It’s funny how often we say this as we get older. If I knew what I know now, then I would have done more of this or less of that. You know how these conversations go.
We know what we know now because of all the experiences we’ve had, good and bad. If you’re young and lack experience there are still things you can do to help your decision making.
You can draw on the life lessons of others and their experiences. By applying these when you’re young, or even when you’re older, it would surely give you better model and framework to make future choices.
Here are 7 life lessons that are worth considering as you work toward your future:
A good friend of mine was given the opportunity to be a shareholder in a small company because of his skill and expertise. The company was a small Victorian based organisation that had really one significant client. My friend delayed his decision for months and in the end the CEO looked elsewhere. This company grew and grew beyond Victoria, beyond Australian was listed on the stock exchange and had my friend joined he would have been a multi-millionaire several times over.
Sadly, it is one of his most often mentioned regrets. Opportunities like this are very infrequent and there is no guarantee that success follows. Opportunities do not have to be related to making money. They could be meeting your soul mate, a significant career change, travelling the world, an overseas job or really anything that draws you towards what you want to achieve.
A good approach is to project yourself into the future and decide how you may feel if you did not take the opportunity.
Lesson 1. Do what you truly want to do
I advise my sons to follow their passions. Spend the time, work hard and ignore what other people tell you what you should be doing. You may not earn a great deal, or it may involve a lot of time away from other things but if it is your passion, you are enjoying the journey. Too many people of my generation did what they were told to do or found themselves with commitments that forced them into areas of work that were less than ideal.
Lesson 2. The root of all anger is fear
I know now that when I feel angry, it is usually related to some sort of fear of loss. Real or imagined. It took me a long time to realise this and it should have been one of the first things I learned. I look back on my family history and I am sure this nugget of insight was missing.
A good friend who is a Buddhist tells me that ‘desire’ is the root cause of all ‘suffering’. I can see this when we get angry. The anger reflects the disconnect between what we want to happen and what is happening now. Anger leads to suffering.
The solution is to become self-aware of what the cause of your anger is and to manage it so you don’t end up suffering. There have been many a time where I could have avoided a lot of pain by managing myself when I was angry and recognising my underlying fear.
Lesson 3. Our daily habits determine our future
Most people who become successful spend a great deal of time working on the skills that can lead them to their outcome.
A successful writer is not great overnight. Many hours are spent day in day out developing their skills. With this consistent practice they become better and better until they become good.
A successful gymnast spends hours every day to develop the strength and skill to do the routines we see in competitions. It takes years of exercise to transform their bodies to a level where they have the strength and control to execute the routines.
Every aspect of life is like this. To be a great programmer you need to work at it daily, a musician, a singer and comedian it is the same process. That is why you must love what you are doing.
Lesson 4. Develop your ideal emotional state
This sounds strange since we mostly see our emotions as being a spontaneous outcome of our situation, however, this does not have to be. Have you ever seen people stay calm in the face of adversity or people whose reaction to a situation is quite different to yours. These people have learned to manage their emotions. All of us can do this by being self-aware and practicing the emotional state we wish to be in.
Instead of being angry about a situation try to be curious and understanding. Equally, if people are angry around you maybe compassion towards them is a better approach. We all need to learn to develop management of our emotions. In the business world, a lot of credit is given to the person who has a high emotional IQ. Develop yours.
Lesson 5. People do things based on their own self interest
When I first started working, I was often frustrated by other people who seemed to be resisting the things I wanted to achieve for the good of the company. In truth, I mistook my objectives and self-interests as being theirs.
We all have different goals and desires even though we may be seemingly in the same place trying to work in harmony with others on the same overall goal.
A colleague of mine had a goal to earn his pay and support his family. He did everything he could to avoid discourse, conflict and risk. Other people were more out there and their actions at work were very different.
The famous salesman Zig Zigler once said that in order to get what you want you need to help others get what they want.
The key lesson is to understand what drives people and link their actions to moving towards their desired outcomes. Only then can you think about how these may help you get what you want. Before you try to convince others to do something you want, understand how this impacts their needs and how these could be aligned.
I once read that a true leader reflects the needs and desires of the group.
Lesson 6. The journey is the reward not the ‘goal’
Just imagine doing something every day that you did not enjoy. Well, many people do just that and are very dissatisfied with their lives. In fact, US research suggest that 80% of the people are unhappy at work.
How many people have you heard say, I am doing this because when I retire, I can lead a happy life or do the things I really like. I will be happy when I get this promotion or when I win the lottery or when my golf handicap is a single figure. Happiness can never be achieved when a goal is reached if the journey is miserable.
In the end ‘life’ is the journey and you need to enjoy it. It also means that you need to enjoy all the things you do along the way.
Research has found that people’s state of happiness reverts to their norm quickly after reaching their goals. This is particularly so when they win a lottery. Yes, they are very happy euphoric even, but this dissipates to all the same fears, worries and problems they had before.
The goal does not make you happy – the journey is what you must enjoy and obtain delight from.
Start doing the things that give you joy and you are passionate about – this will be your sustenance all your life.
Lesson 7. Life Balance is not a fad, but a necessity
So many people nowadays seem to have mental health issues or have physical and emotional problems. Many of these are related to an imbalance in their lives. People often spend too much time focussing on one thing at the expense of others. Too much work, and not enough time to relax and enjoy life divides people’s lives and relationships. You can have fun and enjoyment and work hard. One does not exclude the other.
When I was growing up in a stoic Protestant household, laughter was frowned upon as the Devil’s work. On the other hand, hard work would be rewarded by God. This is a very skewed view of life and explains why so many of my older family members seemed so miserable. You can do both - work hard, laugh and enjoy life. Balance is all that is needed.
These points have been put succinctly in this animated presentation. Click HERE to view. Enjoy!