Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Ali Hale on her top lessons learned in life. Ali’s super skill is wrestling with and digging deep into life’s really big questions. Ali is many things, but one of the ways you might know her is she is a regular blogger for Dumb Little Man, Pick the Brain, and The Change Blog.
One of Ali’s big things in life is helping people make the most of what they’ve got, and one of the ways she does this is by sharing her adventures and experiences on her blog, Aliventures, which is a combination of “Ali” + “ventures”. She likes the collective term “ventures” for her ideas, projects and mini-business plans, and “Aliventures” reminds her of “adventures.”
This post is a distillation of Ali’s top lessons in life. With that in mind, here’s Ali …
I’m 25, and over the past decade, I’ve been in school, university, full time work, freelance work and entrepreneurial work. At the moment, I make my living writing (part-time) and I spend the rest of my time taking a creative writing MA and working on a novel.
These are ten lessons I’ve learnt (often the hard way!) over the past decade:
1. Get a good start on the day
I learnt this one when I was a student. I’d struggle to get down to work before 10am or 11am – and during vacations, I often spent the whole day playing computer games. Although it was fun in its way, I always felt a bit dissatisfied – I was slightly bored most of the time.
Since starting freelancing in particular, I’ve learnt how important it is to “crack” the day right at the start. If I get up on time and get straight into my day, things go well. If I sleep late and start off by checking emails or playing around on Facebook, I invariably end the day feeling frustrated with my lack of progress.
2. Work through problems by writing
As a student, I got into the habit of journaling. I didn’t write in my journal every day, but I often took it out when I had something on my mind. I do my best thinking on paper, and writing helps me to work through problems, so the journal was an invaluable tool for facing up to my feelings about exams, relationships, my health and other potential stresses.
3. Ditch the “shoulds”
I spent a lot of my life telling myself that I “should” do certain things. For example, when I graduated from university, I believed that I “should” move out of my parents’ home and get a full time job. And that’s what I did. It made me unhappy for two years – and I wish I’d questioned my assumptions about why I “should” do that. (My parents would have been happy for me to stay at home.)
Whenever I tell myself that I “should” do something, it ends up being joyless. Nowadays, when a “should” creeps into my thoughts, I ask myself where it’s come from. For example, if I start saying “I should lose weight”, I reconsider what I want – to be fit and healthy.
4. Set limits on your ability to spend
This is one I got to grips with young! As a teen, I invariably ended up spending my whole allowance well before the end of the month (usually on Star Trek books and magazines…) and I quickly realized that I tended to spend however much money I had.
When I had the options of an overdraft and credit cards as a student, I avoided them completely: I wasn’t sure that I’d have the self-control not to spend the money if it was available. Unlike many friends (who ended up working in the summers to pay off their overdrafts), I graduated with only my student loan as debt.
5. Don’t follow the crowd
I was always a bit of a geeky kid, and never made much attempt to fit in at school. But at other times in my life, I’ve ended up following the crowd and going with the flow. This has led to all sorts of negative experiences, from getting frequently drunk as a student, to taking a full-time graduate job because it was what I thought people my age all did.
In recent years, I’ve become much more relaxed about doing my own thing. I’ve stopped worrying about what everyone else is doing, and started thinking about how I want to live my life.
6. Create something new
I’m happiest when I’m putting something new into the world. Usually that means writing (mostly blog posts and fiction). Sometimes it means baking a batch of cookies, or making a cross-stitch picture or knitted scarf.
There’s nothing quite so satisfying as creating. If I end the day having made something which didn’t exist before, I feel like I’ve accomplished something!
7. The first time is always scary
I’m often quite timid about new experiences. I don’t like uncertainty, and I feel uncomfortable when I’m not sure what to expect. But I’ve learnt over the years that most things are pretty scary the first time – and that they quickly become easy or second-nature!
Although it doesn’t make the fear go away, I’ve learnt to take a deep breath and brave that first time at doing something new (like attending a Toastmasters’ meeting, or meeting someone for the first time), because it always gets easier!
8. There’s often a better method
Once I’ve figured out how to do something, I tend to stick with that particular method. But one of the lessons I’ve learnt during my life is that there’s often a better way of doing things. Perhaps there’s a more optimal route from A to B, or there’s a way to do a particular task more easily.
For example, when I started out blogging, I used to painstakingly add HTML tags into all my posts and then copy this code into the blogging software. Since then, I’ve found the very handy “paste from Word” feature… which must have saved me hours of tedious work!
9. Being organized is less effort
I’m someone who likes a reasonable amount of order and structure. Friends at university often think I’m very organized and on top of things because I tend to know when assignments are due! I don’t really put in any extra work, though; if anything, I probably do less work and have less stress than other people.
Why? Because being organized is actually less effort. Think about the stress caused when you have to rush something at the last minute, or when you lose a vital piece of paper. Or think how difficult and expensive it can be to get things done in a hurry – e.g. if you have to pay for overnight shipping. Being organized is much less effort in the long run.
10. Settle for good, not perfect
Finally, as a slightly Type-A type, I’ve had to learn to settle for “good” rather than “perfect”! It’s only in the last year and a half that I’ve grown confident enough to show first-drafts of my fiction writing to tutors and fellow students at university. If I kept insisting on making everything “perfect”, I’d spend a lot of time for very little actual effect.
In so many cases, there isn’t a perfect solution. It’s better just to settle for something good, and to move on!
Photo by wili hybrid.