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Before Serena Williams won her first Grand Slam tennis final in 1999 at the age of 18, she had been practicing and finessing her game since the age of 3. Fifteen years of practice.
Success not only in our careers but in our daily lives comes from intentionally choosing to improve, to grow, again and again and again. Day after day when seemingly no reward has been achieved . . . yet.
Whether or not you have had been involved with athletics, the analogy to athletics is quite apt when in comes to learning a new skill and observing how it can reform the quality of our lives. The glory of winning 22 grand slam titles for Williams didn’t just occur. Yes, she has been at the top of the leader board many times over the course of the past 15 years, but there were many stumbles, setbacks and significant challenges along the way.
In relationship to living well, doing so is not something we innately know how to do. We have to be a student of life. We have to be willing to not get it right from time to time. We have to be willing to refuse to settle with what we know if what we know doesn’t work for us, doesn’t sit well or isn’t garnering the results, deeper connections and peace of mind we seek.
The good news about so much of the life we want to create for ourselves, those we love and the world, is that with repeated practice, we can retrain our minds which isn’t dependent upon external conditions but rather inner strength. Inner strength being something we all are capable of exercising if we only would tap into it.
Today I’d like to take a look at 11 skills we all can practice that will have profoundly positive effects on the overall quality of our everyday lives.
1. How to love well
“Love requires practice, finesse, determination, humility, energy and delicacy . . . “ – Hannah Rothschild
Often the kink in not being able to find contentment is not understanding how love, the love we seek, actually works. Too often we are seeking it rather than cultivating it. Because when we cultivate it and when we do it well (something we will talk about more in January here on the blog, but have talked about much in the past – click here), we recognize that it is a skill and it is something we can bring into our lives simply by embodying love in our daily actions, thoughts and lives.
2. Your craft
“This is how many people become artists, musicians, writers, computer programmers, record-holding athletes, scientists… by spending time alone practicing what they love.” —Meg Cabot
Someone who appears to be an overnight success, undoubtedly has been working for years at their craft. Exploring, tweaking, learning, making mistakes and continuing to practice what they love through it all whether there was applause or stone-cold silence. Whatever it is that you love to do, simply practice a little every single day. Eventually, you will reflect upon a journey that has led you to heights you had never expected.
3. How to learn
Each of us has different learning styles, but all of us can learn. Discover how to learn. Discover how to ask questions. And ask questions, constantly, along the learning process.
4. How to think critically
“The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.” ― Christopher Hitchens
With everything that you observe, hear, and experience, think critically. Why? While it is simpler and far less straining to be led around by the nose whether by society, family, friends or an institution, it is also supremely dangerous. View this post to discover simple ways to ensure you are indeed thinking for yourself without being unconsciously manipulated.
5. How to be grateful
The benefits of exercising gratitude in your everyday life not only improves your peace of mind, but it also can improve your job prospects and income, and thus the quality of your overall life. In a recent study daily gratitude was shown to enhance alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy. All qualities that employers appreciate and look for in their employees and employees they want to promote.
The foundation of a quality life is the mastery of the mind, as it is the mind that believes whether or not you can make changes in your life. As well, It is the mind that has to accept there is a positive worth pursuing. Read this post to learn how to master your mind.
7. Being present
Mindfulness is a skill that requires us to first master our mind, as discussed in #6, and in doing so, we are then able to be fully present in the moment at which we find ourselves at any given time. Meditation has been proven to condition the mind to be more mindful, but there are many other ways as well. The gifts of being mindful are plentiful, but it ultimately reveals to us the life we are truly living, to see the good, to see the truth, and if we’re not content with what we see, to be ever more motivated to do what needs to be done to make the necessary changes we have control over.
8. Spending less than you earn
A healthy habit that will always earn dividends literally and figurative with regards to the peace of mind it brings is spending less than we bring home. This is not to say investing is something to stray from, absolutely not, but the habit of consciously remaining within and under one’s budget will certainly serve you well.
9. Letting go
Of what we have no control over, we must practice letting go and finding peace with outcomes that may not be what we desire, but none-the-less are the reality. The sooner we practice letting go with grace, the sooner we welcome peace into our lives and recognize we would be much better served if we focused on what we can control.
Knowing how to set boundaries as well as when is something that takes practice. For some it will be easier than others, but even in knowing how to set boundaries this entails we also know how and when to be vulnerable. The process is a ying and yang most definitely, but both are needed in order to attain and maintain healthy relationships.
11. Taking chances
“Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.” -Mary Tyler Moore
I chose to end the list of skills to practice with taking chances because initially it is scary. And sadly, while some will take a chance, and on their first attempt not reap what they had hoped, they will refrain from ever taking a chance again, certain that it will never be worth it. I can reassuringly say, such a fear is unfounded. For as Mary Tyler Moore attests, it is through mistakes, it is through pain, that we realize we are tougher and mightier and more amazing than we realized and that builds our confidence. And confidence is what is needed to keep taking chances. Chances that if we keep attempting will garner most wonderful outcomes and experiences.
So take chances now and often. I promise you life will continue to amaze.
Practicing anything may not sound like much fun. After all, it is usually done on our own or unbeknownst to others which is why we must understand why we are practicing what we choose to focus on. All of the 11 items in today’s list, no matter what life we are trying to cultivate, will increase the overall quality experience of the life you choose to lead.
Enjoy the journey and put forth the time because in the end the life you create is far more in your hands to mold than anyone else’s.