What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
I have met some wise people over the years, and heard some very wise words. Sometimes I forget that not every has had the privilege of having so many wise individuals pour into them throughout their entire life. So, in effort to pass on the impact of words spoken to me over the years, here is a summary of the best advice I’ve ever gotten.
Everything with kindness.
This advice was passed on to me by my husband’s cousin. I believe this is what someone told her as marriage advice before she got married. Let’s think about that. Everything with kindness. Have you ever had someone say something to you, and what they said was perfectly acceptable, but their tone made you want to take their words and shove it right back down their throat? Tone reflects intention. When the tone comes across as malicious, we imply that the intent was malicious, so regardless of how true, important, or even simply empty their words were, we become unable to receive them. If that person had said the exact same thing with a tone that reflected kindness, our reception of those words would have been completely, 100% different. The same goes with our actions. We can go about our day, doing things as we always have, but when we do them with intentional kindness towards others, not only do we find ourselves focusing more on being kind, but others can tell our intent as well. We never know how our kindness will impact someone. We never truly know the extent of our actions, kind or otherwise, and the lifelong impact they can have on those around us. Just as we might not realize how our kindness could positively impact someone, we don’t know how our lack of kindness could negatively impact someone. Just be kind. It isn’t that hard.
Stop trying to change the whole world and focus on changing the immediate world around you.
My husband told me a variation of this many years ago. He heard it from someone else, but neither of us can remember who anymore. It’s an interesting concept. Everyone wants to be the person that changes the world, right? I think we have this tendency to dream big, then create a list of reasons why those dreams would be difficult or impossible to achieve, so instead of pursuing any of them, we find something less difficult, less challenging, and we settle. I’ve done it plenty of times. I choose the path of least resistance, and justify it to myself, and then forget about all of the things I’ve dreamed of doing. And then I don’t do anything. I stop trying, stop pursuing, and stop believing I can make a difference. But if we started focusing on where we are, who we are with, and what we are already doing, we can start to change the immediate world around us. We can be kind, show love and compassion, influence small changes around us, and influence the people around us. Coworkers, friends, family, etc. If we can’t learn how to change the place we currently reside, how do we think we will ever change the world? Consider this. At some point, we realize that changing the world is too big of a job, so we stop trying. We stop trying, and we convince ourselves that we are powerless, our actions don’t matter, and ultimately, we justify our complacency. Let’s stop making excuses, and start focusing on making wherever we are the safest, most joyful, positive, supportive place possible. You never know how much the person sitting next to you might need that.
Don’t crap on family.
This one might seem a bit odd at first, but hear me out. This is possibly the best piece of marriage advice I got during the time I was engaged (I got some pretty fantastically horrible advice too…but that could be an entirely different post). In life, we get busy, and it is inevitable that we will not be able to make everyone happy. Schedules will collide, we won’t be able to make it to some important event, and someone is going to get hurt. Someone will be offended or upset. Don’t crap on family. This is simply stating that when you have to decide who to hurt and who not to hurt, don’t hurt your family. As a young newlywed, I loved this advice. It made sense. If I had to make a choice to put my husband first or second, it reminded me to always put him first. If I wanted to be put first, shouldn’t I treat him the same way? If you have to choose between family or family, put your closest family first. Example: If you have to choose between your spouse or your parents, choose your spouse. Your parents will forgive you. And if they don’t, well, at the end of the day, you aren’t married to them. This doesn’t only work in a spousal situation. You can transfer it to any groups of individuals. Sometimes it isn’t always possible to see the impact of your decisions, but if you view it as crapping on someone, it suddenly gives light to the situation and helps you understand how your actions might be effecting those close to you.
You always have a choice.
It would be really nice to be able to remove any responsibility from our words and actions, and put it on someone else. But the reality of it is, we always have a choice. We choose how to respond to our circumstances. We choose how to respond to the words and actions of others. We choose. No one can control us, no one can dictate our life for us. We are the makers of our decisions, the speakers of our words, the doers of our actions. Don’t fall into the mindset that you are the victim of the world around you. Be empowered by the fact that you always have a choice, and you are capable of choosing and doing the hard things. You may not be able to control your circumstances, but you can control your reaction to them, and that means that ultimately, you have the power and control over your life. The choice is yours.
These are my favorite pieces of advice, because the reality of them is similar to a verbal throat-punch. They leave you without excuse for poor behavior, and put the ball back in your own court. The reality of the universe is, we are responsible for ourselves, we are in control of our behavior and our words, and there is no reason to be hurting those around us. There is no reason we shouldn’t be constantly bettering the world around us.
What are your favorite pieces of advice? I’d love to hear them.