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3 Powerful Lessons I learned from 2020… and how to wash my hands is not on the list!

It’s all about seizing the opportunities you are given

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This year has brought us all sorts of challenges, new experiences, and changes that none of us could have ever expected.  Some of these changes have actually had a positive effect on the average individual and society as a whole.  For a lot of us it hasn’t been easy to see the brighter side in everything going on.  Earlier in the year it was far easier to fall into the trap of negativity and think doom and gloom with every news channel and web story screaming the apocalypse was upon us. 

I admit, I was guilty of falling into that trap myself.  Last March after quarantine had just begun I remember doing things like hoarding toilet paper (yes, guilty!) or cleaning all the groceries before I would bring them into the house.  Lucky for myself and my family, I quickly moved past this madness and began April with a new outlook and a new mindset of opportunity.  Let’s call it a general awakening to be a better person.

Simply by changing my way of looking at everything, I was able to grow more in six months than I had in the previous five years.  In this time I learned 3 powerful lessons that have made me a better person overall.  I consider these lessons so uncommonly valuable that they are too good not to share.  If you’re tired of people complaining about mask wearing, negative news, and social distancing and are ready for some positive change, you will benefit too.  That is…if you choose to seize the opportunity to read on. 

  • Do the dishes for others. Yes, I know, this seems like something pretty basic that we all learned as part of our childhood chores, but hear me out.  Early in quarantine we had six people (teens and adults) living in our house.  As you can imagine, the dishes piled up quickly as everyone was at home all the time.  We tried to come up with a system of each person washing their dish immediately after finishing to ensure it was done. This worked well for some but miserably for others. They quickly realized that if they left them long enough, someone else would get tired of looking at the mess and wash the dishes for them.  This usually ended in an argument of some sort, general familial aggravation, and a lecture from me. This went on for about a month until I was awakened to the benefits of doing them for others one Monday morning as I returned from my usual early morning workout.  As I entered the kitchen to get something to eat, I saw a stack of dishes fit for an Army mess hall.  Maybe it was because everyone was still asleep (code for there was no one to yell at) or because I was trying to be better. Either way, I just calmly did the dishes myself and never said a word to anyone.  It was in the scrubbing of each food particle, grease stain, and crusty chunk from each dirty dish that I became free.  Free from anger, anxiety, and aggravation in a way that had never happened before.  I suddenly saw doing the dishes as an act of service for those I love and not a chore.  I saw this act as one of true love that provided me benefits I had not seen until then. It was beautiful in its simplicity and something I continue to do today.  Just remember, as with any act of service, others may gain the physical reward while you gain the spiritual and emotional rewards which are far, far greater. 
  • You have more time that you think.  How many of you are constantly saying things like “I’m too busy” or “I never have enough time to get things done”? Well guess what, this is simply not true. We all have the same 24 hours, 3840 minutes, and 240,400 seconds to get what we need completed each day.  Before you start to tell yourself, “Yeah, but you haven’t seen my schedule! or “Maybe for some people that’s true but I have three kids.” Guess what? It’s true for you too. You have just been inefficient with the time you have. You have been wasting the most valuable resource you have scrolling through social media and binge watching shows like Tiger King. Yes, you know it’s true and I’m talking to you. Trust me, I was right there with you until I realized there were far more important things in life like spending time with my family. It’s sad that it took a pandemic to get many of us to spend quality time with our families.  That was the case for me.  I was always running from one thing to the next.  Figuring I was getting a lot done while really paying half attention to most of it, especially time with the ones I love the most.  That all changed when I put my focus on my family.  Our quality time was just that, quality.  We played games, went on long walks, renovated our backyard and even cleaned the garage… three times!  All in all we got a lot done in a short period of time while really connecting with one another and enjoying being together. 
  • Take nothing for granted. There’s an old saying that most of us are familiar with: “You never know what you really have until it’s gone.”  Boy was this true in 2020 more than ever.  How many of us took things for granted like going out to eat, working out, or even physically being at work with all your co-workers in person?  None of us could have predicted that we would have limits placed on our basic daily activities but yet, it happened in more ways than one.  Initially, many like myself took the easy route of complaining about the situation and finding company amongst this misery.  This was truly lonely company as it provided no solace for the changes that we were faced with.  It was only through embracing the changes that I was able to find true comfort.  I became grateful for all that I did have (see #1 & #2) rather than what I was missing.  I made “lemonade out of lemons” through creativity on a daily basis.  This took various forms such as Zoom happy hours, new garage workouts, closet organization, and even writing a book.  Each time I embraced the changes, the experience and the opportunity to be grateful for what was happening.  This not only made things more enjoyable but more vibrant as well.  It was like taking life from B & W to HD.  The best part about being grateful is that it has a ripple effect that permeates your entire being if you let it.  This is what I chose to do and I recommend you do so too.

As you can see, there is a common theme across all three lessons — family.  It is one of the greatest gifts we have on earth.  And just like any treasure, it has the most value to the ones who hold it close their heart.  I encourage you to open your heart to let these lessons in.  I promise you, with a little bit of work and a little bit of love, you’ll find yourself holding the key to treasure for both yourself and others. 

Rick Ornelas, Founder at ISparkChange.com and author of 12 Hours of Heaven: Lessons for a Better World

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