As said in part one of this list, the idea came from a student of mine. I really appreciate what I can learn from my students, through their feedback, frustrations, goals, and interests. I find people and their lives so interesting and amazing. I am constantly inspired by what might otherwise be considered ‘normal’ and therefore boring. I appreciate gaining insight into how other people live and learn in their beautiful lives.
This inspiration can originally be found on Forbes.com, by Laura Shin: “20 Essential Life Lessons for Happiness and Success”.
To save you time, here is the short list for this section. However, please read on for my thoughts and experience with each point.
- Accept and enjoy where you are right now.
- Get a regular dose of nature.
- Sweep your side of the street.
- Know that people who talk about other people behind their backs are also talking about you behind yours.
- Don’t hold a grudge.
- Always put in your best effort, so that you never have regrets or wonder ‘what if.’
- Lasting change in life starts with daily habits.
- Ask yourself, “Will this matter in a year?”
- Treat others with kindness and understanding.
- Know that how you use your mind is in your power.
1. Accept and enjoy where you are right now.
As I have stated a few times at this point, I suffer from various degrees of anxiety. I know this point can be a tough one for many of us. The unknown really sucks in my head. In reality, though, I know if I stay on top of my shit the unknown is just a part of life. It is impossible to control every aspect of your life. Yes, you can prepare for quite a few variables or outcomes, but then life just needs to be lived, right now, right here.
2. Get a regular dose of nature.
This is one is so important. There is actual information about the positive effect of spending three days in nature. The idea is that taking the time outside in nature offers us a mental ‘reset. This is important in the 21st century because my phone kindly tells me how much time I actually spend on the said device – Thanks so much. Additionally, a Nature Conservancy poll discovered that only ten percent of teenagers in America actually spend time outside daily. The theory is that, at least, spending this time in nature allows the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is generally overstimulated by our modern everyday lives, the opportunity to relax and recharge. Never mind the other potential mental and physical benefits.
There is a quick audiobook/podcast, which can be found on Audible called The Three-Day-Effect, but even National Geographic has written about this too:
“The three-day effect, he says, is a kind of cleaning of the mental windshield, that occurs when we’ve been immersed in nature long enough. On this trip he’s hoping to catch it in action, by hooking his students—and me—to a portable EEG, a device that records brain waves.”Williams, Florence. “This is your brain on nature.” National Geographic Magazine. National Geographic Partners, LLC. Web. ND
3. Sweep your side of the street.
What does this even mean?
Well, nobody is perfect, but if we make a mess in one part of our life, it is important to take care of it, to clean it up, or to take steps to begin to deal with it at the very least.
Another way to say this is to ‘tend to your own garden first before lusting after your neighbors’; or ‘your grass will be greener too if you tend to your own garden’.
It is easy to complain about other people without providing the inner gaze. Complaining about others is a good distraction from our own messes, but it usually just serves to sour our own selves the more we refuse the attempts to see what we ourselves should do. I think this is also the inner-voice that might keep many of us awake at night.
Here is a quality, in-depth description of this point from Medium author Marie-Elizabeth Mali, who breaks this idea into not only the ‘street’ but the street itself, the street cleaner, and the house. In other words, our connection to the universe (aka; a higher power or spiritual practice), knowing, understanding, and tending to our own minds and bodies – as well as being kind to them.
4. Know that people who talk about other people behind their backs are also talking about you behind yours.
There is never any other way about it, ever.
5. Don’t hold a grudge.
This one is tough, isn’t it. It is right up there with ‘don’t take things personally’. It may even be the white whale. I am always trying to work on this. In some situations it isn’t difficult at all, whereas in others it seems near impossible. PsychCentral has a few great tips to help with this point.
6. Always put in your best effort, so that you never have regrets or wonder ‘what if.’
I was raised to always attempt to do this. At least to always try, even if you fail – because then at least you know where you stand. Then, you can decide to keep trying to improving or focus your efforts elsewhere.
Believe me, I fail all the time. It stinks, but I would rather try and fail than not try at all. At least through failure, we have the possibility to know where we stand or what we should do next.
7. Lasting change in life starts with daily habits.
Oh, look at that. Gretchen Rubin, Jen Sincero, Brenè Brown, Shonda Rhimes, and countless other writers and speakers who inspire millions of people all speak about the best way to make a positive change in your life is to take it one day at a time – the devil is in the details; the devil of daily practice.
8. Ask yourself, “Will this matter in a year?”
I recently watched an interview with Gretchen Rubin and Tiffany Dufu, entrepreneur and the author of Drop the Ball. In this interview, Dufu reiterates what she has to ask herself if she is asked to do all the things, any of the things, or even only some of the things. Her question isn’t so much “Will this matter in a year?” but more so “Does this align with one of my core values or ultimate goals?” Before you can ask yourself this, however, you have to determine what those are for you.
Why is this important? Mist of what we fill our days with, the ever-encroaching amount of time spent scrolling on our devices, 24-hour news cycles (that shrunk by leaps and bounds in 2020), or arguing with trolls on social media – it is all too easy for us to forget what really matters, even more perhaps to consider that question in the first place.
*Note to self – read her book this year.
9. Treat others with kindness and understanding.
In other words, don’t be a selfish navel-gazing twat. Learn to check in with yourself, and others, about how you treat others to ensure you are being kind and showing understanding as often as possible.
10. Know that how you use your mind is in your power.
Okay, at first this one seemed really straightforward to me, but the more I actually considered what this meant the more time I really had to sit with it because the reason this is last on the list is either that people are going to find it incredibly easy or horrendously difficult.
In fact, I think Dan Harris talks about this in his book, 10% Happier. He didn’t know why he was having panic attacks at (what he thought at the time was) the height of his career success. He didn’t truly know his own mind, which he only discovered by beginning his journey (as a questioner) to understand meditation and begin doing it himself.
Lifehack.org has a few articles on this subject too, which may or may not lead you down another rabbit hole of top ten lists. That said, here is a list by Lifehack that seems to break down this concept into manageable chunks.
Ultimately, understanding your mind boils down to awareness of your personal unconscious mind, or the stuff we do without thinking about. A lot of how we can do this has already been described in this list: knowing what you focus on only grows, like negativity or worry. Also who you spend your time with matters. If you want to be happier, more successful, healthier, and so on, find the friends or colleagues who, at least to you, embody these goals – you will only be better for it. There is a bit more to it, but these are a good place to start.
Let me know in the comments which points are most important for you and which are hardest for you to deal with? Was anything actually missing from this or the first list? If so, please do share what you think is missing.