“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” -Maya Angelou
If only I’d known then what I know now… As I reflect on my twenties, which are officially behind me, I don’t regret the mistakes I made. The wasted nights, erm, wasted. The guys dressed head-to-toe in red flags. The frenemies I kept around for company. Insecurity, procrastination, risky behavior and every mistake made me the woman I am today. I think 20 year old me would be stoked about it.
So, learn from my mistakes, and read on for the most important lessons I’ve learned in my twenties.
30 life Lessons I’ve Learned in 30 Years:
- Go after what you want in life– Your life is too short not to. Prioritize your dreams. You don’t have to go after them with reckless abandon (you certainly can) but you can instead go after them slowly, in the background, with a safety net. You’ll continue to make progress, and the act of chasing your dreams will fulfill you. Time moves faster as you get older, and you want to look back knowing you did what you could.
- LOVE YOURSELF– Seriously, you are stuck with you literally forever, so you might as well make your relationship loving, kind, forgiving, and healthy. Have your own back, always. Believe in your ideas, in your competence, in your innate goodness, and be humble enough to know you still have more to learn.
- Take chances– Travel to the new spot, go on the date, pick up and move to a new city, apply to that job, ask out that person, tell the truth. Get out of that unfulfilling relationship. Life is more interesting when it’s rich, and when we take chances, we’re living more interesting stories. When you’re brave, you don’t have to wonder “what if…” as much.
- Don’t be afraid to suck– You’re probably going to suck at most things you start. That’s ok, we all do. It takes courage to try, and to fail, and it makes you stronger and wiser no matter the outcome. If you want to be great at something, you have to be willing to suck first, and put in the time. You won’t get good unless you’re willing to practice, and take action over and over and over again, even when it’s not pretty.
- Choose your company wisely- “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Don’t waste your time on fake friends, gossips, or people who drag you down and treat you poorly. A few true friends will always be more valuable than 100 frenemies. Surround yourself with people who lift you up and inspire you. Your closest people should be people you admire for their goodness.
- Learn to be alone– Learn to be alone with your thoughts, without distractions. It’s the only way to get to know yourself deeply, and thus create the life you really want for yourself. Learn to go out to eat alone, and to enjoy solitude.
- Commit to being a lifelong learner– Read books, attend classes, learn to do your own research when life makes you curious. Listen to podcasts, watch Youtube tutorials. Take advantage of the internet and libraries and how many things we can teach ourselves to do. Reading keeps your mind sharp, reduces stress, and will help you soak up the wisdom of others faster than you could live it
- Don’t scroll your life away– If you average five hours of screen time a day, it equates to ten years of your life in fifty years. Ten. Years. Of. Your. Life. Imagine how you might better spend your time and consider cutting your screen down.
- Hurt People hurt people– Your feelings will get hurt, usually by other people. It will feel personal. It will feel like rejection. It will sting. What you have to understand, though, is that well-adjusted, happy people don’t hurt others. People who are in pain hurt other people. It’s like they’re overflowing with pain and sometimes it spills over and splashes on us. Don’t take it personally. You don’t have to put up with bad behavior, but it will help you in the long run to have compassion, forgive, and let shit go.
- Learn to set boundaries sooner– call out bullshit instantly and lightheartedly so you don’t have to have a big “talk” later on. It’s easier to set the ground rules from the start than it is to backpedal and enforce them after you’ve already been walked all over.
- Your parents are just people– Do not hold onto resentments about your parents flaws. Let go of your unrealistic expectations about the perfect parents. Your parents are just people who have always done the best they could. They are products of their conditioning, of their parents, and their parents parents etc.
- If someone repeatedly disrespects you, stop letting them back in your life
- Forgive everyone, especially yourself, constantly– Forgive your parents, your exes, your childhood bullies, and the person who cut you off in traffic. “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Resentment only hurts you. Forgive for your own peace of mind. We’re all only ever human. Forgive yourself, too. You will make more mistakes than you’ll ever be able to count– it’s ok, we all do, we just don’t post on social media about it. The sooner you forgive yourself, the sooner you move on and do better next time.
- Practice gratitude daily and count your blessings– It’s ok to want more, but don’t lose sight of your blessings. You never know when any form of love, security, or comfort could be taken away. Everything in life is temporary. Never forget to be grateful for what you have. “Gratitude turns what you have into enough.”
- Don’t be too cool for spirituality, or get it mixed up with religion– You don’t have to follow any form of religion or spirituality that you don’t believe in. If religion speaks to you, and you feel called to follow it, you don’t have to be ashamed. You can choose your own path. Allow spirituality to be a light in the dark. Allow yourself to believe in a bigger purpose. Allow yourself to believe in universal love. Marvel at the miracle that is life itself. It ain’t perfect, but it can be pretty great.
- Nurture your gifts– Every moment counts. Every rep, every ten minute increment, and every hour you spend nurturing your gifts will refine them so you reach your true potential and are better able to serve others. Do not waste your time thinking your gifts are pointless, no matter how weird they may be. Follow those inclinations. Your gifts don’t have to make you money for them to be valuable, but of course it’s ideal if you can find a way to involve your gifts in your career. If you don’t know what your gifts are, ask your closest friends and family to help you.
- Good things take time– No one becomes the world’s best overnight. Whether it’s your health, your friendships, your career, your relationship, or mastering a new skill, it all takes time and dedication. Slow progress is really the only sustainable way. Sure, there might be times where progress spikes or dips, but it’s your consistency that matters. Be consistent, and be patient.
- We’re not supposed to be happy all the time– This is a marketing lie we are sold because it makes us buy stuff. It works like a charm, but it’s false. Happiness as an emotion is hard to sustain, and it wouldn’t be as pleasurable if we felt it all the time. Be ok with a variety of feelings, and seek peace, contentment, satisfaction, and purpose where you can. Enjoy happiness when it visits, but don’t grip too tightly. It will be back. Just chill.
- Don’t avoid your emotions– You can try to stuff down your emotions as long as you want, but they’re not actually going anywhere. You can’t drink, shop, date, or eat them away. With emotions, the only way you’ll get past them is to feel them. Creativity, exercise, meditation, journaling, or therapy are much more effective coping mechanisms. You don’t have to let them out in public or anything, but you do have to face them eventually, and the sooner you do, the sooner they’ll leave you alone. Remember they might come back. Remember that life is full of different emotions and experiences and that doesn’t necessarily make them bad. Learn to roll with it.
- Accept others as they are– Not everyone is going to live life with your values and perspective. Don’t shame people. You have no idea what anyones backstory or personal life is like. Worry about your own self. Practice acceptance. People will do all sorts of things you wouldn’t do. The sooner you accept that fact, the sooner you’ll find a little peace.
- Don’t try to change people- They will change if they want to, when they’re ready. Your efforts are wasted in trying to change people. Unless they come to you and say, “Help me change! I would love it if you helped me change x, y and z about myself!” Then let people do what they will. Lead by example, and accept people where they are. When someone wants to change, they will.
- Don’t give up your life for love– The right person wants you to have your own, full life independent of them. Attraction is great and fun, but it does not make for a fulfilling relationship. Your relationship can be the best part of your world, but don’t make it your whole world.
- Make your own money– If you rely on someone else for money, you will wonder if you’re in the relationship to keep a roof over your head, or for love. There will always be an uncomfortable power dynamic. When you can support yourself, you are free. Not all relationships last forever. Learn how to be on your own.
- Don’t waste your energy trying to be perfect– Perfection doesn’t exist. Pros make typos– in fact I saw one in the Huffington Post the other day. If you wait until you’re perfect, you’ll be waiting forever. Done is always better than perfect.
- Not everything you think is true– Our brains are fantastic story tellers. It’s great if you’re a fiction writer, but it can be totally misleading, and completely false if we believe our thoughts as facts. Learn to see your inner dialogue as a story– both the judgments you pass on others and yourself.
- Don’t believe everything you see on social media– We’re all guilty of posting the best moments, and showcasing our best selves. That’s natural, and it makes sense, because that’s what we want to celebrate, but you must constantly keep yourself in check and take it all with a grain of salt. Those perfect relationships sometimes have screaming fights or disloyalty we can’t see. The model with a million followers might lack fulfilling relationships and be struggling with severe mental health issues. The celebrities could be battling stalkers, privacy issues, death threats, and are under constant stress, scrutiny, and enormous pressure. They may never know if someone loves them for their true selves or their money and power.
- Don’t people please- Not everyone is going to like you, even if you shape shift and construct a custom version of yourself for every single one of them. Going through life faking it is exhausting, and it prevents you from finding you true soul mates– and I don’t just mean romantically. Showing up as yourself allows your best matches, in friendships, in business, in dating, and in life to find you. Learn to love your inner freak so the other freaks who really get you can find you. These will become your most precious bonds.
- Learn the value of not speaking– Speaking your truth, and standing up for justice, are virtuous acts. Getting into an argument or combating every person you disagree with, however, is a waste of your energy. Learn to differentiate and when to keep the peace, and remember telling someone they’re wrong works in changing their mind about 0% of the time. Be a listener, and be purposeful with your words. The world has enough chatter.
- Happiness is never external– Likes, a bigger paycheck, a ring on your finger, a number on the scale, or a promotion will never bring you sustained happiness. Don’t convince yourself you’ll be happy when you get the job, the relationship, the house, the raise, or lose the weight. It doesn’t work like that. Life still throws us challenges, and ups and downs. Stop chasing things, and learn to find joy in all states. Happiness happens inside.
- Love and serve others- Loving others, and serving others, in the best ways we can, is the most fulfilling thing of all. Make it your life’s mission.