12 of my favourite Life Lessons we can all live by

Recently a friend forwarded me a list of catchy liners that are meant to be good lessons for life.  While some are comical and others dismal, I found in the list some simple truths that are worth being reminded off for our benefits.

You don’t have to wait till midlife and learned these life lessons through own experiences. The advantage of youth is that you have the time to apply these lessons early to reap the maximum benefits in your happiness and well-being.

Taking cue from others’ list of life lessons out there, I have modified and compiled my own favourite list of 12 life lessons I want to live by. I hope you will find them relevant and benefit from them too.

1 – Take care of your body

You might live a long life, or you might live a short one. Nobody knows. Either way, you’re going to wish you took better care of yourself in your youth. So eat and exercise like you’re a diabetic heart patient with a stroke – so that you never actually become one.

2 – Treasure your family

The most important person in your life is the person who agreed to share their life with you. Treat them well for they are a part of you. And children grow up way too fast. Make the most of the time you have with them. What matters most are the people in our lives.

3 – Build real friendships

A true friend will come running if you call them at 2am; everyone else is just an acquaintance. Don’t let your friendships fade away. Friendships need time and attention. Nurture them well and they will pay you off well.

4 – Work your vocation

Conventional wisdom says that you should get a job doing what you love! But that isn’t the best advice. The right job is the job you love some days, can tolerate most days, and still pays the bills. Almost nobody has a job they love every day. So give your best work while you can.

5 – Work in moderation

Nobody ever dies wishing they had worked more. Work hard, but don’t prioritise work over family, friends, or even yourself. You can never finish your work and work will always be there.

6 – Worry changes nothing

Most of the things we worry never happen. No matter how much we worry, it won’t change anything. Even if what we worry happens, they are rarely as bad as we fear they will be. Worry is useless unless it leads us to a solution. So learn to manage your worries.

7 – Seek experiences over things

Stuff is just stuff and things gather dusts.  Don’t hold onto material objects. The less stuff you have, the freer you are. Purchase mindfully. Hold onto time and experiences instead.

8 – See the world

Travel expands you. Go places. Do things. Be enlightened. It will make you more interesting and insightful. It is a pursuit well worth saving for. Pack a bag and go wherever you can afford to go. Don’t just buy stuff. Go discover our beautiful world.

9 – Keep on learning

There is so much to learn and so much to explore. Take time to learn every single day. Challenge yourself to acquire a new skill, read something different, or take a class. Learning keeps our minds engaged and sharp, even into old age.

10 – Take courage and overcome

You have more strength and resilience than you think you have. Whatever circumstances you are at or trial you are facing, it won’t last forever. You can handle it. The pain is temporary. Time heals. Things change. It will pass. You will get through it and survive.

11 – Appreciate small things

Be present in the moment and appreciate the small things. Little things matter. Don’t just look at the big wins or great accomplishments of others. Instead work to achieve and accumulate the little things that bring life’s joy and meaning.  Think of the special time with your kids, the smile on your spouse’s face or the important tasks you managed to complete.

12 – Live your life

We have limited time on earth. Don’t wake up one day in your old age and realise you haven’t done the things you dreamed about. Life is short so enjoy it. Don’t make things more serious than they have to be. Create more fun in your life. Make every day count.

Do this ONE thing daily if you want to be more successful

Before we talk about that one thing, I think it would help if we first take a look at the meaning of success. Success can be different things to many people. There is no fixed definition, no one size-fits-all because all our wishes, desires and expectations in life are different.

One thing is for sure though. If you want to be successful, you will have to know what success is to you. You have to dig deep and ask yourself, “What do you want to achieve in life?”

 An easier way to answer this is to ask yourself what are your long-term goals. It will not be a straightforward answer and you may want to take some time to figure this out.

If you already know or at least have some idea of where you want to be, then moving towards your success will get easier. You can now focus on your effort and time in planning and executing to get there.  The journey may still be challenging, requiring lots of efforts, but at least you are making some form of progress, big or small.

So what is this ONE thing that can help you to press towards what you want in life and be more successful?

Align your daily habits with your long-term goals

Sounds simple? You already know this? Well, just how many of us are aware of our daily habits and how these habits are contributing positively towards our long term goals?

Billionaire Warren Buffett, the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, is 87 years old and has in his wisdom said that chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken. He understands that innocent habits which seem trivial in our daily lives can actually make or break us in the long run.

All of us aspire success, but how many of us really take stock of our daily habits? If you take a hard look at what you do and work on daily, you may be surprise to find that unknowingly you are engaging on counterproductive habits. It can be a dread to identify and change these habits, but once you start to replace them with productive habits, positive results will start to follow.

Here are a few counterproductive habits that I find “sneaky” as in you may already be so good at them that you don’t realize they are actually holding you back towards your long-term goals achievement.

1 – Taking it Easy

The number one sneaky demon habit which I face every day is getting comfortable and taking things easy. It is very natural for us to gravitate towards things that make us feel comfortable. After all who in the right frame of mind wants to experience discomfort, uneasiness or pain? It is always easier to play it safe and avoid new challenge that is necessary to take us to the next level.

Like it or not, life’s challenges and hard things are the ones that force us to learn and grow. For example, you cannot build muscles without resistance work or training. Our body is naturally lazy and will only develop enough muscle to deal with the loads placed upon it. So to develop more muscle, you have to work out hard and then let your body repair damaged muscle fibers through a cellular process where it fuses muscle fibers together to form new muscle strands.

If I want to run a marathon convincingly, I cannot just take training easy and run whenever I feel like running or stop whenever I start to sweat. I have to align my daily habits towards the goal of running a 42km race. That means I have to eat correctly, train consistently according to a structured program and rest sufficiently, every day if possible.

Similar with physical growth, we cannot progress effectively in other areas of our life without going through targeted resistances and challenges that are relevant. If I want to build a thriving and profitable stocks portfolio, I have to dig in to analyze financial reports, learn technical analysis and research businesses and markets. It is going to take time and sacrifices from other areas of my life and there is no short cut or easy way to it.

The road to success is often paved with trials, disappointment and even failures. But it is these challenges that will force you to get out of your comfort zones and elevate you to greater heights. So don’t get too comfortable. Move towards your goals daily by keeping an open mind and staying hungry for opportunities that will stretch your limits.

2 – Saying Yes to Everything

We are all guilty of this. We say YES, willingly or unwillingly for a variety of reasons. Fear of offending someone, fear of missing out, try to be everything to everyone, not having our own decisions.

If you are somehow a super being having the ability to cope with everything and everyone’s expectations, then this is not a problem. The reality is that we have limited time and resources. Saying yes to one means you are unwittingly saying no to something else, and that something else may be more important.

Recently I was invited by the Parent-Teacher Association of my son’s school to join their committee. Being human, I felt honoured and was very tempted to say yes to the position thinking I can contribute to help make the school better. They were persuasive and I am always keen on leadership positions.

But after thinking through the offer, I realized that taking up the position will inevitable take up my time with my boys. Serving in the association may help improve the standard of the school my boys are studying in, but it comes with a price of having less time to nurture them personally. Putting it this way, it just makes no sense and I am glad I said no.

Your success lies in your ability to distinguish the tasks that are important to your goals from the ones that screams urgent or non-essential which you can either delay or delegate. Choosing to work on relevant and important tasks will allow you to focus on what is truly essential for your future success.

Warren Buffett is legendary in ways not so much about what he has done; rather it is what he hasn’t done. With all the demands on him every day, Buffett learned a long time ago that the greatest commodity of all is time. He simply mastered the art and practice of setting boundaries for himself. He is famous for saying that the difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.

So, remember, don’t say YES when you really want is to say NO.  And it is really ok to say NO.

3 – Repeating same Mistakes

I read somewhere that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different or better result. Don’t laugh. Thank goodness this is not the correct definition or else I should be considered insane for being guilty of making the same mistake many times over.

Why do we keep making the same mistakes over and over? If we are not careful, making the same mistakes repeatedly, no matter how trivial, is a damaging habit that can delay us from achieving our long-term goals.

For a long time I battled with anger issues. I get angry easily and this affected my relationships with my spouse and boys. Sometimes I would snap and get upset with my boys over small things. Whatever reasons I may have, this is not right and I should practice more patience to understand them, instead of letting my mood dictate my temper. I have since identified anger as a problem that I need to address. I cannot afford to repeat the mistake of losing temper because it takes me further away from my goal of building a supportive, caring and loving family.

To stop repeating the same mistakes, we need to be able to identify the underlying problem. What is not going well in your life right now? Are you overeating? Maybe smoking or drinking more than usual? Are you spending too much time at work instead of being there for your family? Are you spending more money than you can afford? Whatever it is, you will need to name it before you can start to deal with it.

Mistakes are the best teachers. Of course it would be better if we can learn from other people’s failures, but it gets seared in more firmly when they are our own. Learning from our mistakes is important, however, we must be careful not to continually dwell on our past mistakes. We can never turn back time and undo what is done.  There is no point living in the past so we might well maintain a forward-looking perspective and do better next time.

Treat mistakes as learning experiences that make you stronger and better as a person. Your best successes will come on the heels of failures.

 

Usain Bolt’s incredible power and speed wouldn’t break the 100m record if he wasn’t sprinting directly towards the finish line. In the same vein, our effort in getting things done will not do us much good if those tasks do not bring us towards our long-term goals. One way to ensure that we work on the right tasks is by aligning our daily habits towards the achievement of what is important to us.

Benjamin Franklin is famous for asking himself every evening, “What good have I done today?” Asking that question does three crucial things. First, it makes you review the actions you have taken and evaluate the effectiveness of it. Secondly, it helps you to realign and resolve to plan better for the next day. Lastly and more importantly, it makes you aware of the progress you’re making towards your long term goals.

The journey towards success is challenging and long. There is no such thing as an overnight success. The secret of success actually lies in the little things that we do regularly. This is where our daily habits count. Align your daily habits to your long-term goals and you will find yourself progressing towards success. Take it one day at a time. It may be slow but you will surely reach where you want to be.

Don’t Stay in the Cabin, the World is Waiting for You.

The only things you regret are the things you don’t do. – Michael Curtiz

The Man who Stayed in the Cabin

There was a story about a man who saved for many years with the dream of moving to America, the land of opportunity. It was in the early nineteenth century, so times were hard. But the time came when he finally saved enough money to afford passage on a large ocean liner. Because he had very little money, he stayed in his cabin most of the time, rationing food he had brought on board with him. On the last day of his journey, he decided to splurge on a meal. He showed up for the final banquet buffet and timidly asked the waiter how much a meal like this would cost. He braced himself for the bad news, and the waiter responded in surprise. ‘But sir, didn’t you know? All of the meals are included in your ticket. You can eat as much as you like, for free!’

Don’t you think life is sometimes like that? Most people live their lives unaware of the incredible opportunities that exist all around them.

Have you been seizing the opportunities available to you? How many times have we look back and wished that we have done this or that? Fret not, I have not heard of anyone who can say that they have make use of every opportunities.

How then can we capitalise on opportunities?

For that we must first be able to identity what opportunities look like. The opportunities around us are different for everyone and for every season. What is an opportunity for one person could be a distraction to you. Therefore the key is to know what are opportunities to you. You must understand what you are looking for and be prepared to pursue it. You will not be able to identify the opportunities if you don’t know what you are looking for in the first place.

Next we must understand that every opportunity comes with risks. I believe risk is the reason why most of us do not pursue the opportunities that come before us. After all, pursuing an opportunity may take you to a road less travelled. It may get uncomfortable and you may have work harder. That opportunity may even turn out to be a mistake.

But consider this, life is a series of calculated risk.

A palliative nurse who counselled the dying in their last days revealed the most common regrets they have at the end of their lives. Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives.

Ware shares of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. She asked her patients about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently.

What she found was that five common regrets surfaced again and again:

  1. They wish they had the courage to live a life true to themselves, not the life others expected of them.
  2. They wish they hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. They wish they had the courage to express their feelings.
  4. They wish they had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. They wish they had let themselves be happier.

According to Ware the first regret is the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled.

That first regret is about not taking the necessary risk for your own sake. We conform to others’ expectation and society’s pressure instead of pursuing what’s important for us.

So what are the opportunities available to you today?

Is there a passion that you want to pursue? A calling that is nagging you to explore? Are you happy in your current job or is there a different career or company that you need to consider? Making a move is sure risky but not doing anything may be more detrimental in the long run.

Is there a family member or friend you need to reconcile with? Is there a someone you want to express your feelings to? Whenever there is an opportunity to do so, grab it. Don’t put it off, nobody knows the future, whether there will be another opportunity or not.

Are you spending enough time with your children? Are they being nurtured and led to grow up well? Remember, you have the opportunity to shape them and help them grow up better.

Are you taking care of your health? Have you been exercising and eating well? Have you been investing in your personal growth? Don’t give yourself the excuse of not having the time. You are in control and have every opportunity to live healthier. Ignoring your health and growth is only short changing yourself.

Ultimately you are in charge of creating most of your own opportunities. Your next break may just be out there waiting for you to make the first step. Put yourself in a position to say yes.

I will never want to be like that man who stayed in the cabin. There is just so much to life. So much to see, to do, to experience, and to live for.

I want to see what is out there, what is available to me. I want to ask, because I will never know the answer if I don’t. I want to strive, otherwise I won’t really know what I am capable of. I want to push my self to the limit, then I would know that i have done my best and make peace with myself.

Aspire more today.

Do These in the Morning and be on Your Way to Greatness

If you want to make your dreams come true, the first thing you have to do is wake up. – J.M. Power

Much have been talked about the benefits of morning routines. There are a handful of variations and I suppose this makes sense as we are all different in our own ways. What works for one may not work for another.

For example, I find a long list of wonderfully lined-up routine out of reach and at times out of this world.

  • Wake up, smile and make your bed
  • Brush your teeth, wash your face and have a cold shower
  • Resist the urge to check your phone, emails or social media
  • Meditate and perhaps re-correct yourself
  • Listen to uplifting music or positive affirmation
  • Read a book or article for 15 minutes
  • Exercise, stretch and maybe throw in some yoga
  • Write your goals, review your goals
  • Plan your day, work your schedule
  • Track your expenses, review your budget
  • Cook yourself a fulfilling breakfast
  • Make an antioxidant smoothie

I get overwhelmed every time I try to follow that beautiful list above. I will be happy if I can find enough time and energy to accomplish half the list. Time is limited, especially between the moment I wake up and when I am suppose to leave for work.

Mornings can bring a special challenge to parents too. As a parent you will constantly have to juggle the needs of your children and household.  Sometimes your time is never your own. Getting kids ready for school, attending to elderly needs, making breakfast for the family, sorting out the laundry, watering the plants and what not.

On certain days, you would consider yourself lucky to find enough time to go to the bathroom and groom yourself just so that you can be presentable for work.

But still, I agree, the best way to start your day is to have a good morning routine. No doubts. But  you will have to purposefully carve out time and for your good self before the world gets up and gets hectic.

It is worth it. The best reason for you to make it a point to establish and carry out a good morning routine is that it generates a positive momentum. This momentum is an important part of human psychology. When you have started your day right by moving it forward positively, you are more likely to keep accomplishing positive things the rest of the day. A good morning routine sets the right tone for a wonderful and productive day ahead.

Personally I would simplify a morning routine into the following 4 elements. Technically it is only 3 because the first one is actually done the night before.

1. Get enough sleep

Any good morning routine must start with a good night sleep. By a good night sleep I mean at least 7 hours of quality rest for us adults. Non negotiable. I have many times try to cheat and reduce the amount of sleep so that I can have more time for a good morning routine. But all I found was that I ended up short-changing myself when I am less than 100% to tackle the challenges of the day.

There are tonnes of resources on the importance of sleep but my favourite reference is from sleep scientist Matthew Walker, director of the Centre for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley – a research institute whose goal is to understand everything about sleep’s impact on us, from birth to death, in sickness and health. In his research, Walker demonstrated powerful links between sleep loss and, among other things, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and poor mental health. The evidence Walker presented is enough to send anyone early to bed. It’s not an option at all. Without sleep, there is low energy and disease. With sleep, there is vitality and health.

Read the article on Matthew Walker’s work here – Sleep should be prescribed. What those late nights out could be costing you.

The next thing you should work on is getting up at YOUR right time, consistently. We have often heard that people who wake up earlier are often more productive. This does not mean that night owls can’t have a productive morning that leads to a productive day. Their “mornings” may take place a little later, but it can be also productive nonetheless.

What time you wake up is not as important as getting up at the same time each day. Waking up at the same time each day will help you get in tune with your body’s clock. Your body follows a circadian rhythm which is often referred to as your “internal clock” or “body clock”. Your internal clock helps to regulate your level of sleepiness and wakefulness over a 24 hour period. Try to go to bed and wake up consistently daily so that your circadian rhythm is stable, which will then lead to optimum hormone levels, body temperature, metabolism, and immune system.

2. Get in Touch

Once you are up, fresh from a night of sufficient rest, the first thing I would recommend is to get in tune or in touch with your inner being. Now depending on your preference and belief, you have a few options to achieve this.

Personally, the moment I wake up I would sit by the bed edge, drink half a bottle of water (about 300ml, placed beside the bed the night before) and be grateful. I will quickly think of a few things that I am grateful for and how they are just right for me. Example, I woke up healthy, my sons are growing up strong, I live in a comfortable house, I enjoy my work, etc.

Counting your blessing daily is good, but I do this also because you need to give your body some time to recover from a lying down position before you jump up and get moving. Getting up quickly after lying down for awhile can some times cause dizziness. This dizziness is called postural or orthostatic hypotension. It can occur when the brain receives incorrect information about the body’s position in relation to its surroundings and movements.

After brushing my teeth and washing my face (to ensure that I am really awake and fresh), I like to spend some time journalling. I write about my goals and have a quick brainstorm on how I can achieve them. I note down any ideas that come to mind. You can always journal and write about your feelings at the moment or a recent experience. Be flexible. The idea is to get in touch with yourself and what is important to you.

If you are a Christian, you can use this session to have devotion, to have a quiet time with God. Pray, read the Bible and meditate on God’s word. If you are a Buddhist, you can take the time to centre yourself with good posture, steady breathing and mindfulness. Then learn some basic mantras. Pray for happiness and wellbeing for your family and friends. Whatever religion you are in, get in touch with God.

3. Get some Movement

The next thing you will want to focus on is your physical body. Depending on your preference, you can get in touch mentally/spiritually first (Element 2) before working out or vice versa. I don’t find the sequence critical so it is up to you. Whichever works best.

What you want to achieve in this activity is get your body to sweat, at least. The intensity will depend on your level of fitness and how much you have been working out. All of us starts from a different base so it is hard to prescribe something standard for everyone.

If you have not been keeping fit, you may start light with some form of stretching. Better still if you can go for a brisk walk around your house. Fresh air in the morning is good for you. If you have been active, try going for a run. If you would rather stay indoors, use the treadmill or elliptical trainer. If yoga is your thing, go for it. Any form of stretching and cardio workout is good. You decide what, how much and how long to work out.

The catch is you have to make sure that the work out is sufficient. If it does not make you sweat at least a little, you are probably being too easy with yourself. The activity is too light or too brief. You don’t have to exercise till it sucks, but I would aim for a good hard effort. Elevate your heart rate, sweat out those pores and get breathless before you catch your breath and recover.

A good morning workout will enhance your metabolism, improve your physical energy and enhance your focus and mental abilities all day long. You will walk around feeling a sense of accomplishment, knowing that you have completed an important daily task. You don’t have to press for time trying to fit in an exercise in the evening. Waking up early in the morning to exercise enhances your personal discipline. Lastly, waking up early to exercise will in turn help you sleep better at night. Your body will enjoy a healthy sense of fatigue at the end of the day and you will be ready to sleep, well. And the positive cycle continues.

4. Get the Fuel

Don’t skip breakfast, unless you are deliberately fasting. Skipping breakfast can set you up for overeating later in the day. A healthy breakfast on the other hand gives you energy and set the stage for a great day.

If you are like me before, you may be grabbing breakfast on the run when you are late to get out the door. You actually can do this, if you have prepared your breakfast the night before. Nothing wrong, as long as you ensure that you have some healthy food to fuel your body in the morning.

However, I have in recent months incorporate and allocated some time in the morning routine to ensure that my family and I have fresh and prepared breakfast. I do so because breakfast is an opportunity for me to bond with my children, especially to show them that I love them by providing them something to break fast each morning.

I like to start with a lemon, not coffee. Yes, squeeze a lemon into a glass of water, add some honey, stir and drink it down. There are many known benefits of lemon and I am sure you have heard and read them everywhere. Rich in vitamin C, it enhances your immune system, flushes out toxins, aides digestion, rejuvenates the skin, and many more good stuff.

You want to aim for a breakfast that combines good carbs and fibre with sufficient protein. Yes, aim for a healthy dose of protein. A protein-packed breakfast can satisfy your appetite and help you eat healthier all day long. I will not dwell into recipes of breakfast with high protein. You can google it and plenty of high-protein breakfast ideas will show up.

I like to keep it simple and not be too worked out on the number of grams of protein to consume. Soft-boiled eggs, low sugar cereal or oatmeal with milk, peanut butter on wholemeal bread, tuna chunk wraps are simple pleasures I rotate around the week.

Cheat Days

Following any decent morning routine will not be easy. So are you allowed any cheat days? I will say no. No cheat days. Why? Because like it or not, you will inevitable fail to follow the good routine on some days, despite the noblest intention and stubbornest willpower. And when that happens, don’t get too stress out and don’t be upset with yourself. Just treat that as your unplanned, accidental cheat day. Make sure you get back into the grove the next morning. No sweat.

Stay Flexible

No one is the same. Your position at this point in life will be different from mine. You might be a teenager, just single, married, with children, etc. So everyone should have a different morning routine customised to your current situation. Also, things change as we move on in life. A couple just blessed with a baby will certainly experience a major shift in their mornings. Their morning routines would have to be revamped totally to accommodate the latest addition into the family. So always be flexible and always be ready for change when the need arises.

Once you get used to your morning routine, you will find that it gets easier to follow and somewhat becomes automatic. That is a new good habit forming and very soon you will not have to think or will yourself so much to do it. It has after all becomes a routine.

So with your new and wonderful morning routine, what can you expect next? Nothing much, not at least for awhile. I can guarantee that you will not be great as yet. You will not see any drastic improvements for a short while.

This is where you don’t give up hope and slack off. If you consistently put in the morning routines day in day out, I believe you will slowly but surely experience improvements in your life physically, mentally and even spiritually.