Life lessons are what you draw on when times are tough, and these are tough times.  What you have learned gives you the strength and courage and knowledge. It shows you what you are capable of. You faced difficulties before and survived – even triumphed. 

Frank Sonnenberg’s Facts of Life – Grown-up Version had me thinking of lessons I have learned over the years. For me, the ones that come immediately to mind are:

  • Family First – For a long time I said family was my first priority, but my choices didn’t reflect that. A part of me felt they would understand and be there when I had the time, but as time passed, I was sorry for what I was missing.  Now, my choices and stated priority match.
  • This Will Change –   This is a good mantra in good times and tough ones.  It reminds me to cherish and savor the good times – little as well as big. Life never goes in one direction. For every valley, there’s a hill. For every hill, a valley.
  • Be Grateful – It’s important to me to stop and notice – especially in those valley times – all that I have to appreciate. It not only keeps me from taking for granted what I have, but brings me joy in the moment.
  • Together Is Better Than Alone – Even if it won’t be done my way, it might be even better. I have come to see the wisdom of, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Together has proven to be better.
  • Relationship Before Tasks –Connecting or re-connecting with the person I am going to be working with on a project makes the task go smoother. And, as in the lesson above – helps us to go further.
  • Listen! – As someone who talks a lot, this is a lesson I am always learning. It’s hard to hold back when my experience or excitement has something to say, but when I focus on what the other person is saying, I can hear what is being said, what isn’t, and develop a stronger connection.

Sonnenberg lists fifteen lessons. See which ones resonate for you – which you have learned, and which you are still learning.

  1. Your mindset matters more than you think – I’ve written a lot about how a negative mindset affects every aspect of your life. Same is true of a positive one. At any moment, we have the power to choose.
  2. Your life is determined by the sum of your choices – And if a choice didn’t work out, then that’s the lesson to learn. Next time you’ll make a different one. The learning never ends.
  3. There’s a difference between motion and movement – This has to do with knowing where you want to go. A treadmill vs a walk to the store. Both are exercise, but different results. Are you going through the motions or are you creating movement? (Hint: Does it further your Mission and Vision?)
  4. Own your life – Taking responsibility for what we choose – the mistakes and the successes – is part of growth as adults. Also, be careful of places where you are giving away responsibility for things you should be doing for you.
  5. Be a good person. Everything else is secondary – It starts with the person in the mirror. Kindness to ourselves and others. Things are replaceable. People – including you – are not.
  6. Instant gratification does not guarantee lifelong happiness – There’s nothing wrong with rewarding yourself with some instant gratification but don’t allow short term desires to get in the way of long-term goals.
  7. To-do lists can be unproductive – This is related to the motion vs. movement idea. We’ve all had busy days where nothing really gets done. Keep your priorities clear and create progress on them.
  8. Make your priorities a priority – As mentioned above, in your professional and personal lift, live your priorities. Your actions speak louder than your words, and your real priorities go beyond work.
  9. Everything worthwhile requires an element of sacrifice – You will have to give up something (probably an instant gratification moment) to have what you want. This is where knowing and living your priorities comes in.
  10. Determination is habit forming; so is quitting – Those sacrifices? They will add up to you living up to your word, keeping your commitments, and reaching your goals. This will define you as a leader and allow people to trust you.
  11. Make personal development a priority – Invest in yourself. This can also be personal as well as professional. Keep up with changes and pursue things that interest you. As I’ve written before – You are either growing or you are dying.
  12. View feedback as an opportunity – It’s part of the learning process. It’s information and helps you to know whether to keep going in the same direction or if it’s time for a course correction.
  13. It’s so easy to lose sight of the things you can’t see – And yet, it’s the ones you can’t see, like love, trust, and honor that are the most valuable.
  14. Money can’t buy respect – An old and true saying. It’s true of a job title as well. Earn the respect of those you work (and live) with by keeping your word, living your priorities, listening and engaging.
  15. Invest in relationships to avoid the time repairing themThis is so important, again in and out of work. Do what it takes to keep the trust (and respect) you earn. Professionally, we can never lose sight of the fact that we are in a relationship business. Without relationships, we are out of business.

There are lessons all around us and we’re always able – if we’re willing – to learn. From the good and the bad times, from the supportive administrators and the difficult ones, from the willing students and the demanding ones. Our priorities in and out of work and the choices we make around them will give us the movement we’re looking for. And remember – things will change.


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