This time of year, people are developing New Year’s resolutions…writing down things they wish to achieve this year in order to make it the best year ever. I believe the best way to achieve the best year ever is to focus on what you can give to life as opposed to what life can give to you. It all starts with your approach to life–your perspective. Your perspective is everything and when your thoughts and heart positively align, cool things will just start to happen. You will not be able to stop them!
I remember one night back when I was going through chemo when I felt as though I finally felt only 95% terrible as opposed to the usual full 100% awful. It was about 3 o’clock in the morning and I realized I had a little strength. It was a rare feeling, so I did what had seemed impossible the day before: I moved myself from my bed in my room and inched down the hallway to the couch in the TV room. I turned on the television and there was Oprah staring back at me, naturally. Other than my family and my medical team, Oprah was my best friend during those dark cancer days. She always seemed to be there for me morning, noon, and night (because she has her own network on TV, but that is beside the point). One of her “life classes” was on TV and it was a story about a woman who had been told she had just a few short months to live. It was a story we have all unfortunately heard too many times: when one realizes, because they are forced to face their own mortality, how precious and fleeting life is. The woman proceeded to live out her life having fun and doing all the things she had always wanted to do but never did because of fear, the tendency we have to be practical, and those ever-present concerns about what others might think.
It was in that moment that I became exceedingly frustrated with life. People, myself included, generally spend much of their life waiting to do what they really want to be doing. We all seem to be waiting, to some degree, for our lives to finally begin. And those who go ahead and make that decision for themselves, instead of waiting for external factors to kickstart their lives, are generally those who have had to go through some sort of life-changing tragedy to realize that there, quite literally, is no time like the present to begin living their life.
Right then, I realized something invaluable that honestly automatically changed my life forever and that is that I now wait for no one, or no external thing I am hoping to achieve, to tell me it is time to start living. Rather, I realize it is up to me and only me. So, I decided right then and there, on that couch, surrounded by barf pans and medications, that I am truly the only one in charge of my experience here on earth. And I took action.
I write this blog post to emphasize separate but equal points as we approach the New Year: a) you have the ability to make 2014 the best year ever; and b) making that a reality is entirely in your hands:
Learning to naturally forgive those who hurt you is one of the greatest things a person can teach themselves. Some people are natural forgivers, others have to work for it. Forgiveness is sometimes viewed as weakness, but, in fact, it is just the opposite. Forgiveness is a sign of incredible strength. Forgiveness allows you to truly move forward instead of constantly circling back to and rehashing that thing that harmed you. It is empowering when you realize you are in control of your own healing process. Forgiveness is that first crucial step. It is like a Bandaid for the soul. It simply provides protection to cover the initial pain and gives the wound time to heal.
We have such a limited time here on this earth and the beauty of being here is experiencing it. Being open to new things and new opportunities allows you to fully maximize your time here. Capitalize on the fact that you are blessed with this life and go out and live it in different ways. There are times in my life when I am hesitant to try something new. Perhaps out of fear, insecurity, or maybe even laziness. When I become stagnant like this, I completely ignore those insecure feelings and instead plunge full-force ahead. Every single time I am reminded that those things that try and hold us back are completely manufactured in our own minds. Once we conquer (or simply ignore) them, there is nothing that can stop us.
Being honest with yourself and others is crucial to achieving good health in every aspect of your life. If you are fooling yourself about who you are, how are others going to be able to ever learn and love the real you? I used to be in denial about some areas in my life that needed attention and work. Then, I decided to face them and get to know myself for all my quirks, flaws, scars and awkward tendencies. It turns out that I like the real me even more than the one I had built up in my head because I am human and that is a beautiful thing, scars and all.
I have said this before and I will say it again, being strong does not necessarily mean not being fearful of things. Fear is a part of life and we each face our own set of challenges that frighten us because none of us know what is next for us along the path of life. Being strong is when we face each day knowing the fears we have and living alongside those fears while maintaining a level of peace. Being strong is looking your fears in the face and not allowing them to consume you.
You know that quote about how people will not necessarily remember the things you said or did, but they will remember how you made them feel? Well, that is so very true. There have been times when individuals have been mean to me and I cannot for the life of me remember what exactly it is that they said to hurt my feelings, but I can remember how they made me feel. That goes the same for kindness. Kindness is the universal language. It is something that cannot be mistaken or forgotten. Kindness allows you to leave a remarkable legacy by simply treating others as you would want to be treated. Everyone you touch will remember your kindness and in the words of Mark Twain, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” Kindness is like your own magical way to speak and touch the lives of all of those around you regardless of who you are or what you have.
How crucial thankfulness is. When we lack thankfulness we become lackadaisical towards life. It makes us dormant, ineffective members of society because when you are not thankful, you do not find a need to give back, and therefore you just sit there being extraordinarily lame. When we are thankful two things naturally happen: 1) we stop wanting for things and realize how very much we already do have becoming content, and 2) because we become content, we begin to focus not on ourselves, but on others. We need more of that in this world.
Stop, right now, being so consumed by what others may think of you and the decisions you make. Stop being fearful of what others might say if you step out of your house differently than you did the day before. People will never stop summing others up before they get to know them. People instinctively assume things about others. This is generally entirely a reflection of themselves and not those they are looking at (unless they are looking in the mirror). It is called judgment and we exist with it all around us and we do not realize just how much we factor this into our daily decision making because of how subtle it is.
The pastor of my hometown church posted something on Facebook earlier this year promoting a discussion and it was the question, “What is the bravest thing you have ever done?” I did not respond publicly on his post because I found myself really having to think it through. Days passed and I considered maybe it was going through a double mastectomy at the age of 28…or undergoing chemo, losing my hair, dealing with the news that I had something in my body that was trying to kill me. But, after thorough contemplation, I realized that the bravest thing I have done is when I stopped concerning myself with what others think of me and living my life as I prefer and allowing the only one who really matters to judge my actions and not concerning myself with all the other mess we find surrounding us.
When I did this, my world opened up. My anxiety vanished and I was able to enjoy things like I never had before. I got to know myself for who I really was. Not for who I may have been trying to be as my subconscious thoughts aimed me toward wanting to please, and perhaps impress, others. I am at peace. I am at peace. I had to write it again because I believe this is one of the hardest, if not THE hardest, and most desired things for people to achieve in their lives.
I have found that living freely and not being concerned with what others may think of me does not distance myself from others, but rather I find it draws people near. It opens myself up entirely to connecting with and helping people because I am my genuine self. People are drawn to that. When people expose themselves for who they really are, those around them become at ease because they find themselves breaking down their own walls and coming up for air, hypothetically speaking. And it feels good to just breathe.
Being genuine “you” enables you to share and connect in a way I believe can change the world. It has the potential to send waves through communities when we let down the walls we build up around ourselves and embrace one another in pure, sincere warmth and love. Therefore, I urge you, as you are contemplating your resolutions to put these things on the top of your list. When you do, I believe you will be surprised how your other goals will become naturally attainable and you will find yourself having the best year ever.