I started to make a list of the things I’ve learned this year. Many of them are quite practical: how to sew a button, how to unclog a toilet and how to swim (well, I re-learned that). But sometimes its harder to think about the life lessons that aren’t so easily put into words — things learned over longer periods of time, in moments of haste, and nuanced in between the work day, coffee dates, “real” dates and bus rides.
A few of these lessons came into rather clear focus lately. I’m so grateful for the clarity of mind, and for the people in my life to help me to see the bigger picture.
Manage your expectations; not everyone operates the same way you do. A few months ago I took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (I’m an ENFJ in case you’re wondering). The assessment sorts people into one of sixteen personality combinations, which means that not everyone is an ENFJ — and thank goodness for that! Even though I have a way I prefer to do things, my house and workplace are so much more rich for the diversity of leadership, communication style and attitude. It also means I shouldn’t assume that everyone will approach things the same way that I do.
Life is a test of how well you can grapple with change. Some days, I feel like the Job of the Bible — bombarded with every piece of bad news possible, and then some. And like Job, it’s all too easy to become sarcastic, impatient and afraid. I still remember the bold, motivational poster seen often in grade school classrooms: “Life is 10% circumstance and 90% attitude.”
The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.” – Charles Swindoll
I am encouraged when I realize that what I need in these instances in an attitude change in my heart. It’s a reminder that God is the one in control when everything in my life seem so chaotic.
Think before you speak; you’ll be grateful you did. The tongue is a double-edged sword; from it speaks words of death or of life, the Proverbs quip. A friend recently counseled to me: “You’re not required to give someone an immediate answer.” And yet I do. We do. It’s tempting to shoot off an email, hit “enter” into the G-chat box or blurt out a comment in person. But just because our culture and technology reward quick replies and instantaneous communication, it’s okay to pause. In some cases, it can mean the difference between a fight and cool-headed conversation. At the beginning of 2012, I decided that my word of the year would be “listen.” I originally thought that meant simply listening to others, but I think it also means thinking about my words before I speak them.
When you are sick, let others take care of you. I kicked off December with a nasty virus that kept me in bed for nearly a week. Being sick is no fun, but it’s a reminder of the value of friends. For stubborn folks, this can be a hard thing to accept – to rely on friends to shuttle you around, or re-stock your supply of chicken noodle soup. We are not meant to struggle through this life alone, and pride can get in the way. And let’s be honest, it’s nice to “have a little help from my friends,” especially if it means a temporary chauffeur, nurse and chef!
Bottom line: My ways are not always best. God is faithful in all circumstances. Words are powerful. Friends are friends for a reason.
What lessons have you learned lately? How have the people in your life helped give you clarity?