34 Things I’ve Learned in 34 Years

It’s my birthday.

This always seems like a good time to take stock of some of the things I’ve learned.

I’ve been wanting to keep a list, anyway. You know, a list of things to remember on a regular basis. Reminders about what’s important, what works and what doesn’t.

Because you can’t count on your memory for that stuff.

And so that I can finally tear down the post-it notes. Hubby can finally brush his teeth in the morning without seeing “Let joy lead” stuck to the bathroom mirror.

Or “Question everything” stickied to the Vitamix.

And the baby tried to eat “Let Go” when it lost its stick and fell off the computer monitor. (She obviously can’t read yet.)

In no particular order, 34 things I’ve learned in 34 years:

1. I don’t believe that anyone in the world is mean by nature. There are happy people and less happy people; fearful people and less fearful. “Mean people” aren’t, really—they’re scared and unhappy.

2. Life runs more smoothly—and things turn out better—when you take the time to think about your values and make decisions from there.

3. Almost all pain can be greatly reduced by being easier on ourselves. When I talk to people in pain, without exception the “solution” is always some version of being kinder to themselves or someone else.

4. We all have tons of automatic patterns that will run our lives for us if we let them. It’s up to us to choose whether we’re okay with the patterns. If not, we need to get very aware and conscious. With awareness, we can call the shots.

5. Every single living person on this planet deserves the same basic rights as everyone else. (And in case you’re unsure, people are born gay…it’s not a choice. Would you choose to have your rights denied and to be discriminated against?)

6. The only way anything is ever accomplished is through a series of tiny, seemingly insignificant, action steps that are done consistently.

7. I can’t imagine a more important decision than the decision of who you’ll spend your life with. No other choice has such an impact on your daily happiness. Marrying my husband was the wisest choice I’ve ever made, by far.

8. Always question rules and authority. Don’t mindlessly follow anything just because you were born into it. Use your own head and make your own choices.

9. I’ve learned more through traveling than through all the books I’ve read and classes I’ve taken combined.

10. The human body is friggin’ amazing. We are living miracles every second we’re alive.

11. Self-judgment is a choice. You may not be able to stop the critical thoughts from popping up, but the extent to which you engage with and elaborate on them is totally up to you.

12. Simple phrases repeated with an open mind and an open heart can have amazing impact. My favorites are ‘All is well’; ‘I’m always safe and supported’; ‘I surrender and release’.

13. You can’t change people. Trying to change them, even wishing for them to change, leads to frustration and disappointment.

14. Acceptance of what is is THE path to inner peace. I wish there were an easier way but I haven’t found it yet.

15. If you ask for guidance, you get it. You don’t always hear it, but you get it.

16. I’ve smiled and laughed and felt like I was literally bursting with love more in one year of being a parent than in all the years prior. But parenthood is not for everyone. You can find your own way of getting into the vortex; this just happens to be one of mine.

17. Helping someone is the best mood enhancing drug there is.

18. Depression is related to being very self-focused. Not making things personal is an excellent way to be happier.

19. Working hard to get straight A’s in college taught me that effort trumps natural intelligence, and that’s a lesson I definitely needed to learn. Beyond that though, getting straight A’s has had almost zero positive impact on my life.

20. You can definitely take this self-development, uber-awareness thing too far. Take some time to just be your natural, human self. Let yourself run on default once and a while.

21. The days are long but the years are short. This gets truer each year.

22. Forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person. It hurts you to judge, hate, resent, and it heals you to forgive.

23. Never say never. As soon as you do, you’ll probably be proven wrong.

24. Its great to work on your beliefs and watch your behavior change as a result, but sometimes you have to take the reverse path…change your behavior and let that help your beliefs change.

25. Being in the moment is unbearably cliché, but unbelievably important. Being fully present in the moment with a clear mind is heaven on earth. Being wrapped up in your own painful stories is hell on earth.

26. I am 100% responsible for how I feel. My happiness is my job, no one else’s. And my own personal happiness is the most important job I have on this planet.

27. One of the most important skills to encourage in a child (or an adult) is a wild imagination. That’s the tool they’ll use most in creating their life.

28. Lighten up. This is much easier to do when your basic needs are met, so focus on that first.

29. What you love doesn’t really matter. It’s enough to just love something. Anything. Passion for Olympic curling is just as good as passion for animal rights or waste disposal or medicine. Because it’s the process of being passionate—not the thing for which you have passion—that matters.

30. When I’m micro-managing or trying to control something, the best question I can ask it: Would letting go feel like freedom? It almost always would.

31. Happiness is relative. Your standards will always shift when you get what you think it is that will make you happy. That’s why chasing anything ‘out there’ is never the key to lasting happiness.

32. Uncertainty is a given. If you’re afraid everything will change, you’re right.

33. Every young adult can benefit enormously by moving out on their own, away from their parents. The ones who aren’t excited about moving out are the ones who can probably benefit most.

34. I am young! I hear people my age talking about being old, feeling old, looking old, and I just can’t relate. Worrying about getting old is like worrying about the grass not being orange—it’s a waste of your perfectly good youth. Choose to give up that battle. Feeling young is a perspective worth working on.


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