I absolutely love reading what are essentially ‘shopping lists’ of peoples wisdom, advice and guidance. I turn to them when I need a quick pick me up and to remember that which is vital and that which is irrelevent in the grand scheme of things.
None of the advice I’m going to list below is anything new. It’s all tried and tested, well worn cliche, but the words spoken most often are the ones which carry the most meaning and relevance.
Here is my list for this year so far. I hope it picks someone up the way countless lists have picked me up before!
1. Personality and character are not one and the same.
Some people have truly magnetic, infectitious, amazingly contagious vivacious personalities, but their morals and intentions are questionable at best. It’s easy to be blinded and dazzled by a brilliant personality, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that a person will have a strong character. ‘The bad guy’ can be curiously charming, the school bitch strangely engaging but these are just shallow surface characteristics and not a representation of the real person.
2. Your dreams, wishes and desires are never all that far away.
When you’re sitting still and silent and wishing for something will all your heart, that thing never seems further away but the gap between simply dreaming, wishing or desiring, and achieving and fulfilling that dream, wish or desire is ridiculously narrow, so much so that once you have the thing that you’ve always wanted, you can still look back over the chasm between having and not having and you might still catch sight of your old self dreaming.
3. You are always capable of conquering the things that scare you most.
Sometimes we are left in awe of how brave and courageous other people are. We think that courage is something other people have, not something in ourselves, but truthfully no one is more competent or capable that you are, even if they appear to be. What you want is not simply ‘not for you’. Every person has the potential to achieve their dreams and face up to the things that scare them.
Nothing in life belongs to us. We create meaning through semantics, through symbols, through titles. We create ownership, we create sense, we create logic, but nothing is ours. Not a single person or a single object or a single place ever really belongs to you, and we only realise that once we lose the thing we thought was ours. There is nothing to fear about this because everything is bound together here on earth and everything is connected in some way, but nothing belongs to us and we belong to nothing. There is great freedom in this. Don’t fear it. Clinging and digging in hurts, but letting go eases. We can all let go of any thought or any feeling at any time.
5. Life is not a check list.
Too many of us rush through life as if bound by a stop watch. We think if we can just bundle in x, y and z within a certain amount of time, we will attain contentment, fulfullment and success. We will have found a way to define our lives through a purpose. I can’t count the people I know who follow a preconceived formula of what equates to happiness, and worse, those who rush through that formula without enjoying the moments.
The formula goes something like this: school, uni, partner, marriage, kids.
Now so much of my blog chastises this way of life and I don’t mean to appear out of allignment with traditions and culture, but this simply does not equal happiness for all, and if all follow it, many will be deeply disconcerted and dissillusioned. Similarly, sometimes the steps follow at different times. It’s like jumping on stepping stones; you might have the baby before the wedding, or the marriage before the degree.
Eke out your own path to happiness. Mix up the steps. Don’t rush. Take time. Be still. Enjoy the moments. Think about what makes YOU happy and not what has made other people happy. Ignore the expectations and desires of others for you. Seek out happiness in the ways and places and people that you find it. Everything has a right time and a right place in every life. Don’t force things.
6. Fear is like fog. It dissipates once you enter into it.
Every person is stronger than they could ever imagine. You only realise how strong you truly are once you look back at the things you’ve achieved, the traumas you’ve been through and the situations you’ve survived.
7. You can be proud of the little things
Waking up on time, doing the dishes, smiling at a stranger – the little things are just as important as the larger, grander acts. The bigger picture wouldn’t exist without the smallest gestures.
8. It’s not love that’s scary, but loss
Nobody is afraid of love itself but of the losing of love, but if you can be a source of love despite your fear, you will truly feel alive. No one ever looks back and regrets that they’ve loved, even if they were hurt, wounded or mistreated. The giving of love requires fearlessness and bravery but also freedom from expectations and conditions. Never regret that you’ve loved. It’s rare and precious and most of us don’t experience it enough. Don’t let fear of future loss stop you loving now.
9. Treasure the butterflies that land on you before they fly away
Never regret what you’ve lost or given away. We all lose things; people, things, money. Be happy you had them but don’t regret that you’ve lost them. Never hold on too tight to things that were never truly yours. Titles like boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wive indicate ownership, but we never own another person. Let go of that which doesn’t belong to you and treasure what is given to you for however long you have it.
10. Don’t let nostalgia forget future
It can be great to reflect on the past and recall fond memories. It is also essential to learn from past experiences, but do not spend so much time in the past that you lose sight of the future. The present moment and what we do with it indicates what becomes of our future. If you let the present moment disapear, you aren’t actively shaping or engaging your future potential and possibilities.
11. Life can be hard, but don’t let it make you hard
Life can be horrifically traumatic at times and in a multitude of ways; poverty, disease and illness, death, abandonment, infidelity, lose of love, boredom, abuse – the list is endless. Many people conquer the most adverse of situations and experiences with a smile on their face and compassion in their hearts. Others weather immense storms simply to become bitter, cold and cruel. None of us can predict or premeditate what hand life will deal with us, but do not let past experiences or the cruelty of people or the misfortunes of your life so far spoil and corrode your future, because there is always the chance and opportunity for peace, calm and healing. Some of the greatest, kindest and strongest healers have overcome the most harrowing and horrible of lifes experiences.
12. Do what you love
If you like drawing, draw. If you like swimming, swim. Even if you can’t make a career out of it, do it. So many people I speak to give up on a passion or interest because it didn’t end up becoming a career. It doesn’t need to make you money. If it makes you happy, make sure you find a place for it.
13. Listen to your inner child
Laugh at silly things, trust people, speak your mind, use your imagination, be creative. Some of our best attributes flourish in childhood and diminish as we grow. When you want to give up, remember you were once a child with dreams. NEVER give up on that child and never let them down.
14. A partner won’t complete you
If you feel like half a person, you’ll always feel like half a person. You’ll be a leech and parasite to any partner because they make you feel secure, wanted and alive, but like an addict you’ll always want more until you leech your source dry completely. It’s a massive cliche, but completeness can only be found inside of yourself, enhancement can be found externally. Your world won’t end if you lose a partner, nor will it magically transform if you find one – not if you can’t be happy with who you are.
15. Nobody really cares…
So what if someone gossips about you for 5 minutes? Truthfully, it amounts to boredom and insecurity. Nobody really cares all that much so don’t make their molehills your mountains.
16. Ignore the clock (when you can)
When you’re a kid an hour is forever, darkness indicates the end of playtime and sunshine indicates a new day. The clock doesn’t need to dictate what you do and when you do it.
17. Be proud of who you are and respect what you are not
Most people are obsessed with categorising; male, female, black, white, Christian, Muslim, etc etc. These categories do exist for a reason, but unfortunately most people tend to resent what they are and long for what they are not. One of the ways this manifests that I witnessed recently on my travels is the tendancy for darker skinned peoples to bleach their skin and lighter skinned folk to tan their skin. Appreciate and feel pride for what and who you are. Do not covet what someone else has or is, because you are beautiful exactly because you are different to them. It is the differences, not the similarities that set you apart and make you unique. If you’re fair skinned, you were made that way for a reason. Ditto to the dark skinned! This is applicable in all areas; women have great strengths and men have great strengths. Do not feel envy for what you aren’t. Feel pride and gratitude for what you are.
18. Find a role model and be a role model
People underestimate how important it is to have someone to look up and something to aspire to. Seek out the right role models, and when you have gained or succeeded in any way, be a role model to anyone lost or confused behind you.
19. See the world
You don’t need to travel for ten years but see places and know people. In this way, you can break lose from the shackles of culture, customs, religion and society and figure out who you are and what you believe in through your own preferences. Learn how others perceive love and dating (the Thai sniff kiss is to die for!), gender roles, perceptions of the world, cuisine and food, the concept of time and entertainment. Allow the world to enhance you.
20. DO IT, DO IT, DO IT
All you have is now. DO IT
21. Treat your body like a temple, not a dust bin
Bad food, bad drink, bad partners, bad habits, we all indulge in a little badness, but treat your body with the utmost respect whenever you can. Eat well, drink well, sleep well and exercise well. You have a lifetime in which to abuse or sustain your body, the only home you’ll ever truly have. Treat it with as much care as you can.
22. Feel pleasure
I don’t know why humanity loves demonizing pleasure. Pleasure energises, relaxes and enlivens. Do not be ashamed to feel pleasure.