2018 has brought a lot of lessons our way. Whether we actually seek to learn from them, and take away life nuggets, is totally up to us. Sometimes these lessons come our way without us asking or seeking for them; sometimes they are lessons that we actively seek for.
Choosing to read this column every week, or every other week, is an example of actively seeking to learn lessons that will help navigate life better – or at least I hope I do a good job of communicating them.
The only reason I write publicly is because there’s an audience hungry for this kind of stuff – you who want to become your better selves. So to show my appreciation to my frequent readers, I thought I’d cap off the year with 5 essential takeaways from some of my articles this year. You might have read them or missed them but here they are again for you to take away and apply to your lives.
Do the One Thing
We began this year by emphasizing on doing the one thing. When you have a bunch of things you wish to achieve within a limited time frame, it is always good to focus on doing the one thing that will make doing the other things on your list easier or even unnecessary.
Extraordinary results in life are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus. So if you have a long list of all the things you want to achieve in 2019, for example, take another look at that list and begin to trim it down, narrowing your focus only to the things that matter the most. Those things are usually the foundation for everything else.
The one central thing you can definitely focus on doing that will make every other peripheral thing in your life easier to do or even unnecessary is personal development – becoming a better version of yourself. Suppressing your natural tendencies and base-self in order to reach for your ‘unnatural’ aspirations and higher-self – doing the most emotionally difficult things in most situations; choosing to take the high road, rather than to wallow in the quagmire of pettiness.
Fix yourself first before you fix the world. And this column will be here to help you with that!
Beware of the 4 Dangerous Emotions
These are: Guilt, Anger, Greed and Jealousy. Guilt means “I owe you”. Anger means “You owe me”. Greed means “I owe me”. Jealousy means “Life owes me”.
We should watch out for when these emotions start welling up within us. That’s why it’s good to focus on personal development first – it helps you to cultivate a heightened sense of self awareness.
When you feel some guilt, like you owe someone an apology or some money or some explanation for something you feel is still hanging in the air between you two, take steps to address it before it drives you apart. That’s what guilt does – it alienates you from the person you feel it towards. The antidote to guilt is to confess. Confess it before it becomes a big deal. Confess it not to God (He already knows) but to the other person involved.
When you begin to feel anger towards someone, like they owe you an apology or an explanation or reparation or gratitude that they haven’t expressed, then take steps to address that too before it leads to pride. You can quickly go from “you owe me” to “the world owes me”. The way to address anger is to identify EXACTLY what it is that the other person has done to you – quantify it if possible – and decide to forgive them for that one thing exactly, let it go and move on. You can even tell them you’ve done so, if you wish.
The response to greed is to give – give more. Don’t live by the assumption that everything you have is for your own consumption. Don’t listen to those who discourage you from tithing, for example, because that’s a good exercise that takes care of the latent greed inside of you.
And then jealousy. How do you cure this? Celebrate! Celebrate loudly at other people’s achievements and mean it! Call them up to congratulate them for getting that thing you thought you would get, the one thing you thought that life owed you. Catch yourself celebrating other people’s downfall and quickly rebuke yourself. Celebrate only the good things that happen to others and hope for the best for yourself.
To remember these 4 emotions, I rearranged the order to spell JAGG – Jealousy, Anger, Greed and Guilt. That might help you remember too.
Trust and Expect the Same from Others
This is a slogan at my place of work too, and it’s a concept that guarantees a life devoid of paranoia. Trust is a gift. There are many things in this world that we wouldn’t do if we didn’t trust the outcome – from not sitting on chairs because we don’t trust that it would stand and hold us safely, to not going to work because we don’t trust that our employers will pay us.
In my article “Who Stole the Meat?” I discussed how we are to create trusting environments in our homes, especially when raising kids. Don’t set them up to be caught and disgraced into feeling untrustworthy. Don’t count the pieces of meat in the pot with the expectation that they’ll surely steal one, and then call them out, count all the pieces in front of them, accuse them of stealing, and turn out right.
You don’t want people to feel like you were expecting the worst out of them. That kills trust between you. What you want to show is disappointment when they do wrong, because you weren’t expecting such from them in the first place. That encourages them to strive to become their better selves around you just because they know that you have raised the bar and set high expectations of themselves for them. And this is how they would relate with you too.
3 Things You Need to Thrive
A while ago, I wrote about Rich Devos (who passed on a few weeks after that article was written) and his autobiography, Simply Rich, where he talked about “The Three A’s: Action, Attitude and Atmosphere.”
In his words, “too many people fail to act because they are frozen by fear and doubt. But nothing happens until we act. Our actions stem from a positive attitude. And a positive attitude is developed when we are in, or choose to put ourselves in, the right atmosphere.”
The takeaway here is to always remember that no matter the atmosphere pervading your general environment, choose to separate yourself from negativity and unto positivity by picking, carefully, those with whom you associate. Choose friends without drama. And when those around you decide to become actors in a meaningless stage play, you just pack your bags and move on along. It is for your own good.
You Don’t Have to Be Famous
My last article, Stay on Topic, dealt with this. You don’t have to be in the spot light to know that you’re achieving something meaningful in life. We have mis-defined the meaning of success these days to mean fame and fortune. How about you re-define it for yourself to mean hitting your personal goals, to mean doing well in the essential areas of life like your family, your faith, your finances, your friendships & relationships, and your personal freedom?
When you begin to chase things outside of these then one of them, if not all, begins to fall apart. What use is a successful man outside – in terms of being in the spotlight – when his personal life is in shambles? There’s no use. You’ll only just go back home and cry yourself to sleep at night. Don’t gain the whole world and then lose your soul. Don’t be loved and respected by those who know you the least and hated and scorned by those who know you best. Strive to have it both ways or, at least, the other way round.
Bright light is enticing but you have to stay within your strength zone and within the essentials of life. Don’t chase after those bright lights and end up in a world that quickly comes crashing down on you. Inside-out! Build the inside first – your life, your home, your inner circle – and then let that take you outside – to the spot light – if it wants to.
2018 has truly been one great year. I’m glad that I got to spend a huge part of it with you, and I hope these takeaways help you as much as they help me. If you do have any lessons you learnt on your own, from your personal interactions, or even from here, that you think should be re-emphasized then please drop those nuggets in the comments. I would love for it to be a two-way street where I learn from you also.
But before then, I would love to wish you a very Merry Christmas, and a happy 2019 to come!