QUICK UPDATE: Angel and I are teaming up with Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist to host The Live Well Tour. Come see us in Houston, TX along with special guest Preston Smiles on Feb. 25, 2023. Tap here for more info.
I’m sitting here on the 12th anniversary of a best friend’s passing, thinking about the last conversation I had with her. It was a humbling exchange to say the least. 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 over 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 truths 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, gradually. Be patient.
- Patience is not about waiting. Patience is the ability to keep a positive, focused attitude while working hard on what matters most.
- 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 the Getting Back to Happy Course.)
- 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 stronger and better. Your life is mostly 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 patterns 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’ve been consistently 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 often 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 continuously wins at chess by only moving forward. Sometimes you have to move backward to put yourself in a position to win. And this is a perfect metaphor for life.
- Your hardest challenges will often 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 on an average day 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 likely 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 distraction, you must make room to embrace silence and space. Breathe and regroup. 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 whole 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 learn, grow, and get better. It’s never about competing with others. In the end, it’s just you vs. yourself.
- 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. Not everyone has the same amount to give.
- 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 in the days and weeks ahead.
- 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 “1,000 Little Things” 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, compassion, and kindness. 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 gradually over time.
- 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 much 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 “hard truth” 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.
Marc, I totally agree with your opening thoughts on the importance of actually hearing good advice and implementing it. And I think these “hard” reminders you’ve provided are good tools for the job. Also, through your course’s one-on-one coaching, I learned the importance and power of self-inquiry from you and Angel–the practice of questioning my thoughts and beliefs, and how my thinking often gets in my way. This process has helped me clear my mind of heavy falsehoods and ultimately move my life forward following a lengthy period of mild depression. Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for everything. It was hard to hear that I was doing it wrong, but the advice you gave me was necessary medicine.
Oh, and if I had to choose just one point from the list above, it’d be #22. Especially these lines:
“…the goal isn’t to get rid of all your negative thoughts. That’s impossible. The goal is to change your response to them.”
A great set of reminders for the year. Truly, nothing lasts forever. Life is like a ski slope. You must not hold on to the trail or else you will be too self-aware and crash. You need to just feel the trail, to let it go gradually and accept the new immediately as it comes. At some point you’ll be able to skate/dance through the trail, as if it was a part of you.
In life, things won’t always be slow and predictable.. Sometimes we have to endure intense bouts of uncertainty and confusion. But as long as we immediately let go of what we are doing right now and accept the very next thing that comes right after, we will be alright.
# 33 – “You don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to.” I read it a while back on one of your emails or perhaps your 1,000 Little Things book, and that thought has kept me out of some unpleasant situations that I didn’t belong in in the first place.
Jason Hollis says
Wow! What a useful highlight of important wisdom to remember, M&A! It honestly reminds me of some of the lists in your book. Actually, I just hit print and I’m going to add this article into your book, by using it as a readable reference bookmark. Many of these points will be great as morning affirmations when I need a quick boost in perspective.
And now, my favorite from above…
“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.”
So incredibly important to remember as I continue to work on being mindful and putting my best into my life. Thank you for another priceless resource!
Amy KM says
So many of these resonate with me…especially 7, 22 and 27…
I so wish I had the resources to take your course…but financially it’s just not feasible for me right now…so I keep reading your “life nuggets” as I call them (nuggets of wisdom) and try to figure on my own how to make them happen! Thank you so much for these!
Marc and Angel, you’re making a difference in my life. Thank you for placing the link to this post in my email inbox today. I really resonated with the entire post. The opening story is one I can relate to, as I lost a dear friend of my to breast cancer last year. Also, your final bullet point really hit home.
I am thankful for my health today. I want to keep reminding myself of all the good things in my life because I know nothing lasts forever. I am 71 and was just dumped by a boyfriend I was seeing for 4 years. I get depressed but keep reminding myself that time is running out and I need to keep busy with healthy activities, keep learning, and move forward to the next adventure, and appreciate each day.
John McCormack says
#15- Ex-Wife stays in my head. I just do not release her. Many unanswered questions and subsequent silence. When I recognize there will never be closure my life will begin again.
#30 I hear the words. “Oh they love you” but the actions tell another story. Planning a family reunion behind my back and I discovered it because someone told me.. I get it and I was honest with my family member who stated how much they “love” me.
I have been helped by your podcasts. Especially https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/think-better-live-better/id1488772454?i=1000548586702
It has been a difficult time and to discover family leaving you out because of their belief system about you and their own motives is truly heartbreaking. But I was honest and open and said to my family member no that’s not how they feel about me because of their actions. Thank you both for your coaching!!
Point 9 is the one I need to work on. I should do less worrying and just learn to take things as they come.
Money and titles don’t impress me (Point 29) and never have done.
#4. I keep saying I will do things when I feel confident in myself. I struggle with self doubt, not being good enough, or as good as which hinders me. I am afraid to just do it and take the leap at certain things.