As I have gotten older I have learned many lessons that I wish I could have learned earlier in life. If I had learned some of the lessons of life sooner, I could have saved myself years of pointless stress and grief. All of us learn the priceless lessons of life at different stages and places in our lives. Some learn the lessons quickly, some reach middle age before they learn some of life’s lessons, and sadly…some live all of their lives and never seem to learn the lessons that would have help them avoid self-destruction and a life of unhappiness. The great Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying, ” Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.”
There are countless self-help books that will offer suggestions on how to improve your life. What I have noticed in reading many of the self-help books is that even though the book doesn’t say it, or perhaps the author doesn’t even realize it….the advice is often plain common sense and advice that you can find in the Bible. The Bible actually has much to say about how to live a happy life. Being a Christian, I am a firm believer that just about any answer to any of life’s problems can be found in the Bible. I suppose there are hundreds upon hundreds of pieces of advice that can be acquired by reading the Bible, but there are five distinct lessons that I have learned over the years that have been particularly helpful to me. I have found that there are five pitfalls or traps in life that people often allow themselves to be snared by that prevent them from ever really being happy. I would like to share them with you in hopes that if you have not yet learned these nuggets of truth, they will help you avoid months or even years of unnecessary turmoil and stress.
Pitfall # 1- Trying to Please Everyone : The comedian Bill Cosby once said, ” I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” There is no denying the fact that trying to please others constantly will keep you drained, emotionally exhausted, and ultimately disappointed. I think people who tend to be people pleasers do it out of a desire to be appreciated, loved, and accepted. People pleasers typically have issues with their own self-esteem, and feel pleasing everyone is necessary to try to fit in and be accepted. The problem with this way of thinking is that it leads to a life of being taken advantage of by self-absorbed and unappreciative people, and because it is impossible to please everyone, it leaves the people pleaser feeling like they have failed and creates an even greater sense of not being accepted. Until a person learns to love themselves for who they are, and stops being concerned about whether or not they are making someone else happy, they will never achieve true happiness. The people in your life that really matter and end up being your best friends and the biggest blessings in your life will accept you for who you are, and they will not ask you for anything but your friendship.
Pitfall #2- Being Afraid to Take a Chance: When a person goes through life always fearing to take a chance, unwilling to step out in faith occasionally, they rob themselves of some of life’s biggest blessings. You will never reach your full potential unless you at some point in your life take a chance. There are no absolute guarantees in life other than the fact that God loves you and He is in control of everything. Other than that, we all have to find our own path in life, and sometimes the path may be uncertain and the best route for us to take is often unclear. Personal growth involves risk. It involves us having a willingness to take a chance and being able to accept the consequences of possible failure. We must remember, even if we fail, failure isn’t final unless we quit.
My wife Janet followed her dreams and started a business in June of 2009 during one of the worst economic climates in the last 50 years. We had little to no starting capital, and no guarantees of business success. Even statistics say that half of new small businesses fail in the first five years of business. Despite the odds against sustained success, Janet was willing to take a chance, and it has been one of the biggest blessing of our lives. The company Janet founded, Cornerstone Medical Recruiting, will soon be celebrating our fifth year in business, we’re still a debt free company, and we have clients in over 40 states! God is so good! All of this would not have been possible had Janet chosen to “play it safe” and not take a chance.
Suppose how different life would be if none of the great inventors and scientists throughout history would have been willing to risk failure! Thomas Edison would have never invented the light bulb, Alexander Fleming would have never developed penicillin, and Willis Carrier would have never invented the air conditioner! The list of inventors and possible “What if they had never…” scenarios could go on and on. The point is, all of them risked failure, but chose to take a chance. Because they chose to take a risk…they literally changed the world.
Pitfall #3- Living Beyond Your Means: We live in a materialistic society that causes people to feel like they must have the finest homes, the most expensive cars, and the latest designer clothing in order to appear successful. The mentality of “trying to keep up with the Jones’ ” will cause people to purchase things they can not afford, and incur debt that will put them in financial bondage for years. Someone once said “We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like and who don’t care.” How true that is! The Bible says that the borrower is a slave to the lender. Whenever we go into debt just to be able to maintain an appearance of success, we are setting ourselves up for disaster. This is a lesson my wife and I have learned the hard way, after amassing large amounts of debt. We can thankfully say that we have recently become debt free with the exception of our mortgage, and it is such a liberating feeling! Having no debt is wonderful! The best things in life are things money can’t buy. Live within your means and don’t over extend yourself financially. One of the most common causes of turmoil and stress in marriages is financial problems. Don’t fall into the trap of materialism.
Pitfall #4- Failing to Recognize the Blessings in Your Life.- Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of life, and the stress that comes with everyday living, people fail to stop and really realize how many blessings they really have. Too often we focus too much on what we don’t have instead of what we have. It is kind of like the old saying you can’t see the forest for the trees. If we will take a step back from all of our activities, schedules, and tasks, and stop to really evaluate our situation, we will most likely realize that we really are blessed. Having visited Burundi Africa August of 2012, I can tell you that 99% of Americans fail to realize how blessed we really are. Burundi is one of the 5 poorest countries in the entire world. In Burundi basic things like electricity, clean water, and access to quality health care are in very short supply. These are things that we in America take for granted. If you ever feel like life hasn’t been fair to you, or that you have been dealt a crummy hand in the card game of life, you need to talk to someone who has visited a third world country. They may help you understand you are much more blessed than you realize.
Pitfall #5- Failing to Trust God When The Storms of Life Roll In – This is perhaps one of the most important keys to happiness in life. It is nearly impossible to be successful and truly happy in life without a trust that God has your back and will see you through. I am reminded of the story that is told in the Bible of a time when the disciples of Jesus were in a boat at sea, and Jesus was not with them. While the disciples were in the boat, the winds and waves started to be very contrary. At that moment, Jesus appeared unto them walking on the water towards them, but the disciples did not recognize him, and they were afraid and feared it was a spirit. Then Jesus called out to them and said, “Be of good cheer, it is I; be not afraid.” The disciple Peter said, ” Lord if it is really you, bid me to come out onto the water to meet you.” Then Jesus replied “Come.” At that moment, Peter stepped out of the boat, and began to walk toward Jesus. It was truly a miraculous event that Peter was able to be a part of because he was willing to take a chance and trust God. Suddenly, Peter took his eyes off Jesus and began to look at the raging waves around him. Immediately Peter began to sink. Peter cried out to Jesus, and Jesus reached out his hand and pulled him back up to safety. Jesus then said to Peter, ” Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Today people still forget to realize that God controls the storms and He is able to see us through every storm we will ever face. The key, just as in Peter’s case, is to keep focused on Jesus and not allow the storms of life to distract us and make us forget that God is in control, even when it seems like we are destined for destruction. When a person truly learns to trust God in the bad times as well as the good times, true peace and happiness begin to become a reality.
I hope that these thoughts I have shared help you to navigate your journey in life and avoid unnecessary episodes of struggles and stress. The sooner we can store these lessons into our minds and implement them into our lives, the sooner we will be enjoying a life full of true happiness and contentment.
Thanks for Reading!
Until Next Time,