I turn 30 in tomorrow. [Insert terrified scream] A few weeks go, I was thinking about all of that, and I was seeing all sorts of "30 things to do before you're 30" on the internet. Well, it was a little too late to do most of the things I haven't done, but I've certainly seen and done and learned a lot over the years. So I started my own list. So here for your enjoyment, I present...
30 things I've learned before 30.
Discover who you really are, underneath all of the perceptions and assumptions, behind the show we put on for the world, despite who we have been. You are a unique individual, separate from your siblings, your classmates, your friends, and everybody else. Who are you? In a world of several influences, good and bad, find who you are. Figure out what makes you tick. Carve your own place in the world.
2. Meet yourself.
This sounds a whole lot like #1, right? Right. WRONG. Once you’ve found yourself, you need to MEET yourself. Get to know you. How do you see the world? What do you want from life? What would you fight for, if you had to? But not everything has to be so deep. Take yourself out on a date and ask the First Date Questions… And be more honest than you would be on an actual date! Get to know yourself. See what you discover.
3. Open your eyes to your weaknesses.
Notice, however, that I did not say catalogue your weaknesses. We are hard on ourselves all the time. It's a human favorite hobby. This is different. This is opening your eyes to them. Acknowledge them. See them for what they are -- areas to improve upon. Opportunities to grow. Things to keep us humble. Are you impatient? Are you easily irritated? Are you a worrier? Are you prideful? Look at your weaknesses, know your limitations, actively work to improve, and keep your head. We all have weaknesses, so get over the fact that you have them. Be nice to yourself.
4. See the value of your strengths.
Don't get ahead of yourself, you aren't a superhuman with unbelievable abilities that the entire world should stand in awe of. But you do have strengths. Identify them and see how they've helped you to get where you are and become who you are. Be honest about them. Look deeply. If you have trouble finding strengths, tell yourself to get out of the way and look again. You have strengths and they have value. As do you.
5. Define yourself.
Watch out for this one. This is tricky. You are many, many things. Define does not mean limit. What I mean by this is that you need to decide who you are. You've found yourself, you've met yourself, now define yourself. All that you are and all that you can be, it's all up to you. Not other people. You. Who you are, who you were, what you want, what you believe, all mix together to make you up. You do not fit in a box, so why are you trying to? You define you. When you see your own potential and make your own definition of who you are, you will find strength and capacity you didn't know you had. Pretty cool.
6. Learn to let go.
Now don't start singing Queen Elsa over there. Unless you really want to, then have at. I'm talking about holding onto things you don't need to. Like control. Like stress. Like hurt and anger and grudges. LET GO. It's not worth it to hang onto those things, and you will find it's a lot easier to function without the added weight. You're offended? Let go. You're angry? Let go. You're stressed out of your mind and your life is spinning out of control? LET GO. It's okay. Breathe and let go.
No, this isn't your mother giving you chores to get you out of her hair. I'm not talking about the Tupperware hiding in the corners of your cupboards. I am talking about you. Organize your life. Organize your day. Organize your time. It doesn't matter how you organize it, or how anybody else does it, as long as there is order and you get it. That's right! You can have a system that no one else understands! But order and organization are important to keeping your sanity and being productive in your life. Organize yourself, however it works for you.
There are a lot of things in your life -- work, school, church, hobbies, family, friends, associates, people you have to tolerate, cleaning toilets... And that doesn't even include your Netflix binges. There are a lot of things that demand your time and energy and thought processes. How do you fit it all in? Priorities. You make time for what is important to you. When you put the most important things in your life first, you will find the time for everything else. If you prioritize that way and something doesn't get done, it probably didn't need to be done. At least not that quickly. Just like organizing, you need to prioritize. You need order. Do the important things first. You have time to do the things that matter most. Everything else can wait. I promise.
Don't you dare stop reading now if you think I am telling you to get off of your couch instead of watching seasons 8-10 of Criminal Minds on Netflix today. I mean... You should... But you do you. I'm talking about getting moving, not hiring a personal trainer. Your body was designed to move and be active. Walk, run, bike, swim, do yoga, go crazy in the gym (be smart! I'm a sports med professional, if you aren't Ronda Rousey, don't pretend you are!), just do something! You choose what you do, you choose the intensity, just do something! Exercise your body, or you will lose it. Exercise your mind! Puzzles, school, brain teasers, books, learning new hobbies, whatever strikes your fancy. Challenge your mind to keep it sharp and working. Exercise your spirit! Do service, read your scriptures, attend church, commune with nature! Use it or lose it, guys. And you don't want to lose any of it.
10. Get outside of yourself.
We've talked a lot about you. That's fine, take care of yourself, you do you, etc etc etc. But you are more than just yourself. Don't get so focused on yourself that nothing else exists in the world. There is so much good you can do in the world. Hearts to lighten, burdens to lift, tears to wipe, hugs to give. Don't be lost in your own head and your own problems. Getting outside of yourself will give you perspective and clarity that will not only help you to see your life and situation better, but will give you more substance. To quote a great man, "We become more substantive as we serve others—indeed, it is easier to “find” ourselves because there is so much more of us to find!" Get outside of yourself and give your life more light.
11. Understand that life has a purpose -- even if you don't get it.
You are on the path you are on for a reason. You might not know what it is, but there is a reason. You don't have to get it. That's okay. You just do the best you can on the path you are on, knowing that it all makes sense later. Not comfortable with that? Yeah, not many of us are. But guess what? Life's not supposed to be comfortable all the time. You need to learn and grow and develop, and smooth sailing never helped anybody get better. There are people you need to reach, things you need to learn, opportunities you need to have, and incredible moments you need to experience. Life has a purpose. You have a purpose. Embrace that and move forward knowing that you are heading towards something, and that something is going to be pretty darn exciting. Promise.
12. Put the value where it matters.
This kind of goes along with prioritize, yeah? Yeah. But this is different. This is a bit bigger. There are lots of things in our lives that we can place value on, and what we choose to value says a lot about us. Something may seem important at the time, but in the long run, won't actually amount to all that much. You're a grown-up now, so you need to think a little differently. What really matters to you? Family? Career? Recreation? Religion? Cheese whiz? [If you said cheese whiz, we need to have a serious talk. With a 2x4.] What you value in life dictates your direction, so you need to make sure it really matters. And don't forget to value yourself. Don't get obsessed with yourself, but value yourself. Big difference.
13. Invest in yourself.
Let's talk about investing. You put something in, you take care of it, watch it, let it grow, and reap the rewards through the ups and downs. It works with money (sometimes) so why not with you? We talked about value yesterday -- now let's invest. What do you put into yourself? You should put forth energy and effort in all areas where you are concerned. Exercising, resting, doing things that make you happy, making plans for your future... There are lots of ways to invest in yourself. Care about yourself, the same way you would anything else that belongs to you. How many people take care of their pets and garden, but not themselves? Feed yourself good things, and I'm not just talking about Reese's. Good music, good friends, religion, following your dreams, ... live your best life! Invest in yourself! You are with the effort!
14. Find the good.
We live in scary and harsh times. Life is hard. There's so much bad and ugly and twisted around us. But guess what? There's so much good too! If you look for the good in your life, you'll find it. If you look for the good in the world, you'll find it there too. There's amazing examples of goodness and love and grace all around us, but we tend to miss it. How much is a hug worth? Or a smile? Or a jar of Nutella? How much is the love of children worth? Or wiping away tears? What about having a conversation with a cashier at the store? Or offering someone your shopping cart? Or taking a box of food to someone who needs it? Find the good in the world and in your life. And be the good, too.
15. Share the good.
The next step, after you find the good, is to share it! All the good that you have in your life ought to be shared with those around you so that they can find it! We all love being uplifted and edified by good things and good moments, joy in others' lives, and moments of peace amid the crazy of the world. Share your moments. Share your goodness. Tell everyone the good news. Show us your pictures of the wonderful things you see and do and know. Share the good moments you witness. We need all of the good that we can find. Sharing is caring. Share the good, for all our sakes.
16. Find the Lord.
I cannot stress this one enough. If you were brought up in a religious home, the Lord's involvement in your life is mentioned often and over and over again. You hear it, it's in your head, you accept it, you move on. Until the day comes when you need to know for yourself, for one reason or another. Is He really there? Is He aware of you? Does He really care? The answer to all of those questions is a resounding YES. When you seek the Lord, you will find him, and it will astound you how often you find Him and how involved He is. You will wonder how you ever missed Him. Your life will be changed in incredible ways when you find the Lord and include Him in everything. Your relationship with Him will carry you through all of the hard times and make the good so much sweeter. Find the Lord, and see the wonders of life unfold for you.
17. Let Him find you.
Equally as important is letting Him find you. A lot of times in our lives we try to avoid things, whether it's things we know we should do but don't want to or dealing with problems that are going to be hard. Or sometimes we are just ridiculously busy and if we stop for even a second, we'll realize how exhausted we are, or something won't get done and OH MY GOSH WHAT IF IT DOESN'T GET DONE? Sometimes, guys, we just need to slow down and face things. The Lord is always trying to reach out to us, to prompt us, to give us opportunities to grow and serve and become better people. It's not always the easiest path, but it is always worth it. Don't make it harder for Him to tell you His will. Listen. Wait. Be patient. Be open. And then when the answers come, follow them. Let Him find you and let Him guide you into a life far better than anything you could imagine for yourself.
18. Goals and dreams really do matter.
Don't roll your eyes at me, I'm totally serious. Setting goals gives you direction and focus, and in the everyday humdrum (or chaos) of our lives, having that direction and focus is something that keeps you stable. Don't underestimate the sense of accomplishment that comes from achieving something you have set out to do. And dreams... Dreams can be magical. Having dreams for your life keeps you hopeful and energetic. The trial of having dreams and not seeing them come true is painful, but you can't give up on them. You can achieve your dreams if you work at it, stay the course, and keep it as your goal. Don't give up on goals and dreams because it's too hard. You can do hard things, and you deserve to have the things that you most desire. Make your dreams come true. Be your own fairy godmother.
19. The value of regrets.
I'm not talking about being depressed and dejected because your life isn't what you wanted it to be. This is simpler, and more profound. Regrets have value, whether it's because of something you did and wish you hadn't, or something you didn't do and wish you had. You learn something from your regrets, and those lessons and regrets can guide and direct you to make better decisions for yourself later. You can see how you have changed and grown. You can share your wisdom with others who may be in a similar situation. Your regrets can inform how you live now, but don't let the regret itself weigh you down. See the value in your regrets, and have less cause for regret in your future.
20. The danger of looking back.
Yesterday we talked about regrets and how they have value. Today is the second half of that. There can be a lot of harm in looking back, especially if you do it all the time. Living in "I should have" or "I could have" can handicap you from living productively now. If things were so much better in the past and you get your kicks out of thinking about that and wishing you were there, you are hurting yourself. Now is your life. Your past can inform you, but it is not meant to be a mindset. The past is not an extended vacation destination. It is harder to move forward if you are always looking backwards. Leave the past there. I'm not talking Lion King mentality here, because the past has made you who you are and you need that. But don't let it be so prominent in your mind that you cannot function or move or live now. You can look back with fondness or with regret, but don't linger in your looks. Face forward and make your future better than your past.
21. You can do hard things.
This sounds like a silly statement to make, but you wouldn't believe how important it is. Some challenges that come our way seem absolutely impossible. It's way too hard for us, we're not strong enough or patient enough or balanced enough to handle it. But here's the thing: you are and you can. You can see it through to the end. You can hang on for one more day. You are strong enough. You don't have to do the whole mountain at once. You just need to take a step. You might not know how the journey ends, but you know you need to move. So move. Don't think about how hard it will be, that just makes it worse. It might be hard, yes, but it's okay because you can do hard things.
22. Plans change.
Don't freak out. If you thought that your perfect plan for life was actually how things were going to go, I have news for you. It won't go that way. You should know that by now, since the only things that actually follow your plans are the class schedules you set, and even then sometimes they don't. So why have plans? Because we like having order and plans make us feel in control. But nobody likes having plans getting blown to smithereens or redirected to a detour we aren't sure we like. Here's the thing: everybody goes through that. And we deal with it. And most of the time, we find that the new plan is actually a whole lot better than the "perfect" one we had planned out. Don't freak out when plans change, that's just a waste of energy and time and makes the hard part last a while longer. Just roll with it. As my mother told me, "This is Plan A. The Lord doesn't do Plan B. Only our plans get messed up, never His." So with that in mind, plans changing isn't so bad, right? Because you're actually following a bigger and better plan that isn't getting messed up at all. Plans change. And that's okay.
23. It's okay to be alone.
This one is really important, so pay attention. Being alone is not the worst thing in the world. In fact, it's a great learning and growing experience. Whether you are alone in your beliefs, alone in your trials, or alone in your life, it's okay. Don't be afraid of it. Use it as an opportunity to see things as they really are, and not through the scope of negativity. Standing alone is hard, but remember what we've learned: you can do hard things. AND you can do them alone. [Because you're not really alone ever, even though it feels that way] Take the chance to look at yourself and develop into the person that you need to be. Take advantage of what you can do BECAUSE you are alone. Strengthen your relationship with the Lord, with your family, with your friends. But there is nothing wrong with being alone. There is nothing wrong with YOU if you are alone. You don't need to be fixed, you need to live! Life is hard and we are hard enough on ourselves, so why are we beating ourselves up about the fact that we are all by ourselves? Don't you like you? That's some fine company right there! It's taken me years to learn this, and it's one of the most important lessons I've ever learned. It is okay to be alone. It really is.
24. Trust takes time, and that's okay.
Let's talk about what trust means for a second. In essence, trusting someone means having confidence in them, believing in them, and being comfortable enough to give over control or responsibility to them. We might trust someone to watch our kids, stay in our house, or to cook us dinner [YIKES]. Or we might come to trust someone enough to confide in them, to let them help us through hard things, to let them into the more private aspects of our lives. But trust isn't something that just pops up right away. It takes time to build and several experiences to prepare us, and them, enough, and you can't really rush that. And that's okay. Trust is hard. You know what is the hardest thing ever? Trusting the Lord. Why? Because YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN. Oh, sure, it's easy to trust Him on the little things, but what about the really hard stuff? What about YOUR LIFE? Well, as with everything, trust -- real trust -- takes time. And that's okay. He knows that. That's why He doesn't beat us over the head with heavenly 2x4s. Or real ones. As with everything, it takes time and experience to be able to trust Him, or anyone, enough to be able to give up our stubbornness and privacy and control. It takes time. But we will find that He, and a few select others, will prove themselves worthy of the deepest trust, and when that happens, it's okay to trust them. To turn it over. To share. Because they've earned it.
25. When to wallow and when to walk.
You might read that go "Wait, wallow? When do I wallow?" The answer is hopefully very rarely, but guess what? Sometimes that's okay. Now, wallowing for the rest of your life is not a good idea, but every now and then, you can be not okay. Don't broadcast it for everybody, but you don't have to be strong all the time. Our lives are filled with adventures, if we will consider them that way. But what adventure, in any story, started out because of something awesome? Most of the time, it was something bad that needed to be fixed and one person was brave enough, bold enough, or sometimes unlucky enough, to step forward and say “I’ll try.” And there are bumps in the road, bruises that we receive, thunderstorms and fire-breathing dragons and sometimes flying monkeys. It's scary stuff! We might need to wallow for a second. But then what? What adventure is successful if the would-be hero decides to do nothing except cower in the face of the path before him? What's going to happen if that person doesn’t move? So the choice we have is to be the hero and face it, or sit down and wallow more. The fear is the same. The uncertainty is the same. The task is the same. What is different is what we do about it. Be the hero of your adventure. Dark moments will come, and you are allowed to have them. But don’t park yourself within the darkness and say “This looks like a good spot to stay.” Get out of them. Ride them out. Realize that what you are doing is hard, and you are not weak for feeling that way. Then pick yourself up, get back on the road, and say, “Okay. What’s next?” Get up and walk, because nobody wants to hang out with lifelong wallowers.
26. Feelings are okay.
Don't get confused by that, it's a simple statement, and I mean it exactly as it says. Sometimes we feel like we can't have our feelings because of circumstances or hard things, that we can't show if we are struggling or sad or hurting. Or we need to hold in our excitement or good feelings because we don't think anyone needs to know. Stop that. You have feelings, and you're ALLOWED to have your feelings. Hard things are hard, and you don't need to be stoic. Don't display your struggles for the world, but for heaven's sake, you're allowed to be sad. You're allowed to be hurt. Feel your feelings, acknowledge them, and then keep moving forward. Don't shove your feelings down because you shouldn't struggle. Yes, you SHOULD struggle. You learn in struggle. The point of struggling is to push through and to come out stronger. It's okay to be a little sad for yourself when a friend gets married and your date night still consists of you and Ben and Jerry. It's okay to be happy that you got a promotion that someone else didn't. It's okay to mourn someone who passes away even though you know you will see them again. It's okay to be frustrated, irritated, scared, worried, tired, excited, anxious, dejected, and every other emotion you can feel. Here's the point: you cannot let your feelings rule you. Acknowledge your feelings, feel them, and then go on. I always told my athletes with significant injuries "Today you can be upset. You can cry, you can rage, you can be depressed, you can feel whatever you need to feel. Then tomorrow you come in here and we will start working towards getting back. Tomorrow you come to work." That's how it goes. Feel your feelings. You have them for a reason. And let others have their feelings too. Feelings are okay.
27. Be tough, but don't be hard.
There's a very fine distinction between these two things. Be tough in life, don't let things get to you, push yourself and those around you to be better, don't let people take advantage of you, etc. But don't be hard. Don't be unforgiving. Don't be harsh. Don't rude or cruel or mean. Don't avoid emotions or block the world out. You need to be strong, but you don't need to be impenetrable. Does that even make sense to you? I'm thinking in terms of coaches here, where you have a tough coach who pushes you beyond what you think you can do, but encourages you and helps you grow. They are not hard, they are tough. When you are going through life, be strong. Be tough. Don't let things get to you, push through, be determined. But don't become jaded or cynical or bitter. Don't build up so many walls to protect yourself that you can't feel all that is good. Don't let life get you down, and don't let life make you hard. Got it? Okay, good.
28. Take it all in.
So often we go through our days without seeing or noticing anything special at all. We are set in our routine and just do our thing, and we miss things. The other night, I was stuck in traffic for two hours and had to find alternate routes to get home. I was frustrated and irritated and just wanted to get home as fast as I could. Know what I saw on my detour that I would have missed otherwise? Christmas lights. I LOVE Christmas lights and I hadn't really seen that many. When was the last time you noticed a particularly beautiful day? Or a meal that really satisfied? Or something that smelled really good? Or a really great song? When did you last stop looking off in the distance at your destination and look around at the people and places right where you are? Or enjoy a really terrific thunderstorm? A sale at your favorite store? A good book? Great workout? Adorable children? There's so much around us all the time, good stuff that can buoy us and bolster us and give us moments of peace and happiness no matter what our circumstances are! Take it in, guys. Take it all in.
29. Remember to smile, dear.
This is a line from the Disney movie Brave, and it's not meant to be inspirational, but I find this phrase repeats in my head more often than I'd care to admit. It's an important truth. Remember to smile. No matter what our circumstances in life, no matter how we are feeling, no matter the difficulty of our path, we can still smile. We can be optimistic and happy without actually enjoying what is happening in our lives. There's nothing that says you have to have the perfect life in order to find joy, or to be happy, or to smile. There is some good to be found no matter what. There is beauty and loveliness and wonderful things, good people, and tender mercies. There is plenty to smile about. And if you can't find a single thing to smile about, smile because you need the practice. Someone else is going through hard things, too, and your smile might give them the boost they need to keep going, even if yours is a smile just for a smile's sake. There are no prerequisites for smiling. Smile through your tears. Smile while gritting your teeth. Smile so big it crinkles your eyes and hurts your cheeks. Smile that loopy, exhausted smile. Smile weakly. Smile like a dork. No matter what, no matter why, just smile. You might even convince your face it belongs there. When all else fails, remember to smile, dear.
30. Be fearlessly you.
Listen, in life and in the world today, there's a lot of pressure to be something you're not. Pressure to change. Pressure to go along with things. Pressure to follow the crowd. Don't do it. Don't do anything because other people think you should. Don't change who you are to meet someone else's expectations. Don't limit yourself by another's view of you. In all times and in all places, be yourself. Be true to who you are. Discover truth for yourself. Own your life and make the most of it. Take pride in your personal integrity, and live your life with that same integrity. When the world wants you to be more like them, stand for yourself and be true to who you are. There are two opinions of you that matter: God's and your own. Anyone who loves and cares about you wants you to be yourself, the best and truest version of yourself. You are pretty awesome and capable of pretty amazing things. So stick to it. Stick to you. Be fearlessly you.