As the last decade came to a close, I took some time to reflect on ten years of my life since 2010, all the ups and downs, accomplishments and disappointments. I was really surprised how unpredictable my life has been, including my career, relationships and hobbies.
Below are five out of ten most valuable lessons I’ve learned over the last ten years, including some major takeaways that might help you in your journey.
I also hope this article may encourage you to look back at the last decade of your life, celebrate major accomplishments and reflect on your own lessons (if you have not already done so).
Lesson 1: Life does not always go according to your plan. Accept it just the way it is
Over the last 10 years I have had an interesting and exciting journey, but my life has not gone the way I thought it would go.
When I started my MBA at Columbia Business School, my career goal was to land an investment banking job with one of the major banks. I spent a lot of time and energy on the recruiting process, but could not get the job I wanted, which felt very disappointing.
Upon graduation, I joined a rating agency as a credit analyst focusing on financial institutions. That job gave me a healthy work-life balance and allowed me to pursue several hobbies and interests outside of work, which completely changed my life.
What seemed like a failure to land an investment banking job after my MBA turned out to be a great opportunity to have a successful career in finance and a fulfilling personal life.
We all set expectations for our lives and want events to unfold in a certain way. We create specific outcomes in our mind’s eye and feel disappointed, frustrated and unhappy when our lives do not go according to our expectations, which happens most of the times.
The only way to live a happier life is to let go of your expectations of how your life is supposed to be and accept it just the way it is.
Lesson 2: Get comfortable being uncomfortable
One of the hobbies I picked up after business school was mountaineering. I started with hiking Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, which rises to 19,340 feet (5,895 meters) above the sea level.
I still remember that feeling of awe I experienced standing on the summit, watching a moonset on one side of the mountain and a sunrise on the other side, shaking from cold and feeling completely exhausted, oxygen-deprived and ecstatic.
After Kilimanjaro, I climbed Aconcagua in South America, Elbrus in Russia, three volcanoes in Ecuador and Denali in Alaska.
There are several reasons why I climb mountains. I enjoy the feeling of being connected with nature and being surrounded by magnificent views. I love traveling, exploring and meeting like-minded people from around the world.
But there is also another aspect of climbing that draws me to the mountains. It is the way to test my limits, to see how far I can push myself and experience the pleasure of overcoming pain and discomfort.
It helps me to discover my resilience and inner strength. Climbing teaches me to look for humor even in the most challenging situations and stay positive.
You don’t need to subject yourself to the extremes of climbing mountains. Life can make you feel uncomfortable as you apply for a new job, decide to open your own business, train for a race or break up an unhappy relationship.
Just remember, that uncomfortable feeling means that you are moving forward. If you can be comfortable being uncomfortable, you’ll be able to handle whatever situation comes along in your life.
Lesson 3: Don’t underestimate the power of tiny habits
Creating daily routines, building good habits and getting rid of bad ones has also become one of my pastimes. It is fascinating to realize how small daily actions can have a huge positive impact on my life.
Some of the powerful habits I’ve developed over the last decade are consistent exercise routine, healthy eating, daily planning, reading, listening to Audible, journaling, meditation, getting up with the first alarm (my most recent life-changing habit).
There are several habits that I’m still working on, including going to sleep before 11pm, waking up before 6am, working out in the mornings and cutting the time spent on the phone.
Some people argue that habits and routines are boring. I find daily routines very helpful, especially when my life gets busy and chaotic. They create a structure in my life that enables me to manage my time better and get stuff done.
Daily habits do not depend on your motivation, will-power or mood. They are just repeated actions that later become automatic and do not require any thinking or decision-making.
The only way to develop a habit is by doing an action repeatedly until it becomes a usual part of your daily routine. There are different opinions on how long it takes to build a new habit, ranging from 21 days to 90 days.
Just pick a simplistic task that you can get done without any motivation and stay as consistent as possible for the next 30 days to build a new habit.
Lesson 4: Our running shoes have magic in them
Running has become an inseparable part of my life since 2014, when I completed my first half marathon followed by the NYC full marathon and a 60-kilometer (37.2 miles) race two weeks after the marathon.
An interesting fact is I could hardly run three miles on a treadmill without stopping at the beginning of 2014. However, it did not stop me from deciding to sign up and train for the races.
Running has not only considerably improved my physical condition and fitness level, but it also makes me feel happier. It goes beyond the “runner’s high,” a feeling of euphoria caused by chemicals released in your body during a run.
Running gives me clarity and brings a feeling of peace and balance. It also reduces stress levels and improves my mood and sleep.
Running has made more mentally and emotionally resilient. Some of the lessons I learned during training and racing have helped me face challenges in other areas of my life.
No matter what level you are starting at, you can make running a part of your life and reap its multiple benefits.
Lesson 5: Time is the most valuable asset we have
We all have the same 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week and about 8,760 hours in year. It’s up to each of us what we do with that time.
I had many days and weeks when time would just fly. It felt like I never had enough time for the activities that I needed to do. I was constantly trying to find a balance between several priorities, all of which competed for my time.
This motivated me to do a time experiment for several weeks and track my time on an hourly basis. By tracking my activities for two weeks, I could see exactly how I spent each of my days.
This data allowed me to reallocate my time to better align it with my goals. It also made me more aware of the time I wasted on social media and checking my emails and enabled me to gradually reduce those time wasters.
While tracking your time could feel overbearing and you might feel that you waste valuable time by tracking it, I strongly recommend that you try it for a week (or at least for a couple of days) to become more aware of how you spend your time.
Ready to start your journey towards a more fulfilling and happier life?
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