Inspired by Lisa Jakub’s reflections on 2015, I thought I’d offer my own. Looking back over this year, overall I’ve been more stable and positive, and I’m achieving more than I have with my life in a long time. These are the secrets as to how.
1. Ask for help
I’ve heard it ascribed to men that we tend to find it an affront to a strong, independent ego that we need to ask for help. For me, I used to have trouble asking out of a fear of rejection or criticism at not being able to take it on myself. I feared confrontation and the assumption that I couldn’t do it for myself.
We can’t do everything alone, even the greatest leaders rely on the eyes, ears, and minds of others to help them on their way. When we ask for help we gain the opportunity to learn from the experiences of others and share our own perspective. You may make a friend, and teach them something in return.
2. Be mindful of your health
It seems like common sense, but so often we neglect the small things. For years, I’d possessed testosterone levels below the baseline for an adult male. Among other health issues, doctors had said that it never posed a cause for concern.
For years I was quite a timid man. Shy, non-confrontational, avoidant, even feminine in the way I thought about and presented myself, in my wants for relationships etc. With treatment, the change was pretty rapid. Suddenly I was a calm, confident, energetic guy who took no issue with the idea of taking on the world. All this change for AUD$10 in medication. When it comes to your health, minding even the small things is worth it.
3. Play on your strengths
We all have innate abilities. Some of these become finely tuned by what we think about and dedicate our time towards.. no matter if that’s building engines, painting, or simply communicating with others. Learning a new skill can bring a sense of accomplishment, expanding your abilities while keeping your brain on it’s feet. Playing on your strengths however, means drawing from those sources where you’re most skilful. Use your hobbies toward being more happy and comfortable in life, put them to work for you, identify opportunities to demonstrate your capabilities to others and the rewards will take care of themselves.
4. Carpe Diem
Maybe yesterday went horribly wrong. Maybe the week has been a steaming pile, and you’re feeling that things couldn’t get any worse, especially when you didn’t sleep last night because you were tossing and turning thinking about it. Maybe you have a mountain to face at 1 pm and it’s so tempting to blow it off. No matter what you try, things never improve..
Well hey, I’m here to tell you that it’s your life and there’s a way out. Forget yesterday, and do what you can every day to make your life a more pleasant place to be. Your psyche, like your home, is yours to keep. Honestly, has responding with fear, anger, or negativity ever delivered you a happy ending? Can’t control your responses? Count to 5 and watch what you’re doing, listen to that little, smarter voice in the back of your head that knows the right path. Go and give yourself a chance.
5. Assume you have more to learn
There was a famous mind who suggested the most foolish are those who assume they’ve nothing left to learn. But let’s not take their word for it. A scientist might tell you that to study the world is to learn from it, and that the stage at which we might know everything as a species is impossible to quantify, if it’s possible at all due to the sheer immensity of what could be known.
Let’s face it, we’ve all met the ignorant butthead who was so sure of his own opinions and judgements because they’d been validated by his own experience. Sometimes that’s us. Consider that every experience and every encounter is an opportunity to learn more (and to become more capable.) If your mind is closed to the possibility however, you’ll be as good as a mobile phone without a radio transceiver. No wifi connection, no phone calls, a solid unit but one which won’t be hearing or gaining anything new from the world.
Take life as an on-going learning experience and you won’t need money to be a master of the universe.
6. Discuss your ideas
I will take a guess that 99% of the population of earth are capable of generating a new idea at least every 10 seconds. I’d wager the real number is much more frequent than that. Ideas can be exciting, and enticing, but sometimes not something we could realise directly. So why should we bother with them?
The entirety of human invention rests on the convalescence of ideas and reality. Ideas beget other ideas, and give us a chance to forge new connections with and between other people to improve the world around us.
I’ve never had an idea that couldn’t be further developed or enabled by sharing it with others who might grant me a different perspective. Even if that perspective was negative, it still gives you information about who is going to be interested, useful and/or supportive. I used to fear my ideas being stolen if I shared them too readily with strangers, ideas I knew that were good but I wanted to keep for myself. But it’s pretty hard to develop a product alone, and a fraud, incapable of developing his own ideas, is forever at the mercy of others’ invention. Cultivate acquaintances with those who aren’t like you – they might be able to tell you more than you expect.
7. Learn from your enemies
Returning to my point about staying open to learning from experience, don’t close your eyes to the tactics of those with whom you disagree or find repellent. I’m not suggesting to be like them, but to take note of what works for them. Why and how are they good at what they do, and do they have any expertise which you can still take advantage of, or learn from, regardless of whether you agree with them? There’s always something to learn.
8. Balance your life
One of my worst habits is to become so caught up in projects that I neglect other areas of my life (like having a social life, giving myself a change of surroundings, exercise etc.)
I think working to find a balance is necessary. I’m sure I don’t need to tout the benefits on mind and body of exercise. I find it gives me space to think and reflect, for ideas and solutions to surface. Like meditation, actively doing nothing for a while can be surprisingly useful. Make time for friends, fun, work, and yourself and the quality of each should improve.
9. Pick your battles
In the current era of click-bait, our Facebook newsfeed littered with drama and politically charged misanthropy, I’ve noticed how easy it is for myself and others to become snared in dramas, irritated by slights.. even by the comments of some faceless stranger half the world away. And for what? For those of us with strong beliefs, sometimes it’s difficult to notice when we’re being baited because the tendency is to rush in and rectify.
Alternatively, there’s some slight, some snide or unhelpful comment – malcontents sow discord and the best course of action seems to get out of their way, or let them get out of yours. Engaging or becoming emotionally engaged in every slight is a waste of your energy.
10. Life is too short to be frustrated over the pace of your progress.
So long as you’re moving forwards, your pace is irrelevant.