So, I turn 30 today. Sure I feel a mix of fear and anticipation in equal parts. I think the one thing that turning 30 reminds me of is that Friends episode where Rachel refuses to go there. Last few months, I have also heard yet another friend crib incessantly about how she is getting older and does not like it (Here’s to talking about you, Z!).
But instead of the fear, I choose to embrace this milestone. I would rather look at it as the start of a phase where I am more mature, enlightened and geared up for life. So, to commemorate this grand occasion, I decided to jot down 30 notes to self, one for each year. On a side note, if you are in the US and have your birthday coming up, check out this amazing list of birthday freebies that my friend Olivia compiled on her blog.
You might be wondering, “Ok, Aparna… You want to muse and talk to yourself on this fine Saturday go ahead. But how does that concern me?”. Well, I believe that if I have learnt something in these 30 years and am putting it down in one place, some of you are bound to nod your head in agreement to some of them at least. Even if you disagree, I would love to have this post as a conversation starter of sorts 🙂
1. It’s all relative
Your past experiences become the lens through which you experience anything in the future. If you have worked at a bitchy insecure work place, any other place which is an improvement in any way will feel like a godsend. On the other hand, if you are at a good workplace, you are bound to find shortcomings in your next workplace.
2. The value of gratitude
You might have a terrible day, people might be absolutely negative around you and the news might be depressing, but gratitude will give you a far more sunny disposition. In the face of adversity, if you resolve to mull over the things going your way in life you are bound to feel good. Still not convinced? Read the laundry list of the benefits as mentioned by Happier Human
3. Prevention is better than cure
I used to say – “I am never going to stop eating what I want. I really don’t care how much weight I gain”. It’s funny how some words can come back to bite you. For the past year and a half, I have now been obsessively trying to lose weight with little progress. They really knew what they were saying when they coined this proverb.
4. Never say never
I have always dreaded and run away from “finance”. But now I am working hard to build a future in the industry. There are more such instances which tell me to not be obstinate to a way of thinking. Be more flexible and open to more things and experiences.
5. Reading doesn’t have to be only entertaining
I have been a compulsive reader since I can remember. My parents used to drive me and my sister to a public library with a fantastic collection and my interest was solely in the genre of fiction. Lately, I have been reading and absorbing massive amounts of self-improvement content and writing about it too. Clearly, a lot of people know so much more than me and I might as well shorten my learning curve thanks to their experiences.
6. Relationships require nurturing and work
This holds true for any relationship – parents, siblings, friends, spouse or even a date. To build on a relationship means to bring in more of yourself to the table, be more vulnerable, make compromises and yet be more tolerant. There will be ups and downs in ANY relationship but you will learn to weather the storm and ride the waves if the relationship is important enough for you.
7. Nothing is impossible
No, I am not advocating Adidas here (though they do make pretty good shoes). These 3 words are a mindset that I have realized is something in common with most achievers. The minute you tell yourself of anything being impossible is the moment that you have lost the battle.
8. Cooking is a life skill
My mother and to an extent even my sister tried to get me interested in this skill for years. It was only after I started living on my own that I realized just how important this skill is. It truly is a life skill that everyone should know, at least the basics. Read on for more reasons on why cooking is such an important life skill.
9. Don’t take yourself too seriously
In my experience, humor when used well can lighten most situations. Self-deprecating humour is not just the safest but also sets the balance right between you poking fun at others and poking fun at yourself. Also, humor from a person is appreciated only if they can take jokes on themselves. And as the joker says in The Dark Knight – Why so serious?
10. Learning is a continuous process
One book that has stayed with me is Arthur Hailey’s “The Final Diagnosis”. I think Hailey brought out quite beautifully how in any field you have to be consistently updated with the latest developments. Taking a step further, this learning should ideally be in multiple fields and not necessarily restricted to your sphere of work. It not only keeps the mind simulated but also leads to a much richer life.
11. First impression is not the last one
I and my husband keep asking each other if in the first meeting we ever imagined we would end up getting married, to each other? The simple answer is no. It’s only after working together for over a year that perceptions gradually changed. Alternately, a lot of people who have come across as saccharine sweet on the face of it, have turned out to be the absolute worst.
12. The one thing separating winners from losers is action
Food is a passion for me and while my food blog has been languishing for some time, I try to make up for it through more regular Zomato food reviews. I still remember some of my colleagues telling me how they have always thought of writing Zomato reviews. If you think about it, just do it! (No, Nike is not paying me either)
13. Pay yourself first
The first time I read about this concept was Robert Kiyosaki’s book “Rich Dad Poor Dad”. The whole idea of putting aside money every single month, to grow and be used for future purposes is a far more important reason to spend money than paying bills, isn’t it? Still on the fence? Read this detailed post on why you must pay yourself first.
14. Don’t sweat the small stuff
These days, in life, it is easy to let anything crowd the mind and stress out, or even better freak out. I have tried to consciously look past the phase of freaking out to see what can be done to get out of it. Belittling the situation and telling myself this is not bad and am going to be able to get out, helps most times.
15. Practice makes perfect
This is something I have experienced in multiple instances – be it exam practice for maths or GMAT exams in perfect conditions. On the actual day it just seems like a breeze after so much practice. Malcolm Gladwell opened a Pandora’s box where in his book “Outliers” he claims that an expertise in any skill really requires 10,000 hours of practice.
16. Be generous with compliments, stingy with criticism
Whenever I like something, my first instinct is to tell the person – hey, nice dress! Call it an avoidance of hurting the other person or call it conflict prevention, I tend to tip on my toes in case I want to say anything rude, sharp, blunt or negative. (The husband, of course, might disagree!) It is not about not saying important critique that might be required, but just doing so with a gentler delivery.
17. Good habits need to be consciously cultivated
Bad habits take no time in their adoption. However, with good habits, it is mostly a struggle as it is rarely about instant gratification. Take healthy eating for instance. It’s just so much easier to wolf down any number of desserts which is bound to be instant gratification for all senses. As for healthy eating, not only is the action of resistance difficult, the results are not instant either. However, when done consciously, good habits can and must be cultivated.
18. Jot down pros and cons before a big decision, take it and never regret it
At times of tricky decision making, this has always held me in good stead. I generally take a pen and a paper, quickly scribble pros and cons of any big decision and then just by being on paper at one place it untangles the wires for me. After that, the decision might still make me miserable, but I stand up for it and do not rue taking it at all.
19. Earn > Spend
Sure, everyone knows this basic. But, when I see an equation like this, what it tells me is that I have the ability to change either side, the left or the right. So, if I want to spend more, I need to work hard and earn more. On the other hand, if I know I am not able to increase my earnings anymore, I gotta spend a little lesser. It’s all about ditching the paycheck to paycheck mentality.
20. Goal and timeline setting are important
You can work on something for as long as you might want, but without a goal or a timeline, there is really no direction to what you are doing or where you are going.
21. Do not borrow money for a depreciating asset
Borrowing money is at a cost, often pretty high. Home loans make sense as the asset being borrowed for is an appreciating asset. Yes, I have taken a loan earlier for something like renovation but if I can avoid it I would want to pay a bank only for something which is going to give me returns later in future.
22. Time is precious, respect it
This holds true not just for your time but also for anybody else’s time. Every day is finally 24 hours and it’s really true that you alone can choose to fill in the minutes with 60 seconds. Somehow, especially in India, most people find it difficult to understand this vital time.
23. Give the benefit of doubt to the other person
This is thanks to my husband. I definitely had the tendency to assume the worst, the keyword being assume. I have relaxed in the last few years to grant him more of the benefit of the doubt and to outright check with him in case of a doubt. I do try to export this mantra to other important relationships in my life.
24. Don’t assume no as the answer
For most humans, fear of rejection is something that develops at a pretty young age. And why won’t it? Just look at school admissions to know how things are just getting more and more competitive. But letting that fear of rejection color everything in life would be a mistake. In that respect, just check what Jia Jiang did to defeat that fear.
25. Everything happens for a reason
This is my mom’s philosophy. Whenever we are down and out, mom will always say it. Sure, it sounds annoying that time but just telling this to myself has helped and in hindsight, yeah things almost always do work out like a snug jigsaw puzzle.
26. Multi-tasking does not work
I was a big one for multi-tasking. But lately, I have realized that at least one of the things being done together ends up being compromised. If you are looking to get the best output for any job, it has to be done in a focused manner. Multitasking is more of a hindrance than a time-saver.
27. Rome wasn’t built in a day
It is sometimes easy to get frustrated when you are trying to achieve something and you don’t see results. Remembering that small building stones pave the way to big achievements always helps.
28. Humour is the best medicine
Cliché but it works, every time. The days that I am feeling very tired or even morose or just plain moody, I just put on an episode of evergreen favorites like The Big Bang Theory or Friends and it instantly boosts me.
29. Mornings are most productive
This is a fact that I have fought to not accept. The minute I was out of the house I thought of it as my freedom to get up at any time I wished. I have slept in the mornings and woken up groggy next afternoon. I have almost always had to make a dash to college or office. Last one year or so, waking up early has been a refreshing change which I do not intend to change any time soon. Sure there might be some aberrations, but that’s what they would be.
30. Age is just a number
Didn’t think I would leave that out, did you? It might sound cliché but I have seen multiple people of the same age act very different ages. It really depends on you and how you take it. Right, Z?
Phew! Didn’t think I have that level of preachiness in me. Guess I am just growing old then, eh?
Do you agree with any of my notes above? Or do you think there is anything vital that I might have missed out on. Let me know in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org