Below is a list of 35 of my favorite life lessons, and pieces of wisdom, that I’ve heard (and not always listened to but usually wish that I had) throughout my life. This list of advice comes from a wide variety of sources: from my grandparents…to Oprah…to complete strangers who have an unusually great perspective on life. I’m always thankful to find this advice handy in my memory, and I’d like it to be prevalent in my life. Most of all, I want this advice to be accessible to my daughter as she gets old – and that is the reason that I created this post.
1. Don’t give someone a “hammer” to hit you over the head with.
This is a figure of speech. My grandfather told this to my mom while she was growing up – what it means is to be careful with what you do, say and share with people. You don’t want something that you have done, or said, to one day come back and bite you (or, rather, to come back as the “hammer” (so to speak) that hits you over the head later on down the road).
2. Before you speak, picture whatever it is that you are about to say on the chalkboard in front of your classroom with your name underneath it, or on Facebook.
3. Beware of the unintended consequences of gossiping.
Before you indulge in gossiping about other people behind their back(s), beware of the impression that you may be giving off to the people who are listening to you. Keep in mind that the person(s) that you are talking to may then start wondering what you say behind her own back and they may re-consider your potential loyalty as a friend.
4. “You wouldn’t care so much about what other people thought of you if you knew how little that they really did.”
Yes. Ok, fine! This piece of advice is quoted from Dr. Phil; and yes, I admit it – I used to enjoy watching “Dr. Phil”. Remember to tell yourself that you would not care what other people thought about you if you truly knew how little that they actually do think about you. When you’re worried about what other people think of you, tell yourself this: “Other people aren’t paying as much attention to me as I am, so I shouldn’t worry about every little thing I do.” Most of the time, people are thinking about themselves – not you.
5. Let go of what you can’t change, and don’t worry about things that you have no control over.
More importantly, learn how to identify what these things look like in your life (e.g., the weather, your test results, etc.), because putting your energy into something that you can’t change or control is a waste of time, energy, and sleep; and it will drain you.
6. You can never be happy with someone else until you are happy with yourself.
7. Remember that not everyone is going to like you, and that some people are just mean for no apparent reason.
Some people get their “psychological jollies” out of making you feel sad and down because then it makes them feel better about themselves. Don’t lose sleep over getting “in” with the “cool” crowd. Exude confidence (not arrogance); remember that you teach people how to treat you; and then, friends will follow from there.
8. Be kind to other people.
You have no idea what those next to you may be going through in their own lives. “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his shoes” (this is a quote from a book that I read in 4th grade called “Walk Two Moons”); this means that you cannot judge a man until you’ve ‘walked’ at least 2-days (or, rather, “2-moons”) in ‘his shoes.’ (Walk Two Moons is a great book to read with your child to encourage empathy).
9. Do not cry at work.
Crying is perfectly fine, but try not to cry at work (easier said, than done). If you do cry, DO NOT make a scene.
10. Remember that there’s always someone out there who has it worse than you do.
Any time there is a situation where you don’t get your way, remember that there are people in this world that never even had the opportunity.
11. When you’re wrong, apologize.
Apologizing does not always mean that you were wrong and the other person was right. Sometimes it just means that you value the relationship more than your ego.
12. Here are the steps to a real apology:
- Fully acknowledge the offense – acknowledge what you are sorry about.
- Offer a truthful explanation as to why your behavior occurred Do not offer an excuse – excuses merely deflect blame.
- Offer a genuine expression of remorse. Do NOT say, “I’m sorry that you feel that way….” – that is a bogus apology that should be saved only for people who deserve it.
- Ask what you can do to make things better, and then listen to what they say, and make sure that they know that you are listening.
(These steps were inspired by Oprah’s article on The Right Way to Apologize).
13. To be ‘wise’ means that you are able to admit when you don’t know the answer.
My dad taught me this: don’t pretend to know the answer to something if you don’t. Saying, “I don’t know,” is far better than pretending and potentially having people notice that you are B.S.ing – trust me, this will make you look like a much bigger idiot than simply not knowing the answer. If you don’t know the answer, but still want to contribute to the conversation, then you can say, “Well, if I had to make an educated guess, it would be….”.
14. If you need help, then you need to ask for it.
I learned this lesson the hard way at my first job out of college.
15. Never date a man who is rude to waiters, or mean to animals.
You’re going to look like an ass at some (actually, many) point(s) in your life. You will look like less of an ass if you’re able to laugh at yourself about whatever it is that you did.
17. Remember that there is always something to be thankful for.
18. Never try to solve problems at night.
All problems seem worse at night, and everything seems like a bigger deal when you are tired. Go to sleep. The problem will probably not be as big of a deal in the morning. (If you’re tired and you’ve been drinking, you’re probably wrong anyway about whatever it is that you’re saying/arguing about – so again, just go to sleep, and deal with it in the morning!).
19. When you have a crisis and feel like your life is over, remember this advice that my grandfather used to say to my mom:
- 1 month from now, you won’t be hurting as badly.
- 6-months from now, you probably won’t even be thinking about it.
- 5-years from now, you might not even remember it.
20. What we see depends mainly on what we look for. So focus on where you want to be – not on where you don’t want to go.
My first time snowboarding was a nightmare – I skipped the “Bunny Hill” and arrogantly decided to start my first snow-boarding experience at the top of Vail mountain (a terrible idea for a first-time snow-boarder), and despite my extreme fear of running into a tree as I went down the Blue Diamond ski slope, I still found myself, time and time again, tangled up in the trees on the side of the mountain, struggling to get out of the white powder and back on the smoother snow trail. Then, a wise man in a blue snow-suit gave me wonderful words of advice, “Keep your eyes focused on where you want to go (which was the chair lift) – and not on where you don’t want to go (which was the trees at the side of the mountain).” Before he pointed this out to me, I had been so focused on not running into the trees on the side of the mountain that my eyes were literally focused on that stupid forest. So then, I took his advice, and I changed my focus and kept my eyes on the chair-lift at the bottom of the mountain. And guess what? It worked. This new mentality magically re-programmed my body and brought me to the chairlift (with no stops at the stupid trees). Don’t get me wrong: I still fell on my butt a lot on my way to the chairlift, but that was way better than ending up wrapped around the trunk of a pine tree under a pile of snow! I think this advice is a great analogy that can cross-over to our real, everyday life. Keep your focus on where you want to be – not your fears.
21. Never try to figure to out how you should solve a problem; focus on what you want the end result to be and then make decisions that you will help you get there. (Thank you, Dad.)
This advice was given to me by my daughter’s pediatrician (a woman that I never thought I would be quoting) the day that my daughter was born. Her pediatrician was emphasizing to me the importance of sleep for moms with a newborn. The reason she said this is because I had just expressed to her that I didn’t know if I could follow the advice that I had been given to “sleep when the baby sleeps” (which is, by the way, the most annoying advice EVER because 100+ people told me this after my baby was born). I didn’t understand how I would ever be able to change my sleep schedule, let alone be able to sleep sporadically throughout the middle of the day (as newborns nap every 2 hours). But guess what? This advice is great (at least for me). Even if you can’t fall asleep, “faking it” is the next best thing because resting has adds a considerable amount of value to the recharging of your mind and body too. The dishes can wait.
23. If you’re having trouble solving a problem after repeated attempts, then try a different approach.
According to some references, the definition of “insanity” is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Try going about it in a different way.
Don’t rush through an important task. Don’t “half-ass” it. If it’s difficult to do now, then it’s going to be even more annoying to go back and fix later.
25. Surround yourself with people who build you up.
Surround yourself with people who see greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.
26. If you’re ever having trouble making conversation with other people, ask them about themselves.
People like talking about themselves (and/or their kids).
27. Only eat french fries that are hot and crispy and fresh.
My dad (who is kind of a health nut) instilled this idea in me growing up; I’m not a health nut, but I appreciate the logic behind this – if you’re going to eat something that’s bad for you, then do it right and make sure it tastes good! When you place your order, give the server a big smile and ask if you can wait for a fresh batch of french fries. If I’m going to get fatter from something – it better taste good.
28. The best time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.
Nothing is worse than a dry mouth and/or chapped lips when you’re trying to talk someone into hiring you.
30. The Middle School (aka, Junior High) and High School phases suck for most girls. Remember that Middle School and High School are just short phases of your life.
The Middle School and High School crowd can be just plain mean. The social torture that many of us experience during our awkward Middle School and High School phases seems like a very cruel “right of passage” before we enter the best part of the rest of our lives – young adulthood. The “college phase” is so much better – if not the best.
31. Writing down your worries on paper before a big exam or a big presentation at work can help you relieve anxiety and help you perform better.
32. Never reply when you are angry. Never make a promise when you are happy. Never make a decision when you are sad.
33. If you don’t want anyone to find out, don’t do it.
34. Happiness is a choice – a choice to live your life with a certain state of mind.
Happiness usually doesn’t just come to you – at least not after childhood ends. You often have to fight for happiness. Remember that you are in charge of how you feel. Think happy. Be happy.
- “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Mahatma Gandhi
- “It is only possible to live happily ever after on a daily basis.” Margaret Bonanno
- “Mistakes will be made. Failure will occur. You pick yourself up and carry on.” – Elizabeth Gilbert.
35. Follow your passion for your career.
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