Lessons From The Year That Was

2017 has parted and left us with memories to remember it by. A mix of experiences; some life-altering, some mundane, others downright questionable. But hail the (albeit controversial) law of averages, it all turned out okay. And we celebrated that, in ways that appealed to us. For me, it was important to know what I was celebrating. Was it the achievements? The pitfalls? Or was it just the mere passage of time?

After giving it some thought, I decided to celebrate my newfound understanding of the ways of the world.

Here are my observations.

Six Basic Needs

According to Tony Robbins, all of our thoughts, motivations and actions can be traced back to a handful of basic human needs: certainty, uncertainty, significance, growth, connection and contribution.

Even from this, we each have a top three need list that explains why we did what we did.

Think about it. If you find someone posting excessively on social media, maybe their top three includes the need for certainty and significance. Know a thrill-seeking friend who loves jumping off cliffs on the word go? Maybe one of their top needs happens to be uncertainty.

What need(s) made you say or do the last thing you said or did?

Gratitude is Useful

Gratitude I’ve realised, is both a handy skill to cultivate and a rewarding attitude to have.

It’s important to be grateful for what you have right now. More often than not, we find ourselves existing in one of two states of being: the desire for something, and the pursuit of it. But we forget to add a third state; acknowledging that we finally have that something. Which is weird, because the only reason we desired it in the first place was to feel accomplished in some way. If we spend absolutely no time in appreciating that we did indeed achieve what we had set out for, it renders the entire exercise useless.

What do you have today that you found yourself wishing for last year?

Comparison is Useless

Too many of us are guilty of comparing ourselves with people who are visible to us, physically or even virtually. Common comparisons pertain to lifestyle, desirability, professional achievements, personal milestones and even vacation itineraries. But the basis for these comparisons do not make sense. We compare the outcomes without considering the variables that led to those outcomes. And since the variables are not in our control, there is no way to accurately make that comparison.

Say you’re comparing your body with Dwayne Johnson’s. First, you would have to burn as many calories and gain as much muscle per unit body mass and per unit hour. Next, you’d also have to consume as many calories per unit body mass. Maybe his diet works for his DNA. So you would have to ensure that your diet suits your DNA. For that, you’d need a nutritionist who believes in the exact same food science principles as his nutritionist does. The list is endless.

There are too many variables to match, and it takes way too much effort to try. Are you willing to make that effort? If not, the comparison of the result makes no sense.

What are you not considering in your comparison with others?

Appearance Matters

How we look thanks to genetics isn’t in our control, but how we choose to look is. First impressions are often made in the first two seconds, and they’re known to last much longer than that. Appearance together with body language convey to the world remaining pieces of information about us; the pieces that we don’t explicitly state with words.

What people think about us based on how we present ourselves might not always be accurate or even fair. But given the strength of visual cues and the limited frequency with which we make contact with most people, how we came across when they last saw us is what most people remember about us.

What are you telling the world about yourself without actually saying it?

Filters are Important

Part of how we choose to project ourselves is what we choose to say. It is tempting to say everything on our mind to anyone in front of us. No filter, no censure. But the question to ask is, does our opinion have the potential to enrich the conversation, or are we talking for the heck of it? A bad situation is when it happens to be the latter and we also end up offending someone’s sensibilities: zero gains and burnt bridges.

Gauge the audience, assess the context and then reveal your most relevant self. It’s not being hypocritical, it’s just being selective.

What are you revealing about yourself, and to whom?

Must We Always Know The Answer?

Every once in a while we face a dilemma where multiple realities exist and there is no definitive answer or solution. It all just…exists. This happens both in professional spheres and in personal relationships. Our rational mind takes over and tries to objectify and quantify everything into bullet lists, but try as we might, nothing makes sense. It can get confusing, frustrating, uncontrollable.

So don’t try.

I’m sure the most determined can claim to be able to find the answer, but must we? Is it really worth it? Will it matter in retrospect? Most of the time the answer is no. And so it’s alright to let things be, to not crack them open. To leave the riddle unsolved.

Sometimes, the beauty is in not knowing and being content with it.