By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
The School of life is still in session. You can’t stop learning when you leave school.
In many places here in the northern hemisphere, school is back in session or soon will be. Regardless of whether you are a student or a teacher the lessons don’t stop when school lets out. The most important lessons are often the ones we learn in the process of living. No matter how young or old you are it is never too early or too late to learn the lessons life is trying to teach you. Here are some of the lessons you should be learning from your life experiences.
Learn the difference between tools, crutches, and burdens.
When you feel tested or weak, when you struggle with a problem, tools can be helpful. Friends can help you move forward or hold you back. Substances, drugs, and alcohol, creep into lives disguised as crutches. They tell you that you need a drink to cope. Truth is that those crutches, substances, and behaviors start out looking like crutches to help you get through difficult times. They end up being heavy burdens to overcome.
Whether it is “retail therapy,” shopping just for the sake of shopping, or hanging out with negative friends, using crutches to get through life’s difficulties comes at a huge price. That unhelpful habit may move from being a crutch to being a heavy lifelong burden when you have to clean up the messes.
You find the things, good or bad, you look for.
Are you looking for more anxiety or more calm? Some people are well acquainted with anxiety. He is their best friend. Having some anxiety around can help you if you are in danger. But if every morning you set off on a quest to find more things to be afraid of, anxiety is no longer protecting you, he is holding you captive.
The negative things in life scream out for attention. The quieter things, happiness, and joy take an effort to notice. Calmness sits silently by, waiting to be noticed. If you look only for the negative you will get more negativity in your life.
Learn to find the positive in the difficult situation. Detect the calm in the center of every storm of life. Look for the good if you want a good life.
Watch out for “agains.”
Humans make mistakes. The more you do in life the more possible mistakes and errors you will find. Try to learn from these less than ideal outcomes. Avoid having to say, I made that mistake again. I have the same problems again.
Learn life’s lessons and then move on. Failure to learn the lessons at one point in your life dooms you to repeat these same errors over and over “again.”
Do not wear yourself out pushing on walls.
Many obstacles in life will not be moved by the use of brute force. Even a small barrier can wear you out if you insist on trying to force that difficulty out of your way. Look for the gates. Think about ways to make that obstacle a path you need to follow to find the way around.
We can often take one big challenge well enough. It is the constant fighting of the same battles, never learning how to work smarter that eventually will do you in.
Good relationships are more important than being right.
Avoid wasting time and friendships on fighting over who is right and who is wrong. People resent having to deal with a right-fighter. Certainly, you can and should have your beliefs and values. It is not required that you change their minds.
Treasure your friendships and close relationships. Think before you argue. Will I really be happier if I win this argument but lose this friend? Allow your friends to be wrong sometimes. Give yourself that same opportunity.
If you want something you need to ask. Did you ask?
Don’t go through life wishing that others would see your needs and fulfill them. If you are wishing for something, have you expressed that wish to the person who could make this happen? It is easy to blame others for the things we lack. They seem obvious to you. But if you never ask do not fall into the trap of thinking that others should recognize your needs before you speak them.
A great pitfall in relationships is expecting the other person to read your mind and then act on your desire in the way you would want them to. Unless you partner or friend earns their living reading minds do not expect others in your life to spontaneously develop that skill.
Are you building things up or tearing them down.
Don’t tear everything down unless you are ready to rebuild afterward. It is easy to complain. You can find faults in most any situation. But when something gets torn down, for a time there is nothing left there. Eventually, some person sees the empty space created by the destruction and begins to rebuild.
An important life lesson is to learn how to make things better. Building meets people’s needs, destroying things does not. Become the architect of a bright future, not the demolisher of what is.
Look for the similarities.
People mostly have the same needs. Situations tend to have similarities. Do not think that the way you do things is the only possible alternative. Many problems have common solutions. Applying knowledge from one experience to another reduces the need to be reinventing behaviors.
It is easy to think that others are somehow very different from you. Underneath all the differences are those common needs and desires.
Be aware of the differences.
Differences are neither good nor bad in and of themselves. Recognize how others could look at things and see a different meaning. Consider that old saw that if the only tool you have is a hammer you will see everything as a nail. Different problems in life need different tools. Around every bend in the road of life, there will be something. Look for the novel and look for the similar, expect neither.
It is always today.
We plan for tomorrow, we remember the past but we always live in today. Learn to keep those distinctions clear. It is always today. You may repeat yesterday’s actions or you may choose to do, say and think something different. Change in life comes from getting up each day and living that day as fully as possible.
Are there other life lessons you have learned? Consider sharing what the school of life has taught you. You can leave a comment below or send a note directly to me by using the contact me form. I will do my best to get back to all of you who contact or email me.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!
Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.
For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.