Following in the wake of the 26 Things I've Learned: Training Edition post on Wednesday, I thought I'd share a few of my"life lessons," along with some other musings, here today. 1. The people you spend the most time with (your “circle of influence”) will dramatically affect the shifting of your mindset, actions, emotions, etc. throughout the course of your life.
This may seem like an elementary principle, but it’s quite powerful. If you surround yourself with people who are encouraging (yet not afraid to give you constructive criticism), see life with the “glass half full,” take care of their bodies, are wise with their finances, etc. then it’s highly probable the direction of your life will shift in a favorable way. However, if you surround yourself with people who are consistently negative, tell you “you can’t do it,” never push themselves to grow their character, are unwise with the use of their money, and rarely get excited for anything other than Happy Hour on Friday evenings, then it will be no surprise if you quickly take a turn for the worse.
It has been said that you will become the average – in terms of your mindset and finances – of the five people you spend the most time with. It’s one of the reasons I highly enjoy being the dumbest person in the room: it’s one of the fastest ways for me to learn something new and develop my mind. Free learning!
Think about how this may affect a weight-loss goal you have, or if you’re battling depression (I’ve been there). Do you seek out those that will further your character, help you keep your footing, and provide a positive example to look to? Or do you surround yourself with those that view life through a dark lens, tell you “it’s futile to try,” and/or rarely seek to challenge themselves? I’ve always been amazed at the rewards I reap when heeding this simple advice.
2. Learn to love the challenges of a particular endeavor, not coveting the result. Oftentimes, if we fail to meet a particular goal/standard we set, we beat ourselves over the head and use tunnel vision to only focus on the fact that we “failed.” This may be with regards to our relationships, numbers in the gym, a physical pursuit (ex. weight loss, a 10k time, etc.). Instead of focusing on the fact you failed to meet your personal standard (which can often be unreasonable if we’re not careful), take a step back and think about everything you learned in the process. Enjoy the actual challenge of seeking to accomplish a task, and fine-tune as you go.
I’m not saying to avoid setting goals; that would be silly. On the contrary, it’s extremely important to set goals for yourself, as otherwise you’ll find yourself floating around aimlessly. However, love the challenge of the actual process of reaching that goal, instead of always fixating your vision on the goal itself.
This can also be useful for those of you who struggle with a fear of failure. Ever turn down something because you worry you won’t win, or won’t complete/learn the task successfully? When you live this it’s like you’re constantly walking around with shades on, never seeing life’s true color. When you’re focusing on the challenge itself, rather than how others will perceive you if you win or lose in the end, it changes everything. See your failures as the steps toward success rather than the end of the road.
3. True multitasking is a myth. Attempting to do it is one of the most surefire ways to reduce efficiency and stall your progress (and I’m not talking about doing the laundry while simultaneously cooking dinner).
Many people who think they’re multitasking really aren’t, but, instead, are ‘switchtasking.’ Business coach Dave Crenshaw talks about this in his book The Myth of Multitasking. It’s impossible to truly multitask, and what I mean by this is performing two tasks – that both require mental attention and effort - at the same time. When we try to multitask, what we really end up doing is ‘switchtasking:’ we very quickly switch from one task back to another. The cost of this is very high.
For example, if I have 90 minutes to do a few tasks, I’ll accomplish less if I’m simultaneously writing an email (or checking my email in general), writing programs, making a phone call, and searching the internet. I’ll get much more accomplished if I shut off my email, put my phone away, turn my internet off, and just focus on writing programs for 30 minutes. Then, close my excel sheet, and spend 30 minutes writing emails. And lastly spend 30 minutes making necessary phone calls.
It blew my mind the first time I tried this because I was able to accomplish so much more in less time. In fact, just turning your email off alone is amazing way to increase productivity.
The same concept applies if trying to listen to a friend, family member, or employee while doing something on your computer (number crunching, drafting an email, etc.). Both tasks end up suffering as a result.
4. Wet umbrellas are extremely irritating. Specifically, wet umbrellas that are folded up and shoved between my legs during a car or bus ride. For this reason alone I refuse to use umbrellas. I can’t stand it when someone else gets in the seat next to me after using an umbrella in the rain and puts it next to me. Now I’m wet anyway, so why use the umbrella in the first place.
5. I don’t know about you, but going head-to-head with a yellow traffic light is one of the most stressful parts of my day.
6. People are entitled to their opinions, but you’re also entitled to ignore them, if you’re so inclined. I picked up this little gem from Eric Cressey, and thought it was great. There’s always going to be people out there who will vocalize their disagreement with what you’re doing, either because they’re insecure, prideful, or because they care about you and have some genuine insight to offer. Only pay attention to the latter group.
I’ve wasted too much time arguing on the internet or with people at random parties due to taking their opinions too seriously. You'll save yourself a major headache by refusing to get emotional and lash back at someone because their opinion is different than yours. Someone is always going to bash your decision to eat healthy, exercise frequently, and/or prioritize good habits. Usually this is because they’re fragile and insecure. But then you have the people who care about you and are able to see something in your life that you may not be able to. Don’t be too vain or stubborn to ignore it when someone who loves you is stepping out on a limb to offer a hand.
7. People will - at some point in their lives - violate the very same behavior they expect in others.
8. Keeping a memento mori sheet was one of the best decisions I ever made to maintain self-awareness and stay focused on the things that really matter in life.
9. In general, women tend to bond by talking together, whereas men tend to bond by being together. This is an enormous explanation for the frequent divides and disagreements you see in relationships. It’s why the female usually tends to feel that she hasn’t spent enough time (or doesn’t feel connected) with her man, while the guy is baffled because he already feels connected by simply being in the same room. It’s also why guys can go to a sporting event together, say very few words throughout the game, and leave feeling like they had a great time. This would rarely happen with women; they need to talk to feel they have a bonding experience.
By realizing and applying this, it can help each party avoid driving each other nuts all the time (sorry to get all Dr. Phil on you, but I found this to be quite simple yet extremely helpful).
10. In general, spending money on an experience will give you greater joy than spending it on material possessions. For example, grabbing coffee with a friend, going to dinner with someone special, or taking a vacation will usually lead to an enhanced feeling of vitality, mental energy, happiness, etc. than if you spent that money on a piece of jewelry, a new TV, an upgrade for your computer, etc.
Sure, there’s no denying that people receive happiness from buying something cool and enjoying it. However, I know that most of my purchases lose their excitement after a while. Sooner or later, it just becomes part of the “background noise” of my everyday life. However, when I invest in a good experience, those memories rarely leave me.
Just recently, I took a short backpacking trip in the Shenandoah. We pitched our tents near an outlook off the trail, and caught an amazing sunset (see below). At that moment, I wouldn’t have rather been anywhere else. It was breathtaking, and I was devoid of every worry/stress that may typically assault me in my normal routine. It was awesome, and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything (except for the fact that I picked up Lyme’s Disease on the hike, but that’s another point…that tick will meet it’s Maker soon enough).
11. The best things in life cannot be attained without relentless pursuit, and dedication to succeeding. This may be with regards to a romantic relationship, a spiritual journey, or a particular athletic or physique goal. There’s never a point where you can sit back and say, “Ah, the work is finished, now I can just let the winds carry me.” You’ll quickly stumble rearward with this mindset. If you’re not moving forward, then you end up moving backward. Very rarely can we sit still and maintain status quo.