There are certain tried-but-true platitudes that you hear all through your life – you’re only young once, seize the day, value relationships more than things, and so on.
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However, some truths are so familiar that it becomes too easy to let them go in one ear and out the other rather than applying them to our lives. Doing that can cause you to look back on your life with tremendous regret.
Live these lessons now rather than looking back in twenty years and wishing you had.
1. Take Care Of Your Body
You don’t have to exercise for eight hours a day and live on a diet of kale and quinoa, but be sensible about your health. Make an effort to eat right and exercise, keep up with those regular check-ups, and follow through with the doctor any time you have a symptom that worries you.
Just like your car is more likely to make it to 150,000 miles if you maintain it properly, your body is more likely to feel hardy and healthy in your seventies and eighties if you take good care of it now.
2. There’s Never A Perfect Time
Too often, people are tempted to wait for the “perfect” time to make major life decisions – marrying your sweetheart, having children, leaving that job you hate, going back to school, and so on. The trouble is that there’s no such thing as the perfect time.
If you have an anxious or over-analytical nature, you will always find reasons why the current time is wrong even if it’s the best time that’s likely to come along in your life. If there’s a step that you truly want to take in your life, don’t wait for the perfect time; just wait for a time that won’t be catastrophically bad.
Otherwise, you may waste years waiting for a perfect time that will never come.
3. Don’t Compare Yourself To Others
There will always be someone with more than you, and there will always be someone with less. If you continually compare yourself to others, you’ll feel smug and narcissistic when you’re around the people who are less successful, intelligent, or attractive than you, and then feel bitter, insecure, and envious when you’re around the people who have more of those qualities.
What’s more, being around people with more will give you a sense of defensiveness and wounded pride, which will make you even more arrogant in the presence of those with less because you want so badly to prove to yourself that you’re not stupid or ugly or a failure.
Don’t fall into that trap. Judge yourself based on where you stand in relation to your own values, not where you stand in relation to the people around you.
4. All Love Is A Choice, Not A Feeling
You’ve probably heard that love is a choice rather than a feeling when it comes to romantic relationships. Sometimes you won’t feel dizzily in love with your partner; you may even find them downright annoying when he is dominating the conversation for the hundredth time or when she leaves every light in the house turned on.
However, if your relationship is going to succeed, you have to choose to act in the most loving possible way even when you aren’t feeling it.
What people don’t talk about as much, though, is that all love is a choice. Sometimes you don’t love your siblings, your parents, your kids, or your best friend. If your religion or philosophy asks that you love all of your fellow human beings, that probably seems impossible.
Just as with your spouse or partner, however, loving those people is a choice. If you expect to love them only when you’re in a cheery mood with them, your relationships will not be as fulfilling as they will be if you choose to love them every day.
Catholic saint and nun, Therese of Lisieux once described a sister in the convent who “has the faculty of displeasing me in everything,” and she made the choice to smile whenever she saw that sister, to gently change the subject whenever they were about to argue, and to be especially friendly to her.
The sister never dreamed that Therese disliked her and, in fact, commented on how nice it was that Therese liked her so much. Therese gained a level of peace and fellowship in her life that she would not have had if she had not chosen to love.
5. You Aren’t The Center Of The Universe
We all know that people aren’t going to care about us as much as we care about ourselves; at least, we know that we should feel that way. However, this doesn’t mean that people aren’t going to help us or try to please us as much as we’d necessarily like.
It also means that people generally don’t think about us as much as we think about ourselves. This might feel like a blow to the ego, but it’s actually liberating. If you say something embarrassing and spend several minutes agonizing over how everyone thinks you’re an idiot, you can stop worrying; chances are that everyone else has forgotten about it by now.
People aren’t staring and scrutinizing your every word and action any more than you’re scrutinizing every word and action of the people around you. You don’t have to spend every second of your life feeling anxious and judged.
6. Small Steps Matter
If you know you need to make major changes in your life – living a healthier lifestyle, say, or getting the training you need to pursue the job you’ve always wanted – it can feel like a mountain that you’ll never climb. Know that it’s okay to start small.
If the only way you can make your life healthier right now is to eat a salad with lunch, that’s better than nothing. If you can only afford to take one class this year to get you to that degree you want, that’s one less class you’ll have to take next year.
Breaking a huge task into smaller steps isn’t complacency or settling for less than your best; it’s the only way to get from where you are now to where you want to be.
7. You Make Yourself Happy, Not Your Circumstances
Sometimes you know exactly why you’re unhappy and what to do to fix it. If you’re in a toxic relationship, for instance, you might know that your life will be happier when you break it off.
If all you have is a vague and general sense that your life should be better and someday something will magically change to make it that way, the change needs to come from you and not from your circumstances.
If you’ve been miserable for your whole life but think that a new relationship will make you happy, chances are that it will just make you a miserable person with a new relationship. Focus on being grateful for and happy with what you have.