As a kid I walked the sands of the Jersey Shore with intensity, looking for patches of washed up seashells. It wasn’t the seashells I was after though, I was in pursuit of something much greater and more valuable to me: sea glass. Poking out from behind the beige grains of sand and hidden behind clunky shells laid a kaleidoscope of colored glass fragments. The discovery of a piece of well-worn sea glass was a true treasure. I shared the boasts of my treasures with my grandfather, who also collected sea glass, and we would spend the afternoon speculating together about the origin, the journey and the story of that glass.
Physically and chemically weathered by the salt water of the ocean, the sea glass menagerie we collected was beautiful. Our pieces were frosted varieties of cream, green and blue with fully rounded edges and smooth surfaces. What were originally broken shards of glass, these small pieces had been rolled and tumbled around in the ocean for decades – usually about thirty years – before being washed up on shore for us to find. Sea glass sang to me of the interconnectedness of people between decades and of the potential for something sharp and edgy to become smooth, comforting and beautiful.
We have all been sharp and edgy, and like sea glass, we all have the potential for these rough edges to be smoothed out by the waves of life. These waves batter us around, but beyond the roughness and the rocking is a final outcome, a product of beauty, that could not have ever existed without the waves.
I have thirty-two pieces of informational sea glass for you. As I celebrated my thirty-second birthday this past weekend, I hand selected these, my favorite lessons, to share. These are thirty-two truths and pieces of wisdom that I have been handed over the years; but, like the sea glass, the truths have taken time, and some rough waves of life, to really settle into their beauty and my ability to take ownership of them. Like real sea glass, I have known many of these tidbits to be true for over thirty years, but it took until recently, after thirty years of waves, for me to really hold them in my hand and have ownership of their beauty. They have solidified themselves in my life – they have taken time to learn – and have changed my life for the better.
Here’s my little collection, the pieces of sea glass I keep in my mental pocket…the beautiful products of lessons learned from my trials, pain, heartaches, disappointments and my seasons of challenge:
These things that many of you have probably already heard over the years, however, the significance of this list is in understanding the difference between knowledge that you know and knowledge that is applied. Take this list and embed it into the flow of your everyday life. These 32 things specifically have helped me move forward, release myself from the past, and become the best version of myself that I can be.
#1. An action taker will have a life well lived.
Living is an action; it is something we choose to engage in. There is a difference between living, and just getting through life. Live life to the fullest each and every day instead of just living for the weekends. By becoming people of action, we will live life with forward momentum instead of getting stuck in the ‘what if’s’ and ‘one days.’
Do something, anything, to get yourself moving forward instead of just living in survival mode. Start engaging and emerging yourself in life. You don’t have to know if you are taking the right action, just begin by taking an action. Most people are so worried about making a mistake or going in the wrong direction, that they never actually take an action at all. Take action, and you will be able to live life to its fullest.
#2. Love is always the right answer.
No matter what happens, or how someone may have wronged you, or whatever you choose to do, love always wins. When we live with a daily aspiration to do everything with love, our days will never be lacking.
Love yourself, love God, love your parents, love your neighbor, love your family, love your community, love your friends, love the world around you and even love strangers. Love is everything.
#3 Happiness is a state of being that is grounded by having an attitude of gratitude.
A spirit of gratitude is like water to flowers. A grateful approach to life waters our perspective with joy. It is impossible to be unhappy and dissatisfied if you are living with an attitude of gratitude.
Start a gratitude journal and write down all the things in life that you are grateful for. Changing your attitude to be more grateful, will be life changing and will open many doors of happiness.
#4. The thoughts you choose determine your destiny.
The words you choose to say or think can really change you. The ability to choose your words and thoughts is perhaps one of the greatest tools we have ever been given. Every thought you think is either moving you in the direction of accomplishing your dreams, or moving you away from them.
Our thoughts are one of the few things in life that no one else can control or have influence over, even though we often think they do. Take full ownership of your thoughts because only then can you start taking full ownership of your life and control the impact that you will make.
#5. Everyday matters.
There is no such thing as a day wasted. Every day is an opportunity to grow more and more into the possibility and potential of whom you are meant to be. We have a gift and a new opportunity each and every day to be new versions of ourselves.
We tend to hold on to those past mistakes and beat ourselves up over them. When you become tied up and stuck in the past, you lose the ability to live in the present. When you lose the ability to live in the present you forget that you are capable of change. You are capable of changing and being changed in order to transform into who you were meant to be.
#6. The valleys of life are just as important as the mountaintops.
Every phase of life – the mountaintops and the valleys – brings with it a new beauty that can only be experienced while living it out. The mountaintops are those amazingly beautiful and unreal experiences that we will always remember. However, the valleys teach us about true community, true love, being supported, learning to trust God, learning to walk in faith, learning to dream, and learning that we aren’t supposed to have all the answers…the valleys are where we learn how to keep moving forward.
The valleys are where life is lived. Enjoy the valleys, while keeping in mind that the mountaintops will come. Start enjoying the valleys and when you finally reach that mountaintop, the view will be even better than you previously imagined.
#7. Communication is the key to a successful, long-lasting, and happy relationship.
Communication is the key to life. We were created to be in a community and have a connection with other people. The more you communicate your thoughts, feelings, expectations, your hopes, disappointments, joys, and everything else you are feeling, with the people you love, the more connected and supportive they will be of you and you of them.
The problem is, communication takes effort. It is not always convenient, and it is certainly not always easy. But communication will always be worth it.
#8. Positive personal growth doesn’t just happen, it occurs as a result of intentional effort.
Personal growth is similar to a muscle. In order to achieve a more positive, personal growth, it has to be an intentional, daily effort that we pursue each day. Personal growth is a muscle that must be worked daily through quiet times, introspection and awareness.
Remember, the investment that you make in yourself will always pay back dividends that are tenfold.
#9 Application of knowledge is true wisdom.
Knowledge is power, if and only if you apply that knowledge. There is something you can learn from each and every person that crosses your path. When you finally open yourself up to that kind of learning, knowledge and wisdom are going to start pouring out of you.
Take what you learn and put it to practice. Be intentional about putting it into practice and as a result, you will start becoming and action taker. It is the action takers who live life and change the world.
#10. We truly can do anything we set our minds to.
There is nothing holding us back in life but ourselves. The mind is exceedingly, far more powerful than we can possibly comprehend. We must let go of our self-imposed limitations in order to make a difference in this world and embrace the differences we were meant to make.
Let go of your doubts, your fears, and your small thinking and you can launch yourself forward with bold confidence. Remember that we really can do anything we set our minds to.
#11. When your soul sings, pursue the song further.
When you find the little things in life that make your soul sing, embrace them and expand on them. When you discover your passions, hobbies, your calling, or the little activities that you just love to do – listen to that song and follow it whole heartedly.
#12. Life is a never-ending adventure.
Just because something is easy doesn’t mean it’s better. Every day of the week holds within it an adventure. Adventures don’t just come from exotic vacations, cruises, or out of the blue experiences that help you see life differently. An adventure is a state of mind and a state of living; it is the state of active learning. If you are an active learner for life, life will always be an adventure.
#13. Perspective is more important than reality.
It is our perspective that shapes our experiences. It is less about our experience, or the circumstances that occurred, and more about what we extrapolate from that experience. What we take away from a specific experience is based on how we see and perceive that experience and what we tell our minds to see. It is all about perspective.
#14. It is never too late to change.
We are never too old, never to young, never to under-qualified, never to over-qualified to make a change. The perfect time to make a change is today, right now in fact. You can change anything you wish to change, whether it be a bad habit you want to quit, a budget your trying to follow, commit to a healthier life style, or a dream you are trying to pursue. Make that change today, because today is the perfect day to start.
#15. You are never too old to pursue your dreams.
Our dreams have been woven into our hearts for a reason. These dreams have nothing to do with how old we are, our qualifications, connections, or education. That dream is in your heart for a reason. Don’t ignore that dream; pursue it, no matter how old you may be.
#16. Gods timing is perfect.
As soon as we learn to trust that God has a plan for us, we relieve ourselves from all the worry and anxiety that comes from trying to control everything. The constant worry, overthinking, or over planning our lives in order to get the perfect outcome is exhausting and overwhelming.
When we have faith, and trust that God will guide us to the path we were destined for, at the right time, we relieve ourselves from that worry. Trust God’s timing, only then will we experience a peaceful mind free from worry.
#17. We are not defined by our past.
Our past, if processed emotionally and properly, has the ability to refine us for the better, not define or confine us. This misconception that our past is who we really are is false. Your past is part of your story; it doesn’t define who you really are.
Look back on your past and think that whatever happened back then is what brought you, and shaped you into the person you are now.
#18. There is no replacement for the comfort of a great big bear hug.
Honestly, the world doesn’t hug enough, or touch enough for that matter. We all need more physical touch. Hug more, touch people with kindness and be someone who makes people feel better about himself or herself after being in your presence.
#19. Words are the most influential tool we have at our disposal.
Words can speak life or death to others, or life or death to ourselves. Speaking words of encouragement can speak life to others and ourselves. We become a product of both the words we think and the words we speak.
#20. The only thing we must do every day is to be ourselves.
The task of being our most authentic selves sounds easy and simple, but can actually be extremely difficult. It is actually one of the most challenging, undertakings one can pursue.
Being yourself is a decision you make in trusting how God decided you to be. You must trust your quirks, personality, height, weight, skin color, complexion and be comfortable in your own skin. Just say to yourself, ‘this is who I am, this is how I was created, and I’m going to embrace it.’
#21. Be brave.
Courage and bravery are action-based choices. They are not characteristics that we are born with, and conquering fears doesn’t come easy to anyone. Being brave doesn’t mean that we don’t have fear; in fact it means you are choosing to be bold and confident with the intention of moving forward, despite the fear you are feeling.
#22. It is normal to feel scared.
Everyone gets scared. That is a comforting thought. You are not alone because everyone gets the feeling of fear every once and a while. Fear is a sign that you are playing in the right stratosphere, that you are actively taking part in something worth doing.
Being scared is a sign that you are stepping outside of your comfort zone. It is when you step outside of that comfort zone where the magic happens in life. It is empowering to know that it is ok to feel this way. In fact, you should do one thing a day that scares you. Fear is all in your head and is only there because you are unsure of the outcome.
#23. Take full emotional responsibility of your life.
We are all responsible for our emotions and reactions. Blame, justifications, and excuses won’t get you anywhere in life. That kind of negativity of blaming other people, the circumstances, or life for a problem is paralyzing. You can tell yourself that any given situation might have been frustrating for you, but don’t let that ruin your entire day.
#24. It is our responsibility to be the kindest person in the room.
The world is full of distracted and disengaged people. As people with self-awareness, purpose, and a dream to make a difference in other people’s lives, we must remember to be kind to others and stay positive. It is our obligation to love others more than we expect to be loved in return. Always be the first to say hello, always be the person who out-loves, who out-gives, and who expects nothing in return.
#25. It’s all about others.
The more generous we are to others, the clearer we can see that life is so much greater than the confines of the small world that defines our personal realities. Generosity changes the lives of others, but will also come back to us, which ultimately changes our hearts forever.
The more generous you are, the more it changes you. Be generous with your time, compliments, support, and prayers. Generosity isn’t just about buying things for people and spending money. You can spread your generosity in many, many different ways.
#26. There is always more time in the day for people.
We are always running throughout the day, getting work done, going food shopping, and taking care of other chores. It is easy to not make time for the people in our lives. The bottom line is: people need people, and people need to make more time for people.
Set aside time for your friends, family and your loved ones. By spending time with the loved ones in your life, you will feel more at peace, have more joy, satisfaction, and have more significance in our lives.
#27. Confidence is a muscle and we must choose to exercise it daily.
Confidence is similar to a muscle that we can strengthen if we work on it daily. Working your confidence muscle is a choice and it is available to everyone. The more you work it, the stronger your confidence will be.
#28. Prayer is always appropriate.
It is easy to say that you will pray for someone, but do you always follow through with it? Praying is appropriate any time of any day. You don’t have to stop and pray out loud. You can stop for a moment and silently pray for a minute or two to settle your thoughts. Pray for other people, for a circumstance for someone, pray for peace in your heart, or just to simply give thanks. By praying we communicate with our Creator, and what could be better than that?
#29. Over-thinking life makes life disappear.
Over-thinking puts us in a state of suspension. Whether you are stuck thinking about the past, or over-anticipating the future, or over-thinking the one thing actually do have control over and that is the present. This is tough for people who like to constantly think, however, by relaxing your brain and living in the present you will find yourself in a beautiful state of simplicity.
#30. Forgiveness looks good on your heart.
The act of forgiveness can release someone from blame and from anger, but more than that, is releases you from being attached to your past. The inability to forgive shackles us to the past and keeps us captive. Forgiveness is not just for the person being forgiven, but also for your own freedom, which will help you live more freely in the present.
#31. Vulnerability is the secret to authenticity.
Authenticity is a powerful thing. Authenticity empowers us to be true to who we were created to be. To be an authentic version of yourself is to be transparent and vulnerable about who we actually are, about what our hearts long to do, and about our fears. Being authentic is being able to say ‘I don’t know,’ or being a little worried about something.
By doing this you are communicating that you aren’t perfect, and that you aren’t even trying to be perfect. You are accepting the fact that you are a work in progress, and you are progressively growing each and every day. You are working on your flaws and weaknesses and you are ok with being who you are.
#32. Our uniqueness is what makes our potential so powerful.
There is no one in the world who is exactly life you. There is absolutely no one in the world like you right now and there never has been another you in history. You have unique character traits, talents, and personality quirks that make you, you. It is this uniqueness that makes the potential that lies within you and within your dreams so powerful.
One of the most common problems many of us face is that we compare ourselves to other people. Why would we do that? You are the only version of you, and they are the only version of them. Keep reminding yourself that there is no one out there that is exactly like you. Live fully to be the best version of yourself that you can possibly be.
PUT IT INTO ACTION YOURSELF:
I want you to assess your own life, the storms that you have weathered, the challenging circumstances you have overcome, and here is a five-step way to do it:
- Get a piece of paper, a journal, or open a new journal docx.
- Think about the 3 biggest “waves,” or challenge circumstances you have over come in your life and write them down.
- Look for 2 lessons from each “wave”
- Write down the lessons in list format.
- Take each lesson and find 3 points about it that you haven’t yet put into full application in your life. These are the things you know to be true, but aren’t necessarily putting into practice on a consistent basis.