Things Life Taught Me

I’ve always been optimistic about aging. Although I was never a kid who was dying to be 10 when they were 9 years old or the 19-year old that was desperate to be 21 so I could get into bars, getting older was never something I longed for nor dreaded.  I distinctly remember a time when one of my friends had a meltdown because he was turning 28 and was nearing the 30-year-old mark, which seemed like middle age back then. That seriously makes me laugh out loud when thinking back to that moment.

Recently I saw this article: 30 things you should know before 30 and I equally guffawed aloud. Maybe 30-year-olds these days are this savvy but I swear I learned most of this stuff just last year. (kidding, sort of).  I’ve yet to have a teacher or mentor in my life who has impressed upon these lessons. It doesn’t mean that people haven’t influenced my thinking but most of what I know if from my own experience, which has been my best teacher. There are no college courses like the school of hard knocks. With that in mind, I’d like to add to this list a few quintessential lessons that I have learned that shapes so much of my thinking today.

The 10 Ten Things You Should Know When By 40.

  1. Quit the “Can’t”: With so much research done on neural plasticity and intelligence, there is literally nothing that we “can’t” do. Wgrowth-mindset.027e may not be able to do it this moment, but if we literally put our mind to it, we can become good at something at a minimum of 20 hours and an expert at it within 5 years. The first step is to develop a growth mindset and reframing failure. You can unravel long seated habits and create new skills when you omit this sort of language and thinking in your life. Period. Here’s an example: I became an “expert” at non-smoking because I practiced being a non-smoker. If I made a “mistake” and puffed on a cigarette, I wasn’t harsh on myself but admitted that I am learning a new habit of non-smoking and got back to trying my best. Over time I got momentum with longer times of non-smoking and eventually I no longer identified with this addiction. Now I the only thing I “can’t” believe is that I thought breaking this addiction was hard. It’s not when you embrace the right mindset.
  2. Travel Opens Your Mind: People are a product of their culture + experience. These 2 things create the majority of their beliefs. And our beliefs create the filter in which we see the world. If their culture is rigid and experience is limited, then their problem-solving skills are few and they often feel victimized by the world. Travel exposes people to new ideas and gains a variety of life experience, they can break out of their culture’s restricted perspectives and be more resilient and creative.
  3. Anger Must be Fleeting: My friend Shannon actually taught me this. She experienced a really big betrayal in her life but she explained to me that she could only be angry and rant about it for 3 days. After those 3 days, she no longer permitted this concern to dominate her thoughts or conversation. She set time limits to her emotional investment in the “wrongs” in her life. I loved that and have used that experience in my own life. I actually think 3 days is too generous, but that’s because I have practiced this enough times. I try to let go of my irritation within 24 hours. There are 2 thoughts that usually release me from the grips anger: compassion for others (“If they knew better, they’d do better. They aren’t evil, they just don’t have all the facts/skills”) and compassion for myself (“You made an error of judgement, but now you know. Now that you know better, you can do better”). If I am in a red hot rage, then I do eft/tapping on my meridians points. It looks weird (unless you live in China–you see this sort of thing all the time) but it really helps to diminish negative emotion. Then when I am cooled off a bit more, I make a list of all the things I appreciate about this person or myself. This really helps to reframe the emotion attached to the person.
  4. Life Is A Yoga Tree Pose: Have you ever tried to balance one leg at a time? Sometimes you can stand on one leg for a long time before switching to the other. Other times, you keep toppling over. This is how life goes. Sometimes we can maintain a “posture” for a long time, which I often equate with emotion, but eventually, we have to switch legs. So goes life. Sometimes life is full of absolute joy and sometimes it is shit. But whatever it is, these emotions and situations will pass; and I can always choose to stand on my other “foot” if I want to change my perspective.
  5. Give to Get: True relationships are built on trust and support.  Your generosity is proportional to the generosity you experience. It’s not that you only do things quid pro quo but what you practice in abundance (patience, appreciation, kindness) is tantamount to your experience.
  6. Ask, Not Assume: Misunderstandings happen. Best to ask questions rather than assume someone is doing you wrong intentionally. But don’t be patronizing–be genuinely curious. I gain a lot of insight into their perspective when I ask thoughtful questions and it improves my relationship overall. I do this all the time with my daughter and I can’t tell you how much this has helped me of be a better parent.
  7. Shut Up and Sit Down: Meditate Daily. Your brain and body will thank you. The amount of time isn’t as important as the consistency of the practice.
  8. Three’ss the Charm: 3 is the magic number so they say. Take a hint. When I hear something 3 times, I know it’s something that the universe is telling me to pay attention to and I do.
  9. It’s All Good: Our life’s tradegy is often our best blessing. Lately I was discussing my father’s death and how it took a toll on my adolescence but how I no longer look back with grief and longing. Although I wish he could have been a part of my adult life, I know that my life is for the better as a result of his loss. That trauma in my life helped cultivate so many important life skills that I might not have developed if it hadn’t have happened. There are No Victims, only people who give away power to circumstances. You can make diamonds out of life’s pressure if you choose to do so.
  10. Don’t Wait For The Lesson: If you know what you are doing is not helpful in pursuing the type of dreams you have or develops you into the person you want to become, then STOP it! Don’t wait until there is some drama that you have to contend with. Be smart in advance and make changes that will produce the outcome you want. Right. Now.

What am I missing? What would you add to this list?

 

Instructions Not Included

I am a parent. Like most parents, my child did not come with any instructions, and, although I am an educator, that doesn’t mean that I know everything about kids. In fact, I feel even more self-conscious since my parenting is probably more judged since I’m supposed to be an expert. Alas, I do my best.

And, I definitely have given it some thought. I know as a parent, I have a ridiculous amount of responsibility for sculpting my child’s disposition and interest.  I am Hannah’s first and her last teacher, like most parents, because my influence is the most enduring. So if I hope to impart some lessons in life that I hope Hannah gets from me, it would be….

  1. That she matters and the world is a bit brighter because of her. Her ideas are important and worthy to be shared.
  2. That there are no problems which are too difficult to solve. We may not have the answers today, but we should never give up on looking.
  3. To say “Yes” to life–take risks and be willing to look foolish. Don’t let the “good opinion” of others stop you from trying something.
  4. No matter what life throws at you, there’s some good in it.  Look for the blessing.
  5. That she is connected to all people–so be friendly. They are all family, God’s children, and we should find what is loveable about them and ways to show that we care.
  6. That she is connected to all life, for that matter–so be a steward to animals and our planet whenever you have the chance.
  7. That she is loved, no matter what and we want to see her to become her best self.

we-talk-to-our-children-parenting-quoteAlvin Price said, ” Parents need to fill a child’s bucket of self-esteem so high that the rest of the world can’t poke enough holes to drain it dry”.  I feel that is some good advice and I often try to focus on what I love about her.  Hannah is funny and imaginative.  She’s one of coolest people I know and I really enjoy spending time with her.

The other day she invited me into her “world” in Minecraft. Let me tell you, I did NOT want to play Minecraft with her. Really, I didn’t. As a busy adult, I have plenty of stuff to do. But she was really proud of what she created and she wanted me to see it virtually. So I downloaded the app on my iPhone, created a character and added her as a friend. Suddenly I was in her “Love World”. She had made me my own house and she taught me how to fly, tame a horse, feed the pigs and drink invisibility potion. I would never have thought I’d enjoy hanging out with her “virtually”, but it was important to her so I made it important to me.

I heard in an interview with John Crowley, the man portrayed in the movie Extraordinary Measures, the details of his search for a cure for his kids’ Pompe disease. It is an amazing story. He founded a biotech company in order to “buy some time” with his daughter and one of his sons. In fact, he and his wife have 3 children, 2 of which has this debilitating Pompe disease which makes them wheelchair bound and the other child has Asperberger’s disease. Can you imagine that?–all 3 children are special needs! And the man had such great humility, I was astonished. In it, he spoke about his daughter, Meaghan, and how she has “raised him”, not necessarily the other way around. But it’s true–children do help raise us into the adults we wish to be. Because our example is so significant to them and our love for our children are so great, we strive to be more and do more good.

For kids, instructions weren’t included either, and yet they figure us parents out too. I suppose that is the power of unconditional love: it gives us strength, patience, and joy as we endure our failings and uplift one another.  Now, who can really write a manual on that?

What lasting lessons do you want your children to have?

What do you think your children are teaching you?