Surviving life-draining 14-hour days working tax season, having just enough change for the El to get to work, spending lonely nights with my cat in a studio apartment. That use to be my life. Thankfully, I learned how to turn those days around. I did it through years of self-reflection, reading books, attending workshops, and working with coaches and mentors.
I’ve come a long way since then. Here are my top ten life lessons that turned my days around and continue to shape my long-term thinking.
1. Own it. I used to believe life was happening to me: I was unlucky in love. When I took 100% responsibility for my dreary relationships, life changed. Instantly I saw the changes that I—not others—needed to make. Don’t wait for someone else to change or to save you. “If it is to be, it’s up to me.”
2. What you appreciate, appreciates. Every night my husband listens as I list the reasons we are the luckiest people in the world. We could focus on what we want to change, what’s not going well. I choose to focus on what I appreciate. What we focus on expands. Our focus determines how we feel. How we feel determines our decisions and actions which shape our outcomes. Begin and end each day with gratitude.
3. Confidence is key. Confidence means caring less about what others think and doing what’s right for you. Follow your heart, and it will lead you to your best you.
4. Taking care of yourself is Job One. No one else can do it for you. It’s not their job. Putting yourself at the top of your to-do list isn’t selfish; it’s self-preservation. Taking care of yourself first puts you in a better position to help others.
5. Know and ask for what you want. Too many people wait to see what they get. They settle, and then are disappointed. Know what you desire in advance, and ask. Design your request as it would delight you. Then ask for it. You will be astounded at how many “yes” responses you receive when you do. Practice the art of asking and receiving.
6. Today is the starting line. You wouldn’t go to yesterday’s garbage to make tonight’s dinner. Don’t choose to experience today based on yesterday’s problems and circumstances. No matter how bad your habits or decisions have been until now, if you change them today, you can have a better life tomorrow.
7. Giving feels like getting. There is no easier way to connect to yourself and life than to give to another. Give your smile to the woman in the grocery store, your thumbs-up to the fellow runner you pass, your talent to a charity, and your words of encouragement to someone at work or home who forgot how special they are. Connecting and contributing is the most fulfilling action in life.
8. Growing means taking risks. When I resist change my husband kids me by calling me his “change agent.” My life is based on moving people to change, yet I still resist it at times. Being fearful is natural, but getting beyond your comfort zone leads to growth and reward. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Move ahead even when it terrifies you. You will be happy you did.
9. Give yourself a break. Too often I feel I need to do more, better, faster, sooner. Yet I encourage others to be gentle with themselves. Self-criticism sucks the good life out of you. There is nothing rewarding or motivating about self-reproach. Praise yourself the way you do others. If you slip, try again.
10. Be in the moment. There will always be more to clean, more papers to straighten, more emails to respond to, and five more pounds to lose. Forget all that. Be in the moment. Right now is the only moment you have. Live in it.
Bonus: Life is not about getting what you want. It’s about who we become along the way. Our challenges are often gifts in disguise, supporting our continual evolution to become our best and true selves. Look for the gift –even in chaos.
Send me your top ten life lessons — or eight or five or even one. I want to keep learning.