Lessons From My Life

I like to think of New Year’s resolutions as the recipe that’s meant to make a chocolate cake but ends up giving you a carrot muffin. We don’t always get what we plan to achieve, but our efforts or lack thereof bring us to different ends. The fact of life is that no one stays the same. We are changed by plans we didn’t make, things we couldn’t control.
What is so great about MY life that I’m writing this post today? Not much, really. I call myself the average, normal human being. There’s nothing exceptional about me other than my love for cats and cookies. I’m here writing this for you because I, just like you and everyone else, have been through changes and learned lessons that repeated themselves occasionally.

Lesson #1:
In order to move forward you have to keep getting things done. If one thing doesn’t work there are others you can try. This will actually prove to be wonderful for you because you will expose yourself to many different opportunities that lead you to improve yourself. In many different ways.
I realized this only because I didn’t follow it well enough. I got comfortable with my progress and lowered the standard I had set for myself. This meant that my progress didn’t matter. It stopped me from going further.  Eventually I was back to where I started. I got lazy.

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Lesson #2:
Don’t limit your potential. Last year the slogan for one of the Student Presidency campaigns at Effat University was “Unlimited Potential”. I saw the posters everywhere and I wondered how many people actually thought about what it meant. What did I think about what it meant?
In my opinion, and thanks to my basic life experiences, it’s super important to not put yourself in labelled box. If you limit yourself you limit who are and can become.

Growing up we’d always be asked the same repeated question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and my answers would change every 2-3 years. I did wonder why I went from wanting to be a doctor to a teacher to a scientist to a pilot to a lawyer and eventually to a writer in the span of my school life. I never thought hard enough about this until I actually diversified my interests at college. You know what I found? I don’t have to put myself in a box. I don’t have to be just a writer or just a teacher. I can be anything I want as long as I try. And I should be many different things. Not just a writer.

I needed to learn many different things and that became my agenda for life. Now when I think about my college education I look at it as one step along the way. In the past 2-3 years I’ve diversified my interests because why not?

You can be anything. 

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Lesson #3:
It won’t be handed on a plate. ‘It’ refers to opportunities. No one asked me if I wanted to try photography. I had to look for volunteer work even though my only photography experience was taking pictures of my cat. This is, perhaps, the biggest lesson that I’ve learned ever since I joined college. In my first semester, I didn’t do much because I thought I’d receive an email about what students can do to help or maybe someone will put up adverts. I thought my professors would tell me what to do. It doesn’t work that way. You have to grab opportunities or create them. You have to knock on doors, send emails, show up with ideas and take the brave step yourself. I say “brave” because the reality is most students are afraid of failure and of putting themselves out there.
We shouldn’t be afraid of failure.

I always thought life was about getting an education and a job. I don’t think that way anymore. Jobs don’t matter if you don’t love to work for yourself.

Lesson #4:
It doesn’t matter what your plan is. No matter how much I plan to do something it’s not going to materialize unless Allah Subhana wata’ala wills it to happen. His plan is, of course, the best plan of all. And that is why we shouldn’t try to keep things in our complete control – because they aren’t. Did you miss the beauty in this? If you accept that it’s not in your hands, you’re going to be less anxious, less worried, less frustrated and more relaxed.
The important thing to remember is you need to keep trying your best in what you do and for what you want. If I want to lose 5 pounds by the summer I’m not going to sit around and wait for it to happen “because it’ll happen if it’s Allah’s plan”. Very similarly, we need to work hard to reach our goals and if we don’t get there we need to understand that whatever happened was by the will of Allah Subhana wata’ala.

If something doesn’t work out, something better will follow – just keep your hopes up.

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Lesson #5:
Meet people and build your own personal community. We’re a society. We’re not individuals meant to live on our own. We need others in our lives, especially those whose energy matches ours. The energy of a person can lift you up or drain you. It’s up to you to decide what you want in your life. People who motivate you through their own enthusiasm or people who sit around and do what they’re told?
You must remember another thing – you can’t do everything by yourself. You might have great ideas but if you want to turn them into something valuable you’re going to need a variety of help. If you have a project you should involve those who might be interested or have the skills. You also need to be aware of what other people are good at.

But how will you know if someone had what it takes?

Lesson #6:
Talk to people. Facebook is not enough. The majority of people who have the energy and enthusiasm to get things done are not chatting online or waiting to “like” your status update. You’ll have to converse with those around you. Get to know them. Being in a class together should never be the prerequisite for who you talk to. Don’t limit yourself (Lesson #2) and your community of peers.
Something amazing that I’ve experienced is how speaking to people brings prospects of collaboration and ideas. I’ve become a person who loves getting to know others. I was shy and quiet. Now I’m not afraid of speaking to strangers.
Lesson #Last:
Remember your priorities, and give time to everything on a regular basis. This is an advise to myself before anyone else. I tend to get carried away with the things I love to do and forget that there are other equally important tasks.

I hope my lessons in life have introduced you to new ideas. I’m not claiming that these work for everyone or they’ll change your life. Only you can do that.

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