Life Lessons: 40 Lessons in 40 Years

Life lessons. How to move forward in life. How to be happy. How to be successful. How to learn from your mistakes.

1. People will argue for their own limitations in life. Don’t limit yourself because you believe you can’t achieve your dreams. Your everyday attitude will determine if you reach your potential.

2. Sometimes it is best to keep your mouth closed. It is always tempting to try to talk sense to people who are spouting nonsense. It could be the Mom at PTA who is bragging about how her son has developed a cure for cancer out of old lollipop sticks, or a blog post I disagree with, or someone’s political rant on Facebook. I’ve learned that I should just stay out of it. The risks are too high that I would look like a jerk (because it would be jerky, right?) or that I would look like a bully. It's best to avoid silly drama and waste emotional energy.

3. Happiness really is a choice. It is less about what happens to you and around you and more about who you are and how you decide to view life. We all see our present lives as either worse than we expect or better than we deserve. That perspective determines everything. 

4. No one spends their days judging you or criticizing you but you. Your worst enemy is your own critical voice in your head. This is the voice you listen to 10x more than any other. The constant thoughts that you aren’t good enough, you failed and things will never be better will steal your passion and your joy. Learning to silence, or at least ignore, the critical inner voice is key to happiness.

5. The day you look at other women and celebrate their strengths instead of think of them as competition is the day you go from a girl to a woman. 

6. Confidence is only gained by taking action. Try, fail, try again, fail again, try again, fail less, try again, sort of get it, try again, get it, try again, success. That's the only recipe to gain confidence. 

7. You will make mistakes and you will fail. That’s how you learn, it’s how you grow and become a better person of yourself. Take the bruised ego and hurt pride out of it and you will grow, you will flourish and be better than before. 

8. No one feels completely capable and has unlimited funds, time and energy to achieve their goals. And everyone is terrified of failure, looking foolish, and letting others down. Once you know you aren't the only one, life gets easier. 

9. Judge others by their actions and never by words, or worse, “good intentions’ alone. As Maya Angelou famously said, “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

10. You can’t change anyone’s behavior, their brand of crazy, their perspective, or their opinions. People are complex, and have years of ingrained beliefs and a lifetime of experience that makes them who they are. Expecting change and getting upset when it doesn't happen is a recipe for misery. 

11. The world doesn’t owe you a single thing. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Never be that person with an inflated sense of entitlement. I’ve learned time and time again that pride really does go before a fall every. single. time.

12. We live lives of constant activity and noise. Busyness is a weapon to keep us from the life we are created to live. It keeps us on the hamster wheel of striving to be good enough, to feel good and it steals our joy. 

13. Everyone is consumed with the tornado of their own lives. When someone doesn't reach out, assume their life is full and be the one to make the effort. 99.9% of the time they will be overjoyed to hear from you. 

14. It's easy to look at the perfectly sanitized lives on Facebook, but behind everyone's smiling pictures and well-decorated front doors is often a world of struggles and pain. It's safe to assume we are all living the same life behind the scenes and we all only share the happy moments. 

15. Life is better when you are open to new experiences. Go to every conference you can. (Oh, How I LOVE conferences big and small. I never regret going, learning new things and meeting great people!) Adopt a dog, take those lessons you always wanted to take, or take the time (and risk) to invest in a new friendship. Say yes to the things that will make your soul come alive. 

16. Out-of-control emotions often reflect out-of-control expectations we put on ourselves. When you find yourself snapping at those you love, crying more than normal (what? Everyone has a normal cry level!?), and feeling out of control it normally is an indication you are too busy and living life over capacity. 

17. When you finally submit to the one who created you and learn to humble yourself, God will do things to you and through you that you could have never imagined.

18. Once you love God he will never let you stay where you are. You can’t hide and you can’t stay away for long. He will lovingly call you back time after time.

19. God’s plan is so much better than anything you have planned. It sounds so trite (I know, I know!) but it’s true. He takes our messes, rearranges them and makes something beautiful every single time.

20. "God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle" is flat out bad theology. Lots of situations will be more than you can handle, but God will help you be strong, be courageous and get you through them. 

21. The best life advice sometimes seems so simple that we don't take action. We want a long, complex way to work our way out of something. Most of the time we just need to do something easy and simple. Just taking that first step will create huge change in our lives.

22. Seven hours of sleep is a must. Without enough sleep you'll get wrinkles and you'll get grumpy. 

23. The decisions that determine your happiness and success are: your spouse, your close friends, and your mentors. Choose them well. Friends who celebrate your successes, support you when you make dumb mistakes, and love you enough to tell you the truth even when it is uncomfortable are a treasure. Never take them for granted. Tell them often how much they mean to you.

24. You should treat your spouse the way you want your kids’ future spouses to treat them. The marital relationship you model will stay with your children for a lifetime. Remember that next time you need to vent and your spouse is a handy target. (I'm preaching to myself here!

25. Being offended is ultimately a choice. Learning to see the situation through the other person's eyes takes more patience than Job and more strength than Samson but it’s worth it.

26. With kids, who you are is as important as what you do. Don't bother forcing them to learn how to play piano if they don't want to, just model how to be a responsible, loving human to them daily and they will be set up for success. 

27. Everyone thinks their children are above average. Actually, most people think their children are exceptional geniuses full of charm and blessed with good looks. It's just how we are wired. As my grandaddy said when I was bragging on how handsome my first baby was, “Every crow thinks theirs is the blackest.” I laughed and knew his country humor was spot on.

28. Parenting is hard.  All the exhaustion, the constant going-going-going, the neediness, and the noise wears on you. The worry that you aren’t doing a good enough job gnaws on your peace of mind. Remember to take care of yourself while you parent. You can’t give from an empty cup. Seek things that fill you up and help relieve stress. (But parenting, despite how soul-suckingly hard it is at times, is the most rewarding and joy-filled experience of our lives. It's such a paradox!)

29. Your kids will respect you if you are strong enough to occasionally 'be the bad guy' and keep them in check. No child, or adult for that matter, is happiest when given free rein. Too many choices and freedoms too early lead to dangerous mistakes. Give kids what freedom and space they have earned according to their level of maturity and by their behavior. When they mess up, rein them back in a little. You can do it and your kids will appreciate not being able to bulldoze you.

30. Sometimes you can do everything right and they will still behave like little jerks. You will take it as a personal reflection of your worth at first, but then as your kids get older, you let go of the illusion of control and love them through the ups and the downs. 

31. Holding on to unforgiveness and hurt will only steal your joy. Forgiving someone else doesn't absolve them from guilt. It doesn't mean what they did is acceptable. It means you are leaving it behind and moving on. Learning to leave the past in the past, and look to the future with an anticipation of good things, is the way to move on. 

32. If it seems too good to be true, it usually is. Delayed interest payments, easy lines of credit, ever increasing real estate prices, are all a ticking time bomb. Also, student loans are a millstone around your neck. Avoid them.

33. Thanks to the Internet we live in an age of unprecedented access to technology, information and freedom to create. The gatekeepers are gone and we don’t have to get anyone’s permission to be successful. Some people use this freedom to build their dreams, to educate themselves and create a new life. Others use this for candy crush and youtube. The choice is yours.

34. If you have even the smallest amount of ability, healthy ambition and a great attitude you will be successful. (Click to tweet that) Talent is overrated. You can have all the 'natural gifts' in the world, but if you don't work your tail off, they will go to waste. Emotional intelligence will take you farther than intellectual ability ever will.

35. You will never regret over-preparing. When you know something by heart, have planned for all the ways it can go wrong and how you will respond, you can relax and go with the flow.

36. Build relationships with people because you value them, not because you value their network. Relationships you build to help others will take you so much farther in life than ones you build to help yourself.

37. The one thing that will sink your business and your life faster than anything else is your ego. (Click to tweet it!) A bruised ego will cause more damage than a puppy in a shoe store. An overinflated ego will leave a path of destruction. Stay humble, work hard, love others and you'll be successful. 

38. You have to have systems for everything. A system is just a plan for managing lots of tasks, information and responsibilities. Sure, no one wakes up in the morning excited about systems, but without them you are destined to fail.

39. Everyone needs a coach- from the Olympian, to the corporate leader, to the author and the small business owner. You’ll never regret spending the time and money with someone who can walk the journey with you, share their knowledge and be invested in your success. Successful people all have coaches.

40. Great leadership requires a constant willingness to be transformed into the person we were created to be. (Click to tweet that) Leading well comes down to living well. Great leaders are made, not born. 

And one to grow on.. 

You can change the world around you by simply smiling when others enter the room, choosing encouragement over cynicism and saying, "I love you" more often than you do now. 

If you loved this list and want to add your own life lessons, share this on Facebook and add some of your favorites. Let's keep it going! 

xo