3 Difficult (but rewarding) lessons I learned in 2014

Dec 31, 2014 at 8:47 p.m. ET

Just as every book has an end, I conclude each year of my life by reflecting on the big lessons learned that year. In this process, one thing has been consistent since I was 13. Each year I look back and realize how ignorant, immature and daft I was the year prior. In that respect, I love growing old and hopefully a penny wiser.

Nothing in life stays the same. The only thing constant is change. So our lessons and growth lie in learning how we respond and adapt to change. Here are the three big lessons I learned in 2014.

Lesson 1: Letting go

We are all attached to something or someone. And that only seems natural. We are passionate about our jobs, business, home, cars and so many other nicknacks that color our lives. We love our family and friends with all our might. We love fiercely and passionately. Just how it should be!

Early this year, I was finally able to let go of someone that I was holding onto in my heart for seven long years! While intellectually I knew all the reasons for why we were not right for each other, my heart would not reconcile with my brain. I learned that my heart marches to its own beat. Most of the time that's a good thing. Sometimes, not so much! So it took a long time for my heart to truly understand, make peace and finally reconcile with my intellect and let go.

I was slower than a turtle when it came to learning this lesson. But I also recognize that we all work through things at our own pace. And this is not a race. It's our own unique journey and each of us gets there in our own time. The key is to make progress.

In order for us to truly heal and let go, we have to go through the process. We can't cheat or take any shortcuts. If we cheat, then we don't truly own the learning and healing; the fix is temporary and the issue continues to repeat itself until we go through the process. The quote "Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know" resonates with me deeply.

The healing process is no fun! The process entails commitment to working through our anger, fear, frustration, denial, heartbreak and tears. These eventually lead to understanding and acceptance of the other person, oneself and the situation. It allows us to understand the reason for our attachments and source of fears. Understanding is the key. Understanding paves the path for acceptance, peace and letting go.

Letting go means that we don't harbor any negative sentiments, anger or ill will. Letting go means that we accept what happened, all of it. Letting go means we forgive others and ourselves. Letting go means that we are thankful for all that we experienced because that experience allowed us to learn, grow and be strong as a person.

When I was finally able to let go, I felt incredibly relieved. Magically, a big weight had been lifted away. I felt lighter, fulfilled and free! I was overcome with peace and happiness within. My soul and spirit had been freed from captivity.

Of all lessons that I have learned in life to date, this is one of my most toughest and rewarding lessons learned.

Lesson 2: Allow yourself the freedom to be you

I have been the recipient of "interesting" comments from some friends, family members and co-workers over a period of time. On a subliminal level, at some point you start believing some of the crap they've been feeding you. So I started to question myself. Why am I who I am? Why am I wired this way? Why am I not like everyone else? Why am I so passionate about certain things? Why is that a bad thing anyway? Why am I being accused of being aggressive? Why are men with the same characteristics not accused of being aggressive? Instead, they are labeled as leaders and strong.

I finally came to understand and accept the following:

  • Every characteristic we have is a pro and a con depending on the situation. People love your characteristic when it suits them, and they criticize you for the same in another situation. As an example, while I was sharing a story with a friend, they gave me advice on how I should not get so huffy and puffy. My response was, "You love my passion when I tell you a cool and fun story. You love my energy, exuberance and emotions. Yet, you don't enjoy that same passion when I share a different kind of story with you. You want to pick and choose when you love that quality about me. As a passionate person, I can't turn my passion switch on and off when you want me to." That was a big aha moment for both of us.
  • I love who I am. I wouldn't want to be anyone else. I no longer feel bad or give myself a hard time for who I am. I no longer question or apologize for who I am. I recognize that I am not everyone's cup of tea. And that's OK. I accept that. I also accept the consequences, which could be that I may not have very many friends. But the ones that do accept and love me for who I am, I appreciate, cherish and nurture those relationships. I've always appreciated quality over quantity anyway.
  • It's freeing to allow yourself the freedom to be you! There is no better feeling than that of true freedom.

Lesson 3: It's about them, and not you

Plenty of people have said fairly mean-spirited things to me in both personal and business situations. I used to take it to heart. I've now come to understand that when these mean comments are dispersed, it's not always about you. Often, it's more about them!

The comments they make are an insight and reflection into their own insecurities, hurt, perceptions, prejudice and stereotypes. Mean things are often said for a number of reasons that include: They need to put you down in order to make themselves feel better about themselves; they get satisfaction from getting a rise out of you or pushing your buttons; that's the only way they know how to respond; they can't get their way with you and hence, they resort to being mean spirited.

The beauty in recognizing this lies in that it deters you from absorbing those mean comments and consuming your being. It deters you from reacting to the mean comments, which in truth, were never really about you. It affords you the opportunity to not let the mean spirited comments get the better of you or your health. It furthers your understanding of yourself and your growth as a person. The best part is that it allows you to look beyond and help the other person, if you so choose.

I close the Book of 2014 as a year that was beautifully underlined by freedom. And now, I welcome the New Year and all the incredible lessons that await me.

I wish you much happiness and joy for you and your loved ones in 2015!