10 March 2015

29 things I learned

Source: Ubisoft

As we grow and age, life happens, and we learn things in the process. Hopefully. I have seen such posts in other blogs, listing some life learnings for the blogger's birthday, and I have decided to do the same today, as I turn 29, this last precious year of the defining decade.

Here are some small things I learned over time, which I found to be decisive to my growth as a human being, to my well-being, and overall happiness. Of course, these are only my opinions, but I wish I could go back in time and explain these simple things to my younger self. I hope some of these may be of use to you too.

1. Objects, possessions, salary and other material things are not quite as important as society wants us to believe. Real success and happiness have nothing to do with these.

2. What you spend your time on is much more important to your well-being than the amount of money you earn or the collection of objects you own.

3. A healthy body you feel good in, and good about, should be your physical goal, not to weigh "less than 50 kg".

4. There is so much more to you than how you look. Anyone who doesn't realize that doesn't deserve your time or approval.

5. No amount of expensive clothes or elaborate make-up will replace the positive effect of self confidence and inner peace on your looks.

6. You have the right to be who you are. No matter if it doesn't fit the social standards, as long as it makes you comfortable in your shoes and happy about yourself.

7. Moving about is important, even if you don't like sports. Even the smallest effort has a silent but real effect on well-being. Walking a bit more every day, taking the stairs...

8. There is no reason to stop learning new things. Ever.

9. Discover and learn about topics you like. There is no need to pollute your brain and waste your time on things you don't care about, even if it's "a classic", or "trendy".

10. Culture is key to open-mindedness and helps seeing the world in a very different way, through somebody else's eyes. May it be travels, books, films, music, series, video games...

11. The important of slowing down is underestimated in today's society where "busy" is glorified. These instants are all we have, it's our whole life, we should be taking our time to live these experiences.

12. One key element of discovering yourself and grow is mindfulness. Stop yourself from running on automatic, notice the things around you, question things, be mindful about your environment, but also the truths you are told and the things you believe.

13. Nothing is "impossible". It's about what really matters, and what it takes for you to achieve it. Most of the barriers to achieving something come from our own minds.

14. We are the masters of our own lives. There is much to benefit from around us - from the Internet, all the culture available, all the technology, but it is our choices that free us, or ensnare us in a deadly routine.

15. Being mindful of other people's feelings is important, but the only person you really need to get the approval of, and values/moral agreement with, is yourself.

16. Whatever you do, no matter which choices you make, some people will disapprove. And that's OK, as long as you are in peace with your decisions.

17. You don't always need to explain yourself or justify your choices, as long as you take responsibility for your words and actions.

18. Social relations is something to be nurtured. Relying on "social people" to animate your social life is dangerous as these people could disappear from your life. Making a few calls and organizing a few things now and then are small things that go a long way.

19. Nobody is "acquired", may it be family, friends, spouse. Something could happen, life could draw you apart, or a terrible accident, so it is important not to leave important things unsaid. It is also important to be there for those who count, even during difficult times.

20. You can't expect from people to behave toward you the way you would. Or to read your mind, or to put you in front of everyone else. Welcome the help, but don't take it personally if people aren't up to your standards.

21. We are all responsible for our choices and reactions. You may not be responsible for someone's offensive behavior, but don't forget you are responsible for being offended, or taking something at heart. Reminding myself of this helped letting go of many useless daily torments.

22. Creativity seems to be a part of human beings. A part of our souls maybe? I can't figure out why, but engaging is some form of creative activity seems highly beneficial to well-being, gives a sense of purpose maybe?

23. Listen to yourself, what do you like to do, what makes you lose track of time? Some of us have been lucky to test various things when we were children and find a "calling", but if you haven't, maybe it's worth attending trial sessions of various activities that sound interesting to you. Who knows, there might still be a new passion to find.

24. It is important to find time for these creative endeavors. Society tells us it's unimportant, we can't make money with it, we can never be successful. But if there is something you really want to pursue, you can find a way to do it, even with a family, even with a day job.

25. Creativity and DIY activities can be a great way to spend time with children: making things together, teaching them to try stuff, letting them express themselves.

26. It's never too late to start learning a new creative activity. There is no need to become a virtuoso or a master craftsman, as long as it's fun and fulfilling.

27. Be induglent with yourself, but always do your best. Your best may be top notch one day, not so much the next. But as long as you know deep inside, that you are doing all you possibly can now, there is no reason to feel guilty or ashamed.

28. Mistakes are here to teach us something. Instead of punishing yourself for doing something wrong, ltake it as an opportunity to grow.

29. It is never too late to start. It is never too late to change your mind. It is never too late to grow.

I hope you liked these 29 simple points. Of course, I'm still telling myself these things, sometimes living up to them, sometimes not so much. But I do my best (27)! What about you? Are there any important things you learned about yourself or life lately?


  1. That TED talk is a must-read. Thank you for sharing this. Your list also reminds me of a conversation I had this weekend about "adulthood" and what it means to young people. For me, adulthood is a state of responsibility and maturity where you recognize your choices and possible paths and can weigh the consequences or benefits of each option. I'm also learning that you have to plan time for self-development and give that time its due focus.

    Also, happy birthday (if it is indeed today!) I'll be joining you in a few months :)

    1. Thanks! My birthday was indeed the 10th of March :) I agree with you on how important this TED talk is. I guess the end of the twenties is a time to ask ourselves life questions, but there is so much more to it than it appears... I think being adult is about cultivating a critical mind: trying to make as informed choices as possible, knowing ourselves and what can possibly work best, discerning manipulative people or deceptive ads and being able to make decisions for ourselves. Of course, that's in an ideal world... But I do think that self development is important indeed!

  2. Happy birthday! And thank you for some good thoughts.

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    1. So many of these things my wise friend has been telling me for years. 24 down, I especially ESPECIALLY need to work on. I feel as though I am nothing but mistakes b/c I try to live by other people's expectations and not doing what I truly want to do. But the older we get it seems the more expensive our mistakes get, both in time & money.

    2. I think that's the hardest part indeed, figuring out what we really want to do, stripping off the layers of social norms, the weight of other people's expectations, and the fear of change, too. I don't know if the mistakes get more costly as we grow older, they might. On the other hand, getting the wrong career at 20 can be very costly indeed as well.

    3. "But the older we get it seems the more expensive our mistakes get, both in time & money."

      Even as we try not to be weighed down by other peoples' experiences, there are days when I do get frustrated because I probably should have picked a better major in college (by better I mean something that makes guaranteed money.) I have a few engineer friends who own homes (we're all in our late twenties.) It's hard to know that I am probably 20 years away from that at my current career trajectory.

      And yet like the talk says--if we don't build some identity capital, if we simply stop where we are due to frustration or helplessness or perceived helplessness, then we do ourselves a disservice. At the risk of sounding too campy, Pret, I'm sure you already have identified goals you want to work toward, and I'm sure you're well on your way to surpassing your own expectations. But I hear you both and that's just the strangest and most compelling thing of our generation. It's not as straightforward as I assume life was for our parents--grow up, work, marry, have children. Goodness knows I've barely accomplished one of those! (guess which one haha.)

  4. I especially agree with 20 and 28.
    I’m turning 30 this year and had never thought that I too would fall prey to the typical existential crisis accompanying this birthday. But I did. Another lesson learned: never think you’ve got yourself figured out. When I was a teenager I longed for change: I imagined myself getting up one day and being a totally different person. Now I know that change is always happening, and it’s happening while you’re doing other things.
    Other lessons I learned:
    Loosing your faith doesn’t mean there’s no longer a role for spirituality in your life.
    The world doesn’t owe you anything. On the other hand: there’s so much you can do for yourself, don’t live on autopilot.
    Not all self-development books are nonsense for desperate people. Judgmental, me?
    We all have good and bad sides to our personality, and that’s okay. Being able to ask for help is an opportunity for truly connecting with people.
    I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank you, Kali, for promoting mindfulness and reflection through your blog.

    1. Thank you very much for these kind words, it's very touching :) These are good learnings indeed, I wonder if I'll have an even bigger existential crisis next year when I turn 30, as I seem to be embroiled in a big one already these days. But who knows, as you say, we change every day and there is no figuring ourselves out, not completely.

      I remember when I was a child, I dreamed of being an adult. I hated being a child, not taken seriously, not independant, not being able to make choices for myself, and having to suffer other children when I'd have prefered being left alone. And I held adults in high regard, I thought all this experience made them wise, confident and capable to make good decisions. I thought that, when I'd become adult, I'd also naturally be able to do these things thanks to life experiences. Then I grew older, and I realized that many adults don't behave that way at all. Many are lost, running on autopilot, or bitter, or more childish than I have ever been. I must have been about 20 years old when I realized that. Being adult in age doesn't make you necessarily a "good" adult, you have to work on these life experiences, draw lessons from them, work toward growing. You don't just wake up wise suddenly because you turn 30. Even since this realization, I've been starting to focus on self development, and, almost 10 years later, I'm grateful that 20 year old me made that decision :)

  5. Somehow these 29 points tell the story of my life. The story is that I spent many years coming to the realization of many of them. In some ways, I wish it had no taken me so long but I still have time to reap the benefits of getting there. Each of these points has real meaning and emotion attached to it for me. I can remember when and how the realization of each one has come about.
    I have been very much focused on 22, 23 and 24 during this past year when I have decided to start a blog as way to give voice to my creative self. I have had to learn many new things like how to do a website and other technology related things and continue to learn everyday. Thank you for writing this so I could feel full of gratitude today.
    Accidental Icon

    1. Thank you for this kind note, I'm really happy if this post brought you something positive :) Sometimes I also feel like I have wasted some of my years before I realized some things, and dread that I'm still wasting them now until I realize even more things about what's important to me and how I should prioritize my time and money. But in the end I think it's part of our life journey, isn't it? Mistakes aren't a waste of time, they are precious lessons, maybe?

  6. These are wonderful, Kali, thanks for sharing! I'm just past 40 now and I don't think I'd have anything to add to your 29 list. I find that #20 is THE hardest one for people to understand and accept. In my office, there is constant drama being stirred up because people take offense where no offense was intended, or make up dastardly backstories for random actions. It can be exhausting!

    1. I agree, #20 is one of the hardest and most precious things I've learned in the past. I've suffered from it when I was expecting a certain behavior from friends and felt rejected because they didn't live up to my expectations of loyalty and support - which made me realize this learning.

      And I still suffer from this the other way around, when people who are dear to me (like my little sister) have so many unspoken expectations I can't do anything about because I can't read minds, and social understanding and empathy is, unfortunately, one of my character weaknesses. I need to be told things clearly, otherwise I usually don't get the hint. I also believe that many social relations would be so much easier if people communicated more clearly about what they needed or how they felt instead of expecting, then being bitter and disappointed. But I guess it's hard not to have expectations from people around us... And yes, it is exhausting, I agree, especially in open space offices where people love gossip :)

  7. happy Bday Kali !!! very nice advises and lessons ! thank you !

  8. Happy Birthday!! I am 29 and have been spending this year also thinking of 'what I've learned' while creeping up toward 30. This list is great and really resonated with me, especially with #15 & #20.

    1. Thanks! I'm happy you liked this. This is the period of life when we go back to how life turned out so far, isn't it? :)