I am currently going through a lot in my life. Things are really good. Some are not so good. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I have learned in my life so far that really matters. Here’s a first pass.
1. The more we know about ourselves, the more power we have to behave better. Humility is underrated. We each have an infinite capacity for self-deception-countless unconscious ways of protecting ourselves from pain, uncertainty, and responsibility, all at the expense of others and ourselves. Endless introspection can turn into self-indulgence, but deepening self-awareness is essential to freeing ourselves from our reactive, habitual behaviors.
2. Notice the good. We each carry an evolutionary predisposition to dwell on what’s wrong in our lives. The antidote is to take time each day to notice, and to feel grateful for what we’ve got. It’s probably a lot.
3. Let go of certainty. The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness, curiosity, and a willingness to accept paradox rather than choose up sides. The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves exactly the way we are, but never stop trying to learn and grow.
4. Never seek your value at the expense of someone else’s. Devaluing the person who made you feel bad will only prompt more of the same in return.
5. Do the most important thing first in the morning and you’ll never have an unproductive day. Most of us have the highest level of energy first thing in the morning and with the fewest distractions. By focusing for a designated period of time, without interruption, on the highest value task for no more than 90 minutes, it’s possible to get an extraordinary amount of work accomplished in a short time.
6. It’s possible to get excellent at anything, but nothing valuable comes easy and discomfort is part of the growth. Getting better at something depends far less on inborn talent than it does on the willingness to practice the activity over and over, and to seek out regular feedback, the more precise the better.
7. The more activities you intentionally make automatic, the more you will get done. If you have to think about doing something each time you do it, you probably won’t do it for very long. The trick is to get more things done using less energy and conscious self-control.
8. Slow down. Speed is the enemy of everything in life that really matters. It’s addictive and undermines quality, compassion, depth, creativity, appreciation, and real relationships.
9. The feeling of having enough is magical. It rarely depends on how much you’ve got. More is rarely better. Too much of anything becomes toxic.
10. Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. Your values are one thing you’ve got that no-one can take away from you. Doing the right thing may not always get you what you want in the moment, but it will always leave you feeling better about yourself in the long run. When in doubt, default to calm and kind.
11. Add more value to the world than you are using up. We spend down the world’s resources each day. Life’s challenge is to put more back into the world than we take out.
12. Savor each moment, even the little ones. It all goes by too fast.