One and a half years ago was a milestone for me. I turned 40. Three years ago was another type of milestone. I was diagnosed with a rare and chronic illness. Five years ago was yet another milestone. I got married on a beach in Maui, blissfully ignorant of what was to come, to an incredible and giving person, giving that would be tested with the news we would receive just a few years down the line.
Would it surprise you that I am able to look back and tell you that I am at one of the happiest points in my life? Would you be shocked that I have taken things in stride and adjusted in ways that have shocked people who know me best? Well, prepared to be shocked, because all of this is true. How did I accomplish such zen and acceptance? I learned a great many things over the last few years that I wish I knew when I was a kid. Things that would change the way we handle the challenges that life throws us and makes us grateful and adaptable in ways that we never thought we could be.
1. Be grateful for every day that you have that you are content.
There will be days that are tough and days where you are angry. There will be days where you feel terrible and days where you feel regrets. However, there will be many more days in your life where you will be content. While content may not be a feeling that most people are shooting for, when you are faced with real adversity, content is something that feels amazing when you experience it. Content is something that you can take solace in and a feeling that can keep you going through the hard times you will face. Be thankful for content, it is something that many will struggle to feel often.
2. Find something that you can appreciate in each day.
While you may have days that are hard, there is always something that you can find to be appreciative for. It can be as simple as that warm and cozy cup of coffee while you slowly started your day reading the paper. It can be as significant as watching your partner and your children laugh and play, and be grateful for the health and well-being of each and every one of them. Keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to have something tangible to look back on when you think you are having a day where there is nothing that is worthy of your appreciation. These journals will remind you of the things that happen on a regular basis you have in your life, and that there is something each day, no matter how small, that you can be appreciative for.
3. Don’t be concerned with what people who are not important think of you.
We spend so much time concerned with what others think. How they judge us, how we look, what they think of the job we are doing, what this person I don’t know is thinking of me. We give so much time and energy to people we don’t know, people we may never see again, and people who have no important role in our lives. What we seem to forget are the people that do matter, the people who struggle and live with us every day. We forget that it is their opinion we should care about, it is their love and support we need. It is their admiration or help that we should be seeking. We let these other people take up so much time and energy, that we often forget where that drive should be directed towards.
4. Don’t hang on to anger and grudges.
Nothing takes the joy out of our lives like holding on to incidents and hurts that have happened to us. We spend so much time thinking about the wrongs that have been done to us, the people that have hurt us, and the things that were taken from us. If we stopped and were honest with ourselves, we would realize a few difficult truths. First, we would realize that the people who have done us wrong are not spending their time fixated on us. They have moved on. Second, we are filling ourselves with negative emotions which leave little room for the positive ones. If we truly learn to let these things go, we will be amazed at the room we have for positive experiences and feelings to come into our lives.
5. No one is going to believe in yourself if you don’t.
There is no fairy godmother, and no magic mentor, who are going to pave the way for you in your life. No one will believe in yourself if you don’t. You have to be the one who knows that you have strength and greatness in you. You have to be the one who knows that not only can you overcome obstacles that come your way, but that you have fortitude to achieve great things despite them. When someone does not think that you are capable of achieving something, it doesn’t matter, because you know you can, and that is all that truly matters. When you believe in yourself, and that you can overcome anything that comes your way, you will learn strength you did not know you possessed.
6. Look for the good in things.
While there may be setbacks and adversities that come your way, there is always something to be gained from them. Whether it is a lesson to be learned, or having to readjust your goals and expectations for your life, there is good in the challenges we are faced with. We learn that we have strength we never knew we had. That we are capable of quickly changing our lives when we need too. That we can readjust what we thought our lives might look like for new versions, versions that are just as exciting and rewarding if we choose to let them be.
7. Learn what is really important in life.
Many of us have our priorities and gratitude out of line. We focus on the car we want, the promotion we dream of, the vacation we have been dreaming of. We need to center our time and attention on what really matters, our partners, our pets, our safe home, the memories that we make there. We need to learn to learn to slow down and enjoy the moments that matter, to take the time out of our schedule for the people and things we love. We spend so much time and energy in the wrong places, that we have no time left for the things and people that really matter. We need to learn to have greater balance in our lives, more gratitude, and more openness to change. Having this balance may require a dramatic shift in the way that we do things, but the benefits far outweigh any losses we may accrue. Balance and peace is its own reward, one that we should all strive for.