Having a birthday at the end of the year (shoutout, December 10!) is such a blessing.
I’ve always loved the latter part of the year because of the weather changing to cooler temps with bright, colorful leaves on the trees, the onslaught of holidays, and general chilling time reserved for friends and loved ones.
I also love this final quarter because it’s the time of year for gaining momentum right before the beginning of a bright, shiny new year. It’s a great time for reflection and goal-setting for the coming year. Read on for 29 of the most impactful lessons I’ve learned up to my 29th birthday:
Mom was right
The days of not listening to my mother and thinking she was so out of touch with my life (or life in general) are over. Finished. Gone. Finito. Why? Because I realized that all of the instruction given to me over my lifetime from my mom was genuinely for my good. I can’t count how many times something my mom said has saved me time, heartache, extra work, or unnecessary turmoil.
Don’t try to understand it all, because I will lose my mind in the process
There are just some things in life that make perfect sense and others that simply don’t for whatever reason. In most cases, this “reason” is not for me to figure out or know. Especially when it comes to dealing with other people and what they do. I can only control myself and my reaction to what goes on around me.
Stay in your lane, don’t fall into the trap of comparison!
This lesson, like many of them on this list, was (still is!) hard to learn. In this social media, “Look At Me” age, people tend to share and over-share what’s going on in their lives – to the point it could start to feel like what you’re doing isn’t sufficient. This is the beginning of a downhill spiral that’s hard to climb out of. When you start to feel yourself falling into this trap, immediately stop/log off, think about your own goals, revisit your action plan, and get to work. Simple as that.
Trust the process
Trusting the process of something while going through it is one of the hardest things I’ve experienced. It’s similar to driving down a dark street with shallow headlights to barely guide your way, making me feel like I could drive off a cliff at any moment. Since the “headlights” of life often illuminate only enough to see just ahead of us, making decisions and trusting that things will turn out exactly how they’re supposed to can be difficult. Sometimes we will crash or make a wrong turn or experience something we think we can’t overcome. But then we do, and we are better human beings because of it.
Life can be unfair
We’ve all heard this, and most of us know this. But hearing it and knowing it are two different things. While life can be very beautiful and fulfilling, it’s wise to keep in mind that it won’t always turn out the way we think it should – and that that’s ok.
Things are better in teams
The term “there’s safety in numbers” resonates with me a lot more these days. Not because I feel like I’m in any physical or danger but because I realize that the power of a group is real. In business and in creativity, it really helps to be surrounded by people who are on the same page as you. This keeps you focused and on track for doing what needs to be done.
Life (and creativity) are messy
I once participated in a get-together with some friends where we created personal vision boards for the coming year. We all took turns passing around the magazines to cut out our images and showed one another our finished projects at the end. Everyone “oohed” and “aahed” at the boards until they got to mine. I received a few encouraging words but mostly got, “Wow, it looks so perfect!”It was almost a slap in my face! Not because they were being mean or malicious or anything like that. I realized that I had been so tight-fistedly controlling my creative process that I didn’t allow myself to just be messy, learn something new in the process, and ultimately create something beautiful.
I learned right then and there that I had to let go of perfection and instead focus on living life and creating in the moment, messy and imperfect or not.
Trust your instincts
More than once, I’ve been in situations where I had to make decisions and I wasn’t really sure what the “right” answer was. Instead of balling up into a corner and succumbing to decision paralysis, I went with what my gut was saying and past experiences that were similar. I haven’t always made the best decisions but I was happy with my decisions the majority of the time.
Know who your friends are
For an introvert like me, having close friends that I feel my most comfortable self with don’t come often. So I make sure to cherish those friends and be mindful of who gets my energy and attention.
The power of NO
Learning to say no to people and things was hard for me to do – frankly, I haven’t mastered this one yet. But, the more I realize I am only one person who can only do one thing successfully at a time, the more comfortable I am with turning down things and focusing on the current tasks at hand.
Keep tabs on your coins
Saving money and learning how to manage personal and business budgets have been one of the best things I’ve done in my 20s. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m a money-managing guru; I still have my spending and saving pitfalls! But learning even the basics of finance has already started creating a better, wealthier, and more stable financial future for myself.
Change is inevitable – don’t fight it
To be honest, change is something that I’ve had a difficult time accepting. But once I realized that there was literally nothing I could do to avoid it, I was free to accept it. Change either happens because I cause it or because life does. Regardless, there’s no way to avoid it.
Anything is possible
This conditional clause comes with terms: just because you can do anything (and everything if you put your mind to it), it doesn’t mean you can do it all at once. This past November, I participated in National Novel Writing Month, an annual writing event where writers all over the globe commit to writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I love this event! I’ve been a participant since 2007 and have learned so much about about my writing and personal life. But this year there were lots of extra challenges, particularly a time constraint since I picked up a part-time job in addition to working my regular full-time job.To be honest, I wasn’t sure how I would meet the challenge of drafting a novel, working all those energy-draining hours, and somehow managing the rest of my life. But I did it. I managed to write 50,332 words in 29 days! Not without cost, mind you. I had to set aside other things in order to accomplish this mammoth goal and be realistic with my time management.
But I did it.
I am exactly where I need to be in life
This is another hard lesson I had to learn. Perhaps because it’s related very closely with comparison, since it’s so easy to look at what other have done/are doing and then criticize the person you see in the mirror. The catch is to be content and happy with your station in life even if you aren’t. This doesn’t mean to fake the funk – it just means that developing an attitude of gratitude helps you accept the way things are in your life and if you feel something is lacking in your life to change it along the way.
Regular exercise and general health consciousness is a form of self-love
I never thought I’d ever be an advocate for exercising or conscious (or healthier) eating, but here I am! It started when my day job was becoming increasingly stressful with no hope of letting up. Because of the stress, my eating habits went crazy and I started gaining weight. I knew I needed a healthy way to release stress, get more energy, and increase my happiness level. It hasn’t been the easiest journey, but with consistency and learned discipline, I’ve seen the mental and physical results I was looking for. And I love myself more for it.
Singleness is not the death of me
Despite what the media, certain friends or family, or society as a whole may say, being single doesn’t mean that anything is wrong with you or that you are not a complete person. It certainly does not mean the death of you. I’ve learned to cherish my single years as a blessing (rather than a curse) and that there is absolutely no reason why I cannot live the fullest life possible in my single years.
Tears and emotions are not weakness
Instead, they are a sign of humanness and release. I think crying is different from full-blown wallowing. Granted, one can cry while wallowing, but just because tears may be present, doesn’t mean that wallowing is also. Crying shows emotion that we humans are prone to having and a release that sometimes is more necessary than we realize. Go ahead, have a good crying session and tell me you don’t feel better afterwards.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
We’ve already established that life isn’t fair. Things happen, most often when we least expect it. It’s wise to prepare for any situation that could arise and cover all bases. I want to be clear here that I’m not promoting paranoia – I’m not saying that if you don’t have a backup plan that everything will fall and crumble at your feet. Rather, I’m saying to cover yourself so that in the event life does happen, you’ll be OK. This could cover everything from having more than one savings account to backing up your files in the cloud.
I don’t like being behind
By this I mean I don’t like setting a goal or having an established goal in front of me and not meeting it in a timely manner. It drives me crazy. With that said, I’ve also realized that putting too much on my plate can easily cause me to be behind on things – so I’ve got to balance things in order to best (and most realistically!) get things done.
Deal with the hard stuff first
We all have those days where working or staying on track with our daily agenda just isn’t happening. No matter what the reasoning is, it’s easy to settle and do the easiest things first. I’ve learned that leaving those difficult things for very last only intensifies my lack of desire to do them. Why? Because I’ve already exerted my already low energy on doing other tasks. I liken it to hiking a mountain – it’s always more difficult going up the mountain than it is coming down.
Learn to let go
Letting go can be downright difficult. You’re essentially having to break a habit or change a mindset which is mentally challenging but can also be pretty painful. But, honestly, sometimes it’s necessary. And this lesson could relate to anything from releasing the piles of shoes in your closet you never wear to saying goodbye to a project that isn’t working out quite right to letting go of a toxic friendship.
Nobody has “arrived”
I don’t remember the exact moment that I realized this truth, but I definitely felt so incredibly free and, for lack of better words, off the hook. I mean that I was able to let go of unrealistic goals, dreams, and deadlines that I accepted as the only way of life for me (sometimes blindly!). When I realized that even some of the people or businesses that I admired most were still striving to do even better or even more than they had already accomplished, I saw that there is no “end all, be all” ceiling that we must stop at. While we may have common goals that lead us to similar places, our paths our are own – and specifically designed for us individually!
Define your own vision of success
After learning that everyone’s path is different, it was only natural that I would then need to figure out what success looked like for me. This isn’t that I just woke up with or that was handed to me on a silver platter. It’s something I work on every day and constantly have to remind myself of.Click To Tweet
Figure out what you want out of life, what that looks like, and how to go about getting it and you are well on you way to defining your own vision of success.
Define your own version of normal
While deciding on what success looks like to me, I also realized I needed to determine what “normal” looked like. This may seem like an odd thing to have to determine; for me, it made perfect sense. I needed to set my own parameters on normality in my life so that I could learn to stay in my lane and not compare my circumstances with someone else’s.
Cut the fat
Something I’ve learned in my writing career is to “write thin,” or, essentially, only include things that matter to the story or advance the plot. Similarly, I’ve learned to do this in life: if it doesn’t make me happy or bring me life, it has no place with me. Point blank, period.
Guard your time fiercely
I learned the hard way that unless I honor and guard the time that I’ve been given, no one else will. What do I mean by guarding my time? I mean, making plans (whether that’s plans to work on something specific or simply use a certain day or amount of time to rest) and not allowing anything outside of that interfere. Of course life happens and sometimes we have to make adjustments; but if I have scheduled time to draft an article on Saturday at 1:00 pm, the spontaneous lunch with friends that happens to be at the same time will most likely be postponed.
Gratefulness goes a long way (and could change your life)
My mom had instilled in me the doctrine of gratefulness when I was younger. But honestly it wasn’t something I really grasped until I actually had the option of being grateful or not. You see, up until that time in my life, I was coasting pretty well: no reason to stress, no reason to worry, no reason I shouldn’t be grateful. Then life happened and I had the option to either be the grumpiest young person you’d ever seen or to take the challenges that were given to me and make the best out of it. For a while, I chose the former – and boy did it make life that much more difficult for me! I was unhappy all the time, stressed out more than I should’ve been, and had a very bleak outlook on life. It even started affecting my health. That’s when I realized that although my situation wasn’t ideal, it was up to me to change how I responded to it, which would ultimately create a better outcome for me. Enter: gratefulness.
Happiness, just like life, is what you make it
No matter my circumstance, I have the choice to either be miserable or joyful. I have the choice to be at peace or with turmoil. I have the choice to be grateful and happy. I choose happiness!
Live life with intention
Once upon a time, I had the misconception that intentional living or intentional creativity meant something fairly stagnant. It just had that kind of connotation to me.Boy, was I wrong.
I discovered that being intentional is less about being a control-freak and more about actively making decisions that create the life I want to lead. This doesn’t mean that I can’t be flexible or spontaneous with my life – it’s quite the opposite. Being intentional is simply all about making wiser decisions that benefit my life, my family, and my sphere of influence now and in the long run.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about these life lessons of mine! Can you relate to any of them? What have your experiences been?