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It’s that time of year again: time for some self-indulgent self-reflection. If you’ve followed my work for a while, you might know that most of my blog posts start off as notes to myself, condensing lessons I’ve learned. Some I share, some I don’t.
Here are 39 of the most poignant, meaningful lessons from 2018 extracted from the many notes to self I penned this year.
You are allowed to make happiness your main goal in life. You are allowed to put your own happiness first and to let that inform your decisions. You are allowed to make every effort to avoid things that make you unhappy or just neutral. You are allowed to pursue happiness like a dog pursues a rabbit: crazed, focused, intent.
While some people, by virtue of genetics and upbringing and luck and environment and a million other factors beyond their conscious control, find it easier to be happy and recover faster from setbacks, no one can just BE a happy person. Our moods fluctuate. All the time.
Be hard on yourself. Set your own standards and be the one to decide if you’ve met them or not. Don’t let other people dictate that. You can never please everyone, or meet everyone’s standards. But you can set your own, then focus on them.
If you’re procrastinating a particular task, write down two things: exactly what you need to do and exactly why you need to do it.
If you can’t stop procrastinating on something you’ve chosen — spending time with a partner, studying, working on a creative project — you shouldn’t be doing it.
You don’t need to find yourself. Our selves are not a puzzle to be solved. We’re always changing. Every minute of our lives. There is nothing to figure out. There is no secret, buried identity to excavate.
The people whose twenties and teens are a riotous, joyous rampage are the exception, not the rule. There’s no evidence that these are the happiest times. Research generally indicates that people get happier as they age.
Education is not about school. Education is about what you choose to do when no one is forcing you. It’s about how you spend the early hours of the morning or the late hours of the evening. It’s about what you pursue because the idea of not getting better at it every single day is agony.
Don’t wait for the fear to go away. Battle through it and get used to it.
Life is not about constructing a highlight reel, but you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise. The highlights are what sticks. We define ourselves by our best moments.
Getting what you want and deciding to stop wanting something lead to the same outcome.
Once, when I was grappling with losing a friend for the first time, I told someone I didn’t know how to react. They said: the nice part is that there are no rules for grieving. As in: you don’t need to act one way or another. You just feel whatever you need to feel and accept it all as valid.
Regret is lazy. It’s a lot easier to go through life disowning your past, eschewing everything you were and trying to hide it all, than it is to take responsibility for everything, to take ownership of it all. It’s easier to regret something than to come to terms with it. It’s easier to regret everything than to sort and sift the good from the bad.
When something dramatically bad or unpleasant or unexpected or otherwise strongly negative happens, do not make any decisions for 48 hours afterwards. Try not to even think about it. Do anything that makes you think about anything else.
The only person who can really give an opinion about you that’s 100% about you, is you. Other people are really talking about themselves.
Send ten postcards every week. It will change your life. I promise.
If you want to learn how to put something together, practice taking it apart.
People are not disposable. Treating people like objects is not self-love. Emotionally abusing others is not freedom. Being an asshole is not honesty.
Stop looking for shortcuts. They always come back to bite you.
Don’t look at your phone in a situation where you wouldn’t read a book.
Independence means accepting yourself, not rejecting other people.
Getting your shit together is not about being perfect. It’s about not letting the imperfect parts of yourself destroy your enjoyment of life.
Unhappiness is a habit (but not a choice.)
If you can’t cook, basically any savoury food will taste good if you fry it with olive oil, sea salt, and parsley.
Avoid anchors, choose wings instead.
Developing a consistent sleeping schedule is the best thing you can do for your health, sanity, and productivity.
Think about death every damn day.
Everyone is weird when you get to know them. That doesn’t mean they’re crazy.
Improving your life is usually a matter of subtraction, not addition.
Learning is more important than money or getting credit.
Play the long game. Think ahead. Build assets for the future. Invest. Build healthy habits. Don’t look for instant gratification.
Stress doesn’t dissipate by itself. You need to make a conscious effort to manage it.
Buy yourself flowers. Don’t wait for other people to treat you nicely.
Here’s to another year of learning, grappling, floundering, surviving, discovering, writing, reading, hoping, improving, moving and being. Thank you for sticking around.