You’ve come a long way, and you’re still learning and growing. Be thankful for the lessons. Take them and make the best of things right now.
For my 18th birthday, many moons ago, my grandfather on my mom’s side gave me four lightly-used flannel shirts that he no longer needed. The shirts were barely worn and in great shape; my grandfather told me he thought they would look great on me. Unfortunately, I thought they were odd gifts at the time and I wasn’t thankful. I looked at him skeptically, gave him a crooked half-smile, and moved on to the other gifts sitting in front of me. My grandfather died two days later from a sudden heart attack. The flannel shirts were the last gifts he ever gave me, and that crooked half-smile was the last time I directly acknowledged him. Today, I still regret the little thing I didn’t say when I had the chance: “Thank you Grandpa. I appreciate you.”
That was a huge wake-up call for me — one that has served me well for over two decades now.
And here are eight wake-up calls for YOU — some important life lessons worth learning before it’s too late:
1. You might not have tomorrow to say, “I love you.”
About 15 years ago a coworker of mine died in a car accident on the way to work. During his funeral several people from the office were in tears, saying kind things like: “I loved him. We all loved him so much. He was such a wonderful person.” I started crying too, and I wondered if these people had told him that they loved him while he was alive, or whether it was only with death that this powerful word, love, had been used without question or hesitation.
I vowed to myself then and there that I would never again hesitate to speak up to the people I love and remind them of how much I appreciate them. They deserve to know they give meaning to my life. They deserve to know I think the world of them.
Bottom line: If you love someone today, tell them. If you appreciate someone today, tell them. There might not be a tomorrow. Today is the day to express your love and admiration. (Note: Angel and I discuss this in detail in the Relationships chapter of our book, “1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently”.)
2. Your judgments of others are often inaccurate.
You will never know exactly what another person is going through or what their whole story is. When you believe you do, realize that your assumptions about their life are in direct relation to your own limited perspective.
Many people you believe to be successful are extremely unhappy. Many people you think have it easy have worked their tail off to achieve their status. Many people who appear to be wealthy are in debt because of their extravagant tastes for material possessions. Many people who appear to be too old and uncool were once every bit as young and hip and inexperienced as you are right now.
3. Not trying is why most people fail in life.
It’s not the mistakes and failures you have to worry about the most, it’s the opportunities you miss when you don’t even try that hurt the worst. Trying — truly trying — always leads to some level of success, regardless of the outcome. Even mistakes and failures teach you what not to do next time. Every outcome, good or bad, is a lesson that makes you stronger and wiser over time.
So keep reminding yourself that in the end there’s only one thing that makes a goal or dream impossible to achieve: the failure to try. Because the results you achieve in life are NOT based on what you plan to do or what you say you’ll do. Your results come from what you actually try and do consistently!
Yes, your life will get better when YOU get better. Start investing in yourself mentally and physically. Make it a priority to learn and grow a little bit every day by building positive rituals and sticking to them. The stronger you grow and become, the better your life will feel in the long run.
4. Patience does not mean waiting and doing nothing.
Patience involves productive activity. It means doing your very best with the resources available to you, while understanding that the results you seek are worth the required time and effort, and not available elsewhere for any less time and effort.
Patience is the realization that the quality of your life in the long run is much more significant than the quantity of things you fill it with today. Patience is your willingness to accept and appreciate what you have right now, while you gradually work hard for the dreams and goals that matter most to you.
5. You don’t need anything more to be happy.
Intuitively, you already know that the best stuff in life isn’t stuff at all, and that relationships, experiences, and meaningful work are the staples of a happy life. Yet you live in a consumer driven society where your mind is incessantly subjected to clever advertising ploys that drive you, against your better judgment, to buy material goods you don’t need or even want.
And at a certain point, the excessive material objects you buy end up hurting the emotional needs advertisers would like you to believe they are meant to support. So next time you’re getting ready to make an impulsive purchase, ask yourself if this thing is really better than the things you already have. Or have you been momentarily tricked into believing that you’re dissatisfied with what you already have? (Read Soulful Simplicity.)
6. You aren’t perfect, and neither is anyone else.
All humans are imperfect. At times, the confident lose confidence, the patient misplace their patience, the generous act selfish, and the knowledgeable second guess what they know.
And guess what? You’re human — we all are. We make mistakes, we lose our tempers, and we get caught off guard. We stumble, we slip, and we spin out of control sometimes.
But that’s the worst of it; we all have our moments. Most of the time we are remarkable. So stand beside the people you love through their trying times of imperfection, and offer yourself the same courtesy; if you aren’t willing to, you don’t deserve to be around for the remarkable moments either.
7. All the little things make a big difference.
Life isn’t about a single moment of great triumph and attainment. It’s about the trials and errors that get you there — the blood, sweat, and tears — the small, inconsequential things you do every day. It all matters in the end — every step, every regret, every decision, and every little affliction.
Yes, the seemingly useless happenings add up to something. The minimum wage job you had in high school. The evenings you spent laughing and socializing with coworkers you never see anymore. The hours you spent writing down your thoughts on social media posts no one ever read. Contemplations about elaborate future plans that never came to be. All those lonely nights spent reading novels and news columns and Twitter threads and fashion tips and questioning your own principles on life and sex and religion and whether or not you’re good enough just the way you are!
All of this has strengthened you! All of this has led you to every success you’ve ever had. All of this has made you who you are today.
Truth be told, you’ve been broken down dozens of times and put yourself back together again. Think about how remarkable that is, and how far you have come. You’re not the same person you were a year ago, a month ago, or even yesterday. You’re always growing… stronger!
8. Excuses are mostly just lies.
Just because someone else can, doesn’t mean you can, right? Because you’re not good enough, or you’ve already missed your chance, or it’s just not in the cards for you. You look for reasons they can do it but you can’t…
- “Maybe he’s an internet entrepreneur and freelance writer because he has no kids.”
- “Maybe she’s way fitter than I am because she doesn’t have all the work and family obligations I have, or has a more supportive spouse, or doesn’t have bad knees.”
OK fine, it’s easy to find excuses: but look at all the other people who also have considerable obstacles and have done it anyway. Angel and I have a family, and have coped with significant loss in our lives, and still managed to make meaningful progress in our lives. And just as we’ve turned things around for ourselves, we know hundreds of other people who’ve done the same. Through nearly 15 years of work with our students and our coaching clients, we’ve witnessed people reinventing themselves at all ages — 48-year olds starting healthy families, 57-year-olds graduating from college for the first time, 71-year-olds starting successful businesses, and so forth. And stories abound of people with disabilities or illnesses who overcame their obstacles to achieve incredible outcomes.
No one else can succeed for you on your behalf. The life you live is the life you build for yourself. There are so many possibilities to choose from, and so many opportunities for you to bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be. NOW is the moment to actually step forward!
It’s your turn…
Today, I hope you will have another inspired day, that you will dream boldly and dangerously, that you will make some progress that didn’t exist before you took action, that you will love and be loved in return, and that you will find the strength to accept and grow from the troubles you can’t change. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and wisdom in this world), that you will, when you must, be wise with your decisions, and that you will always be extra kind to yourself and others.
And please leave Angel and me a comment below and let us know what you think of this post. Your feedback is important to us. 🙂
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