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If you could only pass on one life lesson to everyone on this forum, what would it be?

John Clancy

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I thought this might make for an interesting thread, in the vein of some other very valuable "lessons learned" threads we've seen here down through the years.

No two people on this forum have lived their lives in precisely the same way.
Sure, some of us have a lot more experience than others (at 21, I'm younger than a lot of you reading this), but I believe that everyone has a message to share - they just need a platform...

So, here's your platform.

I'll kick things off.

If I could only pass on one lesson to you, it'd be this:

You are not your thoughts.

Trite? Perhaps.

But powerful? Definitely.

One of the principal benefits you get from meditating is learning to exist in the space between stimulus and response. Between the impulse and action, you have a chance to observe what's happening and make an informed decision, rather than reacting in a knee-jerk fashion.

In business, we see people holding themselves back from ever even trying because they think that they're not good enough, that they're a failure, that they need to read these 16 books and listen to those 27 podcasts and subscribe to all those email lists first...

But these thoughts are just that.
Thoughts.
Nothing more than a cloud drifting across the sky of your conscious awareness. They are not who you are... unless you reach out, cling to them, and make them part of your identity.

Why do I know this?

(Warning - possible overshare incoming)

Back in late 2017, not for the first time in my life, I went through a bad mental health spell. Compulsive thoughts were nagging, nagging, nagging away at me. Without getting too detailed (that's not what this post is about), I was constantly fighting the urge to hurt myself physically... and worse.

At my lowest, I was having these thoughts 50-60 times a day, and I didn't really know what to do about it. Counselling was an idea, but I ended up on a two-week waiting list once they felt I wasn't an immediate risk.

By the time I got a call to say an appointment was available, the worst had passed, and I was on the way back up again... but I knew I had to be better prepared the next time around. For my own sake.

Weeks went by, and I reflected on the questions I'd been left with:
How can I overcome this challenge?
How can I ensure that I don't suffer from one of these bad spells again?
How do I know it won't be worse next time?

Journaling. Reading. Talking to people (professionals and otherwise). All played a part, and all helped to a degree...

But what helped me most was reflecting back on my experience during that bad spell, as painful as it was. In seeing how I had kept going then, I could learn to do so again in the future.

And there, in the midst of all that I wished to forget, I found the one truth that could save me.

I was not my thoughts.


Every impulse, every nagging image, every compulsive desire that rose up in me was not who I was.

This isn't dissociation. Running away from this kind of problem doesn't help (believe me, I tried).

This is about realizing your thoughts are a stimulus. Your response can be provoked by this stimulus... but only you choose what that response will be.

You can agree (if it serves you), or you can decline (if it doesn't). The choice is yours.

(Note: Please don't take any of this as victim-shaming, or trivialization of serious mental health issues. This is serious business, I understand that. This is just a mental framework that has helped me, among other things.)

I still get these thoughts sometimes (not as often), but they don't have the same power over me that they once did.

When they float up now, I recognize them for what they are - a stimulus, and nothing more.

You are not your thoughts. Thoughts are a stimulus, and your response is your own.


*******

Looking forward to seeing the lessons you all have to share!
 
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Andy Black

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Treat people how you want to be treated.
 

B. Cole

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You are what you repeatedly do. Nothing more, nothing less, so don’t pretend and definitely don’t lie to yourself. You can’t change what you are if you can’t admit what you are.
 
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AnAverageJoe

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The things that happen to us have zero effect on us. It's our reactions to those things that affect us.

If we choose to be hurt, we're hurt.

If we choose to flip it the middle finger, we adapt and move on.
 

OlivierMo

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Love everything people said above.

My current life lesson is: most people are worried about their own life and problems, don't waste time thinking they're spending time judging or criticizing you. That's a tough one to escape when you've been raised by highly critical family members.
 

lewj24

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Never stop learning.

Whether it's reading books or doing new things or asking smart people questions etc. Never have an idle mind. My life has changed a ton in the past couple years just by trying to learn things on my own and not relying on schooling.
 
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OlivierMo

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Never stop learning.

Whether it's reading books or doing new things or asking smart people questions etc. Never have an idle mind. My life has changed a ton in the past couple years just by trying to learn things on my own and not relying on schooling.

So true. Always keep learning. Acquire new skills whether they make $$$ or not. Expand your horizons.
 

AlexFS

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- If you want something, f'ing do it! There is no right moment or state of mind or affairs of things. Anticipation is often sweeter than the actual doing and reality of where you want to get or who you want to become. It is amazing how it clouds ones mind and self awareness. But life is too short to theorize and overthink, so it's better to just try it, get the experience and then go from there, then be stuck forever wishing and over analyzing and thinking happiness if over the hill and one day you'll get there. Think about what you can already do now. One little step is infinitely better than none at all.

- Also set actual goals in life. Real measurable goals that are congruent (more or less) with the direction you want to take your life in. Write out several goals. Break them down. Create a journal. Log your habits. Analyze, improve, repeat. Get as minute as it takes for you to change in the direction you desire.
 

PizzaOnTheRoof

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Life is not happening to you.
 

MJ DeMarco

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How you do anything, is how you do everything.

If you can't take pride in doing a good job washing dishes, you probably won't do a good job at anything else.
 
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TreyAllDay

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Be the person you want to be, NOW! Don't wait!

I often find people think they have to wait for some event, a certain amount of business, a certain income. Be the person you want to be now.
 

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