It’s kinda crazy to realize that I traveled around the Sun 32 times in my life.
Most of the people celebrate their birthday by sharing it with other people, throwing a party for themselves, inviting friends over for a BBQ or similar. I love to spend my birthday in solitude. It’s a day when I usually turn my phone off so no one can reach me. I used to take my vacation days out on my birthday week and travel somewhere if I had to—to be alone. I always felt like this day was mine and mine alone, I want to be with myself and reflect back on my life, my past, present and future, to take inventory of everything I achieved, lost, won and learned, and harvest the fruit of my earthly labor.
I usually spend most of the day reflecting, journaling, and writing a list of the most important lessons I’ve learned.
Here’s 32 of them.
1. Satisfaction is your choice. If you don’t like your life, choose to do something about it and make a change. Life is what you make of it, not what you sit around waiting for. Even if you only have a little, you can choose to be happy with that instead of being miserable by always wanting more.
2. Time flies by very quickly. If you want to do something, don’t put it off until later and assuming that you’ll still have time. The only certain thing is uncertainty.
3. You have the power to choose how you want to feel. Feelings are valid and real but they do not define us. We have the power to choose a better feeling and get out of the rut. You know yourself best, you know what makes you feel better, elevates your spirit and lifts your mood—so go and consciously do those things to make yourself feel better.
4. Self-concept is the most important. Many of us get so caught up in what other people might think of us. In reality there’s nothing more important that how we think of ourselves and how we see our own self.
5. Find what keeps you grounded and hold onto it. I used to suffer from depression and anxiety for years, until I found my anchors—a well-rounded spiritual practice and nature keep me grounded and sane in this world. I don’t go a day without grounding myself in a way.
6. Your mistakes don’t define you. Acknowledge them, learn from them, let them go.
7. Don’t get involved in a relationship with someone because you’re afraid to be single. It’s better to be on your own and focus on yourself than to be in a relationship with the wrong person, especially if you end up lonely in a relationship.
8. Live for today. Don’t look forward to the future hoping that something will get better. Don’t expect that you will be happier “someday” and everything will be fine. If you’re living in the future, you’re completely missing out on the present. Life is really not as long as you may think. Enjoy today while you have it instead of wishing for tomorrow.
9. Look for the opportunity, not for the obligation. My effort is always low when I feel like I “have to” or am “supposed to” do something. I’m not thinking about the opportunity, but about the obligation. I often get caught up in this when I feel like I have to come up with new articles every week and write something. But then I remember that I have an opportunity here to create change in the world, get my voice out there and influence someone and that sparks my inspiration and creativity.
10. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. For years I tried to be someone I was not so I’d be accepted and loved by people. I learned that it’s better to be disliked for who you really are then be liked for who you’re not. To be yourself you have to know who you are and love that person, but loving yourself makes others love you too and find your tribe.
11. Appreciate what you have. Starting a gratitude journal was a game changer for me. I write down what I’m grateful for each day, even if it’s something trivial, like reading two pages from my favorite book or a delicious dinner.
12. “You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say.” This is a quote from one of my favorite books, The Alchemist. Our heart speaks to us about our destiny, about the things we’re meant to do and the impact we’re meant to make in the world. But life gets in the way, and we forget about our purpose. Over time, your heart might start whispering instead of speaking loudly. And it might be even harder to hear what it has to say. But that’s the most important time to listen.
13. Sleep is underrated. You may not realize how important sleep is for your health, both mental and physical. Humans are probably the only animals who consciously deprive themselves of sleep—and we are less successful because of it.
14. Read as much as you can. Reading improves memory, imagination, concentration, helps you to gain knowledge and for me, books are a companion I can always rely on. I always carry at least one book in my bags, no matter where I go.
15. Get out of your head. People spend way too much time in their heads and torture themselves with overthinking and over-analyzing what they said or did. Let it go. It takes you nowhere and leaves you depressed and anxious.
16. Breath is everything. Did you ever notice how differently you breathe when you’re happy and joyful and when you’re anxious, mad, angry, or stressed? Our breathing becomes shallow if we experience tension or negative feelings in the body, but you can consciously change the way you breath. It will help to release tension in your body and relax your mind.
17. Be curious and never stop learning. Don’t get satisfied with mediocrity but dig deeper and learn from those who are already where you want to be in the future.
18. Remind yourself often that your time is limited and your life is finite. Since I live with a kidney condition that can turn serious at any time, I learned to remind myself of my mortality. This gives me courage, spurs me to do the things that I’ve always put off until later, and allows me to live more fully.
19. You’re the expert of your life. No one knows you and your life as well as you do, so before you take advice from anyone, always look into yourself and listen to your inner wisdom. I like to imagine that I am my own best friend and give advice for me, it always helps.
20. Exercise daily. Go for a run, do yoga, pilates, lift weights, whatever—do anything to make your blood flow faster. It will make you feel more fresh and awake, younger and energized, and you will become more disciplined.
21. Share your happy moments with someone. Walk with your dog; start a conversation with that interesting character from the park; play with children; help your granny in the garden; watch a movie with your loved one… Today all these things may seem to be nothing particular, but they can be treasured memories for tomorrow.
22. There is more pain in not doing something than fear and worry in doing it. You will suffer less if you decide to try something out. Even if it doesn’t work, at least you tried and now you know.
23. Failure is your friend. Failure is the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new one. It’s an opportunity to pause, reflect and to try again to build something new or innovative. It’s an opportunity to get back into alignment and a chance to learn and change. While it may feel awful in the moment, it’s part of your path.
24. Where your attention goes, energy flows. This is the power behind manifesting your dreams. The more you keep your goals top of mind, the more likely you are to take powerful, aligned action, because it’s in your line of focus. You can also create a vision board with your goals and put it somewhere you’ll see it every day. Affirmations work in this way, too. So focus on your most important goals every day, and pay attention to what aligned action you can take to help you achieve them.
25. Rituals and habits are key for success. If you want to change something, learn something new or achieve a goal build a habit around it. I live for my morning ritual, and I notice a huge difference in my mood and energy if I skip a day. Morning and evening rituals could be as simple or as involved as you want them to be—including journaling, exercising, reading, spiritual practices or other habits you want to build. The key is consistency and doing what feels good.
26. It’s okay to not know everything, as long as we keep searching. There are questions in life no one knows the answer for: What is life? What really happens after death? Does God really exist? You don’t have to know the answer for everything but never give up looking for them.
27. Don’t be so quick of judging someone else’s mistakes. What do we know about others fights with their own demons? You never know what someone else has had to overcome and even if something seems as a failure or mistake in your eyes, for them it can be the biggest victory.
28. You are like the 5 people you spend most of your time with. I think this one is pretty self-explanatory.
29. You can’t judge yourself clearly from an inside perspective. The cure to this is to avail ourselves of people who will tell us the truth, call us out on our own bullshit, inspire us and help us to shine our light.
30. Change comes from the inside. You need to be self-aware to get any changes done in your life. You can change jobs, move countries and get a new circle of friends or whatever that you think might bring the so wanted change in your life but everything will remain pretty much the same if you do not change yourself.
31. Taking action is more important than figuring out what’s the right decision. When we get caught up in determining which is the “right” decision we can get stuck. Focus on the process rather than the outcome of your decisions. There are always options on the way.
32. We’re all connected. As Mark Nepo says, “being human is looking so deeply into the other person that you recognize yourself.”
Even though I’ve learned so many things (and I could keep continuing my list), I’m certainly not going to stop learning. There’s so much more to discover, know, experience, and explore.
What is the most valuable lesson that you have learned in your life so far?
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Photo: Gian Cescon via Unsplash