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Life Isn’t Like You Thought It’d Be, and That’s Okay

And, other advice for my younger self.

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I’m finding that some of my most treasured time these days is spent listening to, advising, encouraging, mentoring and enjoying young adults. It’s happened organically, sometimes out of the blue, as so often wonderful things do. I find myself, when in these situations, wanting to give them shortcuts, to tell them what I’ve learned along the way that might give them a leg up or that might save them from the angst or hardship or heartache that I went through when I was their age.

Then, of course, I realize I can’t “save” them but can perhaps shed some light on a different or experienced perspective. I still remember those loving influences early in my adult life, often recalling the gems, now metaphorical or thematic, that still guide me.

It got me thinking, as I’ve counseled these incredible, curious, bright, seeking, voracious people, is how often my words are echoes and whispers of what I would have told my 20-something self, given the chance.

So, on this birthday in the midst of my fifth decade I decided to do just that.

I had to laugh because once I got started it became a pretty darned long list of things I wished I’d known at the time, things that would have definitely saved me from a headache or two.

For the sake of time and space, here are 12, plus one from one my most trusted life guides.

1. Don’t dim your light or dumb yourself down for anyone. This one’s big and happens way too much.

You may find yourself in situations when you feel others are cutting you off or belittling your opinions or points of view. Two remarkable young women in the last two weeks shared stories about this happening in their jobs. If you feel someone is trying to sniff out your light (you know who the light-sniffers are) know it’s usually because they’re afraid of their own. They feel threatened by you because they only want to shine too. By standing powerfully in your own presence, fully, you really allow them to do the same. They still may not be comfortable around you, but that’s okay.

You were brought into this world to shine in your own unique specific way. To use your gifts as no one else can. The God source in you is infinite and powerfully bright; when you dim it in order to make others feel more comfortable or less insecure, you also dim your God source. You cut off your divinity by being less than who you are. And, over time those external voices can start to become your own negative self-talk.

2. Women, help other women. This goes hand in hand with the above. Nothing is more disheartening than when you see a woman not giving other women a chance or opportunity to be seen, heard or hired, because of her own insecurities and limiting personal power. The thing is when a woman clips another woman’s wings, she clips her own. We need to help each other. It goes for men too, but I see it as an epidemic with women. 

3. Don’t hide your gifts from the world for fear of not being enough, or worse, of being too much. Playing small is doing you and the world a disservice.

4. Trust your own inner voice, your God voice. It is your best and highest counsel. Seek its wisdom every day. It always knows what's best for you and the situation you're in. Get quiet and listen. Often. 

5. Life isn’t like you thought it would be – Let go of what it’s supposed to look like. Surrender to the flow of life and you’ll be less disappointed and more engaged by life’s twists and turns. They’ll be a part of what is beautiful about life.

Michael Singer talked about this in his book The Surrender Experiment. He was as a ponytail-wearing yogi in college when he made the decision to surrender to life, to be present with each moment and to see what was being asked of him in that moment. And, he’s had a very big, roller coaster life where he built several businesses, one of which became a billion dollar public company that went through serious trials and tribulations, things you and I will hopefully never experience. And, he became the best-selling author of The Untethered Soul. All the while, surrendering to what life brought his way. “Over the years I had come to see that I really had no idea where life was going to put me. And, in truth, it was none of my business. My job was to simply continue surrendering and serving what was put in front of me.” BTW, he's still a ponytail-wearing yogi. So relax, let life flow.

6. When you mess up, own up – and as quickly as possible. This is a repeat from my birthday post last year, but worth repeating. It keeps your side of the street clean so you don’t keep stumbling over obstacles you create, or co-create. And, don’t ever throw others under the bus. The blame game keeps you small.

[Last year's post: On Being Born to Run... and to Create and Play and Love and...]

7. Give credit where credit is due. Honor and champion others for their ideas and contributions. It fosters trust, loyalty and authenticity in your relationships.

8. Don’t ghost on people. In other words, don’t just disappear or not respond when you’re afraid of rejecting someone or if you don’t want to do something. When you do ghost, it’s the ultimate rejection. Just state your truth and move on.

9. Make your life’s mission about how it will make an impact on others. When you do that it will be the guide post and touchstone for a meaningful life. It becomes your legacy.

10. Self-love is the most important love. It’s the strongest foundation from which to build any relationship. The only foundation, actually. You really can’t fully love others until you fully love yourself.

11. Surround yourself with people who make you laugh. And, think. It’s pretty simple. Be with people who fill you up.

12. Focus on your attitude. You often can’t control what happens. The only thing you can control is how you react to it.

Fellow birthday girl, my beloved Mom, who turns 80 today, has a wonderful life full of wisdom, laughter and love. By the way, Mom is rehearsing to sing a solo ("Hello Dolly") in her theatre company's upcoming show. I mean, this woman! Happy Birthday, Mom! So, of course I asked her what she would tell her 25-year-old self. She said:

13. Don’t worry about the small stuff. And, be more patient. Things usually work out for the best.

The simplest thing I would tell myself is Life is meant to unfold. Learn, educate yourself, continue to seek and strive for excellence, but life is going to happen the way it’s going to happen.

And, everything will be okay.

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