The last month of the year is fast approaching and, with it, the first anniversary of my blog.

Writing this blog has become more than a habit, it’s grown into an amazing communication line between my mind and yours, between my heart and that of all of you, who read my articles. All throughout the year I shared my readings with you, the lessons I learned from the wonderful people I meet in my work, as well as some of my own insights and “eureka” moments. The blog grew, my readership base grew and I grew along with it.

This year has been perhaps the most transformational one of my existence, on so many levels, a real turning point towards the kind of life I believe I should be living – one where I am constantly in touch with myself, staying true to myself in everything I do. Along the way I have met some incredible people, some of whom have become my friends and stayed on with me on my journey, others who have touched my life for a brief moment and went their own ways, not before teaching me some important lesson that I really needed to learn from them.

Without further a due, here are the most important lessons I learned this year:

1. Synchronicity

The Universe tends to send our way those people and those experiences we need the most at that particular stage in our personal development. As I started to pay more attention to such “coincidences”, they started occurring more and more often, every time leaving me bewildered and a little bit wiser.

Synchronicity brought my way people who taught me about compassion, about empathy, about tolerance for others’ points of view, about giving without expecting something in return. Synchronicity intervened whenever I was in doubt and didn’t know which way to go – somehow, someway, something happened that put me right back on track.

The most important thing I learned about synchronicity is that it’s most likely to happen when you start being open to new experiences. I used to say “no” to a lot of things that didn’t immediately make sense to me or fit my busy schedule – a last minute invite to the theater to an obscure play I had never heard about, a walk in the park in late November, an opportunity to attend a transpersonal workshop or simply an invitation to some awkward sounding conference facilitated by some Czech speaker. Before, on such occasions, I used to feel I was wasting my time on things I didn’t really want to do. Not anymore.

Ever since I started believing in the power of synchronicity, which brings along the most amazing lessons from the most unexpected places, I started obsessing less about controlling my schedule and saying yes more often when a new experience comes my way. As a result of this shift in my attitude, the theater play turned out to be just wonderful, the transpersonal workshop led to some of the most powerful insights I have ever had, the walk in the cold park was an opportunity to share and learn from a like-minded person and to appreciate the joy of being present in the moment, and the conference facilitated by the brilliant Czech economist was one of the most amazing I have ever attended, which completely shifted my understanding of money and how the economy works. To all those I would have said “no” a year ago. Now I am so glad I said “yes”.

2. Asking: “Why have I created this for myself?”

This is, perhaps, the most life-changing question I discovered this year. I asked it a lot from myself, and came up with some truly bewildering answers, that transformed me in a very profound way.

I discovered that, when we quit feeling sorry for ourselves and everything that is going wrong in our lives and start taking responsibility for the good and for the bad, we tend to discover that we had co-created all our worst experiences, just so we could grow from them and become a better person as a result.

This led me to the realization that no time in our lives is wasted, even if we realize we might have spent it in a better, more productive way. No job is bad, no relationship unlucky, no experience disappointing – they are all just opportunities that we have offered ourselves, and all we have to do is see them as such, learn from them and grow out of them.

3. The journey is as important, if not more so, than the destination

I used to have very clear objectives for my life. There were important things I was planning to achieve before turning 30 – and the irony is I did achieve them, only to realize those achievements didn’t really make me happy. As I started pondering upon this, I finally figured out that the achievement by itself  means nothing if the journey leading to it didn’t bring you joy.

What’s the use in chasing that promotion, that house, that car, that new job, if all you do is live in the future and forget to enjoy the present?

What have I done for myself today? What have I done today that truly brought me joy? – might be valuable questions. If the answer, to paraphrase something that Steve Jobs’ mentioned in his famous speech at Stanford in 2005, is “nothing” for too many days in a row, then perhaps it is time to re-evaluate how much you are enjoying the journey towards your desired destination.

As a result, I set fewer measurable objectives nowadays, but have a clearer picture of the kind of person I want to be and of the contribution I want to bring to the world.

4. Have faith in people. Give generously and enjoy the giving. Stop asking for something in return. 

This is another important lesson – actually 3 lessons in one. It is something that I learned from my own experience with giving and receiving, as well as from the experience of so many people I meet in my work.

Too often people complain about being disappointed by others, about offering too much and receiving too little in return. I used to be one of them. I used to have high expectations from people in general, and in particular those whom I let enter my life, to whom I had decided to offer my trust. I used believe my friendship was some sort of privilege I bestowed on others, and also used to be disappointed a lot.

What I finally learned, after much soul-searching, was that it is wrong to offer something just because you are secretly expecting something equal, if not even better, in return. I decide I wanted to be good to others just because it brought me joy, not because I expected some sort of “payment” in return. I decided I want to give away my time, energy, trust and enthusiasm because it makes me a better, happier person to be able to offer something to those around me, and it’s ok if they don’t necessarily repay me in kind.

Ever since I started thinking like this, I discovered I stopped being disappointed when people didn’t live up to my standards and I found it easier to accept them for who they are. This, paradoxically, also meant I started consciously moving toward and away from people I want, or don’t want, to live around. Friends, acquaintances, people I spend time with – sometimes you just need to let others go their own way with no judgement and no hard feelings – especially when their journey is radically different from yours.

This is an ongoing lesson for me, one that I am still struggling with – which only goes to show how difficult it is to stop having expectations and start giving freely – this means becoming vulnerable, and being vulnerable requires a lot of courage.

5. You can change no one. You can only change yourself. 

I have been “preaching” this idea in my seminars for years. I only started truly living by it this year, and I’ll probably struggle with it for a long time to come. It is that hard to learn.

I believe most of us are almost obsessed with changing others to fit our expectations of them. And I also believe that obsession does us much more harm than good. This goes hand in hand with the mistake I was mentioning a bit earlier, about giving something and expecting more in return.

We offer our time, resources, energy to others at a cost – that they become the people we expect them to be. Unfortunately, more often than not, others have a hard time meeting our expectations. That is simply because they have their own path in life, their own dreams to dream, lessons to learn, mistakes to make, and there is perhaps nothing more egoistic than asking another person to live their lives in such a way as to suit us and our needs, disregarding their wishes for themselves and their right to build their own destiny.

The only thing we can do is find people who want to grow and walk on the same path as we do, but we can never carry others along with us, taking them in a direction where they don’t really want to go.

6. The opposite of love is not hatred, it is judgement 

I didn’t invent this wise saying, I don’t even know who did, but I wholeheartedly agree with it. Still, we spend much of our lives judging others, comparing ourselves with them and, of course, finding others lacking, thus confirming out superiority.

I have come to believe that judgement is one of the most wide-spread methods of running away from ourselves. It is much harder to look in the mirror and confront yourself with the real you, than it is to point fingers at others.

I am working hard on applying this lesson in my life every day, and it seems to me I have become more tolerant. I understand there are no evil people, no rude, stupid, vengeful, arrogant people – there are just fearful people, people who lost contact with themselves and the good in them. I assume there is a story behind every behavior, and I try to tackle the behavior and avoid, as much as I can, to judge the person. It is really hard sometimes, but worthwhile – at least, I spend much less time getting angry in traffic :)…

7. Happiness is a matter of choice, not luck. 

One of my favorite books of all time is Pollyanna – the story of a little girl that was crazy optimistic, even in front of the worst blows life could throw at her – the loss of her family, a bitter aunt that didn’t really appreciate her, the misfortunes of those around her and, finally, even when confronted with her own personal tragedy – becoming unable to walk.

Someone told me, long ago, that I was “disgustingly optimistic”. I took it as a compliment and try to live by it every day. Of all the lessons mentioned here, this one I learned long ago, I chose to forget for a while, and once again remembered this year.

I truly believe we can and should take responsibility for our own happiness. Whatever life throws at us, as long as we are still alive, we should believe we have the resources to tackle. Just as we choose to see all that goes bad around us every day, watch out for the danger, the mistake, the “something that has gone wrong”, we might decide to look for the good, the merry, the beautiful.

I truly believe life, as it is, with all its difficulties and hardship, is also full of wonderful things, experiences and people, that we might enjoy only if we start choosing to observe them.

The conclusion?

So, what’s the conclusion in all of this?

Actually, none in particular. This is just my way to say “happy birthday” to my blog and thank all of you who read it. It’s a small gift, made up of some valuable things I learned from others and from myself this year, which I give to you without expecting anything in return. If I managed to offer you some food for thought, or inspire you in some way to start analyzing your own lives and learning your own lessons, then I am happy. Should you decide to share some of your thoughts with me, as comments, I’ll be grateful. If you don’t, I’ll be just as grateful that you took the time to visit this small corner of my mind.