Life is full of lessons. Unfortunately, there’s no handbook. And let’s be real: even if there was one, we probably wouldn’t read it. We’d struggle along anyway, convinced that we know the ins and outs without the need for instructions, setting up our lives like it’s nothing more than a bookshelf from IKEA. Still, there are a few lessons I wish I’d been privy to. It would have saved me time. It would have saved me all those years ‘in the trenches’ with nothing but my self-doubt for company.
Here are seven things I wish I’d known when I was younger.
1. Take Chances
There are a million reasons not to try. You could fill a stadium with those reasons: What if it’s the wrong decision? What if you’re not good enough? What if you fail? If you never try, that’s the same as failure. Success is rooted in taking chances. Don’t wait for permission. You may not get it—nor do you need it.
2. Don’t Wait
It’s easy to put off doing the things you want to do simply out of complacency. Don’t wait until you’re ready. You’ll never be ready. Ready is a perpetually mythical state of being, much like the notion of ‘One day…’ It simply doesn’t exist. There’s only now.
3. Do the Work
How many times have you told yourself ‘I really want to XYZ, if only I had the time/skills/money/[insert excuse here]’? It’s a hard lesson to learn but despite the reasons we concoct for ourselves—often so legitimately constructed that we start to believe them—the only thing holding us back is ourselves. If you’ve got something you want to do, do it. Don’t invent obstacles. Instead, take steps to get to where you want to be. Inspiration won’t show up unless you do. Dreams won’t work unless you do. Do the work.
4. Don’t Live According to Someone Else
Family, friends, and society in general, all have an ideal when it comes to how we should be living. There is no shortage of expectations—and if/when you go against the grain, be prepared for some major backlash and guilt. But do it anyway. If you want something that is seen to be outside of the norms, this response is inevitable. Just remember: no one else can or should determine what you do with your time or your life. Live according to your wants and needs and let other people’s opinions take a backseat.
5. Don’t Let Fear Dictate
Fear of failure or even (mind-blowingly) fear of success can cripple you. Don’t let it. Acknowledge the fact that fear is an absolutely routine factor when undertaking something new. Be afraid—but don’t let it stop you; let it challenge you.
6. Embrace Change
Changes are inevitable. Don’t fight them. Changes—be it changes within yourself or someone close to you, or even changes in your circumstances—can leave you feeling lost or have you hankering for the past like a nostalgic dreamer. The past is gone. It’s okay to open yourself to new interests and new people. Treasure your old memories but allow yourself to make new ones.
7. Acknowledge Your Differences
It’s okay to be different. It’s okay to be the odd one out. From an early age, we’re programmed with the need to ‘fit in’. With adulthood comes a liberating sense of self that can override that need. Embrace who you are and nurture your individuality. Carve your own path.