You often hear people say live without regrets and seize the day. If you have lived any amount of time on this earth, you know those are both easier said than done. I recently celebrated my 40th birthday and to me that is a big milestone. While my first 40 years have been pretty amazing, I’ve definitely learned some lessons along the way. If I could sit down and have a conversation with my 20 year old self, here are 20 pieces of advice I would give her and I would love to share with you.
1. Your life will never turn out exactly the way you plan it in your head.
I had a vision of how my life would be once I was a grown up that I carried with me for years. I was sure that when I finished student teaching I would move back home, eventually meet the love of my life, get married, and settle down in the same metropolitan area as my extended family.
What I didn’t anticipate was that my parents would move four states away when I was a junior in college. Suddenly, my plan was in a tailspin and I wasn’t sure where I might land. I was so upset that my carefully laid plans were in limbo. Thankfully, that move pushed me out of my comfort zone and sent me on a path that I would never had gone on otherwise. I would have missed so many amazing opportunities like the chance to work on a cruise ship. Looking back I’m not sad that my original life vision did not come to fruition.
2. Everything happens for a reason.
I used to hate this piece of advice. When I was younger it was so difficult to see how this could possibly be good advice. It sucks big time when you don’t get the job that you want, the “love” of your life breaks up with you or any other number of small disasters happen to you. What I have realized is that once the worst of the storm passes and you get through the rain that there are always rainbows on the other side. You will get a better job, you will meet someone who is better for you and you will get through it.
3. Don’t live to please others or do what is expected of you.
Please don’t feel obligated to live your life a certain way because you want to please others. Don’t feel the need to do what is expected of you. At the end of the day, you are the one that has to live with your choices. While it is always smart to do the right thing and be prepared, sometimes you have to take a leap of faith. I once quit a teaching job 5 days into a school year which was completely unlike me. In my heart I was miserable at that school and I knew it. I took a huge leap of faith and left teaching to pursue a job on a cruise ship. Hands down it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Despite that great decision there have been too many times in my life when I stayed in a place that I shouldn’t have because I felt I should, not because I wanted to. At the end of the day, you have to do what is best for you, not what others think is best.
4. Set Goals and Priorities for Your Life
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When you are young, it seems like getting married, buying a house, or retiring are a million miles aways. I challenge you to change that mindset. Start thinking about the future in a big way. Ask yourself these questions.
Will the career I chose support the lifestyle I desire?
Will the career I chose allow me to travel?
Does the career I chose allow me to have the family I desire?
Will I have to chose between staying home with my kids or working?
Will I be able to afford daycare or have the choice to stay at home with my kids?
Where do I see myself in 20 years and how will I get there?
How will I afford retirement?
Here are my favorite goal setting books:
Your Best Year Ever by Michael Hyatt
The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz
The 12 Week Year by Brian Moran
5. You don’t have to know what you want to do with your life when you are 18.
I really hate that kids in the United States are expected to choose a college and a major so young. Why do we push 18 year olds to go to college and take on so much debt when so many of them are just starting to figure out who they are? It’s a horrible system. Who thought of it?
I think a gap year or two is not a bad idea. If you are not sure what to do for a career, put off college for a bit. Try working for a bit instead of accruing student loans for a degree you are not even sure of. I also think it is a great time to try and get some real world experience in the field you are considering through work or internships. I even think doing community college part time while working is also a good way to go. Just don’t wait so long to figure out your adult path that you have a permanent address in your parent’s basement .
6. College is not for everyone.
I grew up in a town where they encouraged all of us to go to college. The problem is that college is not the path for everyone. Instead of encouraging kids to go to college we need to encourage kids to figure out the best path for them to their dream career.
7. You can be anything you want to be.
When I was growing up I didn’t really understand choosing a career. I had limiting beliefs about what careers I could do. I think I settled for a career that I was familiar with and capable of doing versus one that I truly loved. I wish I had spent more time studying and learning about other careers and not being afraid of the unknown.
8. Find a career you are passionate about
Outside of school and home, you will spend the majority of your life at work. So find a career you are truly passionate about. It if takes you time to figure it out that is okay.
9. Walk Away
If you are in a career that you chose that you realize you hate. It is never too late to walk away and try something else. When you are young is the best time to do this.
Here are my favorite books about the how to identify your strengths and desires to eventually find a career you love:
What Color Is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles
Finding the Open Road by Mike Marriner
Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath
Love and Relationship Advice
10. You will get your heart broken many times and you will survive.
The pain of having your heart broken is a pain I wouldn’t wish on anyone. While I have been with my husband for 13 years now I can still vividly remember how awful break ups were. I can remember crying my eyes out over some jerk or the other. The hardest part is getting through to the other side of that pain. You can do it. I know you can.
11. Marriage is hard work.
I know people say this all the time, but it is so true. Marriage is tough. Some marriages are tougher than others. It takes commitment and determination to make it through. I guarantee you won’t like your spouse all the time, but if you love them and you work at it, you can make it. (Of course I don’t recommend staying with anyone who is unfaithful or abusive.)
12. Self Help Books Are For Everyone
For the longest time I had a stigma about reading Self Help books. I always thought they were for people with big problems. The type of problems that would land them on a talk show. I think the label self help is totally misleading. They really need to retitle that section in the bookstore as Self Improvement. I have learned so much about myself and how I function by reading these books and I wish I started when I was younger.
Here are some of my favorite self help reads:
You Are a Bad Ass by Jen Sincero
Carry On Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton
A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman
13. Don’t neglect your financial education!
If you do nothing else while you are young, be sure to learn as much as you can about managing your finances. Don’t trust anyone to do it for you. You will be so glad you did.
Here are my favorite financial books:
Financial Peace Revisited by Dave Ramsey
The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, and Broke by Suze Orman
The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach
14. Stay out of Debt
To me debt feels like an elephant standing on my chest. I just hate it. Debt is an obligation and when you have an obligation you often feel chained to it. When you are debt free you have freedom and freedom is fantastic.
15. Save and Invest, Save and Invest
We all get tired of hearing this, especially when we are young. The simple truth is that this is true. The younger you start doing this the more you money you will have. Period.
16. Drive Your Car As Long As You Can
Car payments are the worst kind of debt. It’s not much fun paying for an item that depreciates the instant you buy it. Buy the most steady and reliable car you can afford and drive it as long as you can. Want to know why you should do this. Read this post Why Millionaires Drive Old Cars and You Should Too
Self Care Advice
17. See the World and Take Regular Vacations
The world is a big beautiful amazing place with awesome people in it. Find a way to see as much of it as you can as often as you can. Take a semester abroad, work on a cruise ship, or back pack through Europe. Don’t wait.
18. Live Without Regret
This may sound misleading, but take chances sometimes. Obviously, don’t take stupid or life threatening chances. When you have an opportunity in a job or a relationship that you know you will regret not taking don’t hesitate.
19. Invest in Hobbies You Enjoy
All work and no play is no fun for anyone. You may not be able to follow every passion of yours through your career, but you can satisfy many of them through your hobbies. If you have a passion for photography, knitting, sky diving, or water coloring painting, make time for it. You will be glad you did.
20. Relax and Watch the Sunset
Every once in a while, take some time to just enjoy the beauty of the earth we live on. You will be amazed at how relaxing it can be.
At the end of the day, we all do our best in our lives and hope it was enough. I often wonder who I would have become if I knew all this when I was younger, but it also makes me wonder who I wouldn’t have become. My final piece of advice to is love yourself. It makes all the difference in the world!