We recently returned from our latest Caribbean cruise, on which we celebrated my 30th birthday. While we were lounging around with a view of that ever soul-inspiring big blue ocean, we took some time to reflect on how our lives have changed and the things we have learned - or are still learning - that have helped us to lead richer, fuller, and more adventure-filled lives. As the Faces once sang, many years before either Justin or I were born: “I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger…”
1. Most of success is doing the hard things, but work smarter not harder. You know that thing that sounds like it is going to be difficult and tends to get pushed to the bottom of the pile? It is probably the most value-added and therefore, worth doing. As for working smarter, technically this applies outside of work, too. If something is taking a long time to do, I am always trying to think of a better, faster way to do it. And I usually find it.
2. Google.com (not sponsored). I have possibly learned more from searching the internet on how to do specific things I am struggling with than I have in all of my formal education.
3. Raise your hand. Try for that job promotion, volunteer when someone asks, seek out opportunities. I once went to an amusement park to be an extra for a Travel Channel filming of a roller coaster and ended up getting 30 seconds of fame as a featured rider, all for my sheer enthusiasm at being there to film at dawn.
4. Love is not a synonym for control, own, judge, don't support, want to change, etc. I love you should be an amplification of I like you.
5. Be your partner’s biggest supporter.
6. Close the bathroom door, do your own laundry, talk about your hopes and dreams. Keep the magic.
7. Develop code phrases to diffuse situations. Some of our oft-used are “Grumpy mode commencing” (usually in relation to me), “Use your words” (usually in relation to Justin), and “Navigator!” and “We’re on an adventure!” (usually in relation to getting lost). They’re just too comical to stay sour!
8. Go on adventures together. Define adventure however you want. We once went on a bike ride leaving from our home and there was PLENTY of adventure involved for the next 3 hours that we still talk and laugh about it.
9. Know what you value and prioritize it. Minimize or discard the rest. For us, it has been remarkably effective to compare what we are about to buy to what we are giving up by doing so. For example, do I need a new computer this year or do I want to go to the Caribbean for a week? The computer may physically last longer, but I already have one that works and the memories from all of our previous cruises have so far lasted a lifetime.
10. Have a plan. It is a lot easier to get there if you know where you want to go. Prior proper planning makes everything easier, less stressful, more enjoyable - presentations, vacations, life.
11. Social media is your face to the world. I don’t want to be remembered for negativity and all of the things that go wrong in my life. I try to make my profiles look like I have the perfect life... Bonus, I realized I actually do have a pretty sweet life!
12. It is human nature to want more than you have, but don't forget to be grateful and say a thanks to the universe for what you already have.
13. Treat yourself every once in a while. Things like diets, budgets, and life in general are more sustainable with regular, planned, moderate indulgence. If you looked in our grocery shopping cart, you would see healthy, healthy, healthy… pizza. If you looked at our budget, you would see necessity, necessity, necessity…cruise.
14. Surround yourself with good role models - happy people, positive people, people living life like you want to. Who you spend the most time with can rub off on you. Also, there are 7 billion people on this planet… why would I want to spend time with someone again who tried to make me feel bad even once?
15. Eat at home. We have very full days, but eating out is our easiest expense to cut. We accomplish this by meal prepping our lunches on weekends and mixing healthy frozen dinners and easy meals for weekday dinners.
16. Say yes more. If you haven’t seen it, watch the movie “Yes Man.”
17. Go somewhere or do something new regularly. Be a tourist in your own city.
18. Define what success looks like. Both for yourself and for others, like when you ask someone for help (if you want something done a certain way, make sure you convey that).
19. Get your affairs in order. It doesn't matter how old you are. The peace of mind after every bit we get done is well worth the effort now.
20. Most of anything being 'worth it' is 'making an effort.'
21. Whenever you leave the house, always bring snacks, water, and entertainment. And no, you don’t have to have children for this to apply. Grown-ups get hangry or have to wait for something all the time.
22. Laugh. Joke. A lot. Just be careful with sarcasm. Not everyone gets it.
23. Write down memories – doesn’t have to be prose. We recently started writing notes at the end of the day while we are on vacation on what we did and what we didn’t want to forget - most aren’t even full sentences, but they jog memories we have otherwise forgotten.
24. Say please and thank you. Not just to random strangers, but to the people who help you regularly. Like your significant other.
25. Ask for help when you need it.
26. Use your words. Communicate, talk things through.
27. Form healthy habits now. Find what makes this more enjoyable than dreadful. For example, I hate working out – the treadmill, the stair master, lifting weights, the actual going to a gym, gym sounds, gym smells, being in pain after a strenuous workout – I could go on and on. But I can get behind swimming in our community’s lovely pool, walking my dog around the lake, yoga in the quiet of my own home…
28. Keep challenging yourself and learning.
29. Money can buy happiness. Money is a tool that can make life more enjoyable and less stressful when used properly. Find a way to have a good relationship with it.
30. Dare to dream.