5 Lessons I Learned From 2016

2016 was an interesting year. There were a lot of highlights, but they seem to be drowned out by all the tragedies. For many people, our nation, and the world, 2016 seems to be year that we’re glad is over. But it’s a bigger tragedy if we move on without learning anything from it.

In the last weeks of 2016, I did some reflecting and noticed some patterns in my life that were similar to those I saw in the world.

Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned from observing the world, people in my life, and myself, in 2016.

1) We’re More Emotional Than We Are Rational

Everybody believes they think logically and make rational decisions based on truth, including myself. But we are far more susceptible to feeling than we realize, and often twist or ignore reality to justify how we feel about something.

We are most blind to it in our own lives when we make snap decisions such as what to eat or what to buy. It’s usually based on what feels good.

With my marketing background, I see this fully played out in how people choose. How they feel about a brand in a particular moment will dictate if they will buy from them.

It comes out more in personal relationships, whether it be friends or family. I find myself in arguments where the motive isn’t about finding a resolution, but proving I’m right and trying to win.

Of course, this was most evident in the 2016 election. Very rarely did anyone from either side focus on facts or rational debate. People took sides and ignored reality in order to prove themselves right and the other side wrong. We voted on emotion, not reason.

2) We Don’t Listen to Each Other

We’re horrible listeners, not because we’re incapable of it, but because we’re selfish. We don’t listen to understand, but to respond.

I realize that in arguments with my wife, I’m not listening in order to understand what she’s saying. I’m listening while formulating a counter argument in my head, just waiting for her to finish so I can have my comeback.

It also happens in religion and politics. We assume we know what the other party thinks, believes and says, and label them as such. And we all know that when we assume, we make an ASS out of U and ME, so we’ve become a society of assholes towards each other.

So in personal relationships and in social contexts, we just keep talking past each other and continue being shocked by the other’s actions.

3) We Talk More Than We Act

We really are all words, especially when it comes to complaining. It’s easy to complain without doing anything about it.

I’ve done this in my personal life this past year. I’ve complained about not having the depth of friendships that I want. I’ve complained about not having the job that I want. I’ve complained about not having the time or money to do the things that I want. And yet a year later, little’s changed because I’ve done little about it.

We also do this at the societal level. We complain about our leaders, our government, our systems, our economy, our schools, our neighborhoods… the list goes on. Yet many fail to the the simplest thing, which is vote responsibly. And beyond that, we don’t do much else. We don’t go to city council meetings, we don’t volunteer, we don’t donate – we just complain on Facebook.

4) We Value Stuff More Than People

“Stuff” isn’t limited to material possessions. It can also be activities and opinions. We care more about things that don’t matter than people themselves, who should matter.

In my own life, I interact with people based on their value to me. I use people. It sounds cruel, but it’s also too common. I spend time with people if they can meet an emotional, social, financial, or professional need. Very rarely do I ask whether I can meet their needs.

As a nation, we claim to argue and support views because they’re in the best interests of people. But they’re really in the best interests of ourselves. We value our own opinions and worldviews above other people’s, and above people themselves. We don’t care so much how others feel, as long as we win and we’re right.

5) We Live Like We’ll Never Die

Maybe this is just a characteristic of younger people. But we live as if we’re guaranteed full lives. We live for what we can attain instead of what we can leave behind.

I have lifelong plans for myself, going as far as what I’ll be doing when I’m 80 or 90 years old. That’s because I expect to live that long. The tragedy is that I rarely think about whether what I’m doing today is important, and I put off what I consider important for a later time.

As a society, we strive to attain and achieve. We wrap ourselves around moving forward in life and elevating our own position, ignoring that everything we accomplish or acquire dies with us. What matters is the legacy we leave behind, but we don’t think about that because our legacy only matters when we die… and we’ll never die.

Maybe you’ll resonate with some of these lessons. In my next article, I’ll talk about what I’m going to do about it in 2017.

[bctt tweet=”Happy New Year. Let’s do better. Let’s be better.” username=”stevenlma”]

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