There’s some belief that age and years ending in 9 often result in some significant change in people’s lives. I would say that in general, this rang true for the year 2019 when we look at local and global events.
This is also true for me on a personal level. 2019 brought some hard new lessons for me to learn and I will share the top 5 major lessons here:
1. The world owes you nothing
We tend to have this notion of inherent “fairness” into the world. As long as we do good things, we also expect good things to happen to us. Unfortunately, that’s not how the world works. Even saints, who lived good and godly lives, often lived in poverty and died horrible deaths.
Do not expect that the world will treat you well just because you are a good person or you did good things. Stop being complacent that things will always be the way it is today. Change is the only permanent thing in life, so we need to be always ready and always be working to achieve what we want in life.
There is no free lunch. Everything that is worthwhile takes effort.
2. Also, you don’t owe anything to the world
I am not saying that we can do whatever we want. How many times are we scared to take action because we are afraid of the possible consequences? We are afraid of what others might feel and think, we are afraid of how it will affect others even though we know deep inside that this is the right way for us.
Do not set yourself on fire just to keep others warm.
This quote sums it up nicely. When an airplane has an emergency mid-flight, the correct procedure is to put on your oxygen mask first before putting the mask for your children. Why? If you put your child’s mask first before yours, there’s a chance that you will pass out and in the end endanger both the lives of you and your child.
You can only help other people if you help yourself first.
Make your mark. Do not be afraid of the status quo. Push yourself to your limits. Be an “asshole” if that is what is needed in a situation.
3. Embrace the suck
No matter how much you plan for things, life will find a way to throw it out of balance. Things will happen that you didn’t anticipate. Do you get mad, frustrated, and annoyed? Yes of course, we are humans and not machines. But after that we need to accept it and move on.
Things will go wrong. Expect that they will.
Do you want a better life for yourself? Are you striving for your own personal goals? If so, you will find that this is hard. Things will not be easy. You will lose sleep, you will be drop dead tired at night, you will not be able to watch Netflix or go out with friends. But you still need to march forward and press on. It sucks, but you have to learn to embrace it. Complaining and lamenting about your unfortunate situation will get you nowhere.
4. You are entitled to your labor, not to the fruits of your labor
This got me confused when I first heard about this from a podcast. What do you mean entitled to labor, when labor is hard and not something that you usually look forward to?
When I read the entire quote from the Bhagavad Gita, it made things clearer:
You have the right to work, but for the work’s sake only. You have no right to the fruits of work. Desire for the fruits of work must never be your motive in working. Never give way to laziness, either.
Perform every action with you heart fixed on the Supreme Lord. Renounce attachment to the fruits. Be even-tempered in success and failure: for it is this evenness of temper which is meant by yoga.
Work done with anxiety about results is far inferior to work done without such anxiety, in the calm of self-surrender. Seek refuge in the knowledge of Brahma. They who work selfishly for results are miserable.Bhagavad Gita
This relates to the concept of our spheres of influence. There are things in the world that we can control, and things that we cannot no matter how hard we try. The results of our efforts belong to the things that we cannot fully control.
We can influence the results by our actions, but ultimately, the only thing that is certain and that we can fully control is how we work to achieve that result. Being able to push through a goal is a reward in itself.
5. You have a right to be here
This has been my weakest point in previous years. I was basing my worth and happiness from what others say about me, think of me, or what they do to me. This resulted in me continuously on the edge, trying to keep a “good” impression on everyone, which of course is not a healthy thing.
Through the years I am trying to curb this behavior. Still, I sometimes find myself doing this again. It is difficult for me to see my own strengths and my own value, especially if I don’t have the reinforcement from other people. I learned that this is a crutch, a limit to my own strength. This lesson, together with embracing the suck and that I don’t owe anything to the world, gave me the push I needed to move forward in life.
The lesson I was trying hard to get into my head is that I am worth it. I don’t have to do anything special in order to belong in life. I have been placed in this world for a purpose, and while we all struggle to find that purpose, we still belong in this world.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.Desiderata
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