Life Lessons 21-25…and then some

For those of you who know me, you probably know that my birthday has come and gone over a few weeks ago! Although I had intended to finish my 25 life lessons before my birthday, my life was a little hectic in the week leading up to it (I was at a national conference during the few days leading up to my birthday and was busy at the conference).

In addition, I had a lot of difficulty finalizing those last five lessons. What did I want to say? What were the most important lessons that I learned in the first quarter of my life that I really thought were worth sharing?

There’s so many things that I could say or wanted to say that it was hard to narrow it down to only five. So, I didn’t…and I tried to figure out what were the most important things to know. Of the lessons I had in mind, what were the lessons that I would want my (future) kids to know? When I do have children, what will I teach them? What are some of the first things that I will teach them? Well, there are a lot of things we can and should teach our kids, but below are some of the lessons I learned that I know I will most definitely pass onto my future offspring.

Life Lesson #21: Be there. Each year, the catholic schools in my diocese have a baccalaureate mass the night before commencement. In the past few years, the diocese’s relatively new bishop presides over the mass. In one of his homilies in recent years, he talked about the importance of being there for others. He challenged the seniors and the congregation to live a life in which they would be there for others at all times.

Be there for your friends and family to help them celebrate when things go well in their lives, but also be there for them when the going gets tough. Hold out a hand to a person who is need, and be willing to offer a warm embrace when all someone needs is a hug.

I’d like to expound upon the part about being there others in things aren’t going so great. It’s easy to be there for others when things are going well and you can join in the celebrations. However, we must also be there for others when things aren’t so pleasant. When a friend is upset and questioning a life decision, or when they’re depressed about something going on in their life, we must also be there for them in those times of need for those are the times when they probably need us most. Anyone can be there for the good times; everyone wants to take part in a celebration. However, the real challenge is to be there in these difficult times.

Growing up, my parents always stressed the importance of being there for others especially in these difficult times. I cannot tell you how many times I went to calling hours as a child before I fully comprehended the finality of death. I know that some people would disagree with children going to calling hours at a young age, but in retrospect, I think having those experiences taught me a lot. They taught me what it meant to be there for others when they needed it most. They made it a lot easier to deal with these situations as an adult. Had I not had these experiences, it would have been a lot more challenging for me to handle these challenges.

I’d also like to think that when we find ourselves in difficult situations, we’d want someone to be there for us, so why shouldn’t we be there for others during these times?

 

Life Lesson #22: DO something that scares you.

This is a tough one and it’s a lesson that I’m still coming to terms with. I think the lesson here is not to let fear rule your life. It’s easy to have fears and to let these thoughts or worries impact your decisions. However, you can’t live in a bubble. If you avoided everything that scared you and made decisions based solely on things that didn’t scare you, I’d venture to say that you’d probably miss out on a whole lot. This can apply to anything – whether it’s entering a relationship rather than avoiding one for fear of getting hurt, or going on a crazy adventure rather than staying inside because you’re afraid of the number of things that can go wrong. As many of you know, I’ll be applying for graduate school in the fall. I think I’m beginning to have a better sense of what I want to study which is awesome. However, with this new found understanding has come a realization that many of the schools that have what I want are all around the country from out west to the deep south. The thought of spending 4 years there and being away from my family and friends terrifies me. It’s such a scary thought and it makes me really nervous to think about the possibility of moving to one of these places. However, I know that applying to these places is the best thing I can do for my future. I’d like to think that if I applied and got into one of these schools that I’d have a better chance of being able to eventually make my way back to Ohio in a relatively short period of time. I guess you’d say that I’m following one of my previous life lessons in thinking about the future.

Life Lesson #23: Accept that not everyone will like you.

As a kid, we want everyone to like us. We want to be friends with everyone we meet (or at the very least, we want to be invited to all of our classmates’ birthday parties) and if someone tells us they feel otherwise, our feelings are immediately crushed.

I’m telling you now that it’s OK. Someone may not like you and you may have no idea why. Or, it might be because you ticked them off and you were aware of that crucial moment that changed everything. Or, it could be because of the way you look at them, or the way you talk, or the way you dress, or a million other things. It truly could be anything and there’s no true way of knowing the cause.

Don’t fret and don’t waste time or energy on these people (Side lesson: also realize that you can’t please everyone, so don’t worry about making everyone happy. It truly is impossible).

Life Lesson #24: Be someone that you would want your kid to admire.

As some point in our lives, we’ve all looked up to someone. We’ve found a role model who has led us in the right direction and have used them as a guide for how to act in certain situations. Perhaps we have multiple role models who have inspired or challenged us to be better and do better – it’s possible that this person has challenged us to do something we otherwise would have never considered. Be this type of person for someone else.

I want to inspire people i want someone to look at me and say, "because of you i didn't give up" - just girly things

Life Lesson #25: Don’t compare yourself to others.

This one is challenging and it may be something that you struggle with for a long time. Don’t compare yourself with others. Someone will always be smarter, faster, prettier…and the list continues.

There is always going to be someone who has an edge over you in some way, shape, or form. But it doesn’t matter. Believe that you are good at what you do and fully capable of facing any challenge that comes your way.

Life Lesson #26: Always, always, always believe in yourself. 

This one is simple.

Believe in yourself. Always.

Ignore your negative self-talk. Rid yourself of people who put you down. And just believe.

nina dobrev, quotes, sayings, believe yourself, quote

Bonus Lesson: Don’t think too hard and overanalyze everything. Just live your life 😉

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Life Lessons #16 – 20

It’s now March 23 and I’ve only got a few short days to provide you with 10 more valuable life lessons. Impossible? Not quite. Challenging? It’s starting to feel that way. Worth it? Absolutely.

(To be honest, I just spent the last hour crafting a well-thought out blog post, but in my attempt to save the post as I continued writing, I ended up deleting it 😦 As such, the lessons I’ll provide here will be short, but just as important and valuable as all the others.)

Life Lesson #16: Ask yourself is it worth it?

After crying to a friend about how so-and-so hardly noticed me and woe was me, my friend posed a simple question: Was it worth it? Was it worth it to like someone who didn’t like me and to be so upset about it? Probably not. What was the point in willingly putting myself in a situation that made me so unhappy? I learned that lesson early on in high school and it’s one that’s stuck with me for the past 8-9 years. And, don’t think it applies to things as superficial as having a silly crush at 16. It applies to anything and it applies to everything. If you find yourself in a situation that makes you unhappy, or that adds unnecessary stress to your life, or pushes you to your limits, as yourself if it’s worth it. Sometimes, the answer will be a clear and definite no. Nope – it’s definitely not worth it to be in this situation because I know this isn’t good for me. On the other hand, just because the situation is stressful or challenging doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. It just means you’re dealing with a difficult situation that you need to accomplish. You see, the question does more than just make you think about what you should or shouldn’t do. It helps to focus and think more clearly about whether or not it’s worth it to stay in this situation or if it’s better if we move on for now.

Life Lesson #17: Go back to the basics. 

What’s the magic word? I know you all know it.

As kids, we’re all taught to mind our manners: say “Please” when asking for something; thank someone when receiving something; ask people how they are; how the door for others; be kind to everyone; say “Excuse me” when you bump into someone or commit other social faux paus.

It’s simple: we were taught these lessons for a reason. They teach us how to respect others and how to show gratitude and compassion for our fellow human beings. We learn these manners at a young age, and yet somehow they are often forgotten as we grow up. Today, whenever someone thanks me for doing something for them, I’m often pleasantly surprised, but I shouldn’t be, should I? I almost think that these are things we should come to expect. These things aren’t hard and when we forget to them, we often make other people feel like we don’t care about them and like they’re taken for granted. So, go back to the basics – I know that it’s simple and it might not seem that important, but it can really make a difference to someone.

Life Lesson #18: If you can’t dazzle them with your brilliance, baffle them with your BS. – W.C. Fields

I’ll keep this one short. I often think about this in the context of giving a speech: If you can’t remember what you wrote for your speech, but know the general ideas, just go for it. You might not be able to get your ideas across as intended, but you may have a general idea. And if you don’t, perhaps you’ll talk in such a circular way that you’ll confuse them 😉

Life Lesson #19: Make the time for the people and things that are most important to you.

Whenever I make a short trip home, I always try to make time to spend with my mom, dad, and brother and I make sure that I spend time with all of our pets. If possible, I always try to see some of my closest friends and I always try to make time to go to mass. It’s often very difficult to accomplish these things because my trips home often only last 2-3 days and they are also usually filled with a number of appointments (i.e., doctors, car, etc.). It’s hard to fit everything, but I think it’s important that we try to make the time for the people and things that are important to us.  I think it helps people realize how much we care about them and it helps us to realize that we would want them to do the same thing if they were in our situation.

I also do have to mention that my group of friends from high school does an excellent job with this. For a few years after high school, we’d often meet up weekly or every couple weeks for some sort of shenanigans. I think it’s gotten a little more challenging as people have started moving out of the area, but we still have big events with everyone when we know most people will be around. Even though we’re all incredibly busy, we all still make the time for each other and these events are things that I look forward to year-round.

Life Lesson #20: Take the time to figure out what you want.

This lesson can apply to anything in life. Kind of seems like an understatement, doesn’t it? Take the time to figure out what you want – don’t let others, or even yourself, force you into make a decision before you’re ready. I often think about this lesson in the context of college. For many of us, for multiple reasons, we probably felt like we had to choose a major early on in college, perhaps before we were ready. Maybe we felt rushed. Maybe we felt pressure from our family or friends to make a certain decision in a timely manner. Whatever the reason may be, we shouldn’t make a decision before we’re ready. Take time to figure things out. Ask yourself what you want out of time. Don’t make a hasty decision only to realize too late that you’ve made the wrong choice. Give yourself the right figure out what you want and then make a decision.

Surrounding yourself with the right kind of people: Life Lessons 11-15

Throughout our lives, most of us have the opportunity to meet and potentially become friends with thousands of people. Unless we’ve chosen a job that isolates us from others or choose to live a solitary life for whatever reasons, we are generally surrounded by people. All kinds of people. Happy people, sad people. People who make us angry. People who are so complicated that we can never understand them. All. Kinds. Of. People.

At the ripe old age of 24…not to be confused with 25 just yet ;)…I’ve realized that at some point in time, we get to make a choice. We have the ability to choose the people who surround us. Granted, there are circumstances when you won’t be able to escape that awful sneer from someone you can’t avoid. Nevertheless, at least in our personal lives (and even if our work life, at times), we get to choose. As I’ve experienced a multitude of events in my life, I’ve come to realize that there are 5 types of people I want surrounding me:

1. Those who will go to bat for you: It’s always good to have someone in your corner; someone who will be by your side (no matter what), who will stick up for you, and who will fight for you. I’m lucky. I have a lot of these people in my life. I’d definitely say that my family falls into this category. No matter the issue, I always know that if I’m ever in a bind that I can count on them to help me through it. Even if I’m wrong. I’m also lucky enough to have mentors in my life who will fight for me and who will pull their neck on the line for me. We need these people in our lives. We need to know that we have someone in our corner who is always willing to help us out regardless of the time, place, or situation. (Life Lesson #11).

2. Those who challenge you:

When I was thinking about this, I was thinking about how many different ways you can interpret the word “challenge.” What does it mean to be challenged? In what ways do we want others to challenge us? I recently started spinning again and my spin instructor is absolutely incredible. He’s constantly challenging me – to ride faster, to work on my endurance, to work harder. Sure it’s tough, but would I really want to be in a class with an instructor who was very lax in their teaching and who was OK with me only giving a half-hearted effort? It’s unlikely. What would I be gaining? I know that when I go to class, I’m always going to be challenged to do more and I think that makes me a stronger person (both physically and mentally). I think it’s important to be surrounded by people who challenge us because it pushes us rise to a whole new level.

We can also be challenged in other ways. When I presented a paper to a research committee, one of my committee members remarked that she was going to ask me harder questions at my next presentation. She wasn’t challenging the way I wrote or what I had to say, but she was really challenging me to rise to a whole new level. By her raising the bar, she was helping me set a new standard for myself that I didn’t know was possible.

At times, I also think we should surround ourselves with people who challenge the way we think about things. It’s easy to fall into patterns of thinking and believe that our ideas are correct . However, we need to have people in our lives who can bring up different sides to arguments that we didn’t see before and who can challenge us to think in a new way. Although we may not always agree, I think that surrounding ourselves with people who challenge our thinking can lead to growth…and can help us rise to a whole new level (are you sensing a trend?).  (Life Lesson #12)

3. Those who make you want to be a better person: During my senior year of high school, one of my role models in speech and debate was inducted into the OHSSL Hall of Fame. During his acceptance speech, he talked about how being involved in speech and debate and being surrounded by that world made him want to be a better person. It’s been over 5 years since I’ve graduated from high school, but those words have stuck with me. I want to be surrounded by the kind of people who make me want to be a better person – who make me want to be kinder, to try harder, to have more passion, to help others, and so on. I have a friend who is easily one of the nicest, most kindhearted people that I’ve ever met. Seeing the way this person interacts with others, provides support to friends, and dedicates everything (s)he has to the task at hand, I constantly finding myself wanting to be a better person. Hands down, I think that we need to have people like this in our life because they’re constantly helping us to rise to a whole new level.  (Life Lesson #13)

4. Those who add positivity to your life and bring you joy:

It’s easy to get discouraged. Something may happen in the morning that turns your day around and puts you in a bad mood. At the end of day, you need to have people in your life who bring you joy. You need friends who can make you happy after a bad day and who can help you see the positive after a bad day. We deserve goodness in our life. We deserve to be surrounded by people who can make us happy. We don’t need to surround ourselves with people who bring us down or who bring out a side in us that is better off left hidden. I know it’s hard, but if you find yourself surrounded by people who are bringing out your ugly side (and let’s face it, we all have one), let them go. You don’t need that sort of negativity in your life. Don’t surround yourself with people who make you feel bad about yourself or who force you to become someone you’re not. You don’t deserve that. You deserve happiness and you deserve to be surrounded by people who make you feel good.  (Life Lesson #14)

5. Those who make you laugh: 

 

Laughter is good for us. Some would say it’s the best medicine. So, surround yourself with people who make you laugh so hard that you cry or until milk comes out of your nose. Surround yourself with people who you can’t look it in certain situations because you know if you do, you’ll burst into laughter. Laughter is good for the soul and it’s such an easy way to turn around a bad day. (Life Lesson #15)

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I’m sure that you can think of other types of people that you need in your life, but this is what I’ve got. These are the type of people who feed my soul and who make life worth living. These people inspire me and I’m thankful to have them in my life. Without a doubt, these people have impacted the way I lead my life whether I know it or not.

Because here’s the thing – the people who surround us will inevitability impact us, whether we know it or not, whether these changes occur intentionally or at a subconscious level. People can challenge us to rise to a higher level, or they can force us to abandon everything that we know and stoop to low levels. So, who do you choose? Who do want surrounding you and influencing your life?

Lessons I wish I’d Learned Sooner…

So, here I am on January 20, 2014 and I’m just now beginning to reflect on 2013. It was a crazy year for me filled with many good things (i.e., graduating with my master’s degree; getting a job; seeing Josh Groban), and some events that I wish I could erase.  I’m a planner and I pride myself on knowing what to do in these situations. Because things often didn’t go as I planned in 2013, I often found myself a little unprepared for how to handle new and challenging situations. As such, I wanted to share a few of the lessons I learned in the last year, so that you can be prepared in case you find yourself in a similar situation. These lessons aren’t things that you haven’t heard before; I don’t proclaim to be presenting you with rocket science. However, sometimes hearing these things from another person can help them seem more applicable to you. Enjoy 🙂

Lesson #1: Expect the Unexpected. 

We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand. – Randy Pausch

It’s not rocket science, folks. We all have preconceived notions about how our lives will play out. We get it into our heads that we are going to follow a linear path that will be smooth sailing with very few waves. We’re going to go to college, graduate, meet the love of our life, get married, have kids…and, well, you know how the story is supposed to end, right? Unfortunately, life rarely takes us in the exact direction that we had expected. Sadly, we’re so caught up in how we think our lives should play out that we’re often unprepared when things don’t go our way. In 2013, I was certain that I was going to get into a PhD program…so certain that I never took a second to think about what would happen if I didn’t. This leads us to the second lesson.

Lesson #2: Have a back-up plan.

You can always change your plan, but only if you have one. – Randy Pausch

Because we often have it set it in our minds that things will turn out as anticipated, we rarely bother to have a back-up plan. We don’t think about what will happen if things don’t go our way. This is what gets us into trouble. I know that some people might not want to have a back-up plan because they’re afraid to think about the possibility of having to use it. Or, people might not have a plan B because they’re superstitious and think it may jinx them. I get it. It makes you realize that there’s a possibility that you may deviate from your life’s course and that you may have no control over this. Although it’s hard to admit it, that’s life. Life is full of bumps in the road that throw us off our chosen path. As such, we need to be prepared. When I found out that I wasn’t going to be accepted into a PhD program, I was terrified. For someone who considers herself to be a planner, not having a back-up plan in place was awful. It was scary not knowing what I was going to do with my life, when I’d thought for so long that I’d be spending the next 5 years of my life in school. This is where accepting the next lesson becomes really important.

Lesson #3: Sometimes taking the path less traveled is OK. I promise.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- 

I took the one less traveled by, 

And that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost

When things don’t go the way you had planned, it’s hard. Really, freaking hard. I would actually consider this an understatement. Because we’ve been following a certain path for so long and weren’t anticipating being thrown-off course, it’s really hard to accept anything other than what we’d always had in mind. We think that our life is going to follow a straight path and that we’re going to get to point A to point B with no problems. We have an idea of how things should be. Unfortunately, when we do face these bumps in the road, it’s often hard for us to accept that we won’t be following our chosen path. For me, I thought that I was going to go to college and straight into a PhD program. Obviously, that didn’t happen. When I graduated from my master’s program, the obvious next step was going for my PhD. Also didn’t happen. Learning to accept that (twice) is something that I still struggle with at times. Now, I’m currently working in a great job with wonderful people gaining invaluable experiences and learning more about what I want out of life. It certainly wasn’t expected and it isn’t what I had originally wanted. It’s not the smooth path that I would have originally chosen for myself, but being on this new path has opened my eyes to a world of possibilities that I never knew existed before.

Lesson #4: Don’t just focus on the short-term, focus on the long-term, too.

The future depends on what you do today. – Mahatma Gandhi

When we’re faced with making a decision that we didn’t think we’d have to make, it’s often easy to focus on how our decision will effect us in the present. Too often, we don’t take the time to think about how our decision will impact us in the long-run, when everything that we’re doing now will affect our future. If I had only been focusing on the short-term when I didn’t get into a PhD program, I would have moved back to my parents house in May after graduation and wallowed in self-pity for a couple weeks…or months. However, realizing that if I had a shot at getting into a PhD program in the future, I needed to make a decision that would help me reach my goal and get me back onto my original path. This is where the next lesson is important.

Lesson # 5: Weigh your options. 

“When you have to make a hard decision, flip a coin. 
Because when that coin is in the air, 
you suddenly know what you’re hoping for.” – Anonymous 

Despite not having a back-up plan, I had a wonderful support system to help me think through my options. What were my options? What did I want to do? What option would serve as the best stepping-stone to get me to where I wanted to be? I was fortunate enough to have a few job interviews and even more fortunate enough to have a few offers. Making a decision was challenging because it had to be done rather quickly. However, by weighing my options and looking at the pros and cons of everything, I was able to make the best decision for me. And if you’re still having problems determining what you should, just a flip a coin and you’ll have your answer.

Lesson #6: Learn to be OK doing things alone. 

If you make friends with yourself, you will never be alone. – Maxwell Maltz 

Sometimes when we are thrown off-course, we’re often forced to do things and move places that we never imagined. A job may be available, but it may be in a city where you know very few people. Speaking from experience, this can be very difficult. When you’re used to spending all your spare time with friends who you can call on a whim to go out, it’s a stark contrast to being in a new city with few friends. If you find yourself in a similar situation, I think it’s important that you accept that it’s OK to do things alone. You might be lonely at times and it might be difficult, but it will give you an opportunity to learn more about yourself and focus on yourself and your interests.

Life Lesson #4: Change the way you think about the problem

I have a major dilemma.

It’s currently 20 degrees outside and my thermostat doesn’t work.

If I leave my furnace on, it’s sweltering in here and becomes so hot that walking around in a swimsuit seems like the only option.

But, if I turn the furnace off, it’s like I’m in an igloo and I’m forced to keep adding layers. The cats have taken refuge under the bed where they have a chance of staying warm.

I may have to join them.

It’s really frustrating because I don’t have control of the temperature in here and am unable to get the the temperature just right. I’ve been really upset about this whole situation and have been doing a lot of complaining about it. (I apologize if you’ve been the recipient of one of these rants).

I’ve done everything that I can do to fix the situation (i.e., my maintenance staff loves (read – hates) me for calling them on 3 separation occasions about the problem) and the problem is now out of my hands. The only thing I can do now is change my focus. Or, change the way I think about the problem. Let’s face it – I can’t fix the thermostat. I have degrees in psychology and political science, neither of which prepared me to replace a thermostat or know the first thing about handling this situation. However, if my psychology education taught me one thing, it’s about cognitive restructuring or reframing (…OK – my degree taught me more than one thing, but go with me here on this). Cognitive restructuring or reframing is just a a psychologist’s fancy way of saying you should change the way you think about your problem (i.e., we reframe maladaptive/negative thought patterns into more rational thoughts in an attempt to gain a positive frame of mind). For example:

So, I’ve decided to think about my problem differently. Yes, my thermostat is broken and I’m unable to keep the apartment at a desirable temperature. Sure, it’s an inconvenience and annoyance, but it’s not the end of the world. I do have fans that I can turn on if it gets too hot and I can always open the window if I can’t stand the heat (though, that seems counterproductive). If it gets too cold, I have more than enough clothes and blankets to keep me, and of course, the kitties, warm.

I know this theme has come up in previous posts – it’s a product of all those psychology classes. However, I think this is an important lesson to take to heart. So often, we have a problem and get so worked up over it that we drive ourselves (and, unfortunately, others) crazy. We become so fixated on these minor issues and find ourselves consumed by these trivialities. We focus on the one thing that is going wrong, rather than the 100 things that are going right. We’re focused on what we don’t have, rather than what we do have.

I think we can all benefit from this lesson. Sure, things may not be going quite the way we’d like, and sure, we may face some inconveniences from time to time. We may not always get what we want, but often times, we have what we need. I realize that this is a hard lesson to learn and I struggle with it on a regular basis. It’s easy to get bogged down by problems such as this, but if you change the way you think about it, I promise you that things will be easier.