Lessons Learned: The 12 Most Significant Growth-Inducing Realizations of my Life (in the last 12 years)…

Like most people, I’ve learned many valuable lessons over the course of my life…..assimilating them into my world view until the memory of when and how I learned them was lost and it seemed there was never a time before when I hadn’t known their truths. But that’s not yet the case with the lessons I’d like to share here. These lessons are more fresh in my mind….since most of them I didn’t learn until I was almost 40….and only after I started confronting my fears and taking risks in my life. But, as I continue to grow and move forward in my years, I sense that these, too, will be become old news soon enough. So before that happens, here they are….in no particular order:

  1. Fear is not something we overcome just once.  Although it’s nice to think that once we conquer one fear that it’s grip won’t ever threaten to hold us back again, this is simply not the case.  Even in facing our biggest fears, we still may encounter new ones just as crippling.  Therefore, we should expect to overcome fear repeatedly throughout our lives if we wish to continue to grow and move forward
  2. Even when love is unconditional, it’s okay (and likely preferable) that marriage and relationships are not.  I learned this one the hard way.  I thought of myself as loving unconditionally, but divorce made me question whether this was really the case.  Thankfully, I realized that we don’t always stop loving the people with whom we no longer wish to be married and relationships do come with conditions.  We wouldn’t expect someone to remain in an abusive relationship, for instance, just because he/she loved the abuser.  
  3. Once you overcome the fear of loss and are able to let go, it can be difficult to hold on to anything or anyone.  In fact, once you let go in one relationship or situation, it’s easy to become apathetic in regards to any potential loss.  This is one reason why the older people get, the less they may seem to care about a relationship ending or other type of loss.  
  4. You can live as many lives as you want.  You don’t have to choose the life you want to live at age 18 and then stick with that one option.  Even if you spend 20 years building a life, you always have the option of building a completely new one.  It’s never too late to start over and you can start over as many times as you want.  
  5. Once you break one commitment, it can be difficult to commit to anyone or anything else again.  This goes along with lesson #3; whereas the more we let go, the more freedom we gain and less we want to give it up….even if it’s just the freedom from internal and external pressures to do more and be more.  
  6. There are no miracle solutions.  In fact, change does not happen without taking personal responsibility for it and resisting the urge to blame others, play the victim, and look to someone else for a solution.  Obstacles and limitations are endless and everyone has something that can be used as an excuse or would make life easier “if only” it were to be.  
  7. Sometimes, when you think you are going to have to go at it alone, you get help from an unexpected source.  So while there may be no miracle solutions, taking action in one’s life can attract life-saving aid just when you need it. Although I can’t say exactly why this happens, I’m just thankful when it does.
  8. Resentment is NOT giving.  Anytime that we give with the expectation of receiving, we run the risk of resenting the other person….and this isn’t giving the other person anything but an obligation they knew nothing about and probably didn’t want.  
  9. Money doesn’t matter, but it does.  You may not need to live in a huge house, buy a new car every year, or purchase any number of other luxuries, but having enough funds for physical sustenance and a warm and comfortable place to sleep is important.  Furthermore, as the movie “Castaway” reminds us, we sometimes need to have a tooth pulled to avoid an abscess and death…..and dental work is expensive. 
  10. Just because you choose freedom over security once, doesn’t mean you won’t face the same dilemma again.  My employment history illustrates this lesson quite well.  I left a full-time job to start my own business in 2014, only to work for someone else again in 2015.  Although I mainly worked part-time for the next four years, I returned to full-time employment again in 2019.  Needless to say, making the transition from financial dependence to independence is not easy and having the freedom to pursue one’s passions at a higher level involves serious sacrifice. 
  11. Healing from past trauma and finding one’s self can take awhile.  It’s easy to think that once a traumatic event is behind us or we remove ourselves from an abusive situation, all will be instantly better.  But this is not how it works.  In fact, depending on the duration and extent of the trauma, it can take years to recover and heal.  For someone who was abused for seven years, for example, it may take seven years to heal from the damage….all the more if the person’s identity and sense of reality has been morphed by the abuse.    
  12. Not everyone will understand where you’ve been or where you are now.  Because one person’s challenges are not the same as another’s (and could even be polar opposite), it’s easy for others to judge you based on their own challenges and shortcomings or the challenges and shortcomings of others.  For example, if you’ve played it safe and have acted “responsibly” your entire life but have recently challenged yourself to be more carefree and let go, someone who has just met you may see your new attitude as risky and irresponsible….especially when our society favors those who seem to have their “act” together.  The reality is, when we grow, we go through many changes and live life as whole non-static human beings….but not everyone is on the growth journey, nor understands it. And that’s okay, as long as you understand THIS…that you do not need to prove yourself to anyone and the only person you should try to be is YOU….and that comes from challenging what you think you know and believe about yourself on a day to day basis. Can and will you do it? Will you learn your own lessons and share?  

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