As my life swirled out of control upon the end of my marriage, house and career, I fell into a state of hopelessness and despair. “What is the point of it all?” I asked myself. “What even matters?” I wondered. “Is there life after heartbreak and loss?” I pondered.
Getting out of bed was difficult. I found myself in tears more than I had at any point in my life. The tsunami of personal, emotional and financial failure was overwhelming! It was also my life’s greatest wake-up call.
Since that time 7 years ago, I’ve done everything I can to regain a grip on my life. After reading hundreds of books; reflecting for hundreds of hours with therapists, coaches and healers; writing thousands of words and implementing dozens of life hacks, here’s what I’ve discovered.
Although it came with much pain, suffering and tears, I’ve distilled my life’s biggest learnings into these 7 lessons.
These are 7 simple personal growth lessons I’ve learned in the past 7 years.
1. The insides matter more than the outsides.
We spend almost all our younger lives focused on building our careers and providing for ourselves as adults. We are busy either making money or learning a trade to make us money. There’s nothing wrong with being able to support ourselves but this focus does ignore everything else that matters. Professional and financial success matter but how about emotional resiliency, interpersonal relationships and self-worth? The latter matter much more but we don’t spend any time developing these qualities.
I’ve learned that the insides matter more; this is your operating system that determines the quality of your life.
Learning to be in touch with your emotions, to pick yourself up after falling and to develop healthy relationships with people is what matters for long-term happiness and success.
2. Habits trump dreams.
People tell you to have dreams and follow them. You revisit your dreams during the new year and maybe a couple other times in January. You set some goals and intention for the year but all of this quickly falls away. People tell you to visualize your dreams and write them down.
None of this is effective.
If you truly want to achieve your dreams, you must focus on daily habits. Daily habits are vehicles that will move you closer to your dreams. A simple check-off of daily tasks you accomplish over a long period of time will get you much closer to your dreams than will audacious dreams.
Small, doable habits you accomplish every day beat tricky and complicated habits you have no motivation for.
3. Less is more.
We fill our lives with so much crap. We look for better housing, better jobs, better relationships, better vacations, better cars, better friends, better partners, better things.
We spend all our time bringing more into our lives.
However, I’ve found that the opposite is true for personal growth.
You must get rid of the stuff in your life. You must lower the number of people filling your life. You must let go of the career or job that is overwhelming you.
Create space to breathe.
Fill your life with what truly matters to you.
4. Busyness is over-rated.
Along the same lines, people in the West are addicted to staying busy.
You’re too busy to take care of yourself, too busy for your health, too busy for your sanity.
People take pride in filling their schedules and lives to the brim. Busyness isn’t cool.
Busyness is for people running on the treadmill of social pressures and pursuing external achievements.
Create more time for yourself so you can do what you really want to do. Don’t be a slave to time.
5. Today matters more than yesterday.
After failure and loss, we want to stay in the past.
You know why?
Because that’s where we are most comfortable.
It’s like knowing the end of a movie. You would rather watch or be in a movie whose ending you know rather than be in a movie you have no clue about.
We would rather be comfortable in the certainty of our past than venture out into an unknown future.
However, this comes at the expense of our lives today.
If you live looking backwards, you’re robbing yourself of what today holds. Live for today; appreciate what’s in front of you. Be mindful of what you’re experiencing and imagine today is the only day you have left.
Live more, reminisce less.
6. Intuition and values are your GPS.
We spend much of our lives focusing on what other people think of us.
I did this for the longest time … until my life fell apart.
When I had nothing else to lose and everyone thought I was heading down the wrong path, I gave up on what everyone thought.
As the black sheep of any community or culture, you have tools to guide you – tools that you never rely on.
Most of your life, people have used loud noises and chatter to drown out your intuition.
You’ve never learned that your values rule your life.
Spend some time getting a better understanding of your gut feeling, your intuition.
How do you listen to it? How does it speak to you?
Also, discover what your values are.
What are your life priorities? What matters to you? How do you find meaning?
Spend the rest of your days both aligning with your intuition and making decisions according to your values.
7. You don’t have to wait to be happy.
You don’t have to achieve x, y, z to be happy.
You don’t have to hit a certain career point or find that special someone to be happy.
Often, we wait our entire lives to be happy. Why not be happy today?
I’ve concluded that happy is as happy does.
You don’t have to wait some day for happiness. Start figuring out what makes you happy today and do that. To be happy, you don’t have to move, marry, get a raise, succeed in your business or get that degree.
Look for the simple pleasures in life that trigger happiness in you; a walk, a pet, a phone call, a visit with a friend, a date, a movie, giving back, cooking your favorite dish, picking up a new hobby.
Do whatever lights your soul on a daily basis.
Schedule it to get daily shots of happiness.
For more personal growth lessons and insights, check out my books at the Amazon store here.