This is not the typical new year’s post. We could focus on collating our best posts of 2015 or talk about resolutions for the new year as we have done in the past, but too many major lessons were received in 2015 to ignore. I wanted to chronicle the experience of my year in that format. What I was taught, and what I learnt. There may be something in there that you or someone you know can identify with so feel free to share using any platform of your choosing.
Best life lessons of 2015
You are stronger than you think
- Last year was a year of tremendous struggle, but in the same breath, it was also the year of significant growth. You see in life, the same things that bring us to our knees are the same things that have the potential to transform our lives if we surrender to the process. When I actively pursued the goal to actively change my life and work towards tangible and well-defined desired outcomes in order to get unstuck from the place I found myself, the journey was not easy. But without hesitation, it was 100% beneficial.
- At first I could hardly find strength- literally and figuratively. I found myself ‘halfway up Shit Creek’ and I struggled to get out. In my quest to improve my own life, I had to overcome my own perceived weaknesses that got me to the place I was. When I felt weary and winded, I had to remind myself that I was stronger than I thought and felt in that moment. Sometimes we feel that a challenge is too demanding but to give in repeatedly robs of achieving a greater sense of self and working towards our life purpose, which never comes without a refining process. You must first go through the fire in order to be refined.
- Like the Bond book and film, tomorrow never really comes. How many tomorrows and Mondays /Sundays have you promised yourself that you will start a change that never comes? True change starts now. Tomorrow is too late, and who told you you are guaranteed a tomorrow? Change is simply creating the habit of being conscious in every present continuous moment so that you can be aware of your choices and chooses the ones that get you to where you really want to go as opposed to passively sitting on the dock of the bay and watching your life pass you by. Don’t get hung up on the past or put too much hope in the future. Now is all you have. And that is more than enough to get you to where you want to go.
Lighten your load
- Over time, I had been able to get rid of unhealthy habits that became crutches for me. One thing I know about crutches in physiotherapy, is that they are essential in the initial healing process after an injury but once the wounds start to heal, you have to gradually wean yourself from them. Let’s look at a broken leg. The first thing that goes is the heavy cast once the bones are properly reset. A lighter restraint is added to restrict movement but also can be removed at will from time to time. Then that restraint is removed entirely over time and with physiotherapy, you are left with a crutch and maybe a simple superlight neoprene restraint. Eventually, the crutches have to go though if you ever want to walk normally again and learn to run. So the very thing that helped you get through a tough time may be the thing that over time, you need to let go because it no longer serves you well. It could be cigarettes, alcohol, overreating, partying, toxic relationships, mediocrity, complacency, a sedentary lifestyle… (insert whatever applies to your situation. Sometimes as a result, you will find that once you start to improve your life, you will lose friends. That’s OK. Sometimes some people can actually contribute toxic waste to our lives and they may have no interest in you once you embark on your own self-improvement journey and just distance themselves. Or you might find that you may just no want certain energies in your life anymore and that’s a great thing!
Put God first
- We first started out our self improvement trying to apply the best of coaching and NLP techniques (I trained and earned qualifications in both during the the year) but though both elements provided significantly useful resources, we found that the most change happens when we put ourselves in submission to God’s will for our lives. We struggled on our own throughout the year trying to transform our lives on our own but always fell woefully short. Now we strive to adhere to “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. “ (Matthew 6:33)
Family is worth fighting for
- A happy family possessing physical, mental and spiritual health is the true measure of success. Not things. Not jobs. Not accolades. Not stamps in your passport. Not how many headlines your name appears in, Not how many people visit your blog. Not in the number of people who follow you on Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest or Periscope. Not which area code you live in or how big your house is. Not how expensive your car is. Not in the brands you wear. Not in the amount you can shell out for private school. Not how often you can dine out or to what extent you live in the lap of luxury. Not in the number of zeroes before the comma in your paycheck nor the amount of commas for that sake or whether you even have a paycheck because you are rolling in the super wealthy leagues. Don’t get us wrong. It is absolutely lovely to have things or to be able to afford them but the problem is when we become defined by them or our pursuit of them. Be careful about what you are pursuing and look at what you are giving up to get it. Families are broken over time due to small decisions that allow the structure to have small cracks that eventually create huge fissions, and everyone gets hurt, no matter how conscious the uncoupling is. No family is perfect but you cannot have one just by accident. You have to make yours a priority.
Marriage requires more sacrifice than you think
- Listen carefully; I will say this only once. Marriage is HARD work. Like the HARDEST thing you will ever have to do. Yes many people live unhappily and get by living separate lives forever after but if you want a happy, healthy, loving, life-enhancing marriage, you will have to box in Gox box sox for it. We found ourselves stuck in places in our individual lives and marriage and while we had no interest in conceding to defeat and giving into a lifetime of eternal unhappiness, we had no clue how to find the strength to move forward.
- Find counselors who believe in marriage. Some actually don’t. Some have never had a successful marriage as well. I’d be wary of a marriage therapist on his /her third marriage, which happens more of than you think. Just saying.
- There are lots of reasons why you married the one you did and the time will come when you will be tempted to see only faults and forget about the bliss. Go back there. Literally. Here is a brilliant series on marriage by super famous YouTube motivational speaker ET The Hip Hop Preacher, who himself happens to be happily married for over 20 years, though he jokes that his wife number of years “happily” married count to less than his.
The glass is never empty
- No matter how bad things look in a really bad moment, there are equally great things about that same situation. God never gives you more than you can bear. Focus on giving thanks for all that is great and for the restoration of those areas that still need healing. Guard your joy vigilantly or you will lose it in the heaps of everything that’s going wrong in the world or in your own life.
Move through the pain
- I have struggled with chronic pain for the past few years and got really bad advice from a neurosurgeon to not exercise. It only made things worse. It wasn’t until I realized that I had to move though the pain, in spite of it that things really started to shift. Doctors told me not to jump. I can now do burpess and jump up on steps two feet high. I was told not to lift weights. I can now leg press 80kg (that’s 176lbs) up from my previous PB of 50lbs at my prime over a decade ago. Being stationary changes nothing. You MUST move through both the physical and emotional pain in your life to TRULY transform. It will hurt, just do it slowly and incrementally. The pain is only temporary.
- Even if you cannot see results with your eyes or have not achieved the goals you want, just keep going. People often talk about the journey of a thousand miles beginning with just one step but what’s left out is that you must keep going. You cannot complete that journey with just the one step. You have to keep on putting one foot in front of the other. Everyday you will feel different. Some days you will cover large distances and others you may have to pause to rest to recover so that you can be energized for the next day’s journey but you cannot stay in one place, even if the destination feels far off. Do not give up. Keep moving forward.
Walk by faith, not sight
- When the destination seems too far to see in plain sight is when you will have to learn to walk by faith. I do believe that it’s not by might, nor by power but by the spirit. You have to believe in something greater than you can eyes can see if you are going to be able to reach unreachable dreams. Otherwise, you will be overwhelmed by the sheer impossibility of the goals in the first place.
Put on your oxygen mask first
- As a new mother, this was one of my most important lessons. As women we are naturally inclined to nurture others. I nurture my husband, my work, my friends and when our baby came, I put everything in him. He needed it to survive. After all babies need us for their every sustenance to remain alive and to thrive. I breastfed for nearly two years and decided to work from home in order to be close to him. I had to learn though that at some point, I had to start carving out time, energy and resources for myself. We can only be of use to others when we have our own tanks full. When we are depleted and tired, we are of no help to ourselves or to those for whom we have sacrificed our own self care. It is not selfish to take care of yourself. It is only wise to do so. You can do more and give more when you have more to give.
Get up early
- It was the only way to actually find a time alone that I could spend in a sacred way, feeding my spirit, mind, and body. Babies have a rhythm, once you know yours, try to get up 30 mins to 1 hour ahead of everybody and do not use that time doing anything else but nurturing yourself. Housework does not qualify. Neither does any kind of work or answering email and such. Make a cup of perfectly brewed green tea or a triple pot of espresso (Mama Juice) and enjoy your drink while its still hot, go for a walk, head to the gym or exercise at home. Make a quick but healthy breakfast for yourself to start your day off right.
Feed your spirit
- Do not neglect to feed your spirit. Spiritual food is even more important than physical food. Whatever we give the most attention to in our lives becomes our god so be careful. In that golden hour before everyone awakes, pray, meditate on God’s word, reflect and feed your spirit with life-giving spiritual food. Surrender your joys and cares to God and allow him to give you his joy and peace so that you may face the day with grace and poise. Otherwise, you absolutely will eat 3-6 double chocolate muffins by the time the kid goes to sleep that night. Or insert your own vice.
Be kind to yourself
- We didn’t learn all of these lessons on Jan 1 and became super transformed on Jan 2, 2015. These were hard lessons most of them and many repeated painfully over and over until they finally started sinking in. Most of them are still works in progress. So remember to be kind to yourself and it doesn’t matter how many times you fall, just keep picking yourself back up. It’s easy to yield to the harsh inner critic but you need to learn to ‘walk that ish out.’ You make the best choice in every given moment and if it was not a choice you are happy with, you learn from it. On the road to growth, there is no failure, only feedback. So if something you causes distress, stop doing it. But don’t hate yourself because you are not where you want to be or you no longer recognize yourself because you are so far away from the hopes and dreams you had for yourself. You have got to love yourself better not hate yourself to change.
There’s enough for everyone
- I truly believe that there is enough success for all of us on this planet to live the purpose for which we are called and not infringe on the resources that were meant to be for someone else. I can truly celebrate the success of others because I know that my success has my name on it and I am walking towards it. I can delight in their joys because I have my own. I do not compete against other because that is absolutely pointless. I compete against my own self because my battle is inward, not exterior. I strive to be my best self because I honestly believe that the best me is good enough to bring me the success and the for which I aim.
Don’t apologise for being different
Be true to yourself
- My favour doesn’t come from people. And since I have learnt, that then I can be free to be my authentic self. My favour comes from the grace of God. I don’t try to stand out by creating dramatic antics to get attention. I am just myself because no one can find joy playing a role.
Speak your truth
- This boldness also comes with age and submission. I no longer feel compelled to be silent to make others happy. I am silent if I sense it is wise to be but otherwise, I speak my truth in love. And this is why this post exists.
Live your truth
- It’s great to talk but walking the walk is another thing. All of these lessons are lessons I have learnt. Lessons we have learnt together as a couple, as parents and as individuals. A lesson is never truly learnt until it is applied. It is the application that makes it real. Otherwise, it is just theory (or a whole bunch of nice words).
- No matter what you are facing, smile. I do not mean to put on a plastic smile to mask your pain. I mean that even in the midst of the deepest, darkest moments of your life, dig deep inside and find sincere reasons to smile. You are alive. As long as there is life there is hope. Speak joy, peace and contentment into your storm. And smile because you know that joy comes in the morning.
- The only person with 100% responsibility for your life is you. Yes you may have been born in a messed up family, or didn’t have certain resources available to you when growing up, or were abused or neglected or your circumstances are mega challenging, and for all those things, you should acknowledge first and be kind to yourself and pursue a better life for yourself. You have no control over some experiences life force on you but you have the choice to either continue to live out every day as a victim or fight back by taking control of your destiny. Sometimes some issues are subconscious and we act out of unawareness, stuck in patterns we’ve inherited but we have to become conscious of these patterns before we can interrupt them and re-programme ourselves the way that suits us best. We don’t always have a say in the cards life hand us but we most certainly can chose what to do with them.
What were some of your own lessons? Do leave a comment and either share new ones or say which ones we have listed that you identify with.