Life lessons are great once learned, but the acquisition process is usually painful. So let’s speed up the process.
Here are 14 things everyone should know before starting their middle years.
1. Your “best life” will always be a mixed bag.
In a 2012 study published in PLOS One, researchers asked participants to fill out questionnaires before a series of 12 weekly therapy sessions. What they found was surprising: Feeling both cheerful and dejected at the same time — what psychologists call a “mixed emotional experience” — was a precursor to improved well-being in following sessions.
According to the researchers, “Acknowledging the complexity of life may be an especially fruitful path to psychological well-being.”
For example, you can feel down because of a recent setback, yet also encouraged by knowing you can work your way through it. Or anxious about moving, yet excited by the opportunity to have new experiences. Rarely are emotions totally one way; most of the time, they’re a mixed bag.
According to the researchers, “Taking the good and the bad together may detoxify the bad experiences, allowing you to make meaning out of them in a way that supports psychological well-being.”
In short: Noticing and embracing — and forgiving yourself for feeling — a wide spectrum of emotions, both good and bad, is the path to short- and long-term happiness.
2. Other people really do want you to succeed.
Say you’re anxious about a pitch meeting. You’re afraid you’ll bomb. You’re afraid potential investors will tear your presentation apart. That perspective — that fear — makes you see the people in the room as potential enemies.
In fact, the opposite is true. They aren’t the enemy. They want to love you. Investors constantly search for great ideas, great ventures, or great companies.
They want — they need — to invest in great people. Which means they’re on your side.
As Guns ‘n Roses bassist Duff McKagan told me when I mentioned I was nervous about doing a TEDx Talk, “Remember, people want to see you do well. They want to see you kick ass.”
The same is true if you’re interviewing for a new job. Trying to sell a product. Trying to start a company.
People want you to succeed.
Because your success will help them solve a problem or fulfill a need of their own.
3. The best advice is not advice.
When asked, Jeff Bezos’s boss at a hedge fund tried to discourage him from resigning to start Amazon, saying his idea was “probably a better idea for someone who doesn’t have a good job.” When asked, Walt Disney’s brother (and business partner) Roy tried to talk him out of making Snow White.