I take all of my life lessons, which some people might call ‘mistakes,’ and apply them to my future so that I keep growing.

– Kimberly Caldwell

Every year I like to take stock of important lessons that I’ve learned, or rather, re-learned throughout the year. Through much of life’s joys, trials and tribulations, at the end of the day, I thoroughly believe that life is all about growth and progress. Hence reviewing our past experiences and reflecting on the lessons they’ve taught us is essential in order to ensure a brighter future.

With 2014 come and gone, it’s the perfect time to look back on these priceless lessons that will hopefully help to navigate the new year with a wiser and all around better perspective.

Without further ado, here are my 5 top life lessons of 2014. The new year brings a brand new opportunity to become who you’ve always wanted to be, may these lessons resonate with you and help you in making 2015 your very best year yet!

1.We are free to choose but we are not free from the consequences of our choices.

However much we try to deny it, deep down i believe that we all know that no one is responsible for the way our life turned out – for better or worst – other than ourselves. As hard as it may be to swallow, our life is what we make of it and our current circumstance is the result of our past thoughts, decisions and actions. That being said, many of us have a tendency reveling in the glory when things do turn out right and blaming other people or external factors when things turn out not quite exactly we had hoped for.

In order to create our best life, we must start to let go of our stories as to why we should be seen as a victim – as if we have no power over our own lives because the truth is that we are the creator of our lives. However painful it may seem at first to admit that we are responsible for all the good and most importantly, the bad that has happened to us in the past, know that accepting this truth will finally set us free. Remember that our thoughts, decisions and actions shapes our tomorrows. Choose to courageously accept the ownership of our own lives because only then can we truly learn, move forward and create a better future ourselves.

2. Be stubborn about our goals but flexible with our methods.

2014 has certainly be a life changing year for me. Earlier in the year, I had left a promising corporate job to pursue my dreams and follow my passion. Since then, though I do not regret my decision whatsoever, things have not quite unravelled how I had hope for and life has been riddled with uncertainties. With that said, I am so grateful for this experience as it had helped me to realize that I had been stubborn in my belief that there are only limited ways to achieve my professional goals.

When our plans don’t exactly play out the way we expected it to, it may just be because it is not the best path to get to where we hoped we would. Many of us are so accustomed to thinking in a linear way and believe there are certain set ways to achieve what we seek to achieve or to get what we want. The reality is that there are countless ways to do so. Now, whenever I’m faced with a disappointment or so called failure, I’ve learned to embrace it and have faith that as long as I continue to do my very best and be open to new opportunities, life will unravel exactly as it should. As Steve Jobs said “Believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path”.

3. We gain peace by living in the present.

“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
– Lao Tzu

Many of us yearn to be more calm and peaceful yet we insists on living either the past or the future instead of the present and I was no exception. When we take the time to look back on our lives, most of the anxiety and stress we experience were the results of us replaying the mistakes of our past or the worse scenarios of our future. When we are plagued with anxiety, most of the time, it is because we decide to worry over circumstances, events and situations that never end up happening. Yet these worst case scenarios we play in our minds plague us and hinder us from focusing our best efforts to everything that we do and takes us away from taking advantage of the present moment. We also create immense stress when we choose to cling desperately and wondering when the day that something (e.g: the perfect job, the next big account, the promotion etc.) or someone will finally arrive to make our lives better than it currently is.

As I had taken a break from a full time job which left me little time for myself, I was able to dedicate more time to self reflection and work on being more focused on the present moment. One tool that has been instrumental in helping me to regain focus and living in the present is practice of meditation. By setting aside at least 10 minutes a day to quiet my mind and focus my attention to nothing but my breathing, i remind myself that the present moment is all we ever have.

4. There’s no greater love than the love we have for ourselves.

“Love yourself first and everything else will fall in line” – Lucille Ball

When life gets hectic, chances are the first thing that gets out of the window is our “me” time. With so much on our plate, it’s not a rarity that we push pushed and shove our own needs in the back burner. It’s no wonder that many of us end up feeling burnt out as a result. By neglecting our own needs, we tell ourselves that we are not worthy of our own time and more importantly, our own love. Remember that the way we treat ourselves also sets the standard for how others would treat us it’s crucial that we treat ourselves with the kind of love we so rightly deserve.

Cultivating self-love is far from being arrogant or narcissistic, which I believe are merely masks for insecurities. The type of self love that I’m referring to is the kind of love that we would extend to our loved ones which includes everything from keeping the promises we made to ourselves to prioritizing our own needs. When we choose to put our happiness first and over flow our own love “cup” we end up having more love to extend to those around us and be at our best to be of service to others.

5. Don’t underestimate the value of life’s simple moments.

It seems that we have been tricked to thinking that one can live an extraordinary and joyful life is to live a life that is filled with non stop fun and excitement. The truth is, when we look back on our lives, it is the simple moments that gives us most joy. Whether it is spending a day at the park, cooking a meal or having a laugh with your loved ones, these seemingly insignificant every day moments ends up being those that we value as priceless as the years pass by. As Kurt Vonnegut, a renowned writer, wisely said “Enjoy the little things in life because one day you`ll look back and realize they were the big things”.

As much as we’d like to think that our life is eternal, it is actually fleeting and limited. Hence, choose to cherish life’s simple moments as deeply as possible and always keep in mind that the greatest and by far the most priceless gifts we can give to anyone, be it our loved ones or strangers, are our love and time.