Building on life’s moments rather than its milestones

BY Archana Law

‘What did you learn in school today?’ This is one of most common questions parents ask their children when they return from school. Though we associate school with being the place where people learn, the reality is that the greatest teacher we have is life.

A life lesson is a situation or event where you learn new principles or knowledge related to life. Though they seem difficult to understand and call for acceptance, being open to them can help you to be more successful in both your professional and personal life – they will provide you with the tools to grow as a person.

Writer, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel told graduates during a commencement speech at Harvard University: “There is divine beauty in learning… To learn means to accept… Others have been here before me and I walk in their footsteps.”

Here are some thoughts based on lives well lived.

SELF-WORTH Prisoners of war who have managed to survive the most brutal conditions often claim that one of the most important factors of survival is not food or water, but a sense of dignity and self-worth.

In other words, the only thing that keeps people alive in the direst circumstances is the belief that they are worthy of being alive.

EXPERIENCE Besse Cooper was the oldest living person in the world in 2012, according to the Guinness World Records. She offered two pieces of advice: “Mind your own business and don’t eat junk food.”

Given how much we focus on our own lives, it would be easy to convince ourselves that we’re minding our own business. However, the fact is that we may be doing the opposite, and slowly getting sucked into comparing our lives with those of our peers, neighbours and community.

Actually, minding your own business means knowing what you stand for, distancing yourself from unimportant issues that have a way of creeping into your day, and living your life according to your values and what you consider to be truly important.

NO REGRETS According to Australian palliative nurse and author Bronnie Ware, one of the top life regrets of dying hospital patients is that they lacked the courage to live a life true to themselves. Instead, they had focussed on what others expected of them.

Do you have a clear target? Many find themselves doing work without defining what it should be or hoping for a change without determining the underlying actions that would lead to it. When you don’t have a clear purpose driving you forward, you’ll revert by default to doing what other people approve of or want. No wind works for the man who has no intention of sailing.

STAGNATION An unavoidable part of a job is stagnation, which can affect even the most hardworking people. It may happen because one becomes complacent with a situation or gives up on a challenging problem. Strive to learn more and continue to progress by updating your skills and bettering yourself as a person.

RELATIONSHIPS Connections with other people are valuable – whether they be with a colleague, friend or family member. Each relationship you build with another person adds a new beam of support to what you’re building for yourself. Ask questions, listen to people’s opinions and stories, use your own strengths to help them with their projects and problems, and don’t be afraid to open up to your work network.

OPTIMISM Every day isn’t going to be the best day; and some days can be downright challenging. However, if you can remember to look on the bright side, the difficult days can be another way to grow in both your career and life.

Being able to remain positive and looking at things with optimism can improve your perspective. The fewer small things that affect you, the better able you’ll be to handle challenges in both your professional and personal life. As a result, you’ll find yourself happier and more content irrespective of the situation.

FAILURE You will inevitably experience challenges and make mistakes. Not everything you do will be successful. Rather than stress about these failures, reframe your perspective to know what works and avoid what doesn’t. In a situation where you experience failure, you can either see it as a challenge or use it to better navigate your next endeavour. The choice is yours.

FORGIVENESS We attach our feelings to hurt and endow it with immortality. We let it assault us every time it comes to mind and wait for the other party to make amends. A lot of energy is expended in the process of wanting them to change or pay, and this continues to impact the wound while the pain damages our lives further. Remember that inner peace is found by changing yourself, not the people who hurt you.

Ultimately, life is a matter of moments in time rather than a series of milestones.