I have gone through periods of reflection at several key points in my life and this fall was one of them. I thought I would share some wisdom from everything I have learned from many years and many connections. These are just some things to think about as you go through the most impactful times of personal growth (i.e. high school to university to post-grad to career and family).
Alot of people think they are passionate, but are they really? Too often they say in their resume, or in conversations that they are, but in the end, they are not. I truly believe Passion is a rare quality. This was one of the first questions I asked you and I ask of others. Passionate people get out there and really make a difference. They speak up. They think positive. They take risks. They look for solutions rather than complaining. They motivate others by their leadership. Think of some solid examples of people who stand out in this way. Then ask yourself if you are doing the same among your own peers. Be passionate and stand out!
We can all communicate better. We can communicate more often than we should. We can all communicate more positively, more effectively, more tactfully, and with more active listening. Most important though is that you should always communicate, especially when you are not certain. Ask questions, start a discussion, encourage others to open up. Lack of communication is a root cause for conflict, whether its personal relationships or global relations between nations. One example is when you are not sure what a person is thinking or means when they say something. So you just go about being upset on an unfounded assumption. It's not much to ask for clarity or to over-communicate. I used to make judgements or act based on what I thought people were thinking and I would get misled, because noone truly knows what another is thinking. Communication is also very uplifting. If you have a compliment, give it. If you feel like saying something positive or noteworthy, share it. If you are not sure whether to say something positive about someone or something, just say it. Overall, more communication leads to better understanding and connection.
Always think the best of people
Whenever I have a bad first impression, or I have a fight or disagreement, or someone makes a mistake, or someone hurts my feelings, or I am feeling awkward with someone, my first reaction is to think the best of them. This is very hard to do. It's important because we have no idea about the background behind why things happen. Our normal reaction is to get mad, fight back, hold a grudge, become negative and then look for more reasons to be even more negative. We all makes mistakes and don't always plan for things to go awry. Think positive, try to think first of positive reasons why the situation occurred. This makes it easier to resolve conflict, forgive mistakes, and acknowledge our own. But best of all, we think even better of the ones who do wonderful things for us! Here is a small example. For example, if your mom gets angry with you because she says you don't listen to her advice on how to raise your kid. Instead of lashing out at her, think about where she is coming from, how much she loves you and her grandchild, and how it would feel if you gave genuine advice that seemed to be ignored. You can take your mom's actions to be a positive step to communication and respond by communicating with the same love, respect, and understanding that you would want for yourself.
It's fascinating to see all these quizzes and surveys we do for ourselves to figure out who we are. Trust me when I say that you are not defined by a facebook quiz that asks you 5 questions and then determines what kind of Glee character you are. :) However, you should take time to understand everything about yourself both positive and negative. You can use the positive to improve the lives of others and you can address the negative to improve yourself. You should also know how you behave and treat other people. Once you have this, you can then understand others better, how to relate to them, and know what drives them. Since we are always changing, this is a good exercise to do every year.
We need people
You may be fiercely independent, a do-it-yourselfer, a take charge person, very talented, an expert in your field, focused on achieving your goals, and want to be a leader or a person who has impact.. Regardless you need to people to get you there. So it's important to network and connect. But you should also try inter-dependence, work with others, empower others to take charge, share your talents and seek new ones, collaborate, think about other people's goals, and give back as a leader. Even if you are an introvert and shy, you know that working with and communicating or presenting to people is a big part of life, so you should start practicing. The longer you go avoiding people or not treating people right the harder it will be to change yourself and to change the personal brand that you have created with others. So be nice to everyone, listen, admit your mistakes, stay positive, ask questions, be genuine and honest, and treat people with care, love, and respect.
I am big believer in giving without expectation. Expecting things after having done something nice is eventually going to lead to hurt or disappointment. Focus your energies on how great it feels to give, teach, help, support, and be there for whomever needs it like your friends, family, partner, work, and school. They payback will come around and if it doesn't then ask yourself "what was I expecting and did I not enjoy the giving aspect?". There are so many opportunities to give to others and in so many ways. This applies to people you care about but also people you do not care for (like that evil Physics teacher) or do not know (like the homeless). Giving needs to be genuine and sincere otherwise it may also lead to negativity. This means that it's okay to say no once in a while.
Think, Reflect, and Learn
Alot of people talk about their pet peeves. I try to avoid this, but if I had to choose something that bothers me, it's when people do not think, reflect, and learn. Usually it's because they lack openness. This occurs often in politics, which is something I am passionate about. One reason I like Obama is that he thinks thoughfully and genuinely. I really encourage you all to really take the time to think about situations and issues that are both global and close to home.. You should also think and reflect about the things you say, things you do, and the things you believe. It is an ongoing process, but the rewards are amazing for your personal and professional growth. It will help you to make better connections, prioritize what is important to you, be open to new and different ways of thinking, embrace your mistakes, and achieve the balance in your life that will truly make you happy.
One of my personal philosopher role models was Aristotle. He wanted to learn about every topic in life during his time. So he became an expert in history, philosophy, math, astronomy, etc. Now today that is hard, but I still try to learn as much as I can about aspect of life out there. However, to me what is more important is balance. There was one time I worked so hard that I would develop ulcers. I clearly didn't balance my health. Another time, I got addicted to TV and let my school and relationships falter. Life is precious and so is your time. If you know your priorities you fit them all in. If you spend too much time obsessing about one thing or activity, it is to the detriment of other things. So you need to think about how you want to balance your school, social life, family, health, spirituality, extra-curriculars, etc. My health was one of the last priorities I was able to work on balancing and I am hopeful that this re-shifting of priorities will not only benefit me, but also my little son Nyal .
You Define your own Happiness
Life is stressful. Bad things happen. You will not always get your way. Everyone puts pressure on you, including yourself. You can deal with things positively or negatively, but it's up to you. How you deal with things will define you as the person you will become. Remember that YOU define your own happiness. You are not responsible for how other people react to your decisions. As much as everyone tells you what to do, how to behave, which school to go to, who you should marry, where you should live, what career you should have, they DO NOT have final say. YOU do. You are the only person who knows best what will make you happy both now and in the future. If you stay true to what you believe and want, the people that really matter will always be there and they will be happy for you eventually. Why? Because they can only watch you be deliriously happy for so long until they start to feel good to! Your happiness will infect others!
Follow your Passions
Think the best of people
Embrace the gift of people
Give without expectation
Think, reflect, and learn from this world
Find the balance that is right for you
And you shall find the happiness that is so rightfully yours to own, however you may define it. You deserve it and you can do it!