10 Essential Life Lessons I Learned This Decade

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This past decade has taught me so many valuable lessons that have contributed to my continuous journey of self-growth and enlightenment. At the beginning of the decade, in 2010, I was thirteen years old, a pivotal age in anyone’s development. I found myself lost, depressed, and unsure of who I was.

At this age and through the course of the decade, fear was a significant theme, playing out in my daily interactions with my friends, family, and myself. As I’ve mentioned numerous times on this blog, I’ve come to learn that fear isn’t real. Fear is something that we conjure up in our minds to avoid dealing with specific situations. Fear compelled me to allow others to dictate my thoughts and actions, and fear kept me from using my voice to defend myself and my beliefs. However, the second I decided to let go of that fear and practice courage, my mind’s eye began to open up, and my heart became more receptive to learning essential life lessons. As this decade draws to a close, I’d like to share these invaluable lessons with my readers.

1. Live & Love Your Truth

If I’ve learned anything this past decade, it’s, to be honest about who you are and your intentions and to live accordingly. It took me a long time to come to terms with my truth and to share it with others. I wasted years of time and tears worrying about what others would think about me when I never worried about the person who would hold me the most accountable for the way I live my life – myself. Living and loving your truth opens yourself up to personal freedom that liberates you from the expectations of others and allows you to pursue your goals and dreams unapologetically. 

2. Don’t Be a Sucker

My current employer, who sometimes doubles as a mentor for me, told me this early on in my employment. A sucker is someone who caves into the demands of others, no matter what the professional or personal cost to themselves is. I used to be a sucker – no doubt about it. My non-confrontational nature made me accept treatment and demands from others that hurt me or my family. Not being a sucker doesn’t automatically mean you have to turn into an asshole that doesn’t take the needs or feelings of others into consideration. Instead, being assertive keeps others from taking advantage of you, from deceiving or misleading you. By using your voice and your internal compass to identify when someone’s demands may not be in your best interest, you can save yourself and your loved ones from negative experiences that can result from being a sucker. 

3. Invest in the Long Term

As a 20-something, it can be hard to think about the long term. At this age, in the peak of health and energy, it can be challenging to picture your life in ten, twenty, or even fifty years from now. But as we all know, “time waits for no one,” and while living a day-to-day “YOLO” lifestyle can seem easy at the moment, years from now, you may look back and wish that you had been more prepared. So what do I mean when I say “invest in the long term”? It may seem like a daunting challenge, but it’s very easy to start preparing for the future in small ways. One, if you don’t have one already, contribute to a 401k retirement plan. The cost of living is perpetually rising, and by the time we’re ready to retire, it may be at a point like we’ve never seen before. By putting say, $50 a paycheck away, you can have a nice little nest egg saved up when you’re ready to retire. 

There are many other ways to invest in the long term; buying a home, opening a savings/investment account, or even paying off your debts so that future you won’t have to deal with skyrocketing interest rates. 

Yes, this all seems terribly dull, and no, you may not be able to go to that $100 bottomless brunch today, but future you will be thankful. 

4. Be Accountable For Yourself

Accountability is a lesson that is learned through time. As children, we learn to be accountable for our actions by time-outs, getting something taken away, or a rice-spoon to the head. As adults, when we don’t have parents to answer to, it’s easier not to take accountability for our choices, and even easier to blame others for the consequences of our actions. When we blame others or external circumstances for events that follow, we never learn and therefore we never grow. A lack of growth puts us into a position to make the same mistakes over and over again, trapping ourselves in a cycle of our own design. Being accountable for yourself goes hand in hand with living and loving your truth. When we learn to take accountability for the things we say and do, we allow ourselves to grow into our most authentic selves, accepting the mistakes we’ve made and turning them into lessons and eventually blessings. 

5. Be Accountable To Yourself

One of my old coworkers told me this over a few margaritas one night. At first, I thought I misheard her, I thought she told me to be accountable for myself; but no, she told me to be accountable to myself. We -especially women, spend so much time conforming our words, actions, and lives to fit the molds that others have set for us, that we forget to be accountable to ourselves. We put our own goals and aspirations on the back burner when they don’t fit the plans of those in our lives. Being accountable to yourself doesn’t mean to be selfish, but should serve as a constant reminder to align your life with your purpose, and to keep those who support your goals close to you.

6. Lead With Gratitude

“Gratitude is the attitude that sets the altitude for living” Changing my perspective on life to lead with a grateful attitude has changed my day-to-day life immensely. Beginning the day by being thankful for waking up automatically sets a positive outlook for the day, yes, even Mondays. Being grateful for the struggles I’ve overcome has helped me avoid making the same mistakes and has helped me grow into someone that I’m proud of. I used to be someone with a very negative outlook on life. When things wouldn’t go my way, I’d feel overwhelmed and anxious. Leading with gratitude has helped me adjust this outlook and be thankful for trials and struggles and to look at them as a way to learn. Being grateful for my loved ones allows me to be the best person I can for them, putting aside negativity to welcome further blessings into my life. Being grateful for the ones that paved the way for me motivates me to work hard, be honest and kind in my daily dealings, knowing the sacrifices, prayers, and hard work they’ve made on my behalf. 

7. “We Are Spiritual Beings Having a Human Experience”

Perspective. It’s all about perspective. Our problems can often seem larger than ourselves larger than life. However, when we take a step back and look at the human experience and everything those who have come before us have had to deal with, it can make our problems seem smaller and more manageable. 

Taking the human experience into consideration also helps quell those questions that we all have about our purpose and the expectations we set for ourselves. Our minds and souls have unlimited potential, and sometimes we can allow our human tendencies to prevent us from reaching our full potential. When we put aside these tendencies such as envy, pride, and division, we open our minds to new ideas, concepts, and ways of life that can help us in our journey to reaching our fullest potential. We are all on the same playing field, “spiritual beings having a human experience,” and once that’s realized, there’s no cap on our goals. 

8. “I am the Dream and the Hope of the Slave”

One of my favorite quotes by the late Dr. Maya Angelou from her poem, “Still I Rise,” this quote is ever-present in my mind when I express my gratitude for the blessings in my life. When I reflect on the struggles, persecution, and trials of my ancestors, right down to my parents, I am filled with deep gratitude for the opportunities that are granted to me – opportunities that I may take for granted otherwise. 

9. “When You Know Better, You Do Better”

Another fantastic quote from Dr. Maya Angelou. This falls under learning to be accountable for your actions. When we make mistakes, rather than looking at them as such, we should all do our best to take the lesson from our mistake and grow from it, like a small child that learns not to touch a hot stove after burning themselves. This quote also has taught me to not revisit and punish myself for past errors, as we are all human and should use these experiences to grow. 

10. Never Stop Growing 

Even when we’re old enough to make adult decisions, there’s always an area to grow and evolve. That’s part of the human experience, to be a better version of ourselves than we were yesterday. Deepak Chopra has an interesting theory on human evolution, that now our evolution is a conscious one. We evolve by choice, learning new things and making decisions based on the things we are taught. This evolution doesn’t end at a certain age; rather, we should all make it our goal to search for areas where we can develop ourselves continually. 

These are just a few of the essential life lessons that this decade has taught me. The journey hasn’t been easy, but it is rewarding, and I’m eternally grateful to learn at the feet of the greatest teacher: life. I sincerely hope that you all have a fabulous new decade full of promise, reached goals, love, happiness, and gratitude, and I look forward to continuing my journey of conscious evolution with you all. 

I enjoy long naps (when I can sneak one), cheesy books, and I'm fueled by the smiles of my son.

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