“For of all the sad words of tongue, or pen, The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!'” ~ John Greenleaf Whittier
At 45 years of age, I expected more clarity than this.
Truth be told, I always figured I’d have my sh*t together and sewn up fairly tight by now.
What I’m realizing, however, is that this notion is unrealistic and detrimental to a healthy mindset. Societal expectations have a tendency to harass me in vulnerable moments—taking the form of a little devil sitting upon my shoulder—spouting should-be timelines and other troublesome nonsense into my ear.
This journey called life—filled with its many twists and turns—constantly tests my beliefs. Just when I think I have things figured out, the harsh lessons of reality knock me off of my horse and into the muck once again.
Some notions stay pretty consistent, however. These lessons have led me down cherished paths and into various adventures. They keep me grounded, thriving, and joyous. They are the secret to a happy life as I see it, and today, I want to share them with you.
Here are seven things that I think I know about life:
1. Stay soft
The jagged edges and experiences that this life brings to us can easily make us harden. Trying to protect our precious hearts from pain sometimes involves closing off our emotional pathways and vulnerable bits. Try to maintain awareness of these closures and opt to keep them temporary, when possible.
I believe that our soft, sweet, and sensitive places are our most treasured voices, and they want to keep singing. They want to be heard and rejoiced. Acknowledge them, bow to them, and respect them as often as you can.
2. Choose love
One of the grandest parts of this human existence is love. Giving it, receiving it, rolling in it. You’re going to hear this often in life, and I have found it to be 100 percent true. The home base for all of our loving experiences is self-love.
Learn to love yourself.
Acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses and find love within all of them. Talk to yourself in the mirror, write yourself love notes, send yourself flowers. Have a love affair with your very own self, and be lavish with your words and emotions.
All those things you want to hear: say them to yourself. It may feel odd at first, but once you embrace it, it’s honestly quite fulfilling. Then pour some of that love back out into the world—to your children, your partner, pets, friends, family, and strangers. Send it into your work, the earth, and anywhere you feel called to. Share that beautiful love and you will see it circle back around.
This next part is vitally important, so please listen closely. When you need to refill your own cup, be sure to make that a priority. In other words, take time for yourself.
3. Explore your fears
Find the things that scare you and dissect them. What causes these fears to exist in you? Are they valid? Are there ways that you can combat them and how might it feel to do so?
For a long time, I have lived by this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” At the time I adopted it, I found that my fears were taking the driver’s seat, and I was not down for a lifetime of that.
By evaluating the situations that frighten us, both logically and emotionally, we determine if we should push through the fears and find what hides on the other side of them. This has led me to know the strengths and capabilities of my own self more than anything else.
4. Find your passions
Explore the things that spark an interest in you. Completely immerse yourself into the experience of finding the pieces that make you unique, regardless of what others think or do. Only you can forge this particular trail, and staying on course with your own true path is up to you alone.
Let your candle light the way back to the places that call to you. Embrace the adventures—and also the emotions—that arise as you go. Learn to listen to your inner cues and guidance and run like the wind, straight into the open arms of your passions.
By foot, bike, car, plane, or even through books—I implore you to explore the nooks and crannies of this big ole’ world. It’s easy to get caught up in the reasons not to, and even easier to exist in the small safe bubbles we have created for ourselves.
Traveling reminds us just how vast the world and its people are. You will learn so much about yourself by leaving that “safe bubble zone” and finding a bigger scope to see things through.
6. Never stop learning
Learning and discovering new things knows no bounds. Our resources are so vast and accessible, now more so than ever. Use them and soak up all that you can. Feed your mind the nourishment that it craves. It will keep you young, inquisitive, and in awe of all there is to learn in this one small lifetime.
Remember to use your time wisely. Being bored is a nonexistent thing for those of us who continually thirst for both knowledge and growth.
7. Take risks
Those things that you really want, but are afraid of. Those ideas that make your stomach turn into nervous anticipation—do them. Oftentimes, they become the guideposts for important changes and experiences, when looking back at the course of our lives.
Live big and live boldly.