I’ve tried to personalize most of these as ongoing reminders to myself. A few, however, are lessons I wish I had learned earlier.
Be less sure of myself … without losing self-confidence. I don’t have to be right all the time. If I’m always right, I don’t need to learn anything more, and learning is half the fun and half the journey.
Explore … places, people, ideas, myself. In the exploring, look for what brings joy and what doesn’t; what gives life and what sucks it out; what is a fountain and what is a drain. Think deeply; find others who can help me.
Ask a lot of questions. Learn to ask better questions. Be curious about people, places, ideas. Learn without judgment. Keep an open mind.
Look for ways to unite rather than divide. Look for common ground; seek out the similarities between dissimilar things and people.
Be thoughtful and wise about who I listen to … whether news or social media, politicians or pastors. Don’t abdicate my responsibility to think; check out for myself what I hear. Listen to people who think differently; I can learn from their perspective, even if I don’t agree with their conclusions.
Listen to people younger than me … they have fresher and different perspectives, which will help keep my own thinking fresh. Besides, eventually almost everyone will be younger than me, so I might as well start early!
Invest more in the marriage than you spend on the wedding. Work hard to make it last … because any other option will be even harder.
Control of anything or anyone outside myself is a myth. (Thanks to M., who helped me think this through very practically one day when I was the substitute teacher in high school detention!) Some corollaries:
- You, and only you, are in control of yourself.
- If you’re not in control of yourself, you’ve either voluntarily given up some measure of control by, for example, enlisting in the military; or there’s a significant problem:
- your capacity for self-control is limited by some developmental issue; or,
- you’re a prisoner … most likely because you didn’t practice self-control; or,
- you’re a slave.
- When it comes to other people, circumstances, and even pets, I need to shift my thinking from control to influence.
These are a few lessons that came to mind this week as I reflected back on 60 years of life. There are certainly more but I’ll turn it over to you no matter how long you’ve lived: what have you learned about yourself, about life, about others…?