It’s my annual process: around my birthday, I submit myself to some major self-reflection. I often think about my life, where it’s been, and where it’s headed. I reflect about the people in my life. I think about the people I love and my relationships with them. I think about all the people in my past that I’ve been fortunate to know. They’ve all had some sort of influence in the person who I am today.
In thinking of the past, I do think about the mistakes I’ve made. I know making mistakes is part of being human, but I can’t help but think about them. Often I think of them as learning experiences. Sometimes I dwell on them. I try not to, but sometimes I can’t help it. Either way, they’ve made me who I am. They’re a part of me and each mistake has made me a little more wiser.
I must say that I’ve been very fortunate in my life. I’m happy. I can honestly say I’m fulfilled with my life so far. I’ve been surrounded by good people and have fantastic memories of great experiences I’ve had. Thinking back, I don’t know if I would change anything if I could. Everything that happened needed to happen to bring me to where I am now.
Traditionally, people give gifts to people on their birthday, but this year I want to do something different: I’d like to share some nuggets of wisdom that I’ve learned through the years:
LIFE REWARDS ACTION.
Every achievement I’ve ever accomplished required action. I had to put in time and effort to reach my goals. Action gets things done. Effort has made all the difference in whether I succeed or not. Determination keeps us progressing towards the goal. If we have enough determination, then we will persist through any obstacles to reach our goals.
COURAGE IS MISUNDERSTOOD.
Often people think of courage as the absence of fear. Time has shown me again and again that it isn’t the absence of fear. Real courage is pushing through fear to accomplish a goal.
FEAR IS A CANCER.
It doesn’t prevent death; it prevents life. Fear prevents people from growing out of their comfort zone. A life in fear is a life of tragedy.
FAILURE IS MISUNDERSTOOD.
When I try and it doesn’t go my way, it isn’t truly a failure; it’s a lesson in disguise. Real failure is when I give up and never try again.
BE MINDFUL OF THOUGHTS.
My thoughts influence my actions and my actions affect my life. How I think of myself affects how I act everywhere, not just at work, but everywhere. When I believe I’m smart, I act more confidently. If I see myself as a leader, I unconsciously act that way.
BALANCE IS A KEY TO A GOOD LIFE.
To have too much or too little of something is bad, having the right amount is good. Take food for example: eating too little or too much isn’t good for our bodies.
TIME IS RIDICULOUSLY PRECIOUS.
The experience of time is so subjective. Sometimes it goes by so ridiculously fast (usually during something fun) and other times it drags slowly (I’m sure we can all relate). The way that I perceived time as a child is different than now as an adult. When I was little, time seemed to go by slowly, and now, days/months go by within a blink of an eye. Now I try to cherish every moment because I know how fast time is.
ALWAYS KEEP LEARNING.
If I don’t keep my brain active, it feels like it’s starting to rot. It’s often said that people who keep learning stay young. There is so much in this big and fascinating world and I want to learn more about everything in it. With the tool of the internet, access to information is at my fingertips. I feel like I need to take advantage of it.
REALITY IS SUBJECTIVE. IT’S ALL ABOUT PERCEPTION.
Life is how I believe it to be. People choose to perceive it in their own way. I choose to see it in an optimistic light.
WHAT WORKS FOR SOMEONE DOESN’T NECESSARILY WORK FOR EVERYONE.
Everyone in this world is unique in their own way. People do what works for them, but what life strategies others find helpful may not work for you or me. I’ve learned that it’s perfectly fine to try what works for others myself. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, I’ll try something else.
YOU CAN DO EVERYTHING “RIGHT” BUT NOTHING IN LIFE IS GUARANTEED.
There are “social formulas” that we are taught growing up. If you’re a nice person, then people will want to date you. If you go to college, then you will get a job that will make a lot of money. While that may be true for some people, it’s not true for everyone. I’ve learned that life is so unpredictable. With anything we do, we can predict the possibility of the outcome, but there are no guarantees.
MATERIAL “THINGS” ARE NICE, BUT THERE ARE MUCH BETTER “THINGS” OUT THERE.
As I get older, I want less physical possessions. Maybe I’m weird, but I want more time with family and friends. I want to feel happiness and fulfillment daily. I want to have the satisfaction of economic stability and not worry about money. Looking back, I have a lot of memories that I hold dearly more than most material possessions I have. There are certain trinkets that remind me of memorable experiences, but the memories they represent are priceless.
MONEY IS IMPORTANT, BUT IT ISN’T EVERYTHING.
In order to have a roof over my head, food in my belly, and clothes to wear, I need money. It’s something I need to live in society and to maintain a certain quality of life for my family and myself. Since I live in a capitalistic society, I’ve grown up being told that having more money is a good thing. While that may be true to a certain extent, now that I’m a young adult with a family of my own, my priorities are different. The health and happiness of myself and those around me are my main priorities now.
RELAXING ISN’T A WASTE OF TIME.
Life can be overwhelming. At times it can be tiring and exhausting. Taking time for yourself to relax gives you an opportunity to recuperate physically, refocus mentally, and restrategize for what’s ahead. Taking some time for yourself is an investment in your well-being.
BEAUTY IS EVERYWHERE.
We are lucky to live in a universe full of wonder no matter where you look. Whether it’s looking at nature, space, or human beings, there is something beautiful there.
EVERY ACHIEVEMENT DESERVES TO BE CELEBRATED.
Life is full of mistakes and achievements. Success is having more achievements than mistakes. Success is overcoming fear and failure to reach a goal. Every step you take (big or small) towards the goal is valid and should be recognized.
NOTHING IS AN ACCIDENT.
The adage “everything happens for a reason” is true, but most people say it to mean that there is always a good reason why things happen. I’ve learned that everything does happen for a reason, but not always a good one. Things happen for unfortunate reasons too. How we think and act affects how the world reacts to us.
OPPORTUNITIES ARE EVERYWHERE.
Opportunities are all around us all the time, sometimes it’s just harder to see. Every time I’ve “failed,” it’s been a blessing in disguise to point me towards an opportunity towards something much better. Even if I feel like I’m stuck at a dead end, I have the opportunity to create my own opportunity.
BEING PRODUCTIVE IS IMPORTANT; BEING BUSY ISN’T.
Nowadays, people glorify being busy almost to an extreme degree. People seem to wear “being busy” as a badge of honor as if it validates their self-worth. I’ve learned the long way that being busy truly isn’t a habit for success, being productive is. People can be both busy and unproductive. Sometimes people can consciously or subconsciously slow down their own productivity in order to keep themselves busy. Being productive is way more important in achieving success than being busy.
HAPPINESS IS A PRECIOUS TREASURE.
In my experience I’ve been lucky enough to meet people from all walks of life. There are plenty of people who are happy and many who are unhappy. One thing I’ve noticed is that people can be in either category and their background is almost irrelevant. I know wealthy people who are happy and some who are unhappy. Same thing vice versa. I know many economically struggling people who are unhappy and met many who are happy no matter what their financial circumstance is. Happiness is something that should be treasured and not taken for granted. It’s something that not everyone is fortunate to have.
KEEP THINGS AS SIMPLE AS POSSIBLE.
Simple is good. It’s inherently both efficient and effective.Why make things complicated if you don’t have to?
TRUE GROWTH LIES OUTSIDE OF THE COMFORT ZONE.
There is a reason why the comfort zone is called that way; it’s what we’re comfortable with. If we do what we always do, then our results will stay the same. If we do something different, say something challenging, then what life rewards us with can be surprising.
FORGIVENESS IS POWERFUL.
The adage “Life becomes easier when you accept the apologies you never received” is one that has been on my mind lately for the past few months. The more I think about it, the more I understand the truth and significance of it. To forgive is to let go. It’s releasing the negative weight that someone wrongly placed on you. Forgiving is actively choosing to move on. Holding onto anger and resentment isn’t going to make anything better.
NEVER TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED.
Life changes dramatically, usually without warning. We go through various life stages things change during and in-between those stages. Different people come in and out of your life at different changes and some stay consistent. Happiness can be there one day and gone the next. People change, ourselves included, and so does almost everything else in life. I’ve been learning to enjoy the present moments as much as possible before they turn into precious memories.
BE AS HAPPY AS POSSIBLE.
Life is too short to spend any moment of it in needless unhappiness. Sometimes it’s perfectly okay to be unhappy; at those times it’s needed. At certain points in our lives, we need to grieve, feel anger, or frustration. It’s what keeps us human. It’s also what helps us grow. Other than that, our time is precious and if we can be happy, we should be happy.
GRATITUDE KEEPS US GROUNDED.
It’s always easy for me to want what I don’t have. It can get frustrating thinking that I deserve something and not having it. It’s easy to be envious to the fortunes of others. During times like these, I try to be thankful for what I have (and the negative situations I’m not in). Reflecting on what is positive in my life is truly humbling. It helps me recognize what is working and that there are good things happening in my life.
LIFE IS A BEAUTIFULLY MESSY PROCESS; IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT FOR IT TO BE BEAUTIFUL.
Sometimes I like to think of my life as a roller coaster ride. There’s highs, lows, twists, turns, fear, rushes of adrenaline, (occasional puking or screaming), and fun. It’s also a work in progress; things usually get better along with time. Whatever mistakes I made are life lessons that I needed to learn. My life is beautiful because of all the experiences I’ve gone through and the people that I’ve shared my life with. Every choice I’ve made (and not made) or feeling I’ve felt has made my life unique. If every factor in my life was a brushstroke, I’d be an artistic work in progress.
I don’t know everything there is to know about life and it’s deeper meaning. There are many more lessons that I probably need to learn. Learning about life is inherently a life-long process that I don’t think I’ll ever truly master in my lifetime. That’s both the challenge and the adventure.
Roderick C. Conwi writes about lifestyle development. To get helpful insights that enhance your day, check him out at