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40 lessons of life – Part 1


As you read these lines, I will be jumping headfirst into a weekend of festivities – under lockdown 3.0 in the UK. Albeit mainly indoors, a birthday is a cause for celebration.

Unlike most women, I’ve never been coy about my age or scared of the ageing process. As a result, I make a song and dance about birthdays, everyone’s and my own. I welcome each grey hair excitedly, and each new wrinkle a little begrudgingly.

Birthdays are great opportunities for not only celebration but also reflection, maybe more so after the last few months we’ve collectively survived. I choose to take some time off each birthday to reflect on the year that’s gone by, and life in general, and the lessons it has taught me. Monday is not a milestone birthday, but another year into my forties.

It would be far too selfish of me not to share some of the lessons I have learned over the years with you. How about 40 lessons in 40 years? Some are old adages and cliches, but I’ve found they are valid. Others are self-taught lessons following many trials and tribulations so if they mean you don’t have to do the hard work to learn the lesson, all the better. Having said, this, I begin with…

One mishap is worth a thousand words of advice. This is actually a Turkish proverb, and one over the years I’ve found to be true. Essentially, whatever lessons I share, I also realise each of us have to make our own mistakes and survive mishaps to learn the lessons.

Our happiness is the distance between what we envisioned life to be and what it really is… It’s taken me forty years to reach this conclusion; shame it wasn’t much earlier in my life so I could…

Keep expectations to a minimum so you’re forever delighted – As above, most times we are disappointed in life because the reality we find ourselves in doesn’t match the expectations we’ve had. Have you ever noticed on a trip, the people who are often the happiest about their holiday destination are those who sought nothing more than a new adventure? Ending up with the middle seat on the plane, or a room with no sea view are mere blips for them they can overlook or work around… which brings me to.

When faced with a blip or a block on the road, there are a few option you have: keep hitting your head against the proverbial block, find a way over, through or around it. It’s a simple as that. Those of a fixed mindset only focus on the block and not the solution. If you set out to find a solution, there is often one. However, on the rare occasion, there isn’t, remember that…

Sometimes things don’t work out even merely for the fact that they were not meant to work out at that particular point in time. Learn to accept defeat and walk away with grace and fortitude.

Circumstances are not your destiny. These were the words often share by a friend at university whenever I used to get frustrated or disheartened by my circumstances. Over the years I truly came to believe what I felt was a silly but futile consolation at the time. Her constant reminder became my constant affirmation that my circumstances today doesn’t define my tomorrow.

When one door closes another one opens. Another cliché, right? It took me many years and many occasions of serendipity to see that this is absolutely true. Have you had times in your life something came to an end – be it a relationship, or a job – and you felt like it was the end of the world? Then, somehow, your circumstances shifted so much in the following weeks or months that you realised the door was in fact closing on a season to make way for a new one. Sadly, sometimes we look at the closed door for so long we can’t see new doors opening; and sometimes, new doors look a little scary to walk through because…

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work,” Thomas Edison said. As wise as I would like to think I have become, I still struggled with this early in 2020. There were no doors closing as such, but two very different doors wide open. A new opportunity had come my way, but I was just too comfortable stuck in my old world. As great and rewarding as this new challenge was, I was reluctant to step out of my comfort zone as it looked like hard work…
To continued next week…

In this article:
Sinem Bilen-Onabanjo
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