(Authors Note: Once you hit a certain age, there comes a point where you stop thinking about the past, and the level of regret you once had would slowly evolve to appreciation.
However, there are times when I wish I had learned a few things a bit early in life. Imagine if there was some sort of self-improvement class I could have taken in school to prepare me for the real world, that would’ve been sweet.
Alas, the reality is that 90% of what is mentioned in this article were never discussed in schools or universities.
Truth is, in Universities we were meant to study, memorize and take an exam on things that doesn’t really matter when we eventually live our lives outside of the academe.
I mean seriously, how much information, exam and whatnot do you still remember twenty years after you graduated from college?
How much of it sticks in your brain?
How much of it influenced your personality and decisions in life?
Isn’t creating better decisions better than being defined by the grade one earns every semester?
I mean, do grades and honors really matter in the grander scale of life?
But, before anything else you might be asking.
Why even bother creating this list?
I created this list because I believe that it makes better sense to create a road-map in life, a process in developing and achieving one’s optimum potential.
I believe in a process to MAKE BETTER DECISIONS.
But there is a story behind this list, and this is how it all went.
The Oracle of Delphi once called Socrates “The most knowledgeable man in the world”, upon hearing the Oracle's statement he did not agree with it, he then went on to state the following:
True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.
The first time I heard this contradictory bit of wisdom was when I was a teenager around the age of fourteen and it was imparted to me by one of my teachers.
I wondered; is it possible that the most knowledgeable man in the world does not know anything?
This made such an impression on me, that I decided to apply the Socratic statement to my strategies for learning.
Upon analyzing Socrates' statement I have come to the conclusion that no matter how knowledgeable you may be, you still do not absolutely know everything.
Ergo I came to the conclusion that the list below are the most crucial lessons I wish I had learned either in school or at least learned about earlier in life, things I learned from others as well as from literature, movies and whatnot.
I came across these lessons the longer I walk this earth as I met people and other cultures, some I came across the internet and others I was blessed enough to ponder on in my meanderings and daydreaming.
Last question: Why 32? Why not shorter? Like 12 or 10? Honestly, I am still trying to answer that question myself, but I guess it comes with the quality of the lesson I was able to come across and find meaningful, so the number could still differ in the near future.
(To note, this is a work in progress and as such I am still compiling more ideas and lessons to say the least.)
Lesson #1: Give Value First, Get Value Second
There is a common idea that you should be given something before you give something back. However, you will find that giving value first will usually go a long way and help you get even more value in return.
Over time, you are really going to start getting what you give. While it would be nice to get something for nothing, this is something that very rarely happens.
Increasing the value that you receive can be as simple as making sure that you are taking the time to increase the value that you are giving out.
This could be everything from money and love to opportunities and kindness. This website is a classic example of this, whereas I made it a point where I never waste the time of the person visiting it.
You can be sure that you will learn more and come out a better person every time you visit Buenavente.com
There is a quote that says:
If you keep tabs on what you do in comparison to what is done for you, you are planting a seed of bitterness.
If you have true joy from giving regardless of what you receive or not, you will find true happiness.
Lesson #2: Incorporate exercise into your daily routine.
The importance of this has only recently become apparent to me. Especially when I turned thirty, joints crack much often, cramps become more painful, and you soon find out that your batchmates in college has gout, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Being healthy is where happiness really begins, being able to build a strong and healthy body can help you in building just about anything in life.
Remember the adage: “Health is wealth?”
And yes, it is true that we are what we eat but mostly our genes play a huge role in our metabolism. (More of this in Better Eating)
Lesson #3: Everything should be written down. Keep a diary
If you have a leaking bucket memory, you'll want to take this one to heart.
If you don't have a habit of writing ideas down when they come to you, you will forever lose some of the great ideas you will ever have.
Writing helps you to focus on what is important to you.
Also, in this digital day and age, we’ve lost the art of writing notes. (My handwriting doubly suck nowadays that I had to rewrite almost everything I just wrote. Good thing there are pens where you can erase the ink)
Turns out writing wires our brain differently and makes us better human beings.
You may be under the impression that keeping a diary is a childish thing, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Keeping a diary improves your writing and thinking skill, whether you are a writer or not, this is a skill used by very successful people on a daily basis.
Lesson #4: Money is what least matters.
There is a saying that goes:
Do not become dependent on money or possessions being as in the broader scheme of things they are not remotely important.
Yes, we do need money, but as we chase more money we slowly become slaves to it. We forget what is most important in life and that is TIME.
We can create a lot of money, but we cannot create more time. And when time runs out you will realize that money is just a tool to make life better.
Lesson #5: Resolve to take things less seriously and
Have a good laugh at yourself. Find joy in small things. Having Fun Has Value
It's easy to get wound up when things go wrong. However, most worries never materialize into real circumstances.
You might not even remember the things that seem like major problems now in two or three years.
You will suffer needlessly if you take your own emotions, thoughts, and even yourself too seriously.
Lighten up a bit and spend some time relaxing instead. Your mood will certainly improve and your life will seem to be lighter.
Life is a marathon, not a race.
There is always a time to be serious and take things seriously but never take yourself too seriously.
Studies have shown that happiness makes one live longer.
It makes one healthier and more intelligent too. In fact, there is even a course at Harvard University about positive psychology.
Therefore, whenever you are stressed, laugh things off and move on.
You may think this is a cliche and you are right, but I quite fancy this cliche being as it is the truth.
People do not realize this and believe that happiness is found in truly big things, this is in no way even close to true happiness.
Sometimes people who are content are happier, than people who are trying to look for happiness.
A sense of humor isn't just something that looks nice on a dating profile. It's actually a powerful tool for defusing tense situations, lightening moods, and making friends.
Even when you take the social elements out of the equation, being able to lift your own spirits is a very good thing.
Negative emotions can be toxic to both your mind and your body.
Flushing them out by amusing yourself and staying light hearted makes it easier for you to come up with creative solutions to your problems and put them into action.
Lesson #6: Keep in mind that, majority of your fears only exists in your imagination.
This is a major one. You will most likely never experience any of the things that you fear the most.
Your mind is great at creating monsters.
When bad things do happen, they are generally not as bad as you imagined them to be. When it comes to things that are a waste of time, worry tops the list.
Of course, this is an easy thing to say. But, you can release worry from your daily thoughts by recognizing that very little of our fears actually materialize in our own lives.
Pay attention and rein in your reactions.
A lot of the limitations and barriers we worry about only exist inside our own heads. If you think you can't do a certain thing because you're too old, too tall, or too bad – or whatever – then you might find it impossible to do that thing. Never doubt, though, that you're the only one these limitations matter too.
Most of the limitations we struggle with form from our mistaken ideas about what others care about.
Nine times out of ten, it's the self-questioning struggle with inner limitations that draws negative attention, not the root issue you worry about.
You might also mistake neutral or positive reactions for negative ones because you're so certain people won't approve of what you're doing.
Once you learn to let go of theoretical limits like this and just pursue your goals, you'll discover that very few people are actually interested in being judgmental.
When you realize that you're not actually in danger of being judged for everything you do, you gain tremendous freedom to pursue your true passions.
Lesson #7: If you are not truly in love do not get deeply involved.
You find a person to be to your liking and say “well why not”?
If this is not real love, then don't be ridiculous, you are in love or you are not. PERIOD.
Entertaining the idea if perhaps you are, is not only unfair to you, but to the person you think you may be in love with as well.
Lesson #8: Make yourself happier by expressing gratitude.
When we are young, we are told to feel grateful for what we have.
When we take the time to really ponder how much better we are because of the people in our lives and the things we have, our negative moods simply cannot stand up to the pressure.
We become extremely happy when we count our blessings.
It's also a great way to keep focusing on what is important and helps us to retain a positive attitude.
Once you are more grateful for the positive things in your life, you will, in turn, help to make the people around you much happier.
And, that increases your own happiness. It's a grateful cycle that is worth cultivating.
Again, in everything give thanks. Speak words of gratitude for everything and everybody whenever you get the chance.
Lesson #9: Leave something behind. Move, Create Something, Experience Everything!
Leave something behind, not as a legacy for your enjoyment, but as an addition to the lives of others.
Compose a song, plant a tree, write a book, build something, anything.
This will not only provide you with a great sense of satisfaction but will also be there for others to enjoy.
Move, Create Something, Experience Everything!
Don't just sit there, do something! Doing nothing brings about exactly that, NOTHING.
It does not matter how much you think you know because in the end as Socrates said we do not know anything so never ever stop learning.
Lesson #10: Make Use of The 80/20 Rule
This is a great way to make better use of your time.
Also referred to as the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 rule is basically telling you that 80% of the value you receive comes from 20% of your activities.
When you stop to analyze, this means that most of what you are doing is not as useful or important as you think it might be.
A whole bunch of things can be dropped, and you can find ways to focus your time and energy on areas that are going to bring you more fulfillment and happiness.
Lesson #11: Surround yourself with people you love.
This includes your family and dearest friends, family is not just who you are born to but can also be created.
Not everyone comes into our lives to stay, even our own family is not an exception.
Lesson #12: Every experience in your life is packed with opportunity.
Put yourself out there, take risks and don't be afraid.
No matter what kind of experience you have, you can always find ways to grow and learn from it.
Think of the mistakes, failures, and negative experiences in your life as pathways to becoming a better person.
In fact, they can often be more powerful than success because you can learn unexpected things that are not obtainable when you succeed.
Ask yourself every time that you have a negative experience: What did I learn out of this experience?
Indeed, you can create many positive experiences out of a single bad one.
It is always how you view your experience and make meaning out of it, that matters.
Every day is a new day, learn something. Having an active and attentive mind is important, the brain must be trained to do so.
You do not always have to complete a book a day or something extreme just have a learning attitude.
Learn from your mistakes, from those who surround you, from nature, etc.
Just be open to learning.
Lesson #13: Be a leader.
Many times, people waste time looking to each other for guidance, if this is the case, then step up and lead the way.
This is not something that requires a title given to you by someone, it merely requires you to step up to the plate and leading the way.
Lesson #14: Comparisons are not worth it. Don’t beat yourself up.
It's easy to fall into the trap of comparing your life to the lives of others. Your brain is trying to make you feel good for the moment.
However, once you start comparing, it is a matter of time before you begin to notice that other people have nicer things than you do.
And, then you will start feeling bad about yourself. You are letting the outside world control how you feel once you begin to compare yourself to other people.
This practice leads to an emotional roller coaster ride.
A better way to make those comparisons is to compare yourself now to how you were before.
Look at how you have grown, what you have accomplished, and how far you have come.
It's not easy to do at first, but it will bring about more internal feelings that are positive and help you develop a more powerful feeling of inner stillness.
Again, make it a point to compare your new self to your old self, be a better version of your older self.
Self judgement is a factor that can contribute to quitting early.
When we connect with our mistakes in an unhealthy way, we consider them a part of our identity.
We beat ourselves up about them, in hopes of scaring ourselves into never repeating these mistakes.
But this is wasted time, energy and focus.
A focus that could be spent in adjusting our efforts and improving our attempts.
This is a habit that has to be dropped early in the game, if you hope to get ahead.
Lesson #15: Remember, your Attitudes Change your Reality
Everyone has heard the pointer: “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” ― Wayne W. Dyer
This is great advice and often helps us to catch our breath, but few of us realize just how significant this really is.
The thing that I noticed is that when you adopt a positive perspective you actually see the circumstances and conditions of your environment differently.
Why is this?
Simple, when you walk around thinking you are defeated, pretty much everything you see will be clear evidence supporting your assumption.
But if your attitude is positive, if you believe that in every difficulty is an opportunity then you will find those opportunities.
You will look at the very obstacles you considered insurmountable and chuckle thinking “Well, funny, I never thought of this before?”
This is tied in to tip about your RAS (more on this below), but this point needed extra emphasis so it gets its own topic.
Basically, your RAS will be helping you find and define the things you are most focused on, if you are looking at the magnitude of your apparent obstacles, you will quit before you begin.
But, would you rather spend your valuable focus, examining the confines of your prison or finding an escape?
When we look at the obstacles, it is easy to think that our possibilities of survival are small, but if we focus on the individual steps we will need to take in order to surpass these present obstacles we will soon find we are more than up to the task.
Lesson #16: Quit complaining! Adversity is an advantage.
One of the biggest ways to waste your valuable time is by complaining. Change your situation or quit your complaining about it.
Complaining does not change things, it only magnifies the problem.
Search for solutions instead.
Don't throw your hands up in surrender, stick to your guns.
Read up on people like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr.
They are people who made adversity work for them.
Lesson #17: Assume Rapport
Getting to know a stranger can be a very interesting experience, but it can also be stressful.
A lot of us get concerned about what might be going on behind the new faces we meet, and it can make for an awkward situation.
To reduce the nervousness, assume rapport. This means that you will approach this individual as if he were a friend you have known for a long time.
By assuming you are best friends, you will approach the interaction on a positive note rather than the assumption — the incorrect assumption — that the new fellow is judging you.
Lesson #18: Be kind and be considerate of others.
This does not mean that you let people push you around, it is possible to be strong yet kind.
Avoid insulting others and acting superior, this only reflects negatively on you.
Being kind makes you more likable, it also makes you a better human being.
We are all dealing with our own lives, bills, family issues, personal problems, etc.
The world does not revolve around you and you are not the only one who has things to deal with.
Just look at Japanese people and how clean their environment are.
That is because they are considerate of other people and they make themselves responsible in taking care of their environment.
In school they even have their own students clean the entire school and cook their own lunch!
Lesson #19: Avoid having a judgmental attitude.
A different choice is not necessarily a stupid choice.
You do not always know where someone is coming from and what they are going through so it is not wise to just judge anyone according to your standards.
Try being in their shoes for once and hear them out, you might arrive at a different conclusion if you do so.
Lesson #20: Instead of Being Reactive, Be Proactive
If you are always reactive, you will not get a lot of stuff done.
Sitting and waiting for someone else to act is never going to get you anywhere. You must be proactive if you want to be able to get things done.
When you stop to think about it, it is always the people that are proactive and the go-getters that are getting where they need to be in life.
Practical actions can help you get the ball rolling and it can save you from a whole lot of waiting around.
Not only that, but you will also find a lot more pleasure in the things that you do because you are going to have so much power over your own life.
Instead of sitting back and feeling as though you are being run by others around you or of outside forces, you will have the ability to take life by the horns and really enjoy everything that you do.
The outcome that your life has, is all about what you put into it. Never wait around for someone else to give you direction or to show you where you should be heading.
Lesson #21: Do not be affected by the opinions of others. It's Alright to Make Mistakes
Someday we all will reach the same fate, death.
Is it really worth the time you are alive to care about what others think or say about you?
Stop wondering what the endgame is, there is none. Just be and enjoy the journey that is this life.
Most of us hardly remember learning to walk or talk, let alone sit up straight without support. But if we could, we would applaud the tenacity we had.
We flopped this way and that, slobbered plenty, but after a couple years of sticking at it, we were exploring the world on the strength of our legs and couldn't keep quiet about it.
So, why is it that when we get older we suddenly develop insecurities about our natural learning process?
Our mistakes suddenly cause us to be less tenacious and we are met with a lethargic attitude about our so-called limitations.
It is of course an easier path to be reactive and move only when external influences act for you; but the alternative is far better.
What if we took the plunge and shot to miss? At least we would get a good idea of how close we can get to it, right?
Many times, it is the fear of what others would think that causes us to shrink — but, remember, everyone else is deciding whether or not they can face their own set of challenges and not as concerned with amusing themselves at our expense as we think.
Besides, it is the one who gets out there and makes a fool of himself a couple of times that learns the dance the fastest.
Lesson #22: Don´t play the blame game.
Why point the fingers at others and blame them for this or that? Why be hard on yourself and blame yourself as well?
Punishing yourself or others is unhealthy and will not be beneficial to anyone.
The past is the past, let go of it.
The past is there to educate us, but not for us to dwell in.
Leave it where it belongs, in the past.
Lesson #23: Learn About Batching
Any tasks that are routine or boring in nature can create a whole lot of procrastination on your end as well as build up a level of anxiety.
Batch these activities up and have all of the tasks lined up to do in a row.
This will help you do them a whole lot quicker and you have less start up time as compared to when you are spreading them out.
For example, clean off your work space, answer all of your emails, load the dishwasher, make important phone calls and then put together your grocery list for later on.
Lesson #24: Apply The Parkinson's Law
Things can be done a lot quicker than you think and this is a law that states how tasks will expand in time as well as complexity – all depending on the time that you are setting aside for it.
If you are going to come up with a solution within a week's time, the problem may grow during the time that you are working on that solution.
Focus the time right away on looking for a solution and give yourself plenty of time to solve the problem at hand.
You will then be forced to focus on the best solutions to your issues.
While the result may not be as perfect as you would like, 80% of the value will come from 20% of your activities anyhow when based upon the previously mentioned (Pareto) principle.
Lesson #25: Don't look for a job, pick an industry.
Think about what you love to do and invest the time it takes to be the best you can in that area.
If you jump around from one industry to the next you will never grow in one area.
Start from the bottom and patiently work your way up doing what you love.
Lesson #26: Use your Reticular Activating System (R.A.S.) to Reach Your Goals
Have you figured out your RAS yet? It is a part of our brain that is meant to help us achieve the things we are yearning for.
This focus system allows us to achieve our goals by focusing on them rather than the many distracting considerations in our environment.
So, keep focused on the things you want, the things you don't want, certainly don't need your attention.
This can be applied by simply setting a list of goals you will need, to reach much larger goals in your future.
Review them frequently to keep your direction fresh and your motivation high.
Keep reminder notes in places where they will keep you on track.
Lesson #27: Self-Acceptance Is Important
If you have an inner voice criticizing every little thing you do, it's impossible to feel comfortable and happy.
You need to approve of the things you do and the way you behave if you're ever going to be satisfied and relaxed.
This isn't just a matter of being comfortable, really: The peace and confidence that comes from approving yourself are vital to cultivating the inner freedom you need to set your own goals and achieve them.
Not approving of yourself, is often the biggest goal you must overcome in order to achieve personal growth. There are plenty of people who have all the ideas and all of the tools they need but feel held back BY THEMSELVES.
If you're in this situation yourself, your problem is that you're bouncing off barriers to your success in your own mind. You have mental blocks that tell you, you don't deserve to achieve or improve.
Other barriers might take the form of self-criticism, telling you that you're not capable of the growth you want. You might be telling yourself that self-improvement is for other people, not for you.
Alternatively, you might get off to a tremendous start in your program of self-improvement before hitting those barriers later on. You grow frightened of breaking into unfamiliar territory and your progress slows to a halt.
Before you can change in a positive way, you have to let yourself know that the change is a good thing and that you approve of it. It's not outside approval you need, but approval from within.
This will start breaking down those mental barriers and make it less likely for you to sabotage yourself.
Give it time; you can't switch from disapproval to approval overnight.
Lesson #28: Anger Doesn't Help
There are very few situations where you can put anger to any constructive use. It's worth remembering that anger generally hurts the person experiencing the emotion more than the one it's directed at.
Remind yourself of this when someone else's behavior makes you angry. They're probably not going to care; you're the only one getting hurt.
Either come up with a constructive way to solve your problem – like talking it through with the person – or just flush that emotion away and get on to more important concerns.
Lesson #29: Stop Feeling Entitled
Parents naturally want the best for their children, and it's perfectly normal for your mother and father to tell you that you deserve great things. This attitude needs to be left in the past with your other memories, though.
If you continue through your adult life convinced that the world somehow owes you something, you'll be perpetually frustrated and disappointed.
To turn this situation to your advantage – though no one is going to hand you anything, virtually any achievement can be yours provided you're willing to work for it. Be an active builder of your world, instead of passively waiting for it to hand you something better.
Lesson #30: Be Prepared for Adverse Reactions To The Unexpected
Self-improvement virtually always involves changing things about the way you behave. This is very likely to get noticed by the people around you.
Some people may ignore it, and some might choose not to mention it. Some people are going to speak up, though, and not all of them are going to want to cheer you on.
Bear in mind that these sorts of reactions usually says a lot more about the person voicing them than the subject the person is speaking about.
They're essentially using your new behavior as an excuse to sound off about their own issues. This is perfectly normal and it's nothing you should obsess over.
Remember, opinions from outside don't have any influence over you unless you let them. Most people with something to say about your new behavior will turn back to their own lives quickly enough.
Lesson #31: Dedicate Yourself to Consistent Focus
What you choose to concentrate on will have a tremendous impact on how you feel about your life.
Focus on your problems and you're likely to construct a sad story about yourself, the perpetual victim.
Focus on positive factors and opportunities to grow and you can tell an entirely different story.
A lot of people concentrate on problems and negative possibilities to an obsessive degree. Just because this attitude is common doesn't make it right, or helpful.
It's a conscious choice of worldwide, and you can choose to focus differently. Like a lot of mental attributes, your worldview is something that builds up over time.
Make an effort to focus on the positive and it'll get easier as it becomes more familiar.
Lesson #32: Self-indulgence Isn't Constructive
As discussed above, it's important to arrange your attitude and your outlook so that you can be generally happy. That doesn't mean that you should set up pleasing yourself as your highest goal. If you'd like a better way to feel good about yourself, try helping others.
Improving yourself is about sharing positive energy with others, not just generating it for yourself. Being helpful is almost always a win-win scenario. You give someone a hand, making them feel better, and you feel better yourself.
It's also an excellent way to perpetuate ever-increasing levels of positive energy. The people you help will look for ways to reciprocate later on, helping you or others.
At its best, a habit of helping others generates an upward spiral that extends far out beyond the boundaries of your own life. The positive energy you share hits other people and makes them resonate, sharing their own positivity and making things a little bit better for everyone.