The last week of any year compels reflection, as does time spent with family (of choice or origin). It’s when older folks start pontificating advice while the younger ones sigh and roll their eyes. So here are my five cents of “wisdom”.

Adaptable, not agreeable

The last two years have dramatically shown the benefits of resilience. Being brought up to succeed, I learned adaptability the hard way, by stumbling. We need to build the certainty of some failure into our life strategy, and actively practice the skills to survive. Being agreeable and conforming just to be liked will fail us in fundamental ways.

Be who you want to be, not who you are expected to be
Being able to sort through external motivations to find your #authentic self is not easy. It takes effort to invest in your true interests and passions. I love #writing, but didnt make time for it for over twenty years during college, marriage, struggle with infertility, and then motherhood. Eight years ago, I resolved to write for at least ten minutes a day without expectation of any tangible benefits. Writing has now become such a soul fulfilling activity that I make a pest of myself encouraging others to find their joy.

Compassionate, not charismatic
A good friend taught me the value of #compassion by her own example. We are wired for judgement and retribution, and forget the infinite range of human experience in this world. #Empathy is another skill that needs frequent conscious exercise, privilege has a charisma of its own. Those who may need understanding aren’t always comfortably deserving, just as we ourselves will falter and act in reprehensible ways. True grace looks past surface charms into the murky depths below.

Deliberate vs dogmatic

Life happens, and we can get beguiled into reactive behavior, rigid in belief in our helpless virtue. Communal norms seem imperative, and sometimes it feels like we have no choice but to comply. It’s amazing how much power we actually have to change our circumstances. The process starts with acknowledging reality, of course. We all have limitations and vulnerabilities, and it is important to recognize their effects, without judging. We find ways to either mitigate them or reassess their positive effects (a fish can endlessly bemoan its “failure” at flying). With humility, we need to ask for what we want and work towards it systematically.

Ethical rather than exceptional

I used to think there was a sharp line between right and wrong, failure and success. We are taught to admire brilliant (#elon) achievements, the top ten executives, thirty under thirty most notable people, the bestselling author whose books become blockbuster movies. Triumph is considered justification enough for any actions. It isn’t easy to strive towards fair principles, even harder to refrain from shame and guilt when we fail. We need to learn to strive towards justice, despite occasional shortfalls.

To be continued..

ABCs of life skills A to E
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