I’m a firm believer that every so often one should press pause to take stock of life. With how fast society makes us move, it’s all too easy to lose sight of what’s important. The past year has had some challenging moments for me. Without going into gory details, I’ve learned about being strong, the true meaning of love and working hard for what (and who) you want in life. A recent birthday also helped bring life goals into perspective.
I recently created a list of advice for myself that I plan to focus on moving forward. I thought I’d share it here so I have a place to come back to as a reminder when needed.
Listen a lot but offer advice/speak sparingly. Improving my listening skills has been a big goal for me this year. I try to make little changes, such as leaving my phone in my purse when having dinner with friends or going into another room when a friend calls on the phone so I have fewer distractions. When someone is sharing a story, I let them finish their thought or story before asking if they want advice. I so appreciate when I know someone is focused on listening to me, especially when I have a problem or personal story to share so I want to reciprocate. I want people to know it means a lot that they share stories, thoughts and emotions with me and I value our time together.
Recognize that people will not make the same decisions as you. For instance, some want a career, some may never want kids, some may strive for a huge home while you’re content with less material things. These differences don’t make anyone better or worse than you. It’s a simple reminder that no two people are alike.
Don’t assume you know the entire story of any story. Every story has more than one side and often we only hear one side. Or even when you hear multiple versions, I can guarantee each version will be slightly different. People interpret and understand things based on their personal views. No one is completely objective to any situation. Keep that in mind before you judge.
Don’t judge or be critical. I’m guilty of judging people at times too quickly, including family and friends. But I’m really trying hard to let people live their lives without unrequested input or criticism from me because that’s what I want from them. And my grandma was right – something about growing older makes you care a lot less about other people’s opinions.
Focus on your own life. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in others’ lives, especially when yours isn’t going as smooth or fun as you hoped. And social media, such as Facebook, certainly lead you to believe many of your friends live the perfect life with the perfect husband and children. But getting distracted by your friend’s new job or house or vacation takes away from focusing on creating a happy life for yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others. What works for you might not work for others. The other way is certainly also true.
Be positive, be happy. It will rub off on others and draw positive people to you. It sounds silly but I love being happy, smiling and laughing. Nothing makes me feel better than having my heart full of happiness. It’s the little things that do it too – my husband randomly stopping me in the hallway to kiss me, my little niece’s squeal of laughter, a text from a girlfriend just saying hello, the rose bush unexpectedly blooming outside our bedroom window, a long bike ride, and so much else. I try to welcome and embrace happiness in my life.
Let go. Of the past, hurt, disappointment, anger, whatever holds you back from having a happy, content, successful present and future.
Forgive and move on. I’m not saying you always have to forget when someone hurts you (and of course it’s different if it’s a serious offense) but sometimes you really just do need to let go before you can move forward. Don’t hold onto the negativity. It drags you down. If you can forgive the person enough to keep him or her in your life, do it without looking back. If you can’t, forgive so you can move on for yourself.
Don’t take for granted all the good in your life, mostly the people you love. It’s so easy to assume your family and friends will always be there for you but life changes in the blink of a moment so never hesitate to share how special someone is to you.
Always take time to stop and smell the flowers. I once spent 16 days in the hospital when I was going through chemo. My only salvation was when my oncologist released me on day 10 to sit in the hospital’s garden for an hour. I almost cried when I felt the breeze and sunshine on my skin, and smelled the sweet fragrance of lilac. Since then, whenever I see bright blooming flowers I can’t help but stop to breathe in the fresh scent. It is a good reminder that life is never so busy you can’t hit pause to enjoy the little things.
What is your advice on living a fulfilled, happy life?