“The capacity to learn is a gift; The ability to learn is a skill; The willingness to learn is a choice.” ― Brian Herbert
Even though I finished my studies a few years ago, I consider 2017 the year of graduation. Last year was the year I finally figured out my place in the universe, what I want to do and experience in life.
For the first time ever I feel ready to face life and everything it has to offer. Summarizing last year, I can’t help but wonder how easy would it be if I learned these philosophies at school.
My final year of studies was straightforward. I knew exactly what I have to learn, how much I need to study and when I will receive my degree.
I was never a fan of traditional education, where the only objective is to pass the exam. It took me six years to finish a four-year university. In those six years, I focused on my personal growth, traveling and taking action rather than memorizing pages from books for the sole purpose of obtaining a piece of paper that tells me I am ready to get a ‘’real job.’’
The only reason I obtained my degree was to close a chapter of my life.
Nevertheless, I remember the day I graduated. My mom was proud, and she was crying tears of joy, my girlfriend and my friends were happy, and I had a solid reason to celebrate.
Although my opinion of school and traditional education was still the same, I have to admit I was proud to hold a degree and I was overjoyed I finished my studies.
Little did I know, that schooling never stops.
You see, a school of life has different rules than our formal education system. There are no requirements, no spring breaks/holiday seasons and certainly no formal degrees to let you know you are ready for the game of life.
Life lessons are not usually very clear and you have to dig deep down, find meanings and form beliefs that will empower you to keep going.
In many ways, 2017 was the best teacher I could ask for. The lessons and life philosophies it taught me will serve me as I make 2018 the best year of my life.
These philosophies are universal and should serve you as a reminder on your journey, regardless of the path you decided to take.
Philosophy 1: The Pursuit Of Happiness Is Fool’s Errand
“People are so busy chasing happiness — if they would slow down and turn around, they would give it a chance to catch up with them.” ― Harold S. Kushner
This is the trap that many of my friends and peers got themselves in. We often say, ‘’I’ll be happy IF I do XYZ.’’ or ‘’I’ll be happy WHEN I do XYZ.’’
The problem with the above-mentioned statements is that we put a condition on our happiness. Happiness is a state of being and not an external stimulus. By doing this, we are effectively postponing happiness for later. In many cases, later never comes or, even worse, it doesn’t play out the way we wanted it to.
I spent half of the last year chasing happiness.
Even though I had a clear direction, for some reason, happiness was always one step in front of me. Only when I sat down and looked back at what I managed to achieve on a personal and a professional level, I felt true satisfaction and pride.
If you are like me and you feel like putting your happiness on hold, take a step back and look at the year behind in the rearview mirror. It’s true that you won’t move a lot by constantly looking behind, but sometimes it’s necessary to take a moment and learn from the past.
Philosophy 2: Gratitude Puts Life Into Perspective
‘’You know, Logan… this is what life looks like. A home, people who love each other. Safe place. You should take a moment and feel it.’’ ― Charles Xavier
The emotional scene between Logan and professor Xavier always makes me shed a manly tear. As our protagonists are on the run from the private army and the evil doctor, their only task is to survive. The last thing on Logan’s or Xavier’s mind is to take a moment and appreciate loved ones and the only ones still left.
The reality is that we too live in a hectic world with more to-do lists than ever before.
Our lives may not be in danger, but our attention is scattered and, more often than not, our minds are overwhelmed; It’s easy to get lost in things that don’t really matter.
I spent the last day of 2017 on an island and the first hours of 2018 with my girlfriend sitting on the beach, drinking Corona and looking at the ocean. In the background, not far away from us, grand fireworks were taking place.
It was one of those moments that you’ll remember in 20 years and say:
‘’Oh, I am glad I did it.’’
Laying on that beach, relaxed with no worries on my mind, I had every reason to be grateful for the experiences so far. I have achieved so much more in just two years than I could have ever imagined. For the first time ever, I was grateful to be alive and living my life on my terms.
Gratitude changes perspective. It tells you how far you‘ve come already and who you‘ve become on your journey.
Rather than writing 50 reasons in a journal for being grateful in life, show appreciation to those who were there for you when they didn’t have to.
Cherish the moments spent with your parents or kids because life flies by too fast. Appreciate people who have been there through thick and thin, through highs and lows, and show them you don’t take them for granted.
The act of gratitude doesn’t have to be dull or boring, and it certainly doesn’t have to feel like one more obligation throughout the day. Instead of forcing yourself to be grateful and repeating the same gratitude practice day in, day out, you can make the act itself exciting and fun.
A good friend of mine has a gratitude jar. Every time he feels the beauty of life, or experience a special moment with friends and family, he makes a little note and puts it in the jar.
‘’Making gratitude notes is like taking a screenshot of your life’s highlights. We all have them, but not many people pay attention to or, even worse, bother to remember them.’’
Another benefit of having a gratitude jar is the possibility of using it every time life hits you in the face with a brick. In those moments, when you feel down and nothing seems to be working out for you, having a reminder of all the good things you have will help you to snap back and face the adversity.
Moreover, you can make a weekly/monthly ritual and read the notes.
Intentionally focusing on the things that make you feel good about yourself is like performing a manual calibration on your journey. Keep your brain alert by noticing new things that make you smile, happy or proud.
Life has so much to offer and all we need to do is tune in and experience the magic.
Philosophy 3: Self-Help Binge Consumption Is Not The Way To Get Results
‘’Knowledge gained through experience is far superior and many times more useful than bookish knowledge. ‘’ ― Mahatma Gandhi
Working in the personal development industry helped me realize how many people are regularly looking for a way to better themselves.
I admit I am a huge believer and practitioner of lifelong learning.
Last year, I read more books than ever before. My goal for 2017 was to take my hobby and transform it into a profitable business. I knew what I had to do from the beginning of the year, but it took me nine months to see results.
I was afraid to start as I believed I needed to read more books and make a long-term strategy.
I finally made a website and started writing on medium in July. By the end of the year I published an ebook, wrote seven articles, and I had ‘’Top Writer in Education’’ badge for a while.
If only I created my website earlier, I could write more, become better at it and maybe earn money doing what I love. I didn’t do this because I was scared of change. Change of lifestyle and priorities that take me out of my little bubble.
I was telling myself and others that I need more information before I start. More books to read, more online courses to go through and more Youtube videos to watch before I start.
The truth is that you already have enough information.
Whatever your goal is and whatever you want to achieve in your personal life or business wise, the problem is not the lack of information, but the coherence of it.
Coherence comes with experience.
If you already know what you want to do with your life, stop reading books and start focusing on taking action instead. Your only goal is to take the first step towards achieving your goals.
Once you start moving in the direction of your goals, it gets easier. New opportunities will unfold, new people will enter your life and, by then, you’ll be having one of the strongest forces in your corner.
The power of momentum.
Time for motivational videos, inspirational notes on the mirror, books and online courses was yesterday. Today it’s time for action.
Philosophy 4: Stop Acting Like BS Excuse Generator
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” ― Yoda
If you continuously make excuses for yourself, eventually you’ll start doing the same to those you love the most. If you made a promise, do your absolute best to keep it. It’s better to say no to your loved ones than to grace them with excuses as to why you couldn’t keep your word.
Your word is your worth.
Looking at this principle in relation to our own idea of success is interesting.
One of the reasons we don’t take action is because of excuses. More importantly, we rationalize in order to feel ok with not doing what we said we were going to.
If you made a decision, don’t second guess it every step of the way. Once you start doing that, paralysis by analysis will hit your right in the face. Months and years are going to pass by, and you’re not going to do anything to get closer to your goal and, eventually, you’re going to give up.
I know, because I did this for the better part of 2017.
Don’t look for all the obstacles that could have happened down the road, but rather focus on the skills you need to learn once you take the first step.
My first step was to make a website. I had no idea how to do that as I had to learn how to buy a domain, choose a hosting and integrate it with WordPress. I finished everything in 5 days.
Was it ideal? No. Was it working? Yes.
I stopped telling people I’m working on my business until I set up the foundation. I wasn’t saying that I’m writing articles when I was binge watching the second season of Daredevil.
I only let the world know once I published them.
Definition of success should be simple: Do what you said you’re going to do; Or don’t talk about it until you do it.
It would be a lot easier if we learned throughout the traditional education how to be successful, instead of studying to get a ‘’nice job’’ and expect a ‘’good career’’.
Maybe it would be better if our professors taught us how to create these in the real world. Instead of spending sleepless nights on learning for the exams, it would be much simpler to receive a success blueprint on the day of graduation.
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy as no one can tell you what you should specialize in.
The willingness to learn is a choice — the one that you have to make for yourself.
Now is as good a time as any. One year is more than enough to turn your life around. Life will teach you anyways. What you choose to learn and the meaning you give to those lessons is entirely up to you.
Let this year be the best teacher as you define your success.
Take more action than ever before, ditch the excuses, and stop every once in a while to see just how far you’ve come. Appreciate everything you have now as you anticipate the best life has to offer.
P.S. I would love to hear the lessons you learned last year that made you who you are now. What are the principles you’ll live by in 2018?
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