Life is funny! We go through so many stages as we mature and when we look back at how we thought the world worked, it can be quite amusing. I remember being 18 and knowing everything. All adults in my life had suddenly become idiots and couldn’t possibly understand anything I was going through. Fortunately, I came through that time without too many life-altering decisions. While that is a time period that sticks out vividly in my head, looking back at the last few decades I have experienced since then, I can see some major life lessons that I learned that I wish had not taken so long.
That is how life works though. We live and hopefully learn from our experiences and mistakes and keep moving forward. There is much we learn from teachers, mentors and parents but there are just those lessons that have to be learned the hard way. These lessons are not usually as simple as touching a hot stove and learning it is hot and not to do it again. They often take time and numerous experiences to truly understand and make changes. I guess the moral to the story is to keep moving forward and don’t worry so much about what has happen in the past. Today is always a fresh start and something we can make amazing!
The 5 life lessons I wish I had learned earlier in life:
This is one of those life lessons that is much easier said than done. It’s unfortunate but there will be times in life that people will hurt us, whether on purpose or more of a misunderstanding that strikes something inside. Both equally hurt and can be hard to get past, but we only hurt ourselves more when we hold onto these feelings. Back in my 20’s and even 30’s, I struggled with the idea of sometimes you just have to let things go and forgive. It doesn’t mean you are saying what they did was right or even ok, but it does say that you are not going to let it hurt you one more day. It took me a number of life experiences to really understand why forgiveness is so important. While we often think of forgiveness as helping the one that hurt us, the truth of the matter is, it’s helping us. It’s giving us permission to move on and not weigh us down any longer.
#2: You don’t have to be perfect!
This one has taken me all the way to this year to figure out, and I’m now 43! I was always a perfectionist growing up. School teachers loved me as my papers would not have one scribbled out word on them. If I messed up, I re-wrote it. That followed me all the way into my first career when I would write out applications, and again start over if I made a mistake. I also had to make sure every answer was filled in and complete. While this may sound good in some respects, it certainly was a waste of a lot of paper, not to mention time! It often stopped me from starting something new if I didn’t know exactly what I was doing. Imagine some of the opportunities I missed because I was afraid I might not do it right. It took a fantastic group of women, my tribe, to help me understand that perfect really only exists in our minds. No one is perfect, and no one expects me to be perfect, so why am I trying to do the impossible. Now, I do the best that I can and constantly try to improve when I do make mistakes. That’s all anyone can ask.
#3: Not everyone has to like me.
I fully admit, I sometimes still struggle with this one. I think it is inherent that we want those around us to like and accept us. However, we are not going to mesh with everyone we meet. That doesn’t mean we have to hate them or be rude, it just means they are not someone that we feel the need to spend a great deal of time around. Perhaps you have very little in common or different views of life. Maybe your life’s philosophies are in stark contrast to one another. It doesn’t mean that one is right and the other is wrong, it just means they are different. There are plenty of people in the world that think, feel and act as we do. It would be a boring world if everyone was the same and therefore it is fine that there are those that don’t like me.
#4: Doing something beats doing nothing.
Indecision can be a hard habit to overcome. That fear of making the wrong choice can paralyze us into doing nothing, both in our personal and professional lives. It can oftentimes be seen easier in business as we can see tangible signs, such as the business declining or even the failure all together. Business owners oftentimes find themselves as the bottle neck of their company. In the long run, it could be worse than making the wrong decision. At least when you have made the wrong decision, you will see it, know it and then be able to make the right adjustments to correct it. If you don’t do anything, eventually things will deteriorate. In our personal lives, it can be harder to see. We can often play it off as something else that is going on in our lives and not deal with the reality. In the end, things still don’t move forward without some kind of action. Just like #2, we are not perfect, and we are not going to make all the right decisions. It’s how we react that determines what is going to happen next.
#5: Failure is only failure if you stop.
This one has been a big one for me. Growing up I was always afraid to fail. It started with school and then just kept following me into other aspects of my life. I often found myself not trying something new if I didn’t think I would succeed before I even started. I’m ashamed to admit it took me as long as it did to understand this idea, but failure is not a bad thing. It’s what you do after you fail that determines if it is actually a failure. It would be nice if everything we tried worked, but that is not exactly reality. Failure is only failure if you stop right at that point! However, if you decide to not walk away, but instead, figure out what went wrong, you will find the solution that makes it a success. If not the second time, the third and so on.
Life is defined by our experiences and what we make of it. While I wish I had learned these earlier in life, I’m glad that I did learn them at some point. There are those that never learn some of these lessons and live their lives full of anger and resentment when they think they have been wronged. It would be nice if life were fair, but that is simply not the case. We have the power to live our life the way we want it. We can choose to be angry when something doesn’t go our way, or we can choose to move past it and move forward. If we take everything personally, it will wear us down. The power to live your life the way you want really is in your own hands!