I haven't done a Thursday Thirteen post in awhile. I decided to resurrect it at least for the day. (I think I mainly stopped because coming up with a list of 13 things was difficult. So it may just be as the inspiration strikes.)
So, in no particular order, here are 13 things life has taught me.
1) Value your family.
Not to be morbid, but you never know when you'll lose a family member. Friendships are great, and I have a lot of friends that I am closer to than a lot of family, but at the same time, there is something to be said for that long, shared history of family. My cousins and I have jokes and stories that we laugh and laugh at that we can't even explain to newer family members. Why? Because they happened when we were 3 and something that you've cracked up at since you are three is not always easily explained once you're 30. Treasure your family. Treasure those times together. Find out those family stories that maybe only your grandparents know before they're gone.
2) Trust People and Think the Best of Them. But Use Your Brain Too.
Whenever possible, I like to trust people. I like to think the best of them and hope they will reach their potential. I like to cheer people to success, both at work and in my personal life. I have to say, I would much rather be burned by giving someone that second, third, eighteenth chance than pre-judge them by a past failure or failures. That being said, there comes a time when trust has been broken too many times to keep hoping for the best. Use your brain and God-given discernment. If you feel they're taking advantage of you and they have many times in the past, there is a very good chance you are right.
3) It's Okay to Make Mistakes. Those Who Love You Still Will.
Mistakes happen. We take on too much and can't handle it all. We overcommit and underdeliver. These are not ways to live. I firmly believe that it is important to live a life of integrity including keeping up with your commitments even when it's hard. That being said, mistakes happen. Those calls you were going to make for a friend? They don't happen. That party you meant to throw? Gets pulled together last minute. It's okay. Give yourself a little grace, realize where you made the mistakes, and plan to make it better going forward. If you've wronged someone, ask for forgiveness. If they truly love you, they will.
4) Listen to Your Body
How many times have I been sick only to realize later that maybe if I wasn't burning the candle at both ends and maybe in the middle too for good measure? I don't know how many..... a lot? Rest is important. Taking a break is important. Listen to your body.
5) Set Goals, But Be Flexible
Goals are great. I think everyone should have goals they are reaching for. I think it helps challenge you, helps you to achieve more. But a goal is just that - a goal. It's not a god to be worshiped and put above everything else. If you have a goal in mind and you do your best to achieve it, even if you don't quite hit your goal, you're still ahead. For example, let's use weight loss as an example. If you had a goal to lose 20 pounds in 3 months and you made healthy life changes but at the end of 3 months you had lost 17 pounds, is that a failure? No. Did you reach your goal? No. But you've still accomplished more than you would have if you had never tried. So celebrate what you achieve. Don't focus on what you didn't.
6) Realize the Only One You Can Change is Yourself
It's easy to get caught up in trying to change others especially if you're in a position of mentoring, guiding, etc. But you can't. You can advise, counsel, and try to help until you're blue in the face and emotionally and physically exhausted. But ultimately, you can't change another person. You can change your response to a situation. You can change your situation. But ultimately, you are only responsible for yourself and you can only change yourself. I learned a lot about this when I was volunteering different places. People I loved and cared about consistently made bad choices. I did everything I could to help. But ultimately, they had to make their own choice.
It's the same way in other relationships. Marriage, for one. I can nag my husband about something. I can try to change his mind about something and even try changing his behaviors. But ultimately, whatever it's about, I can only change me.
7) I'd Rather Be Kind than Right
I don't like being wrong. Really, I hate it. But often, it's much more important (even if I am right) to choose to die to self and not have to prove my point. What matters isn't so much that the other person know that I am right as the other person knowing that I care.
Honestly, this can be a battle. I want to be right. I want my way. I don't want to be quiet about something. Especially if I know that I know that I'm right. But if it makes the other person feel bad about themselves and it's not something that truly matters, it really is better to take the high road and not fight to the death (kidding) just to be able to say "I told you so."
Even if someone fails. Especially if someone fails. If they don't listen and choose to do things their way and it doesn't work, they probably know you told them differently. You saying it doesn't change anything. Actually, it does. It changes you in their eyes from a kind, supportive person to an arrogant jerk. It changes you from someone they can go to to someone they want to go away from. It's not worth it.
8) Perspective Changes Everything
It's the same in day to day life - you may feel crushed under the weight of obligations. You may feel like your to-do list is insurmountable. But sometimes, all you need is a little perspective. Step away.... it looks smaller already.
(Disclaimer - keeping your problems in perspective does not give you license to be that obnoxious person who always points out things could be worse. "My grandma died!" "Oh yeah? My grandma and grandpa died. Consider yourself lucky!" "My house burned down." "There are children in Africa who've never had a house!!!" Just stop. You're not helpful.)
9) Laughter May Really Be the Best Medicine
Okay, maybe not for pneumonia and a double ear infection. Because if you're already struggling to breathe, the laughing will make it worse. But from stress.... yes. We crack up at work on the regular when we're stressed and it helps. Sometimes a good laugh with a good friend is all that is needed. :)
10) When You Make a Good Friend, Keep the Good Friend
Good friends can be hard to find. If you have one, or more than one, value each one. Invest into your relationship with each one. Different friends may play different roles in your life at different times - that's okay. You're not going to have identical relationships with each of your friends because they're individuals and so are your interactions with them. But keep the friendships. Make time for them. Make an effort. You need them and they need you.
The best way to make a good friend? Be a good friend.
The best way to keep a good friend? Keep being a good friend.
You reap what you sow.
11) Don't Let Others Make You Feel Bad for Who You Are. Be Yourself.
This hits close to home.
For years, I was painfully shy. Going to a small school that was in the same building as my small church meant I was pretty sheltered. I didn't interact with that many people. I let people make me feel bad for being myself, which was pretty shy at that point.
I've been put down for my beliefs. But my beliefs are more than just what I think. They really form who I am. It hurts when people put me down for that because it is who I am, not just what I think. It's easy to want to change or cover this to appease others.
Even my personality type.... years ago, I sold Mary Kay make-up and skin care. Looking back, this was a terrible, terrible decision. The company is corrupt and rips off many women a year. One of the most damaging things they did while I was in was DISC training of the DISC personality types. I (and this was confirmed by more indepth training on my business trip last week) am definitely a C personality type. This personality type was made fun of at my Mary Kay training. I really felt like it was a defect and I tried to hide these personality characteristics. I thought maybe that was the reason I wasn't successful. Maybe that's why I couldn't "make it" in Mary Kay. This past week, it all came back to me as I sat in my work training.
But there is nothing wrong with being a "C" personality. It stands for conscientious. Isn't that the type of thing you look for when wanting an employee/volunteer/ etc.? A lot of times, yes!!! But in Mary Kay, it was something to be mocked. Why? Because C personalities like to think things through. They like to analyze. They like to see if things really make sense. And when a business model is built on motivating people through excitement, fear, and manipulation, C personalities are like running up against a brick wall. But there is nothing wrong with thinking things through and making the right decision for you in the right circumstance.
I am who I am, and I can choose to improve upon that and recognize my strengths and weaknesses or I can be who others think I should be. I choose the first one. God made me who I am for a reason.
12) Be Content
I truly believe that many of our problems in life is caused by not being content. Not being content in our job, in our relationship, with our possession, etc. We think of how things could be better instead of focusing on the positives. We want things we don't have. We go into debt to get things we want. Then we're stressed out because the temporary joy our new toy got us doesn't last. We buy a new model computer only for something even better to come along the next day.
Stop the cycle. Realize you're blessed. Be content with what you have and who you have to share it with.
13) It's Better to Be Well-Spoken than Much Spoken
We've probably all heard the phrase "It's better to hold your tongue and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." Similarly, I would rather not talk often but speak words that have impact than to just babble constantly. It's true at work and it's true in my personal life as well. There is so much noise and useless chatter (and yes, I engage in a lot of meaningless chatter) that sometimes it is the well-developed, thought-out comments that stick with you. I've even noticed this on twitter or facebook. People who are posting status updates every 5 minutes or tweeting details of their lunch? Even when they have something important to say, there is a good chance I've tuned them out (or maybe unsubscribed). But when you know a person who doesn't say much, but nearly everything they say is dripping with wisdom? That's who sticks out.
And..... my first Thursday Thirteen in quite some time is long enough to make up for all those times I didn't do one....
If you've made it to the end, congratulations. :)