3 Life Lessons I Wish I Knew a Decade Ago
Lessons learned through experience that could help in business and in life.
The writer and professor Morris Kline once said, "the most fertile source of insight is hindsight." It's hard to dispute that. So taking a cue from Kline, here are three sources of insight I'd like to tell my younger self.
Listen to your inner voice
There's a lot of advice out there about being true to yourself and paying attention to your inner voice. There's a lot of it for good reason--it's really, really important in the pursuit of a happy and balanced life. My hunch is that this is the root cause of why so many people are unhappy in their jobs. They decided on a career path without really listening to their desires and preferences. Sometimes people just follow in the footsteps of their parents or they're responding to external pressures like what sounds or looks good on paper. Other times it is because it's easier to copy what someone else has done rather than figure out what you really want.
I'm very happy with my career now. But when I was starting out, I was actually very interested in advertising. I'd grown up with a mindset that being a CPA is the best move you could make. So that's what I did, and I never really thought about pursuing advertising.
On its face, advice to go into accounting was a good idea. There are a lot of great things about being an accountant and I have had a great career and taken advantage of many paths in the field. It wasn't originally a decision that was based in what was natural for me. It wasn't until I learned to really listen to myself and carve the path in my profession that was a better fit that I achieved a professional and personal balance that felt much more rewarding.
For the most part, I think it takes people (and clearly, I am one of them) a while to find their own way of tuning into themselves and then listening to those cues. But once you do learn to listen to your inner voice, things flow better, which is why I wish I would have known how important it was to listen to myself earlier in life.
Invest in your tribe
It's just a fact--not everyone is going to like you. You need to accept that and invest your time and resources into the relationships with people who are supportive of you and your growth.
When I was younger--and I think this is common with a lot of women because we're conditioned to please others--I'd spend time being more concerned by the people who weren't my biggest supporters and I'd try to change their minds. In hindsight, this was a huge waste of time. I could have better spent my time seeking out the people who would help me along the way or furthering my relationships with people who were already supportive.
Of course, you will encounter people who act as roadblocks. Rather than trying to "convert" them, it is more fruitful to learn to work around them and not let them hold you back.
Yoga isn't just for hippies
I'm saying this sort of tongue-in-cheek, but it really gets at a point that hits close to home for me. Nowadays yoga is a $27 billion industry, which makes it pretty mainstream. It skews heavily towards women--more than 80 percent of practitioners are female--but attracts people from all walks of life, from students to CEOs.
As a Type-A person, I was quick to brush off yoga for most of my life. I thought it was soft. I was partial to bootcamps and high-impact activity. But after I gave birth to my second son, I got very sick with a thyroid condition and couldn't exercise. I missed the physical activity so much and yoga was one of the only things my doctor would allow me to do.
I begrudgingly tried it. I did not exactly get hooked immediately, but slowly began to crave the calmness and clarity the practice brought to my life. Not only did yoga change my exercise routine, but the lessons I learned on the mat have spilled over into so many other areas of my life. My journey to the yoga mat was also a first-hand lesson in being open-minded. I was so quick to dismiss yoga, but once I gave it a chance, I benefited in ways I could not have foreseen. Now if only I would have realized that earlier.
Looking back provides such an interesting perspective of who we once were and how far we've come. While I feel like I could have benefitted from knowing a lot of this stuff sooner, I also appreciate that the evolution of the lessons over time had a huge impact on me. So here's a gentle reminder for everyone to not be too hard on yourself for the things that take you a while to learn.
This post originally appeared in my work-life harmony column in Inc.com