Until today, it is inevitable that we pick things up as we grow. This year, I want to make it about self-reflection. Therefore, I have come up with a list of things I have learnt. Here are 22 lessons in 22 years of my life.
Originally published in 2020
1. Slowing down makes you see the bigger picture
Instead of running around, hustling hard, try slowing down. Try to take a moment to breathe and to look around you. By slowing down, you will have greater clarity. Identify the things that are important to you. Only by doing this, you can head towards the right direction. Hence, you create better decisions.
“The opposite of busy is not lazy. The opposite of busy is solitude. The opposite of being busy is being loving and grateful. The opposite of busy is stillness.” – Courtney Carver
Say, you want to reach a destination. How will you be able to know where you’re headed if you don’t slow down? Take a look at the map and make a plan: How are you going to reach that place?
2. Your wellbeing is the most important thing
Wellbeing means the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.
All of those things above are the most important things you should have. In health, it is crucial. You can’t perform if you’re unwell. When you feel uncomfortable, you won’t seem to improve. Lastly, when you’re unhappy, you won’t be satisfied with the efforts you put out.
The lack of wellbeing comes down to one place: You are not going anywhere. The work you do appears meaningless to you. That is why maintaining your well-being is essential.
3. Sometimes, all you need is a leap of faith
One can never be sure of anything. You can only hold on to hope. The work you do, you hope that it would be good, impactful, or successful. However, you can never know.
Sometimes, all you need is a leap of faith, to begin something. Life is full of uncertainties, why wait for an opportunity to come? By taking chances and being optimistic, you will then learn. The worst thing you can do is fail.
4. Vulnerability empowers you
How does it feel like to be vulnerable?
Naked? Stripped? Exposed? Unsafe? Exactly.
That’s the thing about emotional vulnerability. Oftentimes, it has to do with difficult or painful emotions like sadness, shame, anxiety, frustration, etc. Not to worry, vulnerability actually empowers you. ✨
By being vulnerable, you acknowledge your emotions. You will then become self-aware and start to open up. Many avoid vulnerability because they are afraid of others’ reactions. Try not to think about it. Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.
5. Kindness isn’t naïve
In this world we live in, I hope ‘kind’ isn’t a title you aim for. Kindness is being authentic about yourself and to others. Being kind isn’t about external validations. It is about your own actions as a human being.
From my perspective, I believe that what you reap is what you sow. If you come from a place of kindness, you shall receive them too–in the most unexpected ways.
Some of you may be afraid of being used or being bullied for being kind. Nevertheless, ask yourself: Do you really want to be that person? Do you want yourself to act against kindness?
6. You will never be able to escape from your heart
This is a struggle that I have been facing for some time. To be honest, things may not be fully clear right now. And that is totally okay. One thing I learnt is to never neglect your heart (as well as instincts). Whatever you do, believe me, it keeps on coming back to you.
Talking about heart, someone I deeply care about gave me this quote from a book:
“You will never be able to escape from your heart, so it’s better to listen to what it has to say.” – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
7. Something forceful oftentimes isn’t good
Yup, the force that I’m referring to isn’t physics or that phrase ‘May the force be with you‘.
The force I’m talking about is making someone do something against their will. How often do you encounter this situation? Perhaps quite often. Well, me too. Throughout the years, I’ve learnt that forceful action isn’t good. Whether it be in a relationship, health, even decision making.
In physics, force is defined by an interaction that, when unopposed, will change the motion of an object. By this, I understand that change is a good thing. However, when you miss out on objectives, force change is always a disaster. It leads to a great deal of frustration. Instead, try settling things through. Take things into account. Does this have to be forceful? Are you okay with the way things are?
8. You can be lonely and still achieve things
The pandemic taught me a lot of things and this is one of them. It is practically impossible to not feel lonely. At this exact moment, you reminisced that one year ago you were somewhere else. Despite being bitter about the lockdown, try to shift your focus on yourself. What kind of person would you like to become, once this pandemic is over?
You may be lonely but don’t make it a bigger deal than yourself. You miss your friends or someone special? Call them and tell them you miss them. Do acts of love in distance. Fill up your social meter. Once you feel better, come back to yourself. Continue where you left off.
9. Think everything through, but never too much
Growing up, I overthink everything. From the simplest commas when I write or the spacing when I design. Sometimes it is also thinking about the right words to say. I remember not wanting to be wrong or saying something out loud that is just incorrect, so I stayed silent.
Then, I realise. It is absolutely fine to be wrong (a little bit). Yes, you should think things through, especially in organising something bigger than you are. Even so, don’t sweat it by sacrificing your mind too much. It is all about balance. Give the right amount, not too much.
10. Appreciate the little things, the small wins
Did you complete your tasks for the day? Cheers to you!
Did you get up today and just take care of yourself? Salute!
Appreciate the small wins–even the tiniest things.
Remember that progress is still progress.
Thank yourself for always fighting for another day.
11. Argue to learn, not to fight
When you argue, put your emotions aside. Try to see things clearly. Fight is subjective. Most of the time, you fight because you are furious with the person. Avoid fallacious arguments. I’ll provide a link to the resources below.
Before arguing further, ask yourself, why do you even argue? Perhaps it’s because of a misunderstanding. Then, what can you do? Quite self-explanatory, try to understand.
According to research by Johnson and Johnson (1979), arguing is healthy for the individual. It stimulates our curiosity about the topics of argument. Besides, it also increases learning because we seek information. The quality of decision-making and problem-solving is also enhanced.
When you’re arguing to learn, you are not attempting to convince each other. Instead, you’re being cooperative. You simply want to learn and understand the person talking to you. You seek to understand what they’re trying to say.
12. Take a break instead of giving up
Have you ever felt so tired that you started thinking of giving up? Well, don’t! Don’t let your head wander there. Remember the second point I mentioned–your wellbeing is the most important thing.
Neck pains? Sore eyes? You’re just not feeling it? Or burnout? Take a break for a while. Please, an hour, two hours, take your time. Keep in mind that you’re taking a break to recharge your energy. This way, you’ll come back even stronger and more productive.
13. There is a lesson to be learnt each day
Believe it or not, you can learn something new every day. By ‘new’, I mean the ones you didn’t know before. There is always a lesson to be learnt each day. The problem is, you don’t know where it is. But, you have to find them.
How are you going to do that? My take is this: Explore. Be curious, engage in activities. You can even learn something new by watching a film, reading a book, or listening to music. Find something that interests you or something that is meaningful to you. For someone like me who likes to learn new things every day, I find those lessons quite easily. Sometimes, you only have to ask–someone or the internet. That is why Google is my best friend.
14. Procrastination eats away your free time
It never occurred to me before until now. This happened when I was writing an article. I was not feeling it, so I procrastinated. At that time, I was not doing anything productive. I was just scrolling through my phone. After that, I continued my work when the sun was already sinking.
The next day, I had a meeting with someone–it was around 4 PM. Thus, I thought to myself, I needed to finish my work for the day before that. Turns out I did it, easily. So, what did I do after I finished the meeting? I have my spare time. This is the moment I realised that procrastination only eats away my free time (and my freedom!).
When you could finish your tasks as fast as you can, please don’t wait. Remind yourself how you can use your spare time for something better. You can watch a film, read a book, take a nap, join a webinar, or even just working on yourself. There are so many things to do, but don’t complain if you don’t have time–because you procrastinate!
15. Try to find a different perspective (on everything)
As an overthinker, it is inseparable to think a lot about everything. However, sometimes it is not even a helpful thought. When you are in a situation where you have to make a choice, try to look at other sides of things. Challenge your perspectives.
How do you do that? Try to position yourself in another’s lenses. If you’re mad about someone, try to put yourself in their shoes. Understand that it’s not always about you. Zoom out so you could see a wider angle on things.
16. There will be someone who disagrees with you
Indeed, you can’t please everyone. In a group, no one thinks just like you. They have their own beliefs, values, and perspectives. When it is about work, most of the time, they want to help you achieve the goal. But since both have different opinions on things, you clash.
When someone disagrees with you–try to keep it objective. It might be about work, an idea, or anything. Talk things through and find a common ground.
17. Sometimes, it’s not personal
This is a work-related experience. At that time, there was a misunderstanding. Well, the leader thought it was a big deal–while I didn’t. They started attacking my work, even me as a person. Honestly, it was an unpleasant experience.
After a moment of self-reflection, I learnt that it’s not always personal. The problem was that I let them get into my head. That shouldn’t happen, but it did. Then, I tried evaluating myself from their perspectives. It was the work that I did wrong. They gave me a warning and room for improvement. Though not in the way I like it, the world isn’t here to please me either. It’s up to you to constantly fuss about what you did wrong or try to improve and grow from the mistakes.
18. Space and trust is needed in any relationship
How could a relationship last so long, whether it be a friendship or a romantic relationship? The keys that sometimes people miss are space and trust. Put aside the vision and the communication skill. First off, what kind of relationship do you want with a person?
Everyone wants a healthy relationship. Yet, somehow find it difficult to manage. When you’re developing a relationship with someone, you have to build a foundation–of trust, respect, love, etc. Then, remind yourself that that person is also a human being. Remind yourself that they have dreams and hobbies. Remember that their life isn’t just about you.
We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.” — Max De Pree
19. Every skill you have now was a skill you worked hard learning before
You want to learn how to play the piano? Go ahead.
You’re thinking of becoming a writer? Practice and write.
You envision yourself mastering a programming language? You can!
The key is in practice. Other than that, it’s patience and persistence. Time will give you an answer whether or not you’re really working on the skill. When you want to learn those skills that bad, you will find a way. The writer of the book Atomic Habits said,
“Every skill you have was once unknown to you. The human brain is a learning machine. Stick with it.” – James Clear
20. Life is a series of choices
You may not notice but every day, every time, you are actually making choices. What time do you want to get up? That’s a choice. What do you want for breakfast? That’s also a choice. Life is made up of the choices you make from the day you were born.
Funnily enough, your happiness and other emotions is also a choice. You choose to feel happy, you choose to feel sad, you choose to feel anger. The takeaway here is: You are the only one who has control over your choices. People can say whatever they want, but it’s the choices you make that matter. There are also things outside your control, but what you have control of is yourself–your actions, your thoughts, your beliefs.
Looking at choices differently, you also chose your past mistakes. However, your past mistakes and choices shape who you are today. And please, don’t blame yourself for what you chose in the past. Let go of your past, focus on your present, and build your future.
“No amount of anxiety can change the future. No amount of regret can change the past.” – Karen Salmansohn
21. Empathy is so much bigger than yourself
What comes to mind when you see the word ’empathy’?
Some may think about the ability to understand and grasp others’ emotions. Some may also think about putting themselves in others’ shoes. All of the above are correct. Being empathetic means you have the capacity to feel what another person is experiencing from their stories.
“When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems.” – Stephen Covey
Empathy helps to connect people, that is why it is so much bigger than yourself. It moves each other into helping and/or healing one another. The energy could be directed towards other things as well, such as the Earth, our pets, etc. You will learn that our planet is in danger, you will learn that the animals also have feelings. By seeing a wider picture, you understand that the world is so much bigger than yourself.
22. Nothing matters more than love
Love isn’t just a feeling–it is understanding, accepting, and a whole series of decisions. When you genuinely love, you are aware. When everything you do, comes from a place of love, it is powerful.
In this time of year, I hope you are all surrounded by the people that you love, as well as those who love you. To love and to be loved is truly the most wonderful thing you can have in your life.
To summarise all 22 lessons in 22 years, here they are in order:
- Slowing down makes you see the bigger picture
- Your wellbeing is the most important thing
- Sometimes, all you need is a leap of faith
- Vulnerability empowers you
- Kindness isn’t naïve
- You will never be able to escape from your heart
- Something forceful oftentimes isn’t good
- You can be lonely and still achieve things
- Think everything through, but never too much
- Appreciate the little things, the small wins
- Argue to learn, not to fight
- Take a break instead of giving up
- There is a lesson to be learnt each day
- Procrastination eats away your free time
- Try to find a different perspective (on everything)
- There will be someone who disagrees with you
- Sometimes, it’s not personal
- Space and trust is needed in any relationship
- Every skill you have now was a skill you worked hard learning before
- Life is a series of choices
- Empathy is so much bigger than yourself
- Nothing matters more than love
The list keeps on going every day, yet above are 22 lessons in 22 years of my life. One can never be enough of lessons. I am also still learning and growing. Please bear with me! Above all the list, remember to always be grateful for everything. Have a great day. 💛