1. Live a Life True to Yourself
The single most common thing people regret when they near the end of their lives is this: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
When I look back on my life, I want to look back and be grateful for having honored my dreams. I don’t want to look back on a long list of unfulfilled dreams, thinking about how I should’ve/would’ve/could’ve — but never did.
Most people don’t even honor half their dreams, let alone all of them, and they end up going to their death-bed knowing that it was their own decisions (or indecisions) that determined a destiny bursting at the seams with unfulfilled dreams.
You are the author of your destiny, so write the story you want to live, regardless of how fictional it may or may not sound to someone else. Lead a life that’s true to you. Dream big, and don’t settle for less than you’re capable of.
2. Express Your Emotions
I’m not afraid to let myself cry. You shouldn’t be either. It’s okay to let yourself feel your feelings, rather than pretend like they don’t exist. It’s possible to let life’s moments touch you without allowing them to hurt you.
It’s also important to express your emotions to others rather than suppress them in order to avoid ruffling anyone’s feathers, or to keep them inside for fear of embarrassing yourself.
3. Better Done Than Perfect
My favorite excuse for my lack of action and initiative used to be perfectionism. I’d puff up my chest and say, “I’m a perfectionist, that’s why I haven’t launched XYZ-thing yet.” But in reality, “I’m a perfectionist” really means “I’m a coward.” Don’t hide behind this cloak of comfort known as perfectionism. Call it what it is: fear. Then, launch and learn. The first iPhone was a touch-screen brick full of glitches. Today, it’s thinner than ever and keeps getting better.
4. Settle for More
The only difference between you and someone you envy is that they decided to settle for more in life than you did.
5. Find Something in Life That Pulls You
You can only “push yourself” for so long before your body, mind, and spirit toss their hands in the air and say, “F-this, I’m out.” When you keep pushing yourself to do something, it feels like something you have to do. But when you’re pulled by something, it feels like something you get to do.
Me? I’m pulled by my obsession with learning about personal development, success, and motivation — and then sharing what I learn to inspire people around the world to live up to their highest potential on a daily basis. This is one of the things in life that juices me up and gives me purpose.
6. Go for Walks
Not as inspiring as the first few, I know. But a brisk morning walk has been one of the most eye-opening habits I’ve ever decided to develop. No joke. Every morning, I go on a 15-20 minute walk outside. For the first half of the walk, I think about what I’m grateful for and envision how I’d like my day to play out. For the second half of the walk, I just walk — and that’s it.
It’s the second half of my morning walk during which I’ve had some of my best ideas and all-out epiphanies of my life. There’s something about being outside in nature — without any specific intentions other than enjoying a nice walk and observing nature’s boundless beauty — that re-energizes me and gets the good vibes flowing. Give it a try.
You can learn more about the benefits of walking in nature from this article.
7. Happiness Comes From Solving Problems
It’s not the suffering of the problems that leads to happiness. It’s the solving of the suffering. Happiness is also a choice (which we’ll talking about in more detail in the final life lesson). We can choose happiness every day of our lives, rather than imagining that we will eventually, someday, be happy. Stop saying, “Someday I’ll be happy when I can get X or do Y.” Instead, start choosing to be happy right now — on a moment to moment basis — regardless of what’s going on in your life.
8. Develop a Growth Mindset
The essence of this life lesson — developing a growth mindset — for me means this: Hard work trumps talent every day of the week. The growth minded swimmer who works hard, day in and day out, will surmount his naturally talented opponents.
People that constantly complain, blame, and refuse to take responsibility for their lives do not have a growth mindset. Growth-oriented people don’t blame the economy for their lack of wealth; they pick up a book so they can learn how to create their own. Growth oriented people don’t allow their failures to define their identity; they learn from them and come back stronger as a result.
If you want to develop a growth mindset, focus only on that which is within your control. Let go of everything else.
9. Develop Selected Disciplines Into Habits
No list of life lessons would be complete without mentioning words like “discipline” and “habit.” Though seperate in meaning, disciplines and habits ultimately intersect with one another to form the foundation for achievement — regularly working at something until it regularly works for you.
When you discipline yourself, you’re essentially training yourself to act in a specific way. Stay with this long enough and it becomes a habit. In other words, when you see people that seem like they’re super disciplined, what you’re really observing is people who conditioned a handful of habits into their lives.
Bottom line? Success is in actuality a short race — a sprint fueled by discipline just long enough for habit to kick in and take over. So here’s the trick if you want to create a habit — you’ll need to use your will-power/discipline juice in the beginning. This is hard. But keep at it.
According to research, it takes, on average, 66 days to develop a discipline into a habit. This number might vary for you depending on your situation, but remember that it’s not something that you can do overnight. But it is possible. And once you turn a discipline into a habit, you become better at it and it becomes easier to execute.
10. Be “Regular and Orderly”
“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”
The quote above was written by a French novelist named Gustave Flaubert, and the reason I love it is because it so elegantly (and violently?) explains how putting certain systems in place can free up tons of bandwidth and energy that you can put into doing deep work, or whatever else you care about. Put the important stuff in your life on autopilot so that you don’t have to think about it when it’s time to do them.
For example: there’s no use bantering back and forth with yourself every morning about whether you should get up at 6 am and hit the gym, or whether you should skip your workout and sleep in for an hour. This is wasted energy you could be putting into your most important work. Just decide ahead of time whether you’re going to do it or not — and then do it!
Use the power of habit (see life lesson #9) to get yourself moving in the right direction. Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.
11. Be Present
Presence is power. I’d rather be fully present with my wife (or whoever) for five minutes than be partially present for fifty minutes. Full presence means being fully there, locked-in. Not looking at my phone. Not thinking about what I’m going to say when she’s done talking. Just full, total presence. It’s powerful.
In a similar vein, it’s just as important to be present when we’re with ourselves. Try noticing the things you’re not used to noticing: the way you’re stomach rises when you breathe, how nice it feels when the cool wind touches your cheek, that annoying feeling you get when your foot falls asleep, etc.
12. Communication Is Your #1 Skill
The ability to clearly communicate your ideas to other people is the most valuable skill you can ever develop. Learn to communicate your ideas orally as well as in written form. Also, learn as many techniques as possible: how to write with brevity (short-form), how to write long-form, how to use gesticulation, articulation, tonality, etc.
13. Combine Short-Term Pessimism + Long-Term Optimism
Becoming a short-term pessimist and a long-term optimist means you understand that most of what you try (over the short-term) will not work. But that’s okay, because eventually (over the long-term), you’ll find something that does.
14. Write It Down, Make It Happen
Write down your goals every day. Just take out your journal, and write down what you want. Two big reasons this is helpful:
- Awareness: It keeps your mind aware of what you want;
- Self-motivation: Writing down your goals everyday helps you hold yourself accountable towards making them happen.
15. Read Every Day
The greatest way to get the greatest ideas is to read, read, read. There’s this great quote that goes like this:
“Books are the hardbound drug of my choice.”
Plus, the only side effect of reading is a positive one — the more you read, the more ideas you get. Read something every day to expand your mind, even if it’s just for 20 minutes.
So, there you have it. Hopefully these life lessons have inspired you in some way, shape, or form to better yourself because at the end of the day, we’ve all got room for improvement.