It is the year 2016 and I am turning forty-eight. Every year at this time, I catalog the lessons I’ve learned in the previous year. I do this, not just to have the record of what lessons I learned, but also to serve as a reminder of what I am choosing: the continual evolution and growth into who I am.
(Those of you who’ve been around for a while already know that I’ve been sharing my annual life lessons here on my coaching blog since it began in 2011. (Find other birthday posts: 2012. 2013. 2014. 2015.))
I find it fascinating to look back and see, every year, how many of my lessons connect to each other, what lessons I am relearning, and how many are brand new. I usually discover that themes begun in the past continue into the future – that’s how growth and change work, after all.
I choose to share my lessons with you for many reasons: authenticity, transparency, and universal truths. I also hope that through my story and lessons, you are able to see how, though our lives are different, we are connected. That as I reflect upon each lesson, you also see the value in the lessons of your own life.
This, then, is my list of twenty-five lessons I learned this past year. Each one is like a long-stemmed rose added to the vase of my life. I hope you find something in them that resonates with you.
Celebrating My 48th Birthday: Lessons Learned on the Journey from 47 to 48:
I need to create. It is essential to my peace of mind. I need to create regardless of how it feeds my bank account because it nourishes my soul. My word for 2016 is “Create” in honor of recognizing this need and because I also recognize that I need to challenge myself to create differently as a part of my own personal growth.
Being creative means I also must be willing to risk rejection. Neither rejection nor failure are fatal, and, in fact, fearing rejection or failure keeps me from success, growth, love, and friendship.
I need to spend time with other creatives. Both virtually and in person. That need has led to some wonderful encounters with beautiful souls. It has also lead to the creation of a new Literary/Arts Magazine: Modern Creative Life.
I’ll never go wrong following a thread of curiosity. It fuels my imagination and ignites my soul. Time spent learning helps keep my mind nimble.
I need to be willing to go deeper. Within myself, my work, and my relationships. It’s so easy to live on the surface of our own lives. One of the big “ah-ha!” moments I’ve had this year is the creation of my theory “The Five Why’s for Truth”. (I’ll write more about this particular lesson later this summer.)
While I need to spend time with others, I’m learning the lesson that I don’t need their approval. There are a small few number of folks whose opinions matter, but my days of people pleasing and hoping the “Popular Kids” will like me is over. No explanations or over-justifications required. Because, let’s be brutally honest here: there are a lot of folks that don’t (or won’t) even try to understand your choices.
Speaking of those that matter, our intimate relationships are of the utmost priority. We should strive to be on the same team as our partners instead of seeing them as adversaries. We should practice kindness and patience towards those we’ve chosen to share a life with. We should allow ourselves to be seen in all of our vulnerabilities and strengths for part of the human condition demands that we are witnessed. We must also be willing to be that witness for them as well. The role of a partner is not just to unconditionally love, but also to support, witness, and empathize. The role of partner is not one in which you tell your partner how they “should” be living their life.
Evolved partners stay true to their individual natures and treat their partnership as its own entity. The entity needs love, respect, nurturing, and fuel to grow. Each facet of the partnership matters equally and sometimes we make sacrifices for the sake of the partnership. This is a truth I’ve always known deep down. I have been incredibly blessed to be IN this kind of healthy relationship, and this year has been an especial reminder of that fact and that truth.
Our intimate relationships don’t end at our bedroom door. It includes our business partners, best friends, collaborators, and more. Those we choose to spend our precious time with deserve our kindness, respect, patience, and to be witnessed in all their glory.
Know, too, that we cannot help but be influenced by what we choose to consume. This includes what we read, be it books or blogs. What we watch and listen to – from music to YouTube to television shows and more. It also includes the people we follow on social media, so choose carefully.
Yet, speaking of what we consume, there is nothing like losing myself in a great story and intriguing people. Yes, including fictional people. This means smartly written television, engaging character studies, and entertaining books. I’ve read more so far this year than I did the last two years. This has been one of the lessons I’ve been reminded of this year.
Oh, and stories? Our stories matter. Our stories have shaped us into the WHO we are now and what we are becoming. We owe it to ourselves to explore our own stories. And witnessing the stories of others is always a worthy endeavor.
Speaking of my own story, one of the best investments I made in myself was DNA testing. As an adoptee, to be gifted with the answers of my genetic heritage is nourishing, fascinating, and priceless. It’s given me a great deal of fodder on the influence of nurture VS nature. (If you are curious about your own genetic heritage, I highly recommend 23andME as well as DNA via Ancestry.com)
Ah, and our story. It’s always good to remind myself of this lesson: not everyone has earned the right to hear every single facet of our story. It can be easy to mistake the belief that we are building intimacy and vulnerability when in fact we are over-sharing. This is such a critical fine line to grasp…especially in the world of social media. Before you share publicly, remember there is a fine line between “brave and authentic” and showing our vulnerabilities to unworthy witnesses.
Speaking of… thou shalt not compare thyself to others – especially others on the internet. Most folks post only about the BEST and seemingly perfect parts of their lives…and sometimes a false portrayal of their “success”. Comparisons are always unfair, because we are usually very hard on ourselves.
The word “success” is something you must define for yourself. Even if it goes against what society pushes as how we measure our own success. Defining success on our own terms allows us to recognize when we are actually successful.
We must also be willing to see our own significance in the thread of humanity. We look for huge, sweeping signs that others see us as important. Usually our significance reveals itself to us time and time again in the small, daily actions that make up our life.
A modified bullet journaling process is keeping me sane. Daily recording all the things I desire to do and combining it with all the things I actually do has been eye-opening. It’s also been a loving way to reassure myself that I am never behind when I’m having a rough day. And yes, I will write more about the deeper lessons learned through bullet journaling.
I have to be willing to go against the grain. To trust my gut when the “experts” tell me I should take a left when my intuition says the best choice for me is right. The lessons your intuition reveals will never lead you astray and trusting it will shift your life for the better.
I know that I am not normal in so many ways. From my spiritual and political beliefs to how I choose to live my daily life. I’ve stopped giving a shit about a lot of things this year and that includes how un-normal I am. Maybe I’ve found greater understanding of acceptance around the things I can’t change or simply have learned to accept myself more. Yet, in some ways, I care more deeply than I ever have. It’s a spiritual awakening of sorts and a bit of an oxymoron, but one I’m sure many will understand.
Fueling my body with good food and adequate sleep is critical. When I listen to my body, it will guide me towards what I need, be it food, sleep, water, play, creating, or movement. This is one of those lessons I am reminded of time and time again.
I need to unplug regularly. It’s so easy to fritter my time away on-line. I’m not a big fan of the word “balance” because I believe we use it to shame ourselves and others, however, there must be a touch of balance in our approach to dealing with real life VS social media.
What is never a waste of my time is tending my home. I need order and I need beauty. My home is my sanctuary and my saving grace. I also need silence.
Little things matter. The seemingly insignificant details of daily life can seem, well, insignificant. Yet, these are the things that nourish us. All the little things in our life is what creates our life.
“Every year that I get older I realize I know more about myself now than I did a year ago. Getting older means, becoming the person you are meant to be.”
It’s easy to believe that learning ends when we finish school, or reach a certain age, but as you can see, that simply isn’t true. The lessons we learn change and evolve as we do, but the learning – about ourselves, our relationships, and our lives – never stops.