16 Lessons I Learned in 2016

I know we're already 2 months in, but I had to get some of this out. 

And yes, I understand 2016 was hard for a lot of people for a lot of different reasons, but I think you can find the beauty in it if you choose to look hard enough. For me, I got married, started an amazing new job with some incredible people, and discovered that I have what it takes to push myself in ways I never thought possible.

SO - instead of adding to the noise of disgruntled memes and jokes about how terrible 2016 was, I decided to write a post on what I learned and how it helped shape what 2017 would look like for me. You're going to see some longer posts around some of these ideas at various points this year. Cheers!

1) When you isolate yourself, you miss the chance to experience the greatest resource at your disposal: other people.

I worked most of the year by myself for the first time ever. And while I learned so much from that journey, the biggest thing I learned is how easy it was for me to rely on myself when I didn't have to. It would have been so easy for me to ask for help if I had taken the time to stop and realize that the people who love me are my greatest asset.

2) If you believe the best, you'll always find the best.

I am not perfect at this by any stretch of the imagination, but I am consistently reminded that if I want to see the best in people, all I have to do is take enough time to recognize what their best is. And when you take the time to find their best, it's usually worth telling them about the good things you see (and doing so often).

3) Fear can only go as far as you carry it.

Whatever it is I am afraid of doesn't have to wake me up in the middle of the night if I choose not to invite it into bed with me. But it's also important to remember that...

4) Being afraid is not the same as being weak.

Just because I am afraid of something that may or may not happen doesn't mean I am weak, it just means I am human. What's most important is how you and I move forward in spite of being afraid. 

5) Follow people who follow people.

Pay attention to the friendships of the leaders you admire because quality friendship is an indicator of quality leadership. The best leaders show interest in and care about those they lead.

6) The world cares less about what it is I have to say and more about whether or not I am willing to listen.

I'll probably have to remind myself of this every day of this year too, but it's because it's that important. Facebook has told us it's ok to have an opinion about everything and fake news has manipulated us into believing our opinion or take on a particular subject is final. But until we are willing to listen to an opposing viewpoint, we are only making noise.

7) Listen to the things you tell yourself when you come alive.

 It's easy to listen to and believe the negative things you say to yourself when things get messy or hard, but it's way more valuable to you and your dream to pay attention to, remember, and fight for the things that are true of you when you do the things that make you come alive. You are certainly valuable at your worst, but the world is a better place when you're at your best.

8) The world is more kind to people who say thank you. 

Momma always said, "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." I still need to take hold of this most days, but I'm getting there. 

9) Don't let good things become ultimate things.

This is another one of those constant lessons I have to remind myself of often. It is so easy to make the good things about what we do and who we are and what we like become the ultimate things we go after each day. BUT - there is SO MUCH more to life than the things of this world. The moments and the people who stay are more valuable than the experiences and people that stick around for 15 minutes of glory.

10) The best things we learn about who we truly are usually come hidden behind the lessons we dread the most.

This is hard, isn't it? It's like dreading going to the dentist (because who enjoys the dentist??) but knowing that after the visit your teeth will be in much better shape than they were before. Sometimes, you have to just to push through the mess to receive the grace. 

11) Asking the right question is sometimes more important than having the right answer. 

Millennials get a bad rap, but one of my favorite things about us is our willingness to question things and discover the truth on our own. And while I definitely see many Millennials who seem to think they've arrived, those I admire the most are the ones who aren't afraid to ask a challenging or difficult question in the face of tradition, injustice, or falsehood. 

12) Slow down. Say no. Be still.

Of all the lessons I learned last year, this will go down as one of the most difficult. Plus, I feel like I have to re-learn it with each passing year. Slowing down is one thing, but saying no is another. But when we choose to be intentional about slowing down and saying no, being still comes a bit easier because you've created the space to do so.

13) The best moment is the current moment.

I am the king of thinking about what might happen tomorrow or in a month or in 5 years from now. But I've found that when I allow myself the opportunity to be fully devoted to the story or the person or the moment or the season I am currently in, I give myself permission to learn something about someone or something else I can't find in the screen of my phone or the dreams in my head. Being present can be difficult, but everything worthwhile usually is.

14) Mistakes aren't a definition for shame, they are a motivation for grace.

I wrote another post about the time I booked a cabin weekend for my wife on the wrong dates...I was so incredibly ashamed, but boy was I blown away by the grace of my wife when I needed it the most. The shame I felt was destroyed by the grace bestowed. And what's great about grace is that you can keep as much of it as you need for yourself and simultaneously give it all away and it never. ever. ever. runs. out.

15) Having too much on my plate isn't productive; it's careless. 

Too often I confuse "being busy" with "being productive." The end result is usually some sort of anxiety or sickness that reaches a boiling point and affects my relationships with those closest to me. I have to consistently remind myself that a task is not the same as a priority...and completed to-do lists are not report cards of who I am or what I have to offer people I love.

16) My opinion on the issue at hand must not be more important than the opportunity with the person in need. 

Like I said earlier, our Facebook-obsessed world (I contribute to the madness too) has given literally E V E R Y O N E a voice, it's easy to place your feeling or thought or opinion above people you only know about through the lens of social media. We often hide behind a screen and communicate as if those on the receiving end are nothing more than a robot to be commanded or a battle to be won. BUT, when we choose to remember that the recipient of that text or Facebook message or tweet is a real-life human being with a past and a present and a story and a life and a purpose, the world gets a little less abrasive and a little more beautiful. Choose your words wisely.

Overall, I'm happy with how 2016 turned out and if it was hard for you, I hope your 2017 has started out a little lighter. 

So what about you? What did you learn in 2016? Think about it and comment below...