I have always prided myself on being very aware and having excellent observation skills, but every so often something happens, which takes me down a notch or two and reminds me that there is always room for improvement.

There are lessons to learn every day.

In 2003, my niece and I travelled to Grenada for the Caribbean Gift and Craft Show held in late September. As is our practice when we travel, based on recommendations from the hotel where we were staying, we hired a local as our tour guide.

We spent quite some time on a tour of a Nutmeg Factory. Having grown up in Jamaica, I was familiar with nutmegs, but I assumed that you used the nutmeg straight from the tree. I had no idea of the intricacies involved in the entire production process. During the tour, I learned that the nutmeg is separated from the mace which is subsequently used in lipstick manufacturing. The nutmeg is used as a spice, but in recent years it has also been used to make essential oils, which is good for pain relief.

Life is a gift, take nothing for granted.

Again in 2007, my niece and I travelled to China for an international conference. For our trip, we booked a 4-day tour for Beijing before we travelled to Shanghai for the more formal part of our trip.

Being in Beijing reminded me of how much I take for granted. A normally simple task such as ordering in a restaurant became a major event because we did not speak the language. And, the menus did not have photos so we could not point to a dish indicating that that’s what we wanted to order.

I felt completely out of my element. Later that night, while lying on my bed in the hotel room, I was reminded of what it feels like to not be included, and to me this was a perfect lesson to be always mindful of how I treat others, and to make the extra effort to make others feel included. I have been at networking events and did not reach out to others who clearly appeared uncomfortable because I told myself that I was an introvert, so let the other person take on the responsibility.

Because you are certain it is so, does not mean it is so.

There was an exercise in Did You Spot the Gorilla?: How to Recognise the Hidden Opportunities in Your Life by Richard Wiseman, where you had to fill in the missing numbers on the face of a clock with Roman numerals. I completed the exercise in seconds and thought how easy the exercise was. I was wrong! It turns out that in nearly all instances, except for the Big Ben in London, the number four is represented as IIII on clocks and watches and not IV. Richard Wiseman is from the United Kingdom so I automatically thought that this had to be a UK phenomenon.

The next day I went looking for clocks with Roman numerals and discovered that the number four was indeed represented as IIII. I always prided myself on being very observant, so I was shocked that I didn’t notice this before. I asked many of my friends if they had ever noticed that the four was written as IIII and not IV, and I was very pleased when they all answered no.

It appears that when the brains come across anything over and over, it tends to switch off. How many things do we miss because our brains are switched off? And are we operating on automatic pilot?

To learn from my lessons, give your life a shake up, be aware of what is going on around you, and be grateful and appreciative for all the good you have in your life now.

  • Each night before you go to sleep give thanks for three things that you are grateful for
  • Be a tourist in your own city
  • Participate in cultural events other than your own
  • Attend a live theatre performance
  • Eat at different restaurants
  • Start a conversation with a stranger
  • Perform a task a different way
  • Hop on the train and ride it to the end of the line, get off and explore the area
  • Identify five other ways you can give your life a shake up

Each day we should be striving to be better, and these are simple things we can do to evolve and blossom into the person we were meant to be.

Author's Bio: 

Avil Beckford, Chief Invisible Mentor, writer and researcher with over 15 years of experience, is the published author of Tales of People Who Get It and its companion workbook Journey to Getting It. Subscribe to the Invisible Mentor Blog for great interviews of successful people, book reviews, how-tos, articles and tips to mentor yourself and ignite your hidden genius. Explore the Resources page for free white papers, presentations and an e-book.