About a decade ago I gave up making New Year's resolutions. I figured I didn't need another list of things I wasn't actually going to do hanging over me.
But I came up with another end-of-year tradition, which I love: writing down a list of things I learned that year.
My birthday is on December 29th, so this became my end-of-year-birthday tradition, and last year I shared my list of 40 lessons in happiness to my younger self with all of you, Happier awesome humans. The response was.. amazing, incredible, overwhelming. Many of you shared your own lessons learned and I so loved reading them.
So as 2017 peaks out from around the corner, I wanted to share my list of 41 tiny huge lessons I learned this year for living happier, fuller, with a more open heart and a (slightly) more peaceful soul.
This has been an incredibly difficult, joyful, surprising, challenging, and life-changing year in many ways. I write this with full memory of having said something similar about 2015, not knowing then that 2016 would ask more of me, my best self, and my commitment to the practices of kindness, acceptance, self-compassion, and gratitude than any year before. I didn't know just how much it would test my soul, my mind, and my faith in what I teach and practice.
And I also didn't know the many incredible gifts it would bring, from renewed and strengthened relationships to discovering one of my life's greatest passions: making art. If I forget to say this later, thank you for being part of both my art journey as well as my personal and Happier journey -- I cherish your support, your kind words and insightful ideas.
So, without further ado, here's a list of 41 things I learned this year about living with a fuller heart, a (slightly) more peaceful soul, and whole lot of tiny moments of joy.
1. If you feel a pull to do something, just start doing it and the purpose will reveal itself later.
2. The best way to win an argument is to drop the argument and do something kind towards the other person. Yes, really.
3. Default to "yes" more often than you say "no". A lot of unexpected amazingness emerges.
4. You don't need to believe in miracles or the hard-to-imagine being possible. Just take the steps that might make it possible.
5. If you don't notice the subtle signs the universe -- aka the world, people around you, your inner voice -- sends your way, it will speak louder. That might hurt in the short-term, but later you'll recognize it as an act of kindness.
6. Spend more time with people who make your insides feel warmer.
7. It's OK to feel like everything is awful as long as you don't forget everything that's amazing.
8. It's an incredible gift to be able to help someone, even if it's just one person.
9. "Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen." Ralf Waldo Emerson
10. The magic is in the doing. Start doing.
11. You can be grateful even when life sucks. Even within disappointment, pain or difficulty, you can find something to be grateful for, like learning something new, being stronger than you thought you were, or being able to help someone else.
12. When you're filled with self-doubt, the best thing to do is to focus your attention on someone you care about or a cause that gives you a sense of meaning. When you refocus on yourself, you'll have more clarity and perspective.
13. Self compassion is the furthest away from self-pity. It's not a weakness. It is an act of courage to treat yourself with kindness even amidst challenge or failure.
14. Sometimes you just have to step away from it all and paint. Or cook. Or sing. Or run outside in the rain. Or take a drive with your windows down and music blaring way too loud.
15. Blast your stress with kindness. The best remedy for feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious is to do as many kind things as possible towards others. Try it.
16. When you change, some people will joyfully come along with you, but others won't be able to let go of their story of you. That's OK and it's also OK to miss them.
17. One of the hardest things to know is whether mounting obstacles mean you should work harder and keep going or recognize that it's time to change directions. Keep paying attention; eventually you'll know.
18. When someone you care comes to you with a problem, the best way to fix it might be to not fix it at all but just be there and allow yourself to feel what you feel.
19. Don't try to be fearless. If you're human, you'll have fear. Accept your fear, ask yourself why you're afraid, and remind yourself about your love, commitment, dedication, and passion for what you're doing.
20. Say thank you to people who have impacted your life positively, even in tiny ways. Don't assume they know or that they don't need to hear it from you.
21. One of the biggest gifts we can give to people we love is to listen to them without judgment or expectation (and without checking our phones as they talk).
22. When in doubt or facing a huge challenge, ask yourself WHY you're on this path. Then hold on to your WHY as you keep going.
23. You can't give what you don't have. Take care of you, your insides and outsides, and commit to self-care as a practice that's necessary to you and people you care about. Oh, and quit feeling guilty about it.
24. It takes very little effort to be just a little kinder, but few things have such a huge impact.
25. Give yourself permission to feel good. You don't need to earn the right to feel joy and there isn't a "joy authority" out there, with a checklist of what you must do before you can feel happier. You're enough, right now, just as you are.
26. "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." Buddha
27. This is supposed to be hard -- living, being, creating, discovering, evolving. We're supposed to feel disappointed and triumphant, sad and joyful, challenged and at ease.
28. When you create -- paintings, projects, meals, songs, ideas -- your job is to keep working, keep creating, keep improving your craft. The job of judging, of liking or disliking what you create is not yours; it's for those who experience your creations. So do the work and detach from the outcome.
29. It's OK to walk away sometimes. Not everything is supposed to work out.
30. Kindness is a practice. You get better the more you do it. Don't beat yourself up if sometimes it doesn't come easily. Just keep practicing.
31. The purpose of a lot of your work, your effort, and your creations, may be to lead you to your best work, your best creations. Even disappointing efforts have a purpose.
32. Greet people you love as if their arrival is the best thing that happened to you all day: Smile, say "hi", look them in the eyes, give them a hug (unless they are in the no-hug-teenage zone). It might be the best thing they experience all day.
33. If you're stuck, take a step, any step. It doesn't need to have a direction or be the most perfect optimal step in the right direction. Once you move some energy inside and out, you'll see what your next step should be.
34. Share your struggles. It's not easy, but it will help you feel less alone and you might be able to offer hope to someone who really needs it.
35. Write thank you notes by hand. Send and bring small, unexpected gifts. Sprinkle joy as often as you possibly can.
36. "Great things are done by a series of small things." Vincent Van Gogh
37. Take a few minutes every day to be still and silent, to just allow the day to settle in. You don't have to close your eyes; just be there and receive the events, emotions, and ideas of the day.
38. You absolutely should drive out of your way for your favorite latte, sunset view, or person. Invest in and cherish the experiences that bring you joy.
39. At any moment, you can see beauty, create beauty, or share beauty.
40. "If you powerfully believe in the value of what you offer the world, your love and passion for it will become an unstoppable force." Rod Stryker
41. It's OK to not always be OK. Allow yourself to feel all of your emotions, including the sad, difficult, painful ones, without judgment or pressure to feel or not feel a certain way. The distance between how you feel and how you decide you should feel is the valley of suffering you create. Instead, treat yourself with self-compassion, accept that what you feel is what you feel, and you'll notice the intensity of the difficult feelings ease up. From that place of acceptance you'll have a much better chance to see more clearly what you might do and practice to feel better.
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