Life lessons emerge from a deep-rooted underlying shortcoming. Such situations often require extended experiential learning from mentors that lasts years. If done right, life lessons create such a paradigm shift that the learnings become an integral part of your identity. As we get close to turning the page on this decade, sharing a personal retrospective below — a list of ten most impactful tweet-length life lessons I picked up in the last 10 years.
- “Say yes as often as you can” (Stephen Colbert @ Knox University in 2006). I resented two of my now favorite activities, golf and meditation, for years without giving them a try. Saying yes leads to new experiences, and new experiences will lead you to knowledge and wisdom.
- “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” (7 Habits, Habit #5, Stephen Covey). Conflicts are best resolved by setting aside the debate on choices and spending time understanding each other’s underlying principles behind those decisions.
- “If you think something funny, you’ve got to say it. Win, lose or draw” (Ricky Gervais, Humanity, 2018). Laughter is the best “best practice”, especially on long, tough, stressful projects and specifically, if it is a result of self-deprecating humor.
- “The conversation is the relationship” (Fierce Conversations, Susan Scott). When we avoid tough conversations in the relationship, the possibilities for that relationship shrink. Worst, when the conversation stops, the relationship deteriorates.
- By integrating what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technically feasible and economically viable, design thinking taps into overlooked capacities of non-designers to generate ideas for a vast range of problems. (Change by Design, Tim Brown)
- Finding a meaningful purpose requires the removal of “me”, “myself”, and “I” from the search. You will organically discover your purpose as a by-product of the experience of truly bonding with your habitat. (Neti Neti or नेति नेति is analytical meditation from Upanishads)
- “Make no mistake: a culture happens, whether you want it to or not. The only question is how hard you are going to try to influence it” (How Will You Measure Your Life?, Clayton M. Christensen). Culture is best reflected by how you resolve conflicts, be it home or work.
- When children are accepted, when they are free to express themselves and can participate in making decisions that affect them, they enjoy greater self-esteem and are more self-confident (Parent Effectiveness Training, Dr. Thomas Gordon).
- “There are no mistakes in the universe” (Alan Watts). Everything that happens to you is an opportunity to make a choice. Choices lead to actions, repeated actions become habits. Habits shape character and character drives destiny (from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad IV.4.5).
- Mindfulness, or being aware of the present moment, is a “meta-skill” that accelerates the ability to learn new skills (Vipassanā — to see things as they really are). I look forward to the next 10 years for sharpening these newly acquired skills from this decade — active listening, empathy, and gratitude.
A Takeaway From This Decade — Quality of Life
In conclusion, the one thing that I can say with conviction from these experiences and learnings is that the “quality of life is the quality of your consciousness”. Once you have done enough to reasonably meet the basic needs of your lifestyle, the next jump in the quality of your life is not going to come from external factors. It will depend on what you cultivate inside of you — the quality of your thoughts.