1. Your life is your responsibility.
Please read this carefully, taking in each and every word: There is one person and one person alone over whom you have control in this life—and that is yourself. Since you are the only person you can control, you are the only person who can take responsibility for your life. That includes your energy, your happiness, your fulfillment, your career, your choices and more. You are responsible for you and you alone. You are not responsible for anyone else. How could you be? It is their responsibility to take care of themselves. Yes, you can and should support someone in making good choices, building a life that makes them happy, and taking care of themselves. In fact, taking responsibility for your own well-being is precisely how we are better able to be present for those around us. Just remember: Support and responsibility are two extremely different approaches. You take responsibility for yourself. You support other people. Do your best not to reverse or mix up the two.
The responsibility is yours.
2. The way someone treats you is a reflection of how they feel about themselves.
That cross look? Not about you. That snide comment? Not about you. That temper tantrum? Not about you. The way a person behaves indicates where they’re at physically, mentally, and spiritually. Try not to take things personally. They probably have nothing to do with you. Learn to see someone’s behavior through the lens of love. If they’re acting out, that probably means they’re in desperate need of a love tank fill-up.
Do not react when someone acts out. Ask her if she’s okay. Inquire about what’s going on in his life. Remain open and curious and compassionate. You know that’s exactly what you’ll want when your cup of love runs low, too. And you know it eventually will.
3. Life is all about managing expectations—most of all your own.
The world will expect many things from you. And you will expect many things in return. The key is to manage its expectations of you—and yours of it. Going through life trying to live up to someone else’s expectations of you is how you end up disappointing both of you in the process. Conversely, trying to force the world to meet your expectations is like trying to make Niagara Falls flow backwards. It just doesn’t work that way.
There is another way, and it’s through finding harmony between your expectations and reality. According to Manel Baucells and Rakesh Sarin, authors of Engineering Happiness: A New Approach for Building a Joyful Life, there is even a formula for happiness that takes into account this harmony. The formula is as follows: Happiness equals reality minus shifting expectations. Thus, you’ll be happy as long your shifting expectations are lower than reality.
When you feel your energy or happiness slipping, focus on softening your expectations a bit. You’ll be better off not just in the moment but in the long run, too.
4. When you know better, do better.
Maya Angelou once said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Frequently cited by Oprah as some of the best advice she’s ever received, this quote serves as a reminder of a simple truth: We’re all figuring out this thing called life as we grow through it. We’re all doing the best we can based on the information and resources we have at our disposal. But some things are simply better learned through experience.
Do your best. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You will do better when you know how. And you often only find out when you get there.
5. Your word is your bond.
In the second film installment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Dumbledore imparts some wisdom to Harry, saying, “Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.”
J.K. Rowling penned those words. And both she and Dumbledore are right: Our words can hurt or they can heal. Our words can lift someone up or break them down. Our words can bring us together or tear us apart. Remember this power before you speak. Be intentional with what you say. Then, back it up with action. Keep your word. Follow through. Be reliable. It’s how you earn respect. It’s how you build integrity. It’s how you form formidable bonds.
6. Work hard. Stay humble.
Success is a beautiful thing. But unbridled by humility, it can also be an ugly, selfish, all-consuming endeavor. Here are some important reminders to stay humble as you progress on your path:
Never forget your roots.
Never forget the sacrifices others made on your behalf.
Never forget how hard you worked to get where you are today.
Never forget to say thank you.
Never forget that everything comes at a price.
Never forget to stop and appreciate how far you’ve come.
Never forget that who you are is so much greater than what you do.
Never forget to pay it forward.
Never forget that it’s not always about you.
Remember these and you will be golden.
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7. Just keep going. No matter what.
You might lack skill, you might lack hope, you might lack money—honestly, most people, at one point or another, have lacked these seemingly important endowments. But if you have grit, determination and persistence, you will always make it through to brighter days because you can outlast the days that make you want to give up. If you learn to become comfortable with the discomfort of rejection, uncertainty and obscurity, you will forever persevere to claim the moments of joy and accomplishment you seek. It won’t always look how you imagined because life is rarely predictable, but it will feel familiar, it will feel right, it will feel like home.
All you have to do is keep going. No matter what.
8. Release the idea that things could’ve been any other way.
There is no point in wondering what if. There is no point in pondering what could’ve been. There is no point in believing in what should’ve been. There is only the way things actually are. The rest is all made up in your mind. Truth is, it’s useless to try to make sense of the past. The past only exists as a memory—a recollection kept alive by your belief in its importance. Like using an abstract painting to interpret reality, your mind misconstrues what happened to fit your prior experience and to favor your future expectations. The future is similarly a figment of your imagination. It does not yet exist. Thus, the only thing that matters—the only moment of any significance—is this one right now.
9. Listen more than you speak.
You were given two ears and one mouth for a reason. Perhaps it’s because you were meant to spend more time listening than speaking.
As humans, one of our basic needs is to feel heard, seen and understood. When you honor someone else with your undivided attention, you help assuage their anxiety, wash away their worry and find clarity in the chaos. Because you’re showing them that, despite how bad things might seem, they’re not alone.
10. Do what you’re afraid to do.
Life can seem downright scary. And for good reason. It’s full of unpleasant, uncomfortable, unimaginable things like death, disease and disruption in many forms. In these moments, it feels so much easier to back down, burrow in and build walls instead of facing reality head-on.
But I’m here to offer up another way of being. Whenever and wherever possible, we should do what scares us instead of backing away from it. It’s hard to have a difficult conversation. But avoiding it only makes the situation worse. It’s scary to be vulnerable and say how you really feel. But it’s how you build authentic relationships. It’s daunting to think about making our dreams a reality. But we’ll never know if we don’t try. Honestly, it’s so much easier to turn a blind eye, ignore our intuition and be afraid of feeling our fear. But that’s not the point of life.
We are here to learn and grow. We are here to be present in the now. We are here to love. And we do those things not by seeing our darkness and shying away, but by seeking out and owning our light and showing up anyway. Any other focus is simply missing the point.
11. Be kind. Always.
You never know what someone else is going through. Be gentle. Have compassion. Default to empathy. If you can’t find any love in a situation, it’s a signal to be the love the situation desperately needs. As humans, kindness is a nutrient for the heart. Love is the purest expression of this kindness. When all else fails, sprinkle a little love on it. You just might be surprised at how well it heals what appears broken. Especially when it’s turned inward.
What are some of the best pieces of advice you’ve ever read or received? Tell me in the comments below—or tweet me @crackliffe!— Published on May 10, 2020