There’s nothing like a big birthday to make you wax poetic about life, but here I am, having just walked through my 40th birthday. I am a self-proclaimed wanderer and wonderer which keeps me curious, meandering, and questioning always. My job allows a steady stream of advice daily, and I find myself often sharing versions of the same basic advice in various forms.
So here’s a top 10 list of advice I have/use/say right now. I’ve been curating most the things on this list for a while, and I find one of them fits most circumstances (sometimes it’s a combo)!
It’s not all or nothing. There is not always a right or wrong answer or even a better or worse answer, sometimes choices are just different. We don’t live in a world where every decision is black/white or right/wrong. Sometimes you are faced with multiple choices, and one is not always a path to fiery destruction. Either can be good choices, and that makes decision making both less scary and more frustrating.
Take a break. Nobody is truly impressed that you are the busiest person out there. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you aren’t taking care of those around you. Busyness is not the goal. I’m not the biggest self-care junkie, but I do know that filling every square inch of my time does not make me better.
Find your people. They may be your family, they may be your church, they may be your kids’ little league parents, they may be from work. But find people that come alongside you to be cheerleaders, butt-kickers, kid-picker-uppers, and huggers.
Be unapologetically yourself. Do not be a jerk or anything, but be your awkward, loud, silly, curious, irreverent, serious, thoughtful <insert adjective> self. Life is too short to fit in the box someone else built for you.
Don’t play the comparison game. Social media obviously has made it easy for us to have a glimpse at each other’s worlds, but it’s a glimpse. You can’t measure yourself using someone else’s life as a ruler. You don’t see every piece of the puzzle, and none of us show the whole story anyway. We often compare the very worst in ourselves to the very best smoke-and-mirrors version of someone else.
There is always more to learn and more to gain. Every day is an opportunity to see the world through someone else’s eyes, and ask thoughtful questions. If that’s hard for you, at least do your best to observe as much as possible. A free nugget in this is the idea that when you know better, you do better. The more you learn, the better you can be for yourself and for those around you.
You are creating a legacy. You don’t control every piece of your life; some things are dealt to us, but we do control how/when/why we connect and react to them. As parents, our kids are watching. As an adult, I know this to be true about the adults I encountered as a kid, and even now, I see those around me building a legacy. Your legacy is related to all of the ways you encounter the world, in every big and small way. People are watching how we take on this world.
Tell your story. Be honest, let people in. If you know me, you know I ask a lot of questions. Story is important to me, and I always want to know more. Again, when you know more, you do more or know better, do better. We have more in common than we think and we have more to understand about each other than we think.
Every single person matters. Some of us are given an advantage in the world and that is not ok (yes, I’m discussing privilege). So when someone is hurting, it matters. When someone feels marginalized, it matters. It matters and you should learn why and how it matters. You should learn what you can do to make every single person feel valued. Something shouldn’t have to happen to you for it to matter to you.
Lead with love. The world is a messy place. Life is messy. People are messy. I have been burnt or frustrated or disappointed by many things in my 40 years, but I know that even if I’ve felt that way, if choices were made out of love, I can feel good about how I handled myself. I might feel awkward, I might be curious how something is received, but I can always feel good and right for approaching people out of love.