Six weeks ago, I celebrated my 28th birthday. But to tell you the truth, I stopped counting how old I was turning after I turned 25. For some weird reason, I am still stuck at that age. I even sometimes forget how old I am now and I have to count up the number of years that passed since my 25th birthday. Does that happen to you?
On every birthday, I like to look back on everything I have gone through so far, and have a mental check-in with myself about how I have changed throughout the years. So, of course, I thought it would be a good time to dive deep into my soul and share with you the 28 life-altering lessons that I have learned (or still learning) in my 28 years in this world.
1. Learn to LOVE YOURSELF!
This is an important lesson (and maybe even the most significant one) because it's at the core of every other lesson.
There were some periods in my life when I didn't have a good relationship with myself. My standards for myself were too high. I judged myself harshly, and my self-talk was not pretty to listen to. That definitely led to not-so-loving actions, relationships, and friendships.
When I truly understood what it meant to love myself (and that's VERY DIFFERENT from being selfish), I started taking better care of myself, exercising regularly, eating healthier, meditating, and doing other things that nourished my soul.
For me, loving myself means taking the time to make the most delicious meals.
It means finding great ways to deal with procrastination which we all experience, especially when we try to introduce new habits in our daily routines.
It means getting more sleep because I know that my body needs it.
It means tidying up my place so I would feel more comfortable being in it.
It also means chasing my dreams and consistently doing things that light my soul on fire.
It means not letting laziness get in the way of doing the right things for my body and soul.
It means making my environment my sanctuary, wherever I am.
This means bringing the things that make me feel good wherever I go (the gym, on a plane, or to work). The idea is to have with me the things that would make me feel like my best self.
Loving yourself can be tough work, especially when it requires you to completely change bad habits or ways of living that don't serve you any longer.
If you don't learn to love yourself, you will have a hard time letting go of people and situations that don't serve you and don't bring value to your life. That's because loving yourself is truly at the core of every relationship you will ever have, whether it's with romantic partners, family members, friends, or co-workers.
2. Changing Your Mindset Will Change Your Life
There are many things I thought I couldn't do. A voice in my head (my shadow self, aka, my ego) told me that it was unrealistic, unattainable, and unachievable.
I used to think that I needed a lot of money to travel.
I used to think that I had to go to a photography school to be a photographer.
I used to think that the more I did nice things for other people, the more attention and love I would get from them (people pleaser's way of thinking).
I used to think that I had to have everything in my life, at all times, to be happy: a job, a partner, a good relationship with my parents, etc.. But these are all external things.
When I changed my mindset around that, I became happier because I learned to be grateful for the small things.
I learned that having a job or being in a romantic relationship, just for the sake of being in it, won't make me happier. And it actually could even make my life miserable if it was the wrong job or partner. As soon as I changed my thought pattern the game changed for me.
There's this quote by Henry Ford that goes, "whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right." And I strongly believe in this statement. Once I started to think that I was able to have the money that I needed to travel, that I was able to call myself a photographer, and that I was able to find all the love in the world, first in myself — my beliefs changed. When my beliefs changed, my life changed as well, and that's because all of that came true.
You see, everything comes down to what you pay attention to and what mindset you have. When you think that you're broke and life is too expensive, you have a scarcity mindset.
And by the way, confidence and courage are also forms of mindset. We might have thoughts that lowers our self-confidence, and we might have thoughts that boosts our self-confidence. You might be afraid to take a chance on opportunities that are outside your comfort zone, or you might think that those are just crazy ideas. You choose what story you want to believe in.
It really is that simple, but it's most definitely not easy.
When you change your mindset, you truly can achieve everything you set your mind to. Changing your thought patterns will change your belief systems, and when you change your belief systems, you change your actions, which then change your life.
3. Prioritize Investing in Your Relationships with Family and Friends
About 5 years ago, I read this book called "The Top Five Regrets of the Dying" by Bronnie Ware. That book completely shaped my actions after reading it, and it's definitely a MUST READ.
One of the top regrets in the book that really spoke to me is "I wish I stayed in touch with my friends." Since I have friends and family in different parts of the world, I decided to pay more attention to these relationships, give them all my love, and do my best to be present on the most significant days of these dear people's lives. Since this is one of my core values, I knew that if I spent too much time in my own bubble, I would regret missing out on opportunities to strengthen my relationships with them.
You see, what I have learned is that I can't expect a relationship to last and be fulfilling no matter what kind of relationship it is if I don't nurture it. And this came from the realization that no one owes me anything. No one is obligated to always be there for me and support me. If people do it, it's because they choose to. And they do it because they care and want to invest in the relationship they have with me.
Once I had that realization, I made it my priority to go and see my family in Israel. I made it my priority to visit my family in NYC that I haven't seen in a couple of years. I made it my priority to keep in touch with the people that mean the most to me.
But things can be one-sided.
If it gets to that point, it's up to me to respect myself enough to know that my energy and efforts are better invested in someone else who would appreciate them and want to do the same for me. In other words, it's up to me to choose to let them go and move on.
I've been learning to let go of relationships that drain me and don't work for me. It's very important to know the difference between the relationships to invest in and the relationships to let go of.
You are priceless. Having you in someone's life is a miracle.
Once you have that self-respect towards yourself, you use your resources (money and time) in a better way.
There's one thing you can never get back, and that is your TIME. So I've been learning to spend my time with people who are worth it.
4. Live in the Now Because Your Next Five Minutes are not Guaranteed
The now is the only time that exists, and that's all you have that you know for sure.
When I started thinking in terms of "maybe I won't have tomorrow," all my priorities, decisions, and actions changed. I stopped delaying things for the next day. I started to prioritize things based on their importance to me. Suddenly, decision-making became so much easier. All I needed to do is to think, "Would I be happy with myself if this was the last thing I got to do or I got to say?" This way of thinking not only helped me to decrease procrastination but also helped me to live with no regrets.
Losing people I knew unexpectedly and suddenly was also what highlighted for me the importance of living in the now. You don't need to wait to experience a life-threatening situation to only then realize that life is short. Changing your mindset about that now will give you the same result.
We think we have all the time in the world, but we are so wrong. Even tomorrow is not guaranteed.
5. Learn to Forgive and Practice Empathy
It took me a very long time to let go of anger and disappointments in my life. I had to shed my victim mentality (see point #7) to be able to see the big picture without having an emotional attachment to the story.
Growing up, I had a pretty tough childhood. Tension in the house was almost a daily thing. So my definition of normal became spending as many days as I could at my grandparents' place.
My parents were very young when they had me, and I understand that as young parents and new immigrants to a new country, they did the best that they could. They had so many of their own lessons to learn, so I learned to forgive them for not being the parents that I needed them to be at the time.
You know that you healed when talking about a painful experience doesn't bring you to tears anymore, only peace.
As time goes by, I learn to forgive and empathize with people on a higher level. But what I am currently learning is how to not let empathy for someone else override my own sense of self and self-respect. In other words, I am learning to put myself first, even though I understand how someone else feels. And not put someone else's needs above mine. This idea is tied very closely to point #1, which is learning to love yourself.
6. Don't Compare Yourself to Other People's Lives
For a very long time up until two years ago, I thought that I had to follow the traditional cultural path of kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school, university, graduating with a degree, getting a job + getting married, having kids, working all my life, retiring, then dying at some point.
For a person who loves studying and doing everything "the right way," I thought that I had to stay on that path. I derived my sense of self from it and thought that there was only one "normal" way to live this life.
But then, I found myself studying something I wasn't too happy to pursue a career in. And I was in a very bad and toxic relationship that affected my relationships with loved ones. I was a mess. And all I wanted was not to skew from the path because that was a death sentence.
When I compared myself to other people's lives, I didn't know why I wasn't getting it right. My conversations with myself were humiliating, full of anger and self-hatred for why things weren't working for me like they were working for everyone else around me. I just felt so trapped in my own life because of the reality that I created.
I ended up finding my direction in university after all, got out of the emotionally and mentally abusive romantic relationship, and started to work on myself without a timeline in mind.
Everyone around me was so eager to get married already and settle down. But a few years later, the divorces came. And then I knew, even more than before, that I only need to follow my own path, not anyone else's. It was such a relief for me to stay true to myself and have the courage to ring out my truth in the ears of loved ones and friends without being afraid of being criticized.
As soon as I stopped comparing myself to other people, I became free. My conversations with myself changed. I started to trust my intuition more. And I realized that at the end of the day, I am the only person who is responsible for my own happiness - not my parents, friends, or partners — only me.
We all have different journeys here on earth, and we all have different lessons to learn. Milestones in life are not the ultimate goals, and shouldn't be seen that way. They are actually the beginnings of everything, like a different level in a game that requires different skills and upgraded tools. But each level will look different to each person because we all play our own game that was made only for us.
We all run in a different race, on a different day, at a different place, and at a different time.
How can that be a "one size fits all" life then? And why is it approached and praised that way by many people?
7. Change the Victim Mindset
I used to think that everything happened because of me. My thoughts were along the lines of "well, this is just MY LUCK" when something bad happened. But since then, I've realized that things don't happen to me; they just happen. There is no one out there trying to punish me or make me feel bad. And as soon as I changed those thoughts and that mindset, things only started to look brighter and brighter.
I started to think of difficult situations in terms of a game that required me to use my creative thinking to unlock the current level to the next level. There was no one out there to kill me, and I had all the time in the world to come up with a solution to move to the next level. So I rolled up my sleeves and started to use my creative thinking whenever any problem arose while also ditching the "poor me" attitude.
Once I adopted that mindset, I realized that everything happens so we can grow and evolve. Sometimes things or situations are bittersweet, and that's okay. But you are never alone, and life always gives you the tools to deal with the hard stuff.
Now I see life as an experience that happens FOR me and not TO me.
8. It's Okay to be Alone
As an extrovert, it was a tough lesson to learn. Maybe because I was surrounded by extroverts most of the time during my childhood, I was really used to doing things with other people all the time. I would go with my friends to the bathroom. I would go shopping with them even if I didn't need to buy anything or vice versa. Everything always had to be together.
When I moved to Canada, I had no choice but to learn to be okay with being alone. I didn't have close friends probably until the third year since moving to Canada, so I had to learn to do everything without anyone else by my side. It definitely really challenged my character, and I struggled a lot with resisting all the lonely thoughts and self-pity. Although eventually, I learned to live with it, embrace it, and welcome it with open arms.
I learned so much about myself from being alone. I guess, ironically, that's the person I was most afraid of being with, without even knowing it. I learned to trust myself, my intuition, and my judgement. I learned to take responsibility for my actions because there was no one else to blame when things went wrong, for example, when I went on solo trips.
I think it's such an important skill to develop. No one can promise you that there will always be someone in your life who will fix your problems and pull you out of a mess. When you learn to be okay with being alone, you also learn how to be resourceful, and it's one of the top life skills that I believe anyone should have in their toolbox.
9. Clean After Yourself
There are so many benefits to cleaning after yourself, but for many years it was one of my least favourite things to do.
As a kid, I was very organized when I only had to worry about my room. I always put everything away and wanted every doll or toy to get back to its home when I was done playing with them.
Then, as the years went by, I became less and less eager to clean after myself, especially when other interests occupied my mind more. I kept telling myself, "I'll do it after," but then it would all add up, and I would end up spending 2-3 hours cleaning up instead of half an hour.
I realized that it was not a good use of my time, and in the meanwhile, I also really didn't like living in a cluttered environment. So cleaning up definitely was a win-win situation, but my stubbornness couldn't be reasoned with until one day when it all changed.
I picked up the book "Spark Joy" by Marie Kondo, and that was it. This book helped me change my perspective about tidying up.
As soon as I was able to see tidying up as something that was actually very fun to do and didn't take half of the time that I expected it to take, it became so much easier to do it. Picking up dirty dishes and putting them in the dishwasher, putting away laundry, making my bed, organizing the pillows on the couch, and putting everything back to its designated home, made my place ready for guests to stop by basically anytime.
Not only that it relieved my stress level, but it also taught me to appreciate more my clean environment.
10. Be Patient
I used to want things to work out a certain way and during a certain time frame.
When I was 16 years old and still living in Israel, my plan was this: Go to the army after high school, travel the world for 6-8 months, get married, start a family, go to university, get a degree, and work at an amazing workplace (not everything in that order).
When I moved to Canada at the beginning of 11th grade, I had to readjust the things that I wanted and accept the fact that things weren't going to happen exactly like I dreamed they would.
I ended up staying an extra year in high school, started university later than my graduating class, and spent 5 years at university instead of 4 years like the career adviser said I would. I became more stressed and impatient the more relationships weren't working out. I felt pressured to have everything work out like it was "supposed to." Gary Vaynerchuk explains it in a very real way in this video (listen to minutes 1:47-2:06).
My sense of self was tied to results, and I took everything that didn't work out right away or the way I wanted it to, as a sense of personal failure. Needless to say, I suffered a lot because of that. My self-esteem suffered a lot.
There are three things that I learned from those experiences:
I learned to persevere. In other words, to not give up even if the results didn't happen right away.
I learned not to tie my self-worth to outcomes, which helped to keep me more focused on the tasks at hand. I also learned to be patient and trust the timing of everything. These realizations proved themselves over, over and over again.
Lastly, the most important lesson of all was learning to know the difference between when to stick with something until I see it through and when to let go of something that's not working out and isn't worth the energy (like staying in a bad relationship).
11. Trust Your Intuition and Act on It
You know that voice you hear in your head sometimes, but it's not "you" talking or that feeling you get when something is off? That's your intuition.
I didn't always listen to my intuition, partially because I wasn't even aware that my intuition was communicating with me. It definitely took some practice, and a lot of trial and error, to learn how to work with it and then act on it.
When I didn't listen to my intuition, that's when I verbalized hurtful words that I just couldn't take back. When I didn't listen to my intuition, I let the fear of failing/being alone/not finding love take over me.
But when I did listen to it, I felt so connected to myself more than I've ever been. When I did listen to it, I began living outside of my comfort zone – I went on a solo trip to Peru. I flew to my home country to spend time with my grandfather before he passed away.
When I started to trust my intuition and act on it, I learned what it means to live every single day in this world as if it were my last day. And that completely changed my life, my choices, and my actions.
I started to get more in-tune with my intuition by meditating regularly. I also started to pay more attention to the different ways that the universe tries to communicate with me, either by sending me messages that I need to hear through other people or by seeing repeating numbers everywhere (such as 111, 333, 444).
When you trust your intuition, you begin to associate yourself less with the ego-mind. And instead, you start showing up as your highest self (the best version of yourself) more often. When that happens, you finally start living in alignment with your life's purpose (the reason you are here on this earth.)
12. Own Your Mistakes
I used to have high expectations for myself. And as you can imagine, that made it especially difficult to admit to myself and others that I'd made a mistake and that I had to take responsibility for it. Sometimes, I wasn't even directly at fault for the result of a situation, but how I handled my reaction to that situation was my responsibility*.
So how this has played out in my life so far was by learning to notice and acknowledge how I react in very tense situations and, if necessary, apologize to the people involved.
That's because it's not other people's fault I was in a shitty relationship that affected my emotional world. It's not their fault that the world "pushed my buttons."
All the external circumstances don't matter. What matters is that I don't need to take my emotions out on them.
Catching yourself in those moments and then doing the right thing is really important, although your ego will hate you for it.
Sometimes it takes time to realize you've made a mistake, but there's no such thing as "too late" to ask someone for forgiveness after learning to forgive yourself. It's never too late to take responsibility for your actions, even if you weren't at fault when they happened.
What really helped open my eyes was to ditch the "victim mindset," as mentioned in point #7. Life didn't "put" me in a certain situation to punish me, test me, or get back at me. We all have free will, and the choice of what we decide to do is only ours, no one else's.
Many things that happen in life are out of our control. But we are always given a chance to choose kindness over selfishness, truth over lies, and action over inaction.
*If you want to read more about this idea, Mark Manson wrote a great book about it, among other things, called The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck.
13. DOUBLE CHECK EVERYTHING
Whenever we think we pay attention, most likely, we aren't fully there. Or sometimes, the other person you are dealing with is not fully there. We have x amount of thoughts per day that go through our minds. So it's easy to always be 100% focused. And when distractions are added to the mix, we are simply more prone to making mistakes.
When I realized how crucial some of those mistakes could be, like sending sensitive information to the wrong person, missing a bill payment, or missing a deadline, I started to double and sometimes triple-check everything.
It became a habit very quickly. And I can't even tell you how many times it saved me.
It saved me from transferring the wrong amount of money to someone. It saved me from booking a ticket on the wrong day. It saved me from missing important appointments. It also helped me be a better employee because I was able to find mistakes that could've potentially been very costly to the companies that I worked for.
Double-checking teaches you how to pay more attention to situations and people. When you learn how to sharpen those skills, you will get more opportunities to help not only yourself but also other people who might miss something important because their mind is somewhere else.
So, always, always, always double-check.
Double-check with the other person that the plans you made are still on.
Double-check that you paid for rent.
Double-check that you included cucumbers on your grocery list.
It never hurts to double-check, and it only takes an extra 10 seconds (most of the time), but it saves you the hassle of going back and trying to fix what was missed. And that fix might be an easy task, but sometimes it can be very costly and time-consuming.
14. Learn How to Say "No" and Set Boundaries
This is something that I still struggle with, but I have definitely learned how to control it better.
Since it's in my nature to want to help people, I used to put other people's needs above mine. This also played itself in relationships of all sorts. You can only imagine how self-destructive it all became. Instead of helping myself first and then others, I would help other people and not make any time to take care of myself.
As a result, my self-respect and self-worth went down the drain.
The victim mentality that I had also didn't help with stopping this vicious cycle.
I was asked to cancel any plans I had so that I could go and help my family instead. That happened on a consistent basis. I kept doing things I wasn't happy doing because I didn't have the courage to say "no," thinking that saying "no" would disrespect the other person.
While I was in a relationship with one of my previous partners at the time, I was asked to build my future and our relationship around his life without considering what my dream life actually was and what I wanted my life to be like.
I realized that I was investing more in other people than they were investing in me. And it took a lot of self-awareness and courage to recognize that it was happening and that I wasn't okay with it. I then had to learn how to communicate with the people in my life about the things I wasn't okay with.
With time, I learned that it is OKAY to put myself first before anyone else.
I learned that it was NOT a selfish thing to do, regardless of what many people in our society today think.
When you take care of yourself first, you improve your overall well-being, which gives you the energy, strength, and empathy to help others.
Setting boundaries with people in your life can actually improve your relationship with them and increase your value in their eyes and your eyes. You are a gem just by being alive, and if people don't respect that (most likely because they don't respect themselves), then you are, by no means, obligated to keep taking in this treatment that devalues your life.
15. Stop Overthinking and Break Free from Your Prison
I LOVE analyzing situations.
In fact, at one point in my life, I wanted to study Criminology because I was so fascinated by uncovering hidden links and patterns.
It's something that I've been doing unconscionably throughout my childhood until my teens. And throughout my teens, I found myself diving into the negative side of this spectrum, which created a gap between myself and my intuition.
I started to OVER analyze and OVERTHINK events, situations, and behaviours. I guess what I was trying to figure out as a very intuitive person is why people's actions didn't match their words. Or rather, why I felt certain energy coming from them, but their actions were completely different and not aligned with that energy. The need to justify how it all related to me was very strong.
And then, I learned the following lesson that completely changed the game for me: People do things, act out, and say things because of themselves, not because of you.
That is how I learned to stop overthinking. As soon as I realized that humans see the world only from their perspective, and how they present themselves (whether they're aware of it or not) is only a reflection of their own self-image, all my worries and fears vanished. Let me explain.
If someone decides to walk away from your life, aka, break up with you (whether it's a friendship or a romantic relationship), it has NOTHING to do with you and all to do with them.
This person might have some fear. This person might not know themselves well enough and what they want. Or on the contrary, this person might realize that the friendship/relationship does not bring value to them anymore.
Whatever the reason is, it has nothing to do with YOUR VALUE as a person. And you should not, by any means, think less of yourself because of other people's actions.
That is how I freed myself from my own prison.
I stopped letting other people dictate what my value is. I stopped giving importance to what other people thought. And instead, I started to focus on what I thought about myself. I stopped wasting my energy thinking about why they did what they did.
When you release the need to know everything and control situations and people in your life, you free yourself from dangerous thought patterns and the prison you created for yourself. And then, you start to learn how to trust - yourself and the universe.
16. Be Brutally Honest with Yourself
Words matter. In fact, words carry energy with them, and when I realized that, I made sure I stopped exaggerating when I talk (I used to do it for dramatic effects), and I made sure I truly meant what I said. Instead of feeling bad for not being able to get ready fast, for example, I learned that it's better to just be realistic and face the truth (which is that some things take time).
It's very hard to look at the way you talk and the words you say, and realize that you are not always impeccable with your words. It takes courage to be brutally honest with yourself and your self-talk. But you know what? It's so liberating to finally face the truth, accept it, and not judge yourself for it.
By practicing honesty with myself and with the words that come out of my mouth, I learned not to commit to things I didn't feel like investing my time and energy in. I used to have a hard time saying "no" to people because I did not want to disappoint anyone. But once I started to put myself first (read point #1), it became easier to say "no" because I was committed to speaking my truth.
At the same time, when I say that I am going to do something, I say it because I really mean it, and then I follow through. It works even when I talk about dreams and goals. I first think about it, check in with myself that it's something I really want to do, and only then put it into words.
Eventually, putting things into words became a commitment in itself because it allowed me to stay accountable for what I said I was going to do. I highly encourage you to examine what you haven't been honest about with yourself and other people and come up with a plan to change it.
17. You Are in Charge of Your Own Happiness
Relationships have been one of the greatest teachers I got to have. It looks like I learn best from "hands-on" experiences. And although they are very effective, they can also be very painful.
One of the biggest lessons that I learned about happiness was realizing that I was expecting one of my previous partners to give me all the happiness in the world. And when you put so much expectation and pressure on someone else, and he walks away, that happiness walks away with him too. Only later on, I realized how dangerous it was on my behalf to expect someone to be my main source of happiness. I guess I had a hard time figuring out for myself what made me really happy.
It did take me about a year to figure out what I wanted to try out and explore — what I thought might bring me happiness and joy. And let me tell you, that year was very fulfilling and rewarding. Taking time for myself to figure out how to become in charge of my own happiness was one of the best things I could've done for myself. Not only that I became a better friend, but I also became a better partner in my following relationship because I did not expect him to fill up my happiness jar - I already knew how to do it all by myself. In fact, we were adding magic to each other's already-full happiness jars. In other words, we were enhancing each other's lives instead of being the only best thing in each other's lives.
You are the only person who is living your life, so don't give your superpower away to someone else and let them decide how to use it.
18. It's Better to Be Kind than to Be Right
This lesson was a tough one to learn because being right was always very important to me, especially since fairness is one of my core values. I fought for fairness in any environment I was in, and it was hard to realize that sometimes there are things that might be even more important than that.
One time I was at a Costco parking lot, waiting for a car to leave so I could get its spot. But then, this van pulled up and the driver was giving me death stares, signalling me that it was his spot. He even told me that he was there first. I knew I was right, and I knew that I was the one who got there first. I knew that the guy was lying. But after seeing how stubborn he was and how angry he was getting, I let him have it. I realized that it just wasn't worth my energy getting mad over a parking spot. Yes, I was right about having that spot, but it was more important for me to save my positive energy, so I chose to be kind than to be right.
I cannot explain how often this different way of thinking helped me. It helped me to improve my relationships with others. It helped me to overcome arguments that were driven by someone's ego. And it helped me to create higher and more positive energy around me.
Being kind goes a long way, and it's up to you what kind of person you decide to be.
19. Don't Assume
Assuming is such a dangerous rabbit hole to go down in, but unfortunately, so many of us do it more often than we think.
We assume that our friends and family know us well enough to know what we want for our birthday. We assume that people know how to behave in social environments. We assume that the person we made plans with weeks ago will remember our meeting. We assume that what we talk about makes sense to everyone. We assume that we have all the time in the world.
But what I've learned, thanks to The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, is that you can never assume anything. Not only that, but it is also not fair to the people in your life for you to assume that they can analyze everything, memorize, notice, remember, and always know the right thing to say. That results in putting too much pressure and high exceptions on others which will eventually result in many disappointments.
The best way to overcome assumptions is to communicate your thoughts and feelings straight up with honesty and respect. Double-check (point #13) with the person that you are meeting up with that he/she is still good to meet up. Tackle the difficult conversations with your partner at the beginning. Do check-ins with the person you are talking to make sure you are on the same page. Take care of important things today.
When you learn to stop assuming, you learn to become more empathetic. You realize that not everyone is like you, and that's okay. You also learn to accept others for who they are, which is an incredible lesson in itself that allows you to connect more with people.
I learned all of this the hard way, and it cost me so many unnecessary fights, arguments, disappointments, and energy. But I can't even describe how powerful the effect was as soon as I learned this lesson. All my relationships changed dramatically and I truly changed as a person.
20. Common Sense Is Not So Common
I can't believe I'm writing about this, but I had to include it because it's so true! Common sense is really not as common as I assumed it to be (point #19). I think it's the word "common" that threw me off this entire time.
I used to get really worked up when people did not act in a way that made the most sense to me, especially in detrimental situations. One time, someone's inability to judge how dangerous a situation was, almost cost me my life.
I was at a swimming pool with my sister, and at one point, we both were almost about to drown. I was holding her since she didn't know how to swim, but I ended up sinking, and I didn't have enough arm strength to keep her above the water. The lifeguard in the pool saw us almost drowning and signalling for help, and he did not come to save us. Luckily, my friend saw this happening, and she jumped in the pool to help us out. I walked by him afterwards and told him how bad it was on his part not to jump in and save us, and he told me that he wasn't sure we were actually almost drowning. That's an incredible example of how uncommon common sense can be. But something like that can happen even in very small ways, like not closing the door behind you when you walk into someone's house.
Although there is one way of behaviour that is expected by "most" people, not many people think of it as "the most natural" way to act. So instead of making assumptions about this, it's better to not expect anyone to react in the way that makes the most logical sense to us.
Simply communicating with someone about your expectations can help prevent unnecessary misunderstandings in the future.
21. Generosity Goes a Very Long Way
Being generous is something that I was taught from a very young age by my grandparents. Only later in life, I realized the effects of generosity, and since then, it became something that I try to do consistently.
You see, noticing those opportunities to be generous requires you to learn to observe your environment. And it really doesn't have to involve grand gestures. It can be something like holding the door for someone or picking up something off the ground that a person dropped.
When I found myself exhibiting generosity towards other people, not only that I felt like a superhero, but I also knew that I just created a ripple effect for the other person to act in the same way towards someone else.
In third grade, my homeroom teacher taught us the core of the snowball effect. She asked us how could we change the world. We, as kids, felt stumped on that question because we thought that you had to be in a position of power like being a prime minister to even think of changing the world. Then she taught us that we could change the world just by a simple act, and she demonstrated how that one simple act could touch an entire community, then an entire city, and then an entire country. That moment felt like magic to me. As soon as I saw how everything was connected, I knew how far a simple act of generosity could go, and it lit my little heart on fire. I only started seeing the effects of this realization later in life.
After seeing the effects of this, my mindset changed. And when it changed, I started focusing more on giving even when I thought I had nothing to give. When you are determined to help and be generous, you always find ways to do so, even if you don't have the money or the tangible resources to do it. Sometimes, a smile can go a long way.
22. Allow Other People to Experience Growth
I have to admit that as the oldest sibling in the family, I tend to want to show my brother and sister "the right way" of doing things, or the "proven way." But I also had to learn to just let them make their own decisions and let them learn from their own personal experiences.
I remember that I used to get frustrated with people in my life because I felt that we were not on the same level of growth. I really wanted them to share the same realizations that I had about life, and when they didn't, we used to get into disagreements.
But I learned that I couldn't change anyone and that I couldn't speed up my growth process or someone else's growth process. It was also not my responsibility to try to do that. I was faced with two choices: either not get into conversations that would result in a conflict with that person or go in separate ways. When it came to romantic relationships and friendships that devalued my life (see point #14), I chose the second option, but only after making some mistakes first.
I believe that each person in this world has lessons to learn throughout life. Although lessons can often hide in mistakes, without them we cannot experience personal growth. In fact, lessons help to shape our character and get us one step closer to the highest version of ourselves.
23. Learn to Listen
Listening was not one of my strengths for many years. As soon as I learned how to talk, I would talk all the time only around people I felt comfortable with. Then I branched out and talked with anyone who was willing to listen. My listening skills got lost somewhere in there. I believe my thinking was that if someone wanted to say something, they would just say it and not wait for me to give them an opportunity to talk. Clearly, I was so wrong.
The more introverted people came into my life, the more I realized that they needed to be given the opportunity to voice their opinions. Their natural state is to draw back and listen, but don't be mistaken because their mind is just as active as an extrovert's mind, they just need to feel engaged in the conversation in order to feel comfortable voicing their thoughts.
In our society where self-expression is very encouraged, it's also equally important to WANT to listen to other people instead of just waiting for them to finish what they have to say out of politeness, and then go back to saying what we wanted to say. I was definitely guilty of that many times before. The minute I became aware that I was doing it, I trained myself to stop acting that way.
There's still so much to say about the importance of learning HOW to listen, but this time, I'm going to sum it up with just one sentence by the Dalai Lama:
"When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new."
24. Don't Take Things Personally
Growing up I never wanted to disappoint anyone or make anyone angry. And when I found out that people were mad at me, I did anything I could to fix the problem. In the meantime, I didn't realize that I was creating another problem in the process, which was disappointing myself.
As a teenager, I was told many times to "stop taking everything so PERSONALLY," but I just didn't know how to stop caring for what everyone thought of me. I made decisions based on what I thought was right at the time, but I just dreaded the idea that my actions somehow hurt other people's feelings, and many times, they did.
As the years went by, I became more selective about whose opinions I cared for more, but the idea that "I might have done something wrong and that's why this guy doesn't want to date me," was torturing me.
And then I found the wisdom that I was looking for in the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, which I mentioned in point #19. In the book, Don Miguel Ruiz mentions that the core of everyone's thoughts, decisions, and actions is rooted in themselves. In other words, people say things and do things only because they go through something internally with themselves. When I realized that I was never the root cause of people's disappointments and rejection, I felt so relieved.
So when you have that knowledge, you take away your responsibility from the situation and you give it to them. As a result, you live a more peaceful life because you no longer try to fit everyone's description of who you should be. And then you give yourself permission to be you, UNAPOLOGETICALLY!
25. Thank People More Often
As kids, we were taught to say "thank you" whenever someone did anything for us. But there's another part to this equation, and that's the idea of saying "thank you" before somebody does something for us. Doing so that way only increases the chances that what we ask for will actually happen. When we put good energy out there right off the bat and release our expectations of the outcome, that's when those magical words really come into effect.
It can show itself in small ways like thanking someone for their time (before they have given you their time), and it can be as big as thanking the universe for the dream life that you are working to manifest.
I started noticing how it was working on a bigger scale when I was in Israel a year ago. I went there to take care of my grandfather until I could find someone to take care of him 24/7. Almost every day, I had to deal with his temporary caretakers, doctors, nurses, appointments, and agencies that were working on finding a 24/7 helper for us. It was a lot and pretty overwhelming at first. But no matter who I dealt with, at any point in time, I made sure I thanked them even before they were able to help. And what I saw was that people were more likely to go the extra mile to help, even if they didn't have the answers for me. I just couldn't believe it, and I was so grateful for that.
That's when it clicked - when people feel appreciated, they will almost always go above and beyond in doing more than they've been asked to.
When you say sincere "thank you," not only that you make the other person feel better and respected, but you also invite more positive events into your life. I am a big believer of what you put out there (in the world), you get back. Once I started saying these two magical words more often, I opened the door to receiving more kindness and goodness into my life.
26. Enjoy Where You are at Even If it's not Where You Want to Be
I feel that this lesson is something that I keep learning every step of the way, but it was very important for me to include it. To let you in on a little secret, I am actually experiencing it right now. But before I jump ahead, I'll first explain what that even means.
When I first moved to Canada, in 11th grade, I was not happy about the change in my life. I kept thinking about the past and what I had left behind back in Israel. I was struggling with focusing on building a life in Canada. But once I stopped resisting where I was at in life, and I tried to embrace it, beautiful things happened. I was able to take photography classes and telecommunication classes in high school. I played sports and was on the high school soccer team and the field hockey team. I made really good friends and met people from all around the world. I was the co-editor of the yearbook committee which helped me build some leadership skills. Of course, all of this didn't happen all at once. It took me time to experience it all, but I stopped focusing on what was and I started focusing on what is.
The same happened to me when I started a new job after university and moved out of my parents' house. And now that I moved to a different city, in a different province, I'm again at that point of starting fresh. But what I've learned is that everything good takes time to happen, so instead of focusing my energy on self-pity and on how hard new beginnings are, I choose to focus on enjoying every step of the process.
Balance is the key to everything. Being too hung up on the purpose will prevent you from seeing the small stones on your path, but focusing too much on the stones will make you forget why you started walking in that direction in the first place.
27. Spend Money on Things that You Actually LOVE
I used to spend money on things that I loved at that moment. I didn't think about whether or not they were practical. I didn't think about whether I had already anything similar at home. I just bought something that sparked joy in me at that moment. But many times, on the next day or in the next couple of weeks, I experienced buyer's remorse. Suddenly, I had that realization that the money that I spent could've been spent on something else — something that I needed/wanted more, but had no idea about at that time.
And so I decided not to spend my money lightly without thinking. I also decided that I rather have fewer things that are mediocre, and more things that spark joy in me. These things, whether it's material stuff or experiences, needed to stand the test of time. And by that, I mean that I needed to be able to envision those things making a difference in my life for more than a day or a week.