IMG_2330One of the most treasured aspects of my life these days is the time I spend having great conversations with friends. I’m talking about those conversations that remind you just how great it is to be alive, conversations that leave you feeling inspired to do and be more on this earth just because they get to the very heart of what it means to exist in the world.

I call these kinds of conversations life-affirming and years ago, I had them now and again with the few like-minded souls in my world and I felt incredibly lucky for them. These days, I have conversations that light me up and feed my soul every single day with nearly everyone I choose to spend my time with. This is without doubt one of the best changes to have occurred in my life since I left the UK.

So what do I mean by life-affirming? I love to explore things, I love to work out, understand, flip over and turn inside out those things that really matter to me, topics like personal growth, spirituality, love, the meaning of life to name but a few.

Last week was no exception, I was sat having a delicious lunch with my friend (and soon to be ex-boss) when he casually dropped the following question:

What three pieces of advice would you give to your twenty-year-old self, if she was sat in front of you now?

I didn’t have to think too hard, the following three things came to mind almost immediately and I talked him through them.

1. Don’t take things personally

When other people behave badly or hurt you, it’s almost never about you. I used to take things personally all the IMG_2356time when I was younger. If someone was in a bad mood, I immediately went to a place of thinking I had done something wrong and felt bad for it. I’ve realised as I’ve got older that I’m not actually the centre of the universe and that most people are more busy worrying about their own lives and selves than they are about me.

Even now when someone is upset with me about something, I’m pretty good at judging whether I have in fact let that person down in some way or if they are simply projecting their stuff on to me (which we all do).  I’ve also learnt to forgive myself when I do make mistakes rather than beat myself up and feel bad about them.

“Don’t Take Anything Personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” ~ Don Miguel Ruiz

2. Everyone is doing the best they can with the resources they have available to them.

I learnt this lesson studying Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) a few years ago and with time, having allowed the meaning of these words to really bed down, I now believe them in my core.

We’ve all met people who act like jerks, maybe they’re aggressive, arrogant, argumentative, defensive or worse. Many people dismiss these people as bad ‘uns and judge them negatively but I’ve learnt something in life that helps me stay compassionate even when facing behaviour that pushes my buttons.

If someone could do better, be better, act better then I truly believe that they would. Period. If they don’t it’s because they don’t yet have the resources to do so and by resources to do so, I mean they haven’t learnt the life lesson yet, they haven’t yet healed the wound that makes them act out or they haven’t learnt to differentiate between their true (or higher) self and their ego so they act from a place of fear instead of a place of love. When we aren’t dealing with our hang-ups, when we feel comfortable in our own skin and when we are able to love without condition then we don’t tend to act like jerks, which might sound simplistic but I believe it is.

3. The only goal is love

Over the course of 2013 I had some big realisations about love. I had always heard and believed in the notion that in order to get love, you need to really love yourself first but I think my idea of love has really developed over the last 12 months. I think that there is a huge distinction between what I call earthly love and divine love. By earthly I mean romantic or familial love, which often comes with attachments and conditions. I will love you this much if you love me the same in return or make these changes. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the kind of love you feel when you watch a sunset, surf a wave, first fall in love, hold a baby or play with a puppy. It’s that part of life that hints at God (whatever that means for you). That part that lets us know that there is something out there that is bigger than us.

IMG_2321Love isn’t really a goal as such, it’s a state of being. It’s who you are underneath all the layers of fear, shame and guilt. I believe that love is our source, it’s what we came from and what we go back to when we die.  When we act from a loving place, then what comes into our life is more love and without meaning to sound like a total hippie, it definitely makes for a happier and more fulfilling existence.

“The decision to be the presence of love is the most powerful influence you can have in any situation in your life and in this world.” ~ Robert Holden

If I had grasped these three things at the tender age of twenty, the last 17 years would look very different indeed, but then I wouldn’t have had the adventures I’ve been on in order to learn these lessons.

What three pieces of advice would you give your 20-year-old self if you could? I’d love to hear from you either by email or in the comments below and if you liked the post, please feel free to share it by hitting one of the buttons below.

 N.B. I’m still working through my goals and intentions for 2014, more on this next week. 

Photos taken at the lake in Chiang Mai University.