Kent Sanders | Unlock Your Creative Potential

Unlock Your Creative Potential

4 Life Lessons on My 42nd Birthday


Today is July 26, 2016—my 42nd birthday. As a kid, I would sometimes think with a sense of wonder, “When the year 2000 comes, I’ll be 26 … I can’t imagine being that old!” Today I’m many years past 26.

Each year on my birthday I stop and take stock of what I’ve learned over the past year. This year has been one of change and transition.

  • My son Ben started junior high
  • There were some significant changes at my workplace
  • My wife Melanie transitioned into a new job
  • I took on a significant role as lead editor for a major online publication (then stepped down due to time constraints)
  • I started a couple of part-time jobs that continue today
  • I published my 2nd book
  • I lost a beloved aunt and uncle

Here are four key lessons I’ve learned during the past year. I hope they will be helpful to you as well.

1. Life is a process of change, so get used to it.

You can’t spend your time longing for the good old days. Life is a constant process of change. (The good old days usually weren’t as good as we remember, anyway.)

We must hold loosely to the way things are today because they will be different tomorrow. At the same time, we must hold tightly to the things that really matter (and my list of things that truly matter seems to get smaller each year).

Some people spend their whole lives being bitter because life has changed on them. They constantly look backward and miss all the good things happening around them. The sooner you can accept change—and not only tolerate it, but embrace it—you will be happier and be able to make a bigger impact on the world.

2. Your relationships will make you or break you.

Over the past couple of years, I have had to make some difficult choices about the voices I allow in my life. It hasn’t usually been a matter of confronting people or completely cutting off a relationship. It’s more a matter of not intentionally engaging in conversations with negative people, or even blocking certain negative individuals on Facebook.

Likewise, I have made a much bigger effort to spend time with positive people who make me a better man: people like my brother Don, friends like Rye Taylor and Jim Woods, colleagues like Joe Lieway and Scott Womble, and mastermind members like Eric Elder and Al Lowry.

Life is too short to waste it with people who drag you down. You won’t change them, but they will change you. Instead, spend time with people who are positive, giving, and encouraging.

3. Daily habits are the key to success.

For seventeen years, I talked to Melanie about how much I wanted to write a book. I had dozens of great ideas and wanted it so badly I could almost taste it. However, I never actually wrote a book until a couple of years ago.

Why? Because I could never commit to a daily writing habit—the very thing that would allow me to produce a book.

If you want to accomplish significant change in your life, you have to work toward that goal every day (or at least several times a week). If you want to get healthier, eat right and exercise every day. If you want to learn more, read every day. If you want to grow spiritually, read your Bible and pray every day.

If you do just a little bit every day, those small habits will produce big results over time. (For writers, I highly recommend you check out the fantastic book The Miracle Morning for Writers by Hal Elrod and Steve Scott.)

4. Everyone’s #1 emotional need is to feel loved, accepted, and appreciated.

This is probably the most important lesson I’ve learned the past year. Everyone wants to feel that they matter, and everyone wants to be recognized. Whether it’s people at church, at work, or in your family, you can be sure that they want to know someone loves and appreciates them.

You’ve heard the saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I have found this to be true. Don’t try to impress other people with your titles, accomplishments, and awards. At the end of the day, no one cares about that stuff anyway. What people really want to know is whether you really care about them as a person. That’s why I’ve made writing thank you notes a part of my daily routine.

The great philosopher Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” As I look back over the past year, these four lessons stand out to me as key learning points.

Which ones resonate with you?

Photo credit: Philip Bragg

About Kent Sanders

I help people unlock their God-given creative potential. I live with my wife and son in St. Peters, MO. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or YouTube.