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Five Discoveries that Changed My Life
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | April 2018 (edited 2019)
Wisdom I Wish I Possessed in My Youth
Five life changing discoveries I stumbled on during a decade long search for flourishing.
Few leave the family home with sufficient skills to survive in the competitive world. But we’re fighters, we take the blows, gather wisdom and adapt to the surrounding challenges. When we reach the sunset years, with silver hair and wrinkles, we look back and treasure a few learnings that contributed more than the others to improving our lives; the moments that changed the trajectories and invited peace. Sometimes I contemplate a life that stumbled on these wisdoms earlier and applied the knowledge to parenting, career, and relationships. But then again, maybe living life was required to appreciate the significance of these findings. Human development requires struggle before the wisdom; we can’t bypass the prerequisites of daily toil. We can, however, learn some wisdom from those who proceeded us in the journey. With that in mind, I share these five discoveries.
Learning from Others: We don’t know it all. People from different backgrounds, cultures and economic conditions have golden nuggets of wisdom that we have missed. Intentional learning is required. Often our ignorant youthful minds are unable to differentiate wisdom from folly. Advice from the elderly often sound like unhelpful ramblings, coming from people with little to offer in for the children of the twenty-first century. I suffered this ignorance in my young life, disregarding valuable insights that could have boosted experience, and protected against troubling consequences. Those from different religions, beliefs, cultures and economic backgrounds see life through different lenses and can widen our views. By narrowing openness to only knowledge agreeable with our histories, we limit options, cap growth and curb opportunities.
Complexity: Life is infinitely more complex than we can comprehend. The apparent random happenings have definable causes that we only superficially identify, behind the notable action is countless other factors contributing to the whole. When young, we tend to only consider the most salient cause and harshly judge what is known, ignoring the vast unknown information. The acceptance of complexity invites empathy and opens the mind for continued development.
"When young, we tend to only consider the most salient cause and harshly judge what is known, ignoring the vast unknown information."
Mindfulness: Without conscious thought, we live our lives. We slip into a pattern of numbness—we feel, we act, we think. We tag logic on the tail end, kindly explaining actions we already taken. we miss golden opportunities for change. I used to equate mindfulness with meditation; but it is much more. Mindful living changes our relationship with our bodies. We become conscious of emotions, their triggers, and our impulsive reactions. This discovery modifies behaviors. It’s the foundation of many therapies, bringing the unknown into the light for examination. During conflict, instead of slamming a door and walking out, mindfulness notices the discomfort, the emotional impulse to leave; but then examines the situation with more openness, realizing there is no danger, we courageously stay and build a stronger bond.
Self-Soothing: Life deals some crappy hands. Unplanned, undeserving events happen (because of complexity). To enjoy the rich experience of living, we must discover personal habits to soothe our burdened souls. If we can’t manage the waves, we sink. Anxiety, sadness, anger, and hurt regularly knock at our door. If we have limited capacity for these emotions, we naturally adapt by building escapes. Some escapes are behavioral (addictions) and some cognitive (defense mechanisms). We can do better, learning productive responses to emotional disruptions. Healthy habits bring joy and momentary respites while our mind settles. Physical practices such as mediation, mindful breathing and yoga also soothe, calming the nerves. Dealing with life by acknowledging reality, instead of running and hiding, we propel growth to new heights; life no longer is so scary.
Relationships: Most flourishing people have learned to connect. Not only does relationships provide a treasury of resources, but healthy connections improve healthy, provide security, and strengthen resolves. Relationships influential all aspects of our lives. We are programmed to connect. Biologically our cells long for others. Emotions, knowledge, and love all vigorously respond to an attentive relationship. Within the confines of intimacy, we grow. Children raised with impoverished emotional connections struggle throughout their lives (there are effective cures to repair injured attachments).
These five discoveries changed the trajectory of my life. They are interrelated, each giving and taking from the others. As we integrate these helpful learnings into our lives, grasping the depth they imprint on our character, we begin to change. The bleak future is brightened, the once haunting present now warms, the deplorable past is educational. Our lives have changed, and we smile.