A Quarter-Century of Life Lessons: Revisited

Tomorrow, on December 18th, I will again celebrate my birthday. For as long as I can remember this was a day that all 364 others would be spent looking forward to. With the start of December before I began counting down until days to Christmas, I first counted down the seconds until my birthday. And from midnight to midnight for a full 24 hours I felt like the most special person in the world. When you’re a little kid birthdays are a big deal. You get cards from every aunt, uncle and neighbor you don’t even know and at school you get to bring in treats and wear a ribbon. And then there’s the cake. I loved every new candle each age earned and how it made my birthday seem bigger and brighter with every passing year. My birthday is still a day when I feel very special, though it’s not nearly as big of an ordeal as my childhood self once made it. But instead of those birthday candles merely adding glow to a cake, I now see them as adding wisdom to my life. And so on my grand quarter-century birthday, I want to revisit the blog post I wrote about one year ago at this time “(Almost) A Quarter-Century of Life Lessons” and with this new year and new candle,  I’ve added the life lesson my 25th year has taught me to this ever growing list.


1. Tie your happiness to a goal—not people or things

You will never be able to control people or things; don’t let your happiness be dependent upon them.

2. There is no such thing as awkward situations, only awkward people

Realizing this allowed me to take control of situations and handle them with confidence and grace.

3. Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together

It’s not easy when you feel slighted or taken advantage of, but I truly believe that there’s a greater plan and even the bad parts play in to a happy ending.

4. Crying is neither an indication that you’re weak nor a solution to your problems

You can never really hold emotion in. Not dealing with how you feel causes emotion to come out as passive aggression or displaced anger. I allow myself a good pity party from time to time, but after that’s over I don’t let my thoughts linger. I move on.

5. No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying

Sure it’s easy for people to sit back and criticize when they’re not in your position. But even failing is a sign that you’re trying—and that’s so much more productive than standing still.

6. Do what you love, not what you think you’re supposed to do

I struggled with this one for a while. I thought I was supposed to stay with whatever job offered the most money and benefits, regardless of how miserable I became. Sure I’d like more money, but it will come. Until then, I’d much rather be doing what I love and calling my own shots.

7. Only blaze your own trail if no one before you has gone where you’re going

Don’t take the path less traveled solely for the sake of being different. There’s no shame in following in someone’s footsteps, especially if you admire the path they’ve chosen.

8. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting

This can be applied to both results you want to keep and results you want to change. If you want change you have to create change—time alone cannot and will not do this.

9. At the core, people are truly good

Sometimes I meet people who really test this belief of mine! But if I spend enough time with someone, somewhere along the line they give me the proof I need to know this is still very true.

10. Strive for progress, not perfection

The real world doesn’t reward perfectionists; it rewards people who get things done. Trying to make each day perfect will only paralyze you from making any sort of progress, perfect or not.

11. Opportunity doesn’t go away, it just goes to someone else

Remembering this makes me reconsider any time I’m tempted to take any opportunity for granted and let it pass by.

12. Do not compromise sleep for anything

Anyone who knows me knows that even with a big project or looming deadline, I would rather call it a night and wake up early to get it done. Sleep is sacred to me—it allows my mind and body to reset. Don’t deprive yourself of this vital time; you need it to do anything else to your full ability.

13. As soon as you wake up, start by saying one positive thing about today

I’ve used this positive thinking technique to get me through some of the gloomiest work periods of my life. No one wants to be at the beginning of a 12 hour work day, but saying one thing you have to look forward to—even if it’s just a your favorite lunch–will help get you out of bed.

14. Not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck

It may not be what you want, but life will always give you exactly what you need. The sooner I learned to trust this, the sooner I was able to let go of all of the “What If’s.”

15. When you don’t plan everything, everything goes as planned

You may remember this as a blog post where I learned a pretty valuable life lesson. By planning everything, I only set myself up for frustration (and madness) when things would inevitably change.

16. Don’t measure life in grand gestures or life-changing moments

In doing so, you will miss the better part of what life truly is…the little moments

17. Happiness and success are independent of each other

Sure they can, and often do, occur at the same time. But this is not guaranteed nor is the fact that one will always cause the other. You must pursue each separately.

18. The problems we have with other people are more often about ourselves

You may remember my post about not having to like everyone you work with. It’s a fact of life that we will interact with people we don’t like, but do remain introspective about what it is that bothers us about someone else. It’s most often a reflection of our own insecurity or jealousy we can work on.

19. You will never be 100% ready for an opportunity when it arises

Never use this as an excuse not to take it!

20. Time can only heal what we allow it to

If you allow your mind to wallow in sorrow or hurt, it’s like picking at a scab that’s trying to heal. Either move on or embrace the fact that this will become your scar.

21. Never assume you’re the best or worst at anything

A quote Mr. S often shares with me is from his former coach, Joe Paterno “You’re never as good as you think you are when you win and you’re never as bad as you think you are when you lose.” This thought keeps me grounded.

22. Deferring your happiness to the future is a terrible decision

So often we hear people say, “I can’t wait until I retire so I can do that.” But why not be happy and do what we love right now and throughout our entire lives? Don’t put off your happiness and life goals until you have more money or more time, both can run out sooner than expected.

23. Under promise and over deliver

In work and in relationships, never promise more than you can reasonably give. It’s far better to underestimate your skills and commitment to someone to ensure you’re always exceeding their expectations.

24. Nobody has it all figured out

And anyone who claims they do probably has the most to learn.

The newest life lesson that I will add to the 25th spot on my list is the lesson I believe this year was meant to teach me. It’s a lesson that I not only personally experienced, but finally had the wisdom to open my eyes and see all around me…

25. Merely planning to do something is not the same as accomplishing something

I become so frustrated when a goal is set and never met. With so much information about goal setting and motivation I could never justify why so many good intentions never get off the ground. Just before my 25th birthday I reasoned that the answer was the trap of thinking planning to do something is the same as  accomplishing something. Good intentions are not enough if you want to bring something to reality. So as we emerge on the cusp of New Year resolutions, keep this simple truth in mind. It’s a lesson I’ll be sure to carry into my next quarter-century and beyond!

8 thoughts on “A Quarter-Century of Life Lessons: Revisited

  1. What a great post and I particularly like number 25, that resonated with me as I often find myself failing to meet objectives I have set myself and planned to achieve! I think I’ve been better at it this year but it’s always a challenge to remember to actually follow through on proposed actions.

    1. Glad to hear it resonated! We see so much “advice” on time management and goal setting – and it all makes sense – yet it’s still so hard to follow through with it. I hope with some more reflection over the coming year I can get to the root of my hold-ups too!

  2. This is a wonderful post Stephanie! (or do you prefer to go by Bennis)?
    I especially like No.7 Only blaze your own trail if no one before you has gone where you’re going. It is so true that too many people in our time choose to be different for the sake of being different. I think traditional values and decisions should be respected as much as innovative ones. I definitely have a few people that I admire greatly, and following their paths has only made me happier about my life and accomplish more.
    And happy birthday!

    1. Hi Melissa – Thanks for sharing your comment. I agree that there’s nothing wrong with following in the path of someone you respect or admire. There will always be ways to make the journey your own, but you don’t need to necessarily start from scratch. -Stephanie

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