8 Life Lessons I Wish I'd Known Sooner If you're feeling angry, disappointed, frustrated or powerless in any area of your life, I promise that these eight life lessons I've learned will change everything for you.
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Now that I'm in my 40s, I look back at my younger self and recognize how much unnecessary suffering I created for myself by not knowing these eight simple truths. I learned these life lessons the hard way. Discovering them transformed my entire existence. Today, I share them with you.
1. Our power in life comes from focusing on what we can control, not what we can't
In life, unfortunate things happen. When they do, it can be easy or tempting to become reactive and focus on what isn't going well. Many of us spend far too much time whining, complaining or venting about things we simply can't control: weather, traffic, other people's behavior, the past. Focusing on circumstances or things that are happening to us is far less effective than focusing on how we can respond to those things and what we can do about them. Avoid drama. Keep your focus on yourself and what more you can do, and you'll almost always find a find to improve things.
2. Fear is only in our minds
Fear is a product of our imagination. Usually, when we experience fear, we're worried about something that may (or may not) happen in the future. Our power lies in focusing on our present reality. Fear tends to inhibit action, but action can overcome fear. So, one of the best ways to overcome fear (of anything) is to simply get into motion and take action. Don't focus on the stories you tell yourself. Get out and do something about the things you're nervous or anxious about.
3. Failure is not the opposite of success — it's part of it
Most of us hate making mistakes or failing at anything. But making mistakes and failing is a huge part of our learning and growth process. When we err but take the time to find meaningful learning, our mistakes help us better ourselves and improve. They help us level up. Our mistakes are only failures if we choose to view them as failures. Winston Churchill said it best: "Success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm or energy." That couldn't be more true. It's not how we fall, but how we pick ourselves back up that really matters. Find the learning, apply it and move on with love and compassion for yourself.
4. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
When we're uncomfortable, it often means that we're challenging ourselves, stretching ourselves and trying something new. That's how we grow! So, feeling uncomfortable is usually a sign that you're making progress and evolving. Getting used to that feeling can help us do it more often and with less resistance. The best way to get comfortable with being uncomfortable is to practice it. Instead of shying away from discomfort, make the choice to lean into it. Look for ways to make yourself uncomfortable; seek those out and know how helpful they will be for you and your development.
5. Find ways to not take offense to things
Many of us go through life almost looking for reasons to be offended. This comes from our ego's desire to protect ourselves and our beliefs. Our minds can play tricks on us and convince us that we're "right" when we're not. When we don't like what we're hearing or experiencing, it's important to slow down and take the time to listen. Most miscommunications can be solved by simply seeking to understand others and alternative viewpoints or perspectives. Instead of judging people or things dissimilar to yourself, put acceptance there instead. Value differences. Having the strength to never take anything personally is essentially a superpower.
6. Growth requires change
A lot of us want to grow as people, but many of us are not willing to go through change to make it happen. That's not how growth works. If we want what we've never had before, we must be willing to do things we've never done before. Muscles grow by repeatedly putting stress and tension on them; then letting them recover before doing it again. It's the same with mental and emotional growth. If you're not ever feeling any kind of tension or stress, then you're probably not growing. Don't just embrace change or be open to it, but actively seek it out.
7. Focusing on what you love and are passionate about will lead to great happiness
Too many of us do things out of obligation (we feel we ought to) or fear (we feel we must). Real success happens when we do things out of love or desire (we want to). When we engage with jobs, activities or people we truly love, it rarely feels like work. Seeking out things we are passionate about helps us feel more intrinsic motivation and that keeps us going through tough or challenging times. This is when we are most aligned with ourselves, and it feels good to be congruent with ourselves. That leads to joy and fulfillment with whatever we're doing. It's hard not be successful when you feel joy and fulfillment.
8. Yesterday is heavy — put it down
All too many of us are focused on the past, or what happened last month or last year. The past is written; set in stone. It cannot be changed. Focusing on it too much can be dangerous because it's not within our circle of control. A former boss of mine used to say, "The past is interesting but nothing more." The past can guide and instruct us, but it doesn't determine our future or define us. Focusing on it too much takes us out of the present moment or our ability to plan for the future.
Until I learned these lessons, my life was filled with unnecessary disappointments or frustrations. Underneath all these lessons is a simple concept: Nearly everything in life is a choice we make. As I began to choose better, my days filled up with far more joy. Try it.