2019 was a year of immense growth for me. Life presented a host of challenges, the outcomes of which were many valuable life lessons that I will cherish and reference throughout my future journey.
In this post, I would like to share with you five life lessons that I learned this past year and the teachings from which I intend to bring with me moving forward in 2020 (and beyond). My intent with this post is that you can find some value from what I have learned that can help guide you on your year ahead.
In the interest of keeping this post concise, I will share a summary of each of the lessons and expand upon each more in-depth individually in later blog posts.
Lesson 1: Embrace Failure as a means to grow.
Failing at something sucks. When you fail at something, it can bring on self-doubt, resurface insecurities, and challenge your resolve. Sometimes it can be much easier to take the safe option not to try, instead of trying and then failing.
However, if growth is what one desires, failure must be enthusiastically embraced.
You cannot improve at something by never failing at it first. Those who are skilled did not become that way because they are ‘a natural’ at it; they became skilled because they chose to fail, a lot. I don’t believe there is such a thing as being ‘a natural’ at something. In my opinion, there are no ‘naturals’ at things; there are only people who give up after failing and people who, after failing, willingly choose to fail again.
To grow, you must no longer see failure as a bad thing. Instead, embrace failure enthusiastically within all aspects of your life.
I wrote a post called “Failing Foward” last fall that goes into greater detail on how I learned this valuable life lesson while learning how to surf (and quite frankly, sucking at it) in Tofino for a month. You can read it here by clicking this link if it would interest you.
Lesson 2: Have no expectations.
The truth I have discovered about expectations is that when you expect something to go a certain way, no matter the outcome, you have set yourself up for a negative experience.
If you expect an event to unfold in a particular way, and it doesn’t, you spend your energy and focus mourning the absence of your desired outcome. This makes you apathetic to the unexpected gifts your actual outcome gave to you, which you set yourself up to perceive as undesirable.
If you expect an event to unfold in a particular way, and it does, you have denied yourself the joy of surprise, spontaneity, and uncertainty within your life, since the event unfolded precisely as you expected it to.
Life is both unpredictable and uncontrollable. When you set expectations, you are attempting to predict and control a universe that acts in a manner beyond our level of comprehension.
I have learned that instead of trying to predict and control outcomes, trusting my intuition and surrendering myself to whatever the outcomes may be, led me to many more positive experiences in my life. This leads me to the next lesson…
Lesson 3: Trust your gut, not your plan.
In the past, I have often got caught up in setting a plan for how my life is to unfold. A charted route in which I believed would take me to a fulfilling destination, which would tick off achievement boxes and bring an abundance of happiness along the way. It wasn’t until recently that I realized this plan was affecting my life negatively.
When you set a plan, you are prescribing yourself a future based on the conditions your current self is experiencing.
At that moment, you are not accounting for your current and future blind spots. You are unaware of all the opportunities that will become available to you in time. You also have an idea of what would make that current version of you happy and fulfilled, but what you think is going to make you happy at this moment may not make you happy later on. Additionally, you forge a route for yourself based on the false premise that your life can be acted out linearly, when in fact many tangents are going to occur that will take you on unforeseeable paths.
The resulting plan that emerges from all of this is a product of one’s own ego at the time and is quickly put into disarray when an unpredictable life-changing event occurs, sending your life in a completely different direction.
The best way to navigate through any journey is by leading with your truth and intuition, instead of leading with your ego of yesteryear.
Trust in what you know to be true; your core values, what makes you happy, your morals, that thing you are passionate about, and your sense of purpose. Make choices in your life not based on a prescribed route, but instead evaluate those truths at each fork on the road that may present itself. Trust that by doing this, no matter the destinations you arrive upon, it will be a fulfilling one.
Lesson 4: From all that we are given, we have all that we need.
There was a time when I used to quit trying to progress my life in certain areas because I believed I didn’t have enough to make the progression I desired happen. I would concede myself from progressing because I felt I didn’t have enough resources at my disposal, such as money, support, strength, connections, intelligence, etc. The truth is, that was all just an excuse I didn’t want to admit.
It is essential to understand that your desired destination is not one grand step away from where you are now, but instead a long winding staircase of many lesser steps. Sure, you may not have everything you need to traverse all of those steps at the same time, but you do have what you need to take the first one.
We are given precisely the things we need to get to where we want to go.
To get to where you want to go in life, you have all that you need to get started on your journey. When you need something to get further, trust that it will present itself, and if it doesn’t, humble yourself, knowing that there is still work to be done at the current step.
Complaining about how you can’t do something because of your circumstances is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You spend all of your energy begging your environment for more, instead of getting more from what you already do have.
It is also essential to recognize that not all steps may be the right ones to take. If you are stuck on one step, instead of exhausting all of your energy trying to get past an insurmountable blockade, perhaps there is an alternative, better route you could consider that is accessible to you.
I like to imagine this progression be envisioning the staircases within the magical castle of Hogwarts from the Harry Potter series. The staircases in Hogwarts are numerous and ever-changing. Following one path may lead you up, but it may also eventually lead you to a dead end or back down. It is up to the climber to know when it is time to ascend a particular set of stairs, and when it is time to switch to a different set of stairs when they present themselves.
Knowing that there isn’t only one single linear path to your destination requires what we discussed in Life Lesson 3, letting go of the Ego’s plan and leading with your truth and intuition.
The universe has a strange way of making things work out for the better; however, it’s up to you to put in the effort to take each step presented to you as you ascend to your desires.
Lesson 5: If you do not make the changes, they will happen for you.
I believe that we are all here on earth to fulfill a purpose. However, life is inherently difficult and filled with suffering; because of this, it is desirable to find comfort.
The problem with finding comfort is not knowing whether or not you’ve stayed in it for too long. Comfort does not lead to fulfillment and halts our growth.
To grow as a person, you have to experience the uncomfortable; this could include confronting that challenge you’ve been putting off, making changes within your personal relationships, removing toxic people or things from your life, changing your environment, as well as a host of others.
If you choose to not act on the things you know you have to, they will act out for you. It is important to remember that although you have stopped – taking a break in your sanctuary of comfort – the universe does not stop. Regardless of what you do, events are still transpiring all around you; circumstances will change, and sooner or later, you will be forced out of that zone of comfort.
You always need to be moving forward towards your purpose, and if you don’t make the changes necessary to do so, the universe will orchestrate those changes for you.
The lesson I learned is that you can choose to either become uncomfortable willingly or accept that you will be forced to become uncomfortable unwillingly. My recommendation is to muster up the resolve to make those changes willingly.
I do hope these lessons I have shared today have been insightful and have provided some level of value to take with you. I wish you all the best on your journey. Heres to the many more lessons you and I both will learn in the year ahead!
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Now Listening To: “Circles” by Mac Miller