I’ve started a (nearly) annual tradition of writing about things I’ve learned or observed about life on my birthday (I try to write as many things as my age, so yeah, I’m 45). I don’t write these because I’ve mastered life or am an expert on anything, but mainly as a reminder and challenge to myself that I need to grow and learn and change.
Hopefully you’ll find something interesting, amusing, or even helpful for your life.
1. Actively put limits on yourself. Try not saying more than 100 words in a day. Wake up in the morning 10 minutes earlier every day for a week.
2. When you find yourself feeling angry when speaking with someone, shut up and just listen.
3. When you encounter a new thought or idea, accept it as truth for 24 hours. Not because you’ll eventually believe it but because it’ll change your perspectives and allow you to understand others (and I lied, sometimes it will change your beliefs).
4. Take one of your existing beliefs (or assumptions) and question it’s validity. Read about opposing views. You will get defensive, even angry. Do your best to suppress your desire to attack. This is almost the same as above. Together, this is the only way to adapt, grow, and evolve what you understand and believe about yourself, others, and the world.
5. Constantly experience life as if you’re searching for a moment to photograph.
6. Don’t become so consumed by your career, or family, or hobbies that you neglect personal relationships because one day when your kids are grown and you’ve moved away and your career is over, you’ll find yourself old and alone and regretting that you didn’t purposefully invest more time into your friendships.
7. Create an alternate reality version of yourself where a major milestone in your life that didn’t happen. How would your life be different? Would it be better or worse?
8. Try communicating for a day using only emojis.
9. Spend a day sending notes (via Facebook or Twitter or Snapchat or email or even a letter) purposefully and specifically praising those who are important to your life (at least once a year).
10. Invest in some non-traditional socks — the uglier and crazier the better.
11. Make a playlist of songs from your childhood. Mine would include “Baby Elephant Walk” — I can vividly remember dancing around in our living room, moving the coffee table out of the way, and pacing the floor with my body bent down, holding my arms together as they dangled in the air like a trunk — more Barry Manilow than I care to admit, and “Little Nash Rambler”.
12. Find some puppies and let them devour you in their furious furry love.
13. Every year (on your birthday, since it’s an easy date to remember, hopefully) go through all the things you own and donate anything that you haven’t worn or used in that entire year (I also highly suggest you do this with your kids and their toys).
14. Support whatever you believe in, whether financially or volunteering.
15. Find somewhere that makes you happy and peaceful — that doesn’t cost money, that you can get to quickly and easily, and where no one you know will interrupt you — and just sit in silence for 15 minutes (for me, it’s on the banks of the Ohio in downtown Cincinnati when I get to work in the morning).
16. Play laser tag (mostly because it’s really fun to shoot kids — oh you know what I mean).
17. Find an interesting topic and try and learn as much as you can about it in 60 minutes (it’s why the internet exists!), like rubber bands, switchblade combs, vinyl records, or those three-legged, small, table-like contraptions they put in the middle of pizza so the boxes don’t crush into your food.
18. Buy a headlamp. They’re cheap and you’ll be amazed at how often you’ll need to see in the dark while also having both hands free.
19. For fun, think about a name you wouldn’t mind changing to. But take it seriously (would you really want to be called Chavez Dumplings? That’s for me, because that’s a stupid online alias I used to have). Would you be different than you are now?
20. Buy two pairs of your favorite shoes (because there is no guarantee that they will always exist).
21. Find a simple, non-linear (meaning something you can stop and start at any time) game that you can play or do as a family while eating dinner. For us, it is (was) Akinator.
22. Go to a movie alone. Get your favorite movie foods. Preferably a movie that you really want to see but would be ashamed to admit.
23. Collect something (preferably inexpensive), perhaps enamel pins, interesting coffee mugs, branded coasters, or velvet clown paintings. I collect well-designed playing cards.
24. Ask yourself “is this the most important thing I can be doing right now?”
25. Visit a local art museum. Find a painting you love. Observe it for 10 minutes. Every year go back to that same painting for the same amount of time and try to find something new.
26. If you feel stuck on a problem or a thought or a fear, get some crayons and color in a coloring book, or work a challenging puzzle, or play Solitaire. Engage your mind in something completely, and you’ll find that a solution for a problem will surface, your anxiety will vanish, and you fear will dissipate.
27. Get a tattoo. Find a local tattoo artist whose work (and style) you love. Tell them about who you are — where you’re from, what you do, who you love, etc — and let them create something for you.
28. There is no tomorrow. You will never reach the horizon. Don’t live for the unknown and unknowable.
29. For the love of God if you’re not listening to podcasts, then start. There are so many amazing podcasts. When you find a favorite, write to them and tell them you love what they do.
30. If you aren’t intrigued by a book by the first chapter, stop reading.
31. Get a favorite hat. Mine is this one made from Wire And Twine (hat by Legacy Athletic, so so so comfortable). Why? Because everyone needs a comfort blanket.
32. Learn a curse word in a foreign language.
33. Practice finding positive attributes in people you really (really) dislike. This doesn’t mean you will suddenly like, tolerate, or forgive them, but it will help assuage your hate (and hurt).
35. Whenever you find yourself wanting to skip a minor action — like hanging up a towel, putting socks in a drawer, putting dishes into a dishwasher, cleaning up that spill — take the extra few seconds it would take to do it and do it.
36. Slow down. Always. The flow of life traffic will tempt you to keep up and before you know it, everything is going by in a blur.
37. Always keep a package of bandaids, a stain remover pen, and a spare shirt and pants somewhere quickly accessible. You never know when you’ll be eating lo mein that splatters over all your shirt.
38. Learn something new about your parent(s) while you can.
39. Find a new way to say something you’re feeling. Rather than saying “I’m furious” say “I’m filled with the bubbling rage of a cat wearing a sweater” or instead of saying “No thank you” say “I’d rather bathe in a tub full of bacon grease”.
40. Stop watching the news. Substitute that time with reading. Or eating. Or even just looking out the window at that one squirrel who seems to have lost his mind. There are so many things better than watching TV news.
41. Allow auto-complete to write your sentences. I’m now about ethics at half year things — that was me trying to type “it’s not as easy as you’d think”.
42. Eat a vegetable you don’t like once a week for a year. Prepare it in different ways. I guarantee by the end of the year you will like that vegetable (like how I love Brussels sprouts to the point of obsession).
43. Watch and listen. Wherever you are — at home, in a mall, at Costco, on the street — stop for just a few minutes and observe people in what they do and say and act (obviously don’t be creepy about, don’t ask for an autograph or inject yourself into their conversation or start clapping).
44. If you have appliance that breaks, see if you can repair it yourself. For example, the ice maker in our refrigerator broke, so I researched the brand on YouTube, watched several repair videos, found the part online and replaced it myself. It’s an amazing feeling. I know it’s meaningless, but in a world where everything is a hidden disaster solving even the most insignificant problems is fulfilling (and therefore meaningful).
45. Challenge yourself to write a list of things you’ve learned about life based on your age (I’m kidding, don’t do it, it’s nearly impossible).