31 Life Lessons in 31 Years
by Tina Su
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Photo by Simon Pais & Vero Monaco
By Tina Su
“Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live fully in each moment …”
~Thich Nhat Hanh
Today, I turn 31.
When I was little, I used to think people in their 30s were really old. Now that I’m in my 30s, that perspective has quickly shifted.
Standing where I am today, I still feel like a little kid, except I’m doing my best in playing the part of an adult–trying to fit in with other grown-ups, and subsequently hiding the little kid within.
Having been obsessed with the topic of happiness and personal development over the past seven years (holy crap!), I feel like I’m becoming more and more in touch with the little kid inside–honest, candid, and established in love.
It is in the innocent wonder and the in-this-moment presence of the child where lies the secret to happiness.
Here are 31 life lessons I’ve learned, standing here today as a (slightly wiser) 31-year-old.
31 Life Lessons
1. It’s okay to make mistakes. Mistakes and failures are there to teach us. If we learn from them and correct the way on our path, better things will result from it.
2. We create our own reality. We have the power to break mental patterns that no longer serve us, and we have the power to consciously choose thoughts that empower us. It’s only a matter of breaking old habits and creating new ones.
3. Finding validation and seeking love from another person through relationships is a self-destructive path. Those types of relationships never last, and when they end, they burn in heartache. You must love and respect yourself first. When you wholeheartedly love who you are, the world will fall in love with you, and the right relationship will fall into place. Until I fully accept, love and respect myself, I will continue to attract those relationships rooted in fear, insecurities and disempowerment.
4. A few moments of silence each day will broaden your horizon, strengthen your self-awareness, and heighten your inner clarity. With clarity, you can do anything.
5. You will never be ready for what you want to do. The trick is to just start it anyway, and to develop the discipline to work at it consistently. Taking baby steps in the direction you want to go means that you will eventually get there.
6. Life is short. Live it the way that will make you happy.
7. Change creates resistance. We don’t like change and we will always gravitate towards what is familiar because familiarity keeps us feeling safe. But sometimes, change is good for us. In fact, change is inevitable. Change is the only thing that is for certain. Embrace change.
8. Don’t be afraid to dream. Dreams create the vision that governs the story of our lives. Our dreams create our future. Dream big. Remember #6, life is short.
9. Money is a renewable resource. If you lose some money, don’t sweat it. You can always make more. However, if you spend valuable time stressing over money, or lost opportunity, you’ll never get that time back. Time is more valuable than money.
10. Fear comes from uncertainty of the unknown. It happens to all of us. It is part of the natural mechanisms for our survival. Its job is to keep us safe. You can never suppress fear, nor ignore fear, nor cure fear. The trick is to fully embrace fear by simply acting despite the feeling of fear. When you’ve fully faced fear and experienced it, the fear will subside.
11. Self-doubt, like fear, seeks everyone. You are no exception. Just do it anyway.
12. Time is the most important resource in the world. It is the only non-renewable resource in your life. Choose wisely how you spend time, and with whom you spend it.
13. Less is more. Say less, listen more. Own less things, and you’ll experience more freedom.
14. The people with whom you spend time matter. They influence you in unconscious ways, both positive and negative. Your income is the average of the three people with whom you spend the most time. Your potential to achieve greatness can be limited by the negative influence of the opinions of the people around you. Similarly, if all your friends were living self-empowered and awesome lives, wouldn’t that rub off on you to live extraordinarily? Choose your friends carefully.
15. We really don’t need very much (stuff) to be happy.
16. The most important thing we can do is to love ourselves. By making self-love a priority, everyone and everything we care about will be better because of it. We become better parents, employees, lovers, friends and contributing members of society.
17. Learn to let go. Surrender to what is happening right now. Fully embrace and experience this moment, regardless of what this moment holds. Like all moments, this moment too shall pass.
18. People are really kind and helpful if you give them a chance. Be open to receiving without feeling the need to “pay them back.” Let others know what they’ve provided for you, and how much you appreciate their help. Fully receiving what someone else has to offer is a gift in itself.
19. We are stronger and more resilient than we think we are.
20. The most damaging influence in our lives is the limiting beliefs we hold about ourselves. It’s the unexamined limiting beliefs that cause us to sabotage our success, sell ourselves short, and limit our own potential to living extraordinary lives. If you are not achieving the kinds of results you want in your life, sit down with a journal and examine your beliefs.
21. Complaining, criticizing and gossiping is a waste of time and saps your energy.
22. Being a victim is a lot easier than being a leader. Leaders take responsibility and own up to their part in the doing. Leaders take action to change themselves and to overcome setbacks. Victims refuse to take responsibility for their own actions and emotions. Victims would rather sit back passively and give their power away by placing blame on an external trigger. Be the leader of your life. You are the only one capable of the job. Take responsibility of your own emotions. The world needs more leaders.
23. Forgiving someone is a lot easier than we think. When we forgive, we are setting ourselves free. Forgiveness is not about other people; it’s about letting the pain go in our own minds.
24. It’s easy to find fault in others–much easier than seeing fault in ourselves. How we view the world is a reflection of how we view ourselves, and this gives us insight to our internal thought patterns. Next time you catch yourself complaining about some fault in others, ask yourself, “What is it about myself, in relation to this topic, that I don’t like?”
25. Naps are good. It’s okay to sleep in, sometimes. We need rest to recharge. Staying up late into the night is bad for our bodies, and we pay the price with our health.
26. There is always a silent and graceful solution to every problem. When feeling nervous, stressed or anxious, stop everything and take three deep breaths. Or better yet, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Try the mantra “I am safe. All is well.”
27. Master creations in the arts (writing, drawing, music, dance, even software programming) are the result of someone’s love of the process of creation. Masterpieces are never created as a result of someone trying to be brilliant. Get out of your head and get into your heart. Stop overthinking! Just relax, start creating and fall into the flow. Focus on what you are doing without being concerned with what other people will think. Create for the sake of creation. Create out of love of the process, and you just might find that your resulting creation turns out to be a masterpiece.
28. When you passionately and genuinely believe in something, it will change you. You will embody the energy of your passion, and the world will notice the light that you shine. When you believe in yourself, others will believe in you, too.
29. Learn to say no. If you don’t want to do something—go to a party, accept an obligation, meet someone—just say “no, thank you.” You don’t owe anyone an excuse or explanation.
30. Giving unsolicited advice to others—regardless of how much you feel that they need it—is a waste of time and energy. Unless your advice was specifically requested, what you say will not be heard or appreciated. Unsolicited advice is perceived as annoying. Don’t do it.
31. Slowing down to self-reflect, to contemplate, to sit quietly, to journal, to breathe, or to clear your mind will actually make you more productive than if you worked until you collapsed. Slowing down has more benefits than just a clear mind; one side effect is a happier life.
Bonus Life Lessons
I started with a big list of life lessons, then I started trimming until I was left with 31. The following are additional important life lessons I couldn’t leave on the editing floor:
1. People will not change no matter how badly you want them to. People will only change if they want to. Instead of trying to change others, change yourself. Change your perception about the person, and allow them to be themselves, without you trying to change them.
2. We are not alone. No matter how bizarre or embarrassed or pathetic we feel about our own situation, there will be others out there experiencing the same emotions. When you hear yourself say “I am all alone,” it is your mind trying to sell you a lie so you will continue to feel sorry for yourself.
3. We are the only ones who can solve our own problems. We are the only ones who can change ourselves. We are the only ones who can choose to see the good, to see hope, to pick ourselves up, and to accept help. We must rely upon and trust ourselves.
4. My body knows what I need. Sometimes, I get sick because my body is trying to get my attention. Its message is usually something like this: relax, recharge, you’re working too much, drink water, exercise and get more sleep. When I get sick, I listen to my body’s messages and I heal.
5. Watch my language. The words I use to describe my experiences carry with it more power than I can consciously fathom. Saying that “I Can’t” do something has a profound effect on my beliefs about what is possible. It can limit my potential or empower me with possibilities. Choose your words carefully.
6. Help other people get what they want. You will be rewarded not only financially, but also with the priceless reward of fulfillment.
7. Trying to be right is a waste of time and energy. I would rather be happy than right.
8. Drink lots of water.
9. When you want something and you ask for it, you will more likely get it. Don’t be afraid to ask.
10. Within each of us lies a vast well of wisdom. It is a source within the depth of our soul which connects to infinite intelligence and the capacity to heal all our wounds. To access this source and to hear its messages, we must slow down, quiet our minds and go within. Only in the stillness of our being can we recognize the soft ripples of our inner voice and intuition. Learn to trust it. It is always right.
“The day is ending, our life is one day shorter.
Let us look carefully at what we have done.
Let us practice diligently,
…Putting our whole heart into the path…
Let us live deeply each moment in freedom,
So time does not slip away meaninglessly.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh
Last night, my husband Jeremy smiled and said, “Let’s dedicate the next year to a year of happiness.” (I’m paraphrasing. What he actually said was really moving, and much longer. This was the gist of it.) He said this because this time last year I had spent the day crying and was barely able to scrape myself off the floor.
We’ve come a long way. I am thankful.
I smiled back and said, “Let’s do that! That’s a great idea.”
Here’s to a year (and a life time) dedicated to happiness–where we shall focus on the good in our lives, cut out gossiping and criticizing others, create healthy habits, work on meaningful projects, dream about future creations, go on dates and spent more quality time as a family.
If I had to choose, the most important life lesson is summarized to this: Life is so short. What’s happened is already in the past. The future is here for us to create. The power is in this moment. In this moment, we have the choice to create painful memories from the past, or we can create a beautiful tomorrow. You have that power.
A beautiful life is closer than we think. It’s already here … if we choose to see it.
After all, Twenty-four brand new hours are before me, what joyful experiences will I choose next?
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* What are some life lessons from your own experience? Share them with us in the comment section. Thank you in advance for sharing.