There’s a quick and easy question! How would you answer it?

Life lessons are one of 52 questions I’ve been asked weekly since my last birthday almost a year ago. That’s when our daughter, Jen, gifted me a subscription to Storyworth. The service is designed for older family members to answer a weekly question about their life.

Questions range from what your parents/grandparents were like, to favorite movies, books, and TV shows, first dates, sports played, or favorite toys. Other questions are focused on giving advice, sharing experiences, and philosophical musings. The answers are compiled over one year and can be published along with photos in a book for your family and future generations to read.

Many questions are an opportunity to reflect and reminisce. Some questions truly are quick and easy. Reflecting on life lessons, not so much. My life has centered on personal growth. As an author, trainer, coach, and facilitator, I’ve worked for decades to help readers and Clients grow their personal, team, and organization effectiveness.


My Top Ten Life Lessons

My books/workbooks and articles and blogs (indexed on our website by topic) have my life learning difficulties and conclusions intertwined with research and writing, workshop design and delivery, executive coaching, leadership team, and culture development, along with morning spiritual reading and meditation. It’s been a difficult and — a very useful — challenge to boil all that down to ten key lessons:

1.  Love is Our Life Energy Source

I’ve written book chapters and about 200 blogs and articles about love. Most of this is focused on personal/career passion and leading with heart. My Let’s Be Frank series was written to help with looking for love in all the right places.

I now see unconditional love as a spiritual force energizing all of life here and beyond. Our earthly challenge is learning how to live continuously in the light of love and compassion when faced with the dark forces of hatred, fear, tyranny, etc. Nurturing and thriving in a loving family can be an inside-out power source for broader applications.


2.  Optimism is Life Changing

Nurturing and strengthening optimism is a core theme in my life and work. It comes naturally to some. But, like most people, I need to continuously work at sustaining hope and positivity, especially when dealing with life’s inevitable catastrophes and crushing failures. Part of that relentless work is looking for progress and proof our world is getting better despite all the negative headlines.


3.  We’re Spiritual Beings Having a Human Experience

I was raised in a fundamentalist Mennonite church with terrifying messages of hellfire and damnation. Through decades of study and meditation, I’ve grown to see a vast difference between religion and spirituality. Some religions nurture spiritual growth. Many stifle it. Too often, fear and dogma are used to control, separate, and damn all who aren’t a “true believer in THE faith.”

Studies such as Jeffrey Mishlove’s award-winning research paper Beyond the Brain: The Survival of Human Consciousness after Permanence Bodily Death (along with dozens of other studies available in that link) reinforces my belief that our short time on this earth is to deepen our spiritual growth for whatever comes next.


4.  Life is Habit Forming

Good and bad habits are tiny daily choices that accumulate. Each choice is a small wire woven together with hundreds of other little choices. Eventually, these wires grow into a strong cable. By the time we realize we have either a good or a bad habit, the habit has us. Psychology research shows we’re not stuck with any of our habits. It may be neither quick nor easy, but we can change our habits.


5.  Three Key Questions Form the Core of Our Being

  1. Where are you going (picture of your preferred future or outcome)?
  2. What do you believe in (your guiding values or principles)?
  3. Why do you exist (your reason for being, mission, or purpose)?

These aren’t in any order. Like a triple yin yang symbol, they blend and blur into each other. I’ve put them at the center of core personal, team, and leadership effectiveness models, anchoring many of my books and development programs. Heather and I have built our personal, family, and professional lives around these core questions.


6.  We Need to Talk…About Mental Health

We seek medical help for physical injuries or ailments. Far fewer people get help when suffering from mental health injuries or ailments. I was guilty of doing the same thing.

Through up close and personal experience, I now realize that, like physical health, debilitating mental health problems stem from combinations of genes, environment, and thinking habits. The first step to improving mental health is destigmatizing the issue. As we’ve seen in our family, we can dramatically improve our mental health by open discussions and getting professional help.


7.  A Lifelong Learner on the Grow

A core theme of my life and work is personal growth. When I dropped out of high school and eventually found my way into sales, I was turned on to personal development books, courses, and services. The personal transformation I experienced fostered a passion that led me into the training and development field.

Many of my books — especially Growing the Distance and Leading at the Speed of Change — weave together personal growth and leadership development. As a lifelong learner, I strive to grow old, not just get old.


8.  Thinking About Our Thinking with Meditation and Mindfulness

For decades, I’ve found morning spiritual/inspiration reading and meditation a positive way to start my day — especially during the most frantic times. It’s hard not to believe everything we think — and especially fear — and turn that into our reality.

Some nights, when I have trouble sleeping because of worry or a racing mind, I’ll go to my meditation chair and calm myself. To help avoid a speeding frenzy, one of my blogs pulled together 14 ways to pace yourself.


9.  Predicting Unpredictable Randomness

Life is often unfair. Bad things sometimes happen to good people, and good things sometimes happen to bad people. Genetics, accidents, where we’re born — and to whom, acts of nature, and the like can be kind or cruel.

Our choice is how to deal with whatever hand we’re dealt. As the Serenity Prayer teaches, we need “the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”


10. Positive Psychology Is a Proven Framework

After decades of trying to apply the above approaches, I was delighted to see emerging research providing an evidence-based approach to increasing happiness and personal effectiveness.

Positivity, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment, known as PERMA, provides proven steps to increase optimism and happiness. These approaches can be especially helpful in skirting the trap of relentlessly pushing for more, more, and yet even more. PERMA helps us redefine wealth and personal balance sheets to what really matters in life.

Those are my key life lessons — so far. What are yours?