25 life learnings from surviving half of my twenties

25 life learnings from surviving half of my twenties

I believe that the learnings we gather in life constantly change and evolve. They are not universal or permanent. I imagine these being what you would see through the window of a train on the rail called “Amalia’s World”. We have just stopped at Station Twenty Five.

Outside the window, lots of things have whizzed past. Building relationships, setting boundaries, traveling the world, studying, entering working life, exploring tantra and other worlds, bungy jumping, facing challenges, growing stronger and meanwhile trying to understand the craziness we call Life… So what does this station look like?

Please note that these are written from a privileged position of not having to fight for survival or my rights to express myself. Things might look very different for someone else. 

A big factor for me to evolve and grow is being inspired by others. I would love to read about your learnings and thoughts in the comments. 

1. Life doesn’t happen to me – it happens through me. I am the co-creator of my own life experiences.

2. Everything I experience goes through a filter – which is me. When I look at an apple, listen to a song or meet a new person, the input is mixed with my memories, emotions, judgements, values and how I relate to myself. Everyone else that I meet has their own filter, and so I will never be able to fully understand their world. Even my life partner is somewhat always going to remain a tremendous mystery. How exciting!

3. Comparing myself to others doesn’t make sense since I’m comparing all aspects of the experience of being me to the appearance or idea I have of someone else.

4. It is never someone else who makes me act a certain way. Someone else is merely doing something, and while observing that, my mind and body decide how I feel about it. My emotional response might feel out of my control. But the more I’ve taken ownership of my emotions, the more I’ve been able to acknowledge them and then, rather than acting on impulse, choosing how I want to act.

5. I am the owner of my own emotions and I have the right to feel what I feel. Nobody else can ever decide how I should feel.

6. When I take responsibility for my own emotions and needs, I take charge of my own life. One of the most life altering aha-moments I’ve had was during my first week as a student at Hyper Island. During this week, our group of 50 people learned about some of the most effective practices in leadership, feedback, self growth and clear communication. As people tried to explain how “you” or “we” felt, our facilitator Sam kept saying “Speak from the ‘I’!”. It’s taken me years of practice to apply this to my behaviour. Funny fact: All of the life learnings that you’re reading in this very moment were first written to “you”. But as I started writing “When you take responsibility…” I caught myself in the middle. By going back and changing every “you” to “I”, I felt the learnings sinking in on a deeper level, and I felt a new sense of ownership of what I wrote.

A few more examples of taking responsibility: being honest with myself – especially when it comes to unpleasant feelings, not projecting onto others, being honest towards others about how I feel and what I need, being aware of when I assume that others know how I feel and being aware of when I assume that I know how others feel.

7. As long as I expect others to make me happy, they won’t. To me, happiness goes hand in hand with feeling connected to others. But I’ve seen that deeply connecting with others is a graceful skill that grows from first truly connecting with myself. Only then can I be my most authentic self in relation to others. And nobody else can do that for me.

8. Instead of talking about things I already know, I can learn the art of truly listening to others – a rarely seen, yet enormously powerful tool that will constantly teach me about things I didn’t even know I wanted to know.

9. Instead of spending time with people who don’t want to listen to me, I can learn the art of truly listening to myself.

10. Saying No means taking responsibility for my own energy. When I say No because I don’t want to do something, I respect myself and my own time as well as others and their time (Who wants to spend time with someone who in reality wants to be somewhere else anyway?). And, most importantly: Saying No means I can start giving Yes the meaning it deserves again.

11. Most things are made up. Society, norms, must-do’s and careers were all ideas and thoughts until some people turned them into reality.

12. The future is made up too.

13. For an idea to come true, I need to believe it can. If I believe it can happen, more people will believe me when I tell them about the idea. When there are enough people believing in my idea and working for it to happen – be it a company, a world view, a system or a life learning 😉 – my idea has started to manifest in “reality”.

14. I cannot know in advance how things will turn out. Life is too complex for that. If I plan for my dreams to come true and strictly follow that plan, chances are that I’ll miss the unforeseeable possibilities that will turn up along the way. I can dream, aim and plan, but I believe in just as much observing and welcoming the ongoings of the present moment.

15. Sometimes, I might not know what my dreams are or where I want to go. That’s okay. True will doesn’t seem to come from trying to squeeze it out. It more grows on me when I give it the time and space to do so.

16. Everyone spends time feeling lost. Or, that’s my assumption after meeting lots-and-lots of people. The mothers, the fathers, the teachers, the celebrities, the most down-to-earth people and everyone I’ve ever looked up to. And that’s okay! What would life be if we already knew everything there is to know?

17. Acceptance means working with a situation, not against it. It doesn’t mean playing along in a situation that isn’t aligned with my values and it doesn’t mean allowing others to treat me in a disrespectful manner. It means seeing and welcoming a situation for what it is – whatever it is – without denial, and then deciding how I want to act.

18. If I find myself not being able to fully accept a person or their behaviour, I could:

a) project emotions like anger onto the person and not learn much, which means I wouldn’t experience much personal growth and I would go through life with bitter thoughts like “she let me down” or “he hurt me”. Or:

b) I can reflect on what behaviours I can’t stand, and then look at myself. Am I living in full acceptance of myself, including my flaws? Someone once said it’s harder to accept the things in others that we haven’t accepted within ourselves. By choosing this option, I’ll grow about fourteen times more and be able to meet the person from a place of love and compassion. I can still tell someone what I think they’re doing wrong, but by separating my emotional baggage from the way I perceive their behaviour, it becomes so much easier to be constructive and build trust.  

19. Unpleasant emotions won’t disappear if I look away from them or try to neglect them within myself. They are, like all emotions, energy that can be transformed. Once I am conscious of an emotion, I can consciously transform it.

20. Great change is not only the one that happens through one single event, action or insight. Sometimes, the most powerful change is the hardest to see; the one that happens little by little, day by day, through many seemingly small actions.

21. Don’t boil rice on too much heat. Just don’t.

22. I am not a separate individual. I was not born into this world – I am made of this world. As I go through life I learn from others. As I breathe, eat and drink, I am building my vessel (my body) with building blocks from nature. I am part of nature and therefore part of a vast network of interconnected nodes of people, ecosystems, memes and whatnot.

23. Life is a playground. We can spend our time doing “important stuff” like closing business deals, raising children or paying bills. But let’s be honest with ourselves. In a larger perspective, we’re all as clueless as children in a playground. The play can seem very serious at times but who on this planet knows exactly how we ended up here, how things will turn out or what the point of the whole thing is?! Nobody I’ve met at least. Yet, just like children, we create things by using our imagination and we all seem to be playing for the mere sake of playing. We’re all grown up kids. So I try to be playfully serious and very serious about playing.

24. I can decide how I want to play. I can create, change and develop plays. One day I might play “Building a co-working castle that transforms people and the way they view what life can be”, or the next day “Building a crazy, dream-like city with anything we could possibly imagine and then removing all traces of it after a week”.

25. Learning things is great. But putting it into practice is where the magic happens. I’ve met many people with great understanding of things. But the ones that have truly amazed me, the ones that I’ve looked up to, are the ones who have managed to somehow apply at least parts of their understandings to Life itself. Some of the learnings you’ve just read are in times still just that: learnings. Putting things into practice is a practice in itself. A practice that takes time to put into practice.  

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