Hindsight is 20/20 but that’s not what this post is about. Rather, its about that uncanny ‘click’ you have when someone inevitably does exactly what you’d expect them to. Read on to see what I mean.
I have a thing about those one-off, half-joking comments people make like “oh yeah, I’m such a dick” or “I guess I’m kind of a bitch” or, “I dunno, maybe he doesn’t like me because I’m a bit stuck-up” – I always listen to them because that person is usually trying to admit to you exactly what kind of person they are.
Some of my friends/former dates/family members pick fights with me about my snap decision-making when it comes to who I will/will not date. When I hear too many instances of these character flaws coming out as sly half-truth, my ears perk up and I start looking for more clues to the bigger picture of their personalities. Usually, I end up being right.
I’ve noticed a trend of “Top 10″ lists of people sharing their life lessons and have been working on mine for a little while. Here’s what I came up with; I like that its the first thing posted on this blog. Consider this more “lifestyle development” than dating advice.
- Don’t concern yourself with being liked by everyone but remember to stay grateful for the people you love and who love you. I’ve never understood those who mistreat their closest people but still make an effort to be nice to complete strangers and acquaintances for fear of “offending them.” To me, that seems like a poor allocation of your mental resources.
- Keep your promises, even when you won’t be held accountable for them. Don’t become someone who needs their integrity to be micromanaged. Two years ago, my neighbor bought me a bike to help me get around the city and asked that I ride 1 mile for every dollar he paid (done) and not sell it for at least four years. We fell out of touch last year and although I haven’t been biking as much, I lent the bike to one of my best friends so she could get around the city. And, you bet I won’t be selling it for a while (if ever!)
- Don’t “plan” for the potential emotional consequences of a decision and use that as an excuse to stalemate. You don’t know how you’re going to feel until you feel it. Make your choice and then take the appropriate steps to recenter.
- Education may be expensive but learning is not. There is no excuse, especially today, to claim that you can’t afford (the money or the time) to learn. Check out Khan Academy, Wikipedia, other blogs, or barter your knowledge away. When I needed to write a business plan, I used this book, Google, and traded French-speaking lessons with an alum from one of the best B-Schools in the country for help on the financial projections. Don’t confuse expensive education with being smarter or better.
- Never stop learning. Even if that consists of examining yourself, stay hungry for information, knowledge, and data. If you don’t know how to do something, figure it out. One of my favourite sayings is that “there is always something left to learn.” Learning is not the same thing as being well-educated. (See above)
- Quit drinking, even if its just for a little while. It will give you better skin, mental clarity, and most importantly, help build up your tolerance for making decisions that are outside the social norms. I stopped in January until about mid-July (going from 5-6 drinks a week to 1 cheat day a month) and the hardest thing wasn’t the “not drinking” part, it was the part where most people were telling me how weird I was for doing so. At times, especially at first, I’d feel very uncomfortable when someone made a snarky comment (imagine the first dates!) but today, I wouldn’t bat an eye. That resilience will extend to other decisions, too.
- Discipline your mind. I was always a two-marshmallow kind of girl, until I wasn’t and both my physical and mental health suffered for it. Like the little social experiment above about not drinking in a drinking culture, play little games with yourself and train your mind. Learn to say “no”, “later”, and “only if…” to yourself and stick to it. Set goals and keep yourself honest. There are tools to help with that if you don’t want to enlist another person’s help.
- As you get older, you may not get more fearful but you will certainly have more excuses to choose from for not doing something and you will likely use them. This is the time to make all of your seemingly risky bad decisions. In retrospect, they will probably not be as bad as you think they are now and you will certainly be richer for the experience.
- Take more pictures, especially of moments when you feel very happy. Digital photos mean that your whole life can be held in a hard drive that you can take anywhere you go. Your memory will often fail you (no matter how old you are) and cognitive biases mean you’ll remember something differently than it actually was, or not at all. But, let the pictures bring you back and also push you forward. Most of us already carry around a camera anyway.
- Believe in “fairies”. On the negative side, the Tinkerbell Effect is why things that shouldn’t matter to people really matter to people but on the flip-side, if you don’t believe something incredible can happen, it probably won’t. So prime your brain for extraordinary. Another example: social psychologist Richard Wiseman did an experiment where he saw the correlation between a subject’s positive attitude and whether or not they noticed a $5 bill conspicuously placed on the ground in front of them. (There was.)