The older I get, the more I realize how much there’s yet to learn. Life lessons are never-ending and have no age limits (thank goodness). Often, they are achieved through blood, sweat and tears, which makes them more valuable than the newest piece of technology or fancy car parked in the driveway. And, unlike the newest 4G gizmo, their relevance endures through generations.
I won’t get the chance to meet my great, great, great grandchildren here on earth, but if I did, I’d try to pass along information as timeless as it is valuable. Here’s some of what I’d tell them:
This world possesses one undeniable constant: change. There’s always going to be a newer, bigger, better version of whatever it is people are rushing to the stores to purchase. But, intangibles like integrity, compassion and courage never go out of style. Focus on those and make them the center of your identity.
Life is hard sometimes. I’ve come to believe that’s how it’s supposed to be. We learn our best lessons through a teacher called adversity. It makes us stronger. Better in the end.
Try not to complain. It makes you unpleasant to be around. Ditto that for crabby.
Try to recognize the best in people. You’d like for those you meet to give you the benefit of the doubt, why not do the same for them? In all likelihood they are just as busy, stressed, bored and tired as you.
Small things can become big things. This goes for the good and the bad. Whenever possible, make your small things good things.
Lies are harder to remember than the truth.
Life is serious business, but it works best when balanced with levity. Being somber all the time can make you appear angry and as though you are lacking an important trait known as a sense of humor.
Learn to laugh at yourself.
You can make a huge difference. Making a huge difference does not mean changing the world. It means changing the world for one person.
When you walk into a room, be someone who notices other people. Don’t wait for them to notice you.
Say, "Good morning," to the people living under the same roof as you.
Everyone has limitations. Approach them not as a hindrance, but as an opportunity to stretch your creativity.
Don’t let other people dictate your goals. Everybody you meet has their own idea of what you should or shouldn’t, can or can’t do. You decide for yourself.
No one can pursue your dreams for you, nor will someone knock on your door and offer you a shot at the big leagues, big stage or boardroom. It’s up to you to take action.
There are times in life when it is important to speak up and times when it is better to hold your tongue. Learning to determine when to do either is a valuable skill.
Listen to your gut.
Respect your elders. You may think you possess the knowledge and answers, but time on this earth counts for something and often brings with it wisdom unavailable to youth.
Do at least one unrequired, unrequested act of kindness each day. Try to make it anonymous.
Behave in such a manner so that everyone you encounter believes you are truly glad to see them. Even strangers. A simple smile and eye contact can uplift someone’s day – and costs so little.
Never stop loving. People. Pets. Flowers. It makes you vulnerable, but it makes you real. And it makes life worth living.
I could go on, but then there’d be nothing for my great, great grandchildren to learn for themselves – and learning is a big part of the satisfaction that comes from mastering life’s lessons. At least it is for me. But what do I know? I’m just getting started.
(Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, playwright and author of "The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication" You can read more columns at the Slices of Life page on Facebook.)