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Self-Help

The Six Most Important Lessons I Learned This Year

The six most important lessons I learned this year

2020 is getting to a close. Thank goodness for that. If I had to choose one word to describe the year when everything happened and nothing happened all at once, it would be INSANE. I have no qualms leaving 2020 behind me wishing for next year to be much less insane. It is customary during this time of the year to reflect on our achievements and take stock of what we learned. In this article, I would like to share with you the six most important lessons I learned this year.  

But first, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my readers and followers.

May you all have Peace and Clarity,
To be the first to latch on your door,
And Happiness to be guided to your home,
By the candlelight of Christmas,
May you have the strength to take the first step of many,
To where you want to go,
May you have the grace and wisdom,
To persist in things worth doing,
And find solace in the knowledge that,
That in itself is remarkable.

©JoanneReed

The year 2020 has taught me the following lessons:

  1. Learn the art of living in uncertain times.
  2. Never let a good crisis go to waste.
  3. When life gives you lemons, make whatever you want.
  4. Cultivate wisdom.
  5. Patience is a gift when given or received.
  6. And last but not least, feel the power of music.

Lesson 1: Learn the art of living in uncertain times

For the first time in recorded human history, the whole world is simultaneously living in a state of deep uncertainty. People are feeling worried, anxious, scared, and helpless. Nobody knows what is going to happen next, so the lesson I learned this year is that we should get comfortable being uncomfortable while uncertainty reigns.

Do not attempt to predict Black Swan Events but build robustness to their negative impacts – Photo by @freepik via freepik.com

“Uncertainty is the very condition that impels man to unfold his powers. As we navigate our own uncertain times together, may a thousand flowers of sanity bloom, each valid so long as it is viable in anchoring the human spirit it animates. And may we remember the myriad terrors and uncertainties preceding our own, which have served as unexpected awakenings from some of our most perilous civilization slumbers.”
– Erich Fromm

We live everyday with the knowledge of our staggering fragility, and we know how physiologically vulnerable our body and mind can be. We are aware that terrible outcomes are always possible and often probable.  Your Quest as a Human being is to protect yourself against the danger of losing your life but also against the danger of losing your mind.

This knowledge of our own vulnerability makes us go back and forth between ecstatic optimism and sheer despair.  In order to cope with that awareness and to counterweigh the heavy sense of our own fragility we often rely on the hope that somehow, we will be strong enough to withstand rare and unexpected events, which the author Nassim Taleb refers to as Black Swans Events.

In his book, Taleb urged his readers to not attempt to predict Black Swan Events but to build robustness to their negative impacts. The world is too complex for anyone to understand or predict exactly what is going to happen, and rather than naively try to predict Black Swan Events, we just need to be aware of the possibility and adjust to their existence, by becoming antifragile. All systems can be categorized as fragile, robust or antifragile. Fragile things are exposed and destroyed by volatility, Robust things resist, and Anti-fragile things benefit from it. 

“Some things benefit from shock; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, stressors and uncertainty. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shock and stay the same, the antifragile gets better”

Nassim Taleb

For a more detailed analysis, I invite you to read the full article I wrote on this subject.

Lesson 2: Never let a good crisis go to waste

Life is a journey, sometimes the road is nice and pleasant and other times it is rocky, arduous, dangerous and most unpleasant. No one voluntarily chooses to go down the unpleasant road, except that sometimes there is nowhere to go but down that road.

Never let a good crisis go to waste. Think, create, innovate – Photo by @freepik via freepik.com

So much of what happened this year is outside our control. Instead of worrying about things we can’t change, we should focus instead on the things that we can control. There is always a silver lining on the horizon, even if we can’t see it yet. Never let a good crisis go to waste.  One way to achieve this is to focus your energy on a purpose, a mission, a passion, something that keeps you in a state of flow. And this is how you find your opportunity, your silver lining.

For some people finding their passion is easy, they were born knowing what it was. For others, finding their passion is not so obvious. The problem is that a lot of people believe that their passion is hiding somewhere, maybe behind a tree or underneath a rock. The truth is that our passion comes first from doing things, and then doing them right.  We should get into the habit of injecting passion into all the things that we do. If we do this consistently, a time will come when something will stand out above all the other things, and that is the very thing that we should devote more time to doing passionately. That’s all there is to it, just do it.

It is possible to have a passion and still feel demotivated and deflated because you can’t see any results. The problem these days is that people are impatient, they expect instantaneous results. That’s not how things work. Being successful at something requires hard work, sweat, tears, discipline and patience. Don’t focus on the outcome, focus on the work itself. Pursue the things you love doing and devote yourself to hone your craft on a daily basis. Eventually, people will not be able to take their eyes off you.

If you still feel dispassionate and have no passion to create anything, listen to the philosopher Carl Jung who may give you some ideas.

“If you have nothing at all to create, then perhaps you create yourself. To give style to one’s character is a great and rare art.”

Carl Jung

For a more detailed analysis, I invite you to read the full article I wrote on this subject.

Lessons 3: When life gives you lemons, make whatever you want

You have all heard of the expression When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. It is a proverbial phrase that is used to encourage people to stay optimistic and to keep fighting in the face of adversity or misfortune.  Lemon suggests sourness and difficulty in life; making lemonade with lemons that are being handed out to you turns the whole sour episode into something sweet, positive and desirable.

When Life gives you lemons make whatever you want – Photo by @freepik via freepik.com

All too often, our circumstances are dictated and influenced by what people tell us is realistic or feasible. Life gave me lemons, but right now I am not in the mood to make lemonade. Actually, I have a better idea, instead of using the lemons to make lemonade I am going to use the seeds and grow a whole orchard of lemons. Now, instead of having a few lemons to make a pot of lemonade, I find myself with tons of lemons that I can sell to people who want to make lemonade.  Not a bad way to use lemons, right?

Now that I have all those lemons, I am thinking that it is time for me to stretch myself a little bit further and instead of lemons I want oranges. How can I turn lemons into oranges? I can become an alchemist. When one mention the term ‘alchemist’ we have this picture in our mind of an old bearded man that looks like Merlin (the greatest wizard of all ), trying to turn lead into gold. But in contemporary society, alchemy is a term used to describe the ability that people have to manifest personal change, an ability that we all possess.

Inner alchemy provides us the means to better understand ourselves, the universe we live in and our purpose in life. But in order to achieve that you have to let go of the old you and make room for the new you.  Think of your negative thoughts, old beliefs and habits as lead.  Your mission as an alchemist is to turn lead into gold which is your new you, the happy, healthy and emotionally balanced new you.

For a more detailed analysis, I invite you to read the full article I wrote on this subject.

Lesson 4: Cultivate wisdom

Energy moves down the path of least resistance in the environment it finds itself, be it electricity through a circuit or water in a river. Just look at the way water runs downhill; it will always find the path that allows it to flow in the easiest way possible.

Be Like water – Choose the path of less resistance Photo by @freepik via freepik.com

To take the path of least resistance, be like water. Bruce Lee’s legacy as a martial artist, movie star and deep thinker remains very much alive today; there is so much we can learn from him, still.

“BE LIKE WATER. Don’t get set into one form, adapt it, build your own and let it grow.  When you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. In order to control myself, I must first accept myself by going with and not against my nature. BE LIKE WATER. The nature of water is so fine that it is impossible to grasp a handful of it. Strike it, yet it does not suffer hurt. Stab it and it is not wounded. Sever it, yet it is not divided. It has no shape of his own but mold itself to the receptable that contains it. BE LIKE WATER. When water is heated it turns into steam, it is invisible, but it has enough power to split the Earth itself. When frozen it crystallizes into a mighty rock. First it is turbulent like the Niagara Falls then calm like a spring on a hot summer day. BE LIKE WATER.”

Bruce Lee

To learn the path of least resistance, observe nature. Everything in nature has its own purpose.  A tree grows towards the sun, takes carbon dioxide and releases oxygen. Take a leaf during fall, the dying leaf does not resist the natural circle of life, it bursts with magnificent beauty in the grand finale before its death, living space for winter to settle in. With spring new leaves will burst into life in an onslaught of colors. Everything follows its natural course. Human nature is no different.

We have to be vigilant because sometimes the path of least resistance disguises itself as the right path for us but it is the wrong one.  Do not equate the path of least resistance with the easiest path to follow. Sometimes, we make choices based on what is easiest, most pleasant or least painful.  When we do this, we may gain comfort in the short term, but we may also end up gaining a lot of pain in the long run.  It is easier and more comfortable to sit in front of the TV rather than go to a fitness class. It is easier to lose our temper than control it.  It is easier to eat ice cream and cake rather than eat kale. In those instances, taking the path of least resistance is an option, but it is the option that will not help us grow and become the best version of ourselves. You can’t get fit by sitting on your sofa eating ice cream every day, you will have to drag yourself to the gym and start lifting those weights. Without the resistance of a barbell, a muscle won’t grow.

To experience the path of least resistance, be like a seed. Our environment is much like a field in which we plant a seed. Depending on the ground and the type of environment where you plant a seed, some seeds will grow well, and others won’t. The seeds that are planted in a nourishing environment, full of good nutrients will grow. We won’t see the results straight away, but over the years the seed to grow into a mature tree. In the same regard, we must learn to treat our mind just like a garden. We must ensure that weeds and unwanted plants are not robbing and stealing the nutrients that are needed for the tree to grow and bear fruits.

“Your mind is a garden. You can grow flowers, or you can grow weeds.”

For a more detailed analysis, I invite you to read the full article I wrote on this subject.

Lesson 5: Patience is a gift when given or received

What is patience? It is essentially experiencing a certain period of time without any rewards. Waiting can drive you crazy, make you irritable, angry, frustrated, unhinged, but at the end of the day, those roller coasters of emotions will not affect the outcome one inch. If things are not happening as fast as you expected it, the best thing to do is to go with the flow and make the extra time count for something. Patience doesn’t mean passivity or resignation; it doesn’t make you a doormat or unable to set boundaries with people.

Good Things happen to those who can wait Photo by @freepik via freepik.com

Patience is power.  It is a way for you to practice emotional freedom. You can choose to be annoyed and frustrated by the delay or you can choose to use the time and turn it into something productive.  It is your choice.  It doesn’t come naturally but you can learn to transform frustration and adversity into patience.

Patience is essential to daily life and might be the key to a happy one. Having patience means being able to wait calmy in the face of frustration or adversity. So anywhere there is frustration or adversity, we have the opportunity to practice it.”

Dr Judith Orloff

We have a tendency to want to take the quickest, easiest path to our goals, we are impatient and want to see results quickly, but remember “there is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.” The best way to cultivate our natural impatience is to cultivate a kind of pleasure in pain, like an athlete, you come to enjoy rigorous practice, pushing past your limits, and resisting the easy way out.

For a more detailed analysis, I invite you to read the full article I wrote on this subject.

Lesson 6: Feel the power of music

Music has a unique ability to bring people together.  From a national anthem to a church hymn, or your favorite rock or hip hop song, music has the amazing ability to unite us, to pull us together as we listen, sing, dance and rejoice in the pure beauty of the  notes and melody suspended in the air.

Feel the power of music. Music will set you free – Photo by @freepik via freepik.com

Music is a universal language that can unite, heal, and set people free from their fear, their worries, their loneliness. Regardless of which language you speak and where in the world you call home, music and dance can unite and break down barriers in a magical way. Dance is a universal language and so is music. So, dance your own dance and sing your own song. Work your magic and sprinkle seeds of love everywhere you go.

Music has an amazing ability to speak to our hearts, minds and soul. It is like a prayer that stretches out into the Universe; It is quite telling that the word Universe literally means one (Uni) song (Verse). Where words fail, music speaks, there are times where words will not be enough to appease, heal and convince, so in those moments, it’s best not to say a thing; switch on the radio, listen to your best tunes and dance like nobody’s watching.

The Universal Language of Music and Dance
To all my sisters and brothers around the world
Dance your own dance
Sing your own song
Sparkle seeds of love everywhere you go
Love is spring eternal
It is the healer of all wounds
Do not drown in anger and hurt
When you can swim in a sea of love

©Joanne Reed

For a more detailed analysis, I invite you to read the full article I wrote on this subject

And this, my dear companion, is your Quest.

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The audio version of my book “This Is your Quest ” is available. Feel free to check it out and use this special Promotion code

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Self-Help

Why New Year Resolutions Are Doomed to Fail

Happy New Year! We’ve left the last decade behind us and are entering a new one. Every year millions will make a bunch of New Year resolutions, maybe to take a more active approach to health and fitness, improved finances, or learning something for personal and professional development. However, year after year, a familiar pattern will repeat itself, the majority of those resolutions will be forgotten by the beginning of February!

So, why are our New Year Resolutions doomed to fail?

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New Year resolutions fail for many reasons, from being too vague, too optimistic or anything in-between. However, a reason that most of us don’t stay committed is down to a lack of clarity; clarity as to who we are, where we are in life, and what we want to achieve.

Why New Year Resolutions are Doomed to Fail?

I just returned from a family vacation to Vietnam. In Hanoi, students study Confucianism at the Temple of Literature. Before entering the gate and having access to the school they have to walk past a pond known as the ‘Natural Mirror Pond‘ to look at their reflection and take note of all their imperfections and deficiencies. Only then, could they walk through the gate to learn, to improve themselves and to become less imperfect.

Natural Mirror Pond – Hanoi, Vietnam – Mirror, Mirror, show me all my imperfections and deficiencies!

Confucian principles are a set of thoughts and ideas that refer to the teachings of the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius (551 BC to 479 BC). The objective of Confucianism is to create ethical and moral harmony to produce a just and functioning society. The development of the self is central to Confucius’ vision of a harmonized world, for society’s sake as well as our own.

Whereas Confucianism’s focus is on clearly knowing oneself, a key reason why so many of us find it difficult to stick to our New Year resolutions is that we tend to set objectives that do not coincide with who we are.

Knowing who we are should be our first and primary resolution for the New Year.

Clarity Comes With Understanding Ourselves

According to the Ancient Greeks, the source of all wisdom and clarity is to Know Thyself. The Motto Know Thyself was one of the maxims inscribed on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi (Greece). With this inscription, the Oracles at Delphi invited men to gaze inwards and discover that the essence of one’s life is not be searched outside ourselves, but within. To know oneself is to see clearly and to know the nature of the Universe.

Clarity is to Know Thyself

The path to knowing oneself, according to philosopher Carl Jung (1875 to 1961), is no light stroll. It is a dark and mysterious business; digging into oneself, climbing down directly into the tunnel of one’s being is an agonizing and hazardous undertaking.

When you embark on a journey of self-discovery, you will come face to face with what makes you whole. Every story has a hero and a villain, and in your story, you will be both. There is your hero-side who is wise and rational and will say, “this year, we are going to eat healthily, exercise more and lose weight.” And then there is your villain-side who is less rational, more impulsive, and will tempt you, “you deserve that ice-cream and a lay down on the sofa, maybe even a few hours of TV.”

Knowing yourself is crucial; you cannot control what you do not understand; so, perhaps the first thing to do before writing your New Year resolution is to know and understand yourself. You cannot count on an intrepid knight on a white horse to rescue you from your villain-side. Nobody will come and save you, but you, yourself. You are on your own; be strong otherwise your New Year Resolutions will fail.

New Year Resolution; to Know Yourself

Perhaps the key New Year resolution to work on is to know yourself and everything else will flow from there. Knowing who you are starts with asking the right questions:

  • What do you believe to be essential and important?
  • What are you really living for?
  • Why do you do the things you do?  
  • What is worth the pain?

So, if your New Year Resolution is to exercise more you should pause for a minute and ask yourself the question as to why, is it essential, is it worth the pain?

In addition to the big questions, maybe the idea of going to the gym fills you with dread. Maybe, you are the type of person who doesn’t like exercising indoors. Maybe you are the type who would rather be outside rather than being in a gym lifting weights or doing a Cross Fit class. If this is who you are, then maybe you should be going out for walks, for a jog, or getting on your bicycle from time to time instead of driving your car.

Why Don’t We Do The Things We Should

So, why don’t we do the things we should? Mark Manson answers this in his book ‘Everything is F*cked’. We don’t do the things we should because we don’t feel like it. Worse, sometimes we do just the exact opposite of what is good for us, like overeating and under-exercising, buying stuff we don’t need, frittering away time and mismanaging our money.

One of the main reasons we don’t keep our resolutions or do the things we should is because we don’t love ourselves; this is an emotional problem. In fact, self-control is an emotional problem. Laziness is an emotional problem. Underachievement is an emotional problem. Impulsiveness is an emotional problem, and emotional problems need emotional solutions.

Solving emotional problems requires self-love and self-acceptance. By accepting your emotions and working with – rather than against – them, you can change your behaviors to better align with your goals and values.

For me, I found out a while ago that the best way to avoid failing my New Year resolutions was not to make any! That’s it, I don’t make New Year resolutions, ever. Instead, I just quietly and diligently do the things that need doing, et voila, simple.

I look a little deeper into this subject in my eBook ‘The Gift of Clarity,’ coming out soon.


If you liked this post you can follow me on Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook, or you may also like:

For more on this subject you can purchase my book This is Your Quest online at BookLocker, from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble.  The Ebook version is available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple (iBooks) & Kobo. Check out my Amazon Author Page here or my listing on Booksradar.com.