reasons why you must make it happen. There will always be challenges. And there will always be things you can do to grow beyond them. (Read Start: Punch Fear in the Face.)
- “Their drama is NOT mine to deal with.” – Honestly, you can’t save most people from themselves, so don’t get sucked too deep into their drama. Those who make perpetual chaos of their lives won’t appreciate you interfering with the commotion they’ve created, anyway. They want your “poor baby” sympathy, but they don’t want to change. They don’t want their lives fixed by YOU. They don’t want their problems solved, their emotional addictions and distractions taken away, their stories resolved, or their messes cleaned up. Because what would they have left? They don’t know and they aren’t ready to know yet. And it’s not your job to tell them.
- “I’m sorry.” – In this life, when you deny someone an apology, you remember doing so when you find yourself begging for forgiveness. And if often happens just like that. Why? Because guilt festers. Don’t do this to yourself. An apology is the best way to have the last word. The first to apologize is the strongest, and the first to move forward is the happiest. Always. And of course, don’t bother apologizing if you’re just going to continue doing the things you said sorry for. Say it and mean it. Look the person in the eyes when you say it, and feel it in your bones.
- “I forgive you.” – A broken relationship that is mended through forgiveness can be even stronger than it once was. But, of course, this isn’t always the case. So remember that forgiveness doesn’t necessarily lead to healed relationships. That’s not the point. Some relationships aren’t meant to be. Forgive anyway, for your own sake, and then let what’s meant to be, BE. Forgiveness allows you to focus on the future without combating the past. Without forgiveness, wounds can never be healed, and progress can never be made. What happened in the past is just one chapter. Don’t close the book; just turn the page. (Read Loving What Is.)
- “Life right now is pretty darn good.” – Some people wait all day for 5pm, all week for Friday, all year for the holidays, all their lives for happiness. Don’t be one of them. Don’t wait until your life is almost over to realize how good it has been. The good life begins right now, when you stop waiting for a better one.
Sit quietly with yourself, and ask, “What will I regret never saying, to those I love, and to myself?” Once you have it figured out, leave us a comment below and let us know what you’re going to say.
Photo by: Vinoth Chandar