We have a tradition in my house on Christmas Eve where the five of us head to the family room after dinner and watch The Polar Express. Even though the kids are now twenty, they still want to gather together and watch this uniquely animated film with their parents—if that isn’t Christmas magic, I don’t know what is.

Belief is at the center of this story about a boy who is at that critical age where one begins to doubt the existence of Mr. C, as Santa refers to himself at the end of the film. Where do our beliefs come from, though? Of course, when we are young they are taught to us, but as we journey throughout life, they are reshaped through our experiences. 

As I reflect upon this year and all its ups and downs, I’d like to share seven of my beliefs with those three twenty-year-olds and anyone else who is interested in listening to what this now past middle aged man has to say. Please feel free share your thoughts and add some beliefs of your own in the comments section.

  1. The greatest gifts you will receive are not wrapped in boxes under a tree but rather time you share with friends and family. My parents always taught me that the greatest gift you can give another person is that of your time, and my personal experiences prove this to be true. So how are we spending our time with loved ones? Are we staring at screens separated from true connection, or are we all in, engaged, and living in the moment? Your time is your greatest gift, and it is, by definition, limited, so spend it wisely. 
  2. You matter, your feelings matter, and be wary of anyone who suggests or implies otherwise. In life, you will be disappointed by people; sometimes they will own up to it and this will provide room for growth and an opportunity to strengthen relationships. Other times, though, some people will get defensive and suggest that you are at fault for feeling disappointed. This is how I define gaslighting. Don’t listen to these people because, if you do, you will start questioning your own sanity. Conversely, if someone shares with you that you’ve hurt or disappointed them, listen to them with an open heart, Resist the urge to defend your actions, accept that you may have done something wrong, and move forward from there. This will lead to personal growth.
  3. Surround yourself with people who truly support you. Support is often expressed verbally, i.e. I support you. More importantly, though, support is a VERB and as a VERB it requires action. Those who truly support you will show their support through behavior that will make you feel supported. While support can also be financial, the best support is felt from people who will give up their time to help you accomplish something important to you. These are people you should keep in your inner circle. 
  4. You are capable of more than you think. I had so many self-limiting beliefs about myself that held me back for most of my life. At some point, though, I started to think about myself and my talents differently—fast forward and I’ve authored eight novels and am not nearly finished. Be wary, though, that failure is part of the process. You won’t always accomplish what you set out to in the ways that that you expected to. You will fall, but what’s important is getting back up. There are two P’s that should be your watchwords—passion and persistence. They go hand in hand, so embrace them.
  5. Stop caring so much about what other people think. The easiest way to lose yourself and your identity is to only live up to the expectations that other people have for you. While you may make other people happy by doing so, you may ultimately wind up disappointing yourself. Every life has a purpose and your’s isn’t to make other people happy—I can’t tell you what your purpose is but if what you are doing doesn’t feel right to you, even if it provides some kind of external validation for other people, it is time to reevaluate what you are doing.
  6. Love is bigger than anything in its way. I can’t help but to throw a U2 reference in here, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life is that love is not always what we think it is. Of course it is an emotion but, like support, love is also a VERB. As you blossom into adulthood you should know that love requires action and anyone who is not showing up for you in the way that you need may not be worth the greatest gift you can give them (your time). Heads up, you will make many mistakes with regards to love. Just remember what I said above; mistakes are okay so long as you learn from them. Also, don’t ever feel as if you are not worthy of love. You are.
  7. Life is not meant to be endured. My father, late in his life, is fond of saying, “Any day above the grass is a good day.” Even though it’s his comical response to me asking about how he is doing, there is a lot of truth in his reply, but you won’t always believe it. At times, you may feel as if your goal is to just get by or through another day. Over time that may become another month or another year. Please know, though, that life is beautiful and you aren’t meant to suffer through it. When you are struggling, do the things that bring you joy. Feed your inner child. Dance. Run. Skate. Draw. Color. Paint. Sing. Laugh. Serve. There is joy to be found in everyday life; go find it!