It's 2017, and 17 years ago, on Wednesday, I turned 17, making me officially the big 3-4!
As I often do on my birthday, I'd like to share some life lessons that I've learned this year (or oldie-but-goodies that've become particularly relevant to me over the past 365 days). Because we're always learning and growing— at least, we should be — even a year or two ago seems like another lifetime in terms of what I've learned about life, and I find it incredibly useful to write these life lessons lists — not only as potential guidance for others, but also as a way for me to reflect on how far I've come (and how far I still have to go!).
This year has been a transformative one for me (and for a lot of other people!) in so many ways, so here are just a few of the things I've taken to heart this year:
1. STAND UP FOR WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN.
While I've always been a big believer of standing up for my beliefs — after all, one of my nicknames in college was "Beliefs" — this year I've learned more and more about the importance of identifying, standing up for, and speaking out about your beliefs. You can read more about this is in my post How to Share Your Beliefs (Even with People Who Don't Agree). (And if you're looking for more on standing up for your believes: 5 Ways to Fight Hate (Right Where You Are!)
2. NEGATIVITY IS REALLY POWERFUL.
Over the past year, I've encountered a lot more negativity than I'd like, mostly because I spend way too much time on Twitter, scrolling through the news which, let's face it, is often pretty negative. My news anxiety has been quite high (see: Break / Make / Take: Coping with News Anxiety) over the past year, and it's reinforce what I've known for a long time: negativity can be really powerful, seductive even, and simply being aware of that fact can help me cope with (and, when possible, avoid) it. (For more on how to keep yourself sane in a negative world, check out How to Distance Yourself from Negativity).
3. SELF-LOVE IS A KIND OF MAGIC.
After declaring this the Year of Self-Love, self-love become even more important to me. Self-love is the foundation for all relationships. If you don't love who you are (or you're at least not trying to make that a priority), all aspects of your life will suffer. You know that whole "put on your own oxygen mask before helping others" thing on airplanes? That applies to love, too. If you don't help of yourself first, you're going to struggle to help others. Like most of us, I still struggle with this, which is why I wrote Struggling with Self-Love? 10 Must-Read Reminders just recently!
4. DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME.
You're probably well aware of the notion that life is short, but how often do you really think about that when choosing how to live your life on a day-to-day basis? I've spent a lot of time curating my life this year (particularly when it comes to social media; see:Inspired Unfollowing: A Week of Conscious Content Choice), and it's reminded me of this very important truth: wasting your time — on people, activities, careers, etc. — that don't make you feel fulfilled and joyful is a bad idea. Of course, we can't always do what we want to do, but more than we realize, we have the power to control how our time is spent.
5. KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS (AND WEAKNESSES).
If you don't know where you're strong and where you're weak, it's going to be tough to improve — and to thrive in the areas where you can be really successful. Discovering your strengths and weaknesses isn't as a easy as it sounds. It involves a lot of soul-searching and self-honesty, two things that require a lot of emotional and mental effort. Still, this year I've really tried to think about The Power of "I Am" and How to Harness It, trying as much as I can to honestly get in touch with my true self.
6. PAY ATTENTION TO HOW YOU FEEL.
Feelings will tell you a lot about what you should / shouldn't be doing. This isn't news to me (or probably to you either), but over the past year I've become more in tune with my feelings and, after writing this — A Life-Changing Question + Why You Need to Ask It — I've become even more aware of how important paying attention to feelings can be, and I've learned that I benefit a great deal from listening to them (even when I'd rather not!).
7. BE MINDFUL OF THE WORK YOU CHOOSE.
Not everyone has the ability (or the desire) to pursue some sort of calling or passion, but I've realized over the past year just how fortunate I am to do what I love, to do something I've chosen mindfully. Back in February, I wrote The Great 8 Challenge + 8 Years of Blogging! and it was so amazing to reflect on how far Positively Present has come. Though I'm still working on making this whole thing as financially successful as I'd like, I'm still incredibly grateful for the opportunity to spend so much of my time doing what I love.
8. MAKE PEACE WITH MONEY.
Whether you have a lot or you barely have any, money is a tough topic, and one that I generally try to avoid thinking about (suuuper healthy, I know). This year I've been working on getting more comfortable talking (and thinking!) about money (see: Making Merry (When Not Making a Lot of Money), and while I definitely wouldn't consider myself in a great place, I'm on a much better path than I was a year ago, and that's all because I've been able to open my mind up to thinking about money in new ways. I've learned that my state of mind has a great impact on my financial state.
9. READ AS MUCH AS YOU CAN.
Since the rise of the internet and the instant access of smart phones, my offline reading level has decreased dramatically, which makes my book-loving heart heavy. While I do read a ton online, that's not quite the same as reading a book, either fiction or non-fiction, which gives such a deeper experience. This year I created The Ultimate Book Gift Guide, and it was one of my favorite activities because it reminded me how wonderful books are and how I need to dedicate more time to reading!
10. LEARN TO LET GO OF WHAT YOU CAN'T CHANGE.
Recently, my obsession with Kesha's song "Learn to Let Go" inspired me to write Your Happy Ending's Up to You as a ode to the the idea that I've learned (and am always learning again and again): you have to let go of the things you cannot change if you want to live a positive, present life. The past is over and you cannot go back. Likewise, this year I was also reminded of how important it is to choose to let thing go, as I wrote about in Let the Dead Leaves Drop: Lessons from Autumn on Letting Go.
11. CELEBRATE YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS.
Like a lot of people, I'm not always the best at tooting my own horn (a life lesson I definitely need to improve in the years to come!), but whenever my sobriety anniversary rolls around, I somehow manage to find the courage to be a little bolder about celebrating myself. (Read this year's post: Self-Love + Sobriety : The Perks of Being Sober) Every time I achieve a big goal like this, it's so exciting to celebrate it, and I highly recommend celebrating your own accomplishments (no matter how big or small!) as much as you can.
12. CHOOSE YOUR DISTRACTIONS WISELY.
This year, my phone use has gone up dramatically, and I've learned that it's up to me to look closely at how (and why!) I choose to distract myself so much. I wrote about phone use in Wireless Wonderland: Managing Phone Use to Stay Present, but I've also been doing some soul-searching recently to uncover why I seek distraction so often and how I can make those distractions more positive. (For example, when I really want to zone out, I try using Song Lyric Therapy and drawing illustrations for Instagram, rather than just mindlessly scrolling through social media.)
13. LIVE LIKE YOU LOVE YOURSELF.
A question I've found myself pondering a lot this year is: Would someone automatically answer "yes" if asked, "Does Dani love herself?" Honestly, I'm not sure everyone would because loving yourself isn't all about feeling. It's about action, too. I've been giving a lot of deep thought to self-love as I work on my next book (yay!) and I've uncovered a lot about how self-love plays out in our day-to-day actions, as I wrote about in R-E-S-P-E-C-T Yourself: 11 Things to Do Daily. I'm still a work in progress, but, hey, aren't we all!?
14. SEEK OUT KNOWLEDGE ON NEW TOPICS.
I've always been a lover of learning, and I spend countless hours each week trying to absorb new information through articles and books and people. One lesson I've been especially in touch with over the past year is seeking out knowledge on new topics. For example, before this year I'd never heard of the concept of "hygge," but I ended up researching it and writing about it (Hygge: What It Is + How to Do It) and striving to embrace, and it serves as a reminder that there's so much to learn, particularly from other cultures.
15. KNOW THE VALUE OF "NO."
While I've been writing about the power of no for years, this year I've been embracing it even more. I've been striving to get in touch with what I really want (What Do You Really Want? (+ a Worksheet!), and doing so has reminded me of how important it is to say no to the things you don't want in your life. There's only so much time, space, and emotional effort available to each of us, so it's vital to know what you want so you can say no to the things (and people and vibes and experiences) you don't want.
16. TRY AS HARD AS YOU CAN TO STAY PRESENT.
My desire to be more present in my life is one of the reasons I started this site, but, eight years later, it's still a struggle for me. Each year, I learn more and more about how important it is to stay in the moment (and more and more tools for embracing that mindfulness), but one of the best lessons I've learned is paying attention to others, particularly non-humans, stay in the moment. Still as it sounds, this article I wrote actually taught me a lot: A Pup's Guide to Being Present.
17. YOUTH IS GREAT — BUT SO IS AGING.
Older people always go on and on about how youngsters shouldn't waste their youth, about how wonderful it is to be young. Youth is great — but so is the freedom and knowledge and self-awareness that comes with age. This year I realized (particularly after writing this What I Wish I'd Known 20 Years Ago), if I had a choice, I'd much rather be the age I am now than a younger version of me. Sure, there are some downsides to aging, but there's a heck of a lot of good stuff too.
It's my hope that, in writing about what I've learned this year, you've learned something too! Stay tuned for Part 2 coming next week! And if you want to help me celebrate my b-day, check out some of the things I make below and support Positively Present with a purchase! :)