I used to believe that I’d have my life all figured out by now. A house of my own, a steady relationship and a dream job, headed down the straight and narrow path to success. Is this the reality? Far from it.
This past weekend, I turned 25. I have mixed emotions in realizing that I’m now closer to 30 than 20 (!!!) 24 was a pivotal year… I left my job in Australia to embark on an 18 country Eurotrip before settling back in my hometown (for now!)
I have grown immensely over the past year, but am forever a work in progress. Today I am sharing simple lessons I’ve gained in the experiences of my first quarter century. Lessons I intend to carry with me throughout the rest of my life.
1. Balance is key in all aspects of life.
I’ve learned the importance of balancing my mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. Depending on the stage of life I’m in, my focus and energies may tilt more in one direction. And that’s okay. I examine my priorities and then set boundaries around them.
I make an effort to practice moderation in exercise and rest, in food and drink, and in work and life. I balance my chocolate with salad, my alcohol with water, a stable career with traveling. I resist depriving myself which may lead to overindulgence in what I feel my life is lacking.
2. Don’t take it personally.
Don’t let the negative email from your boss or the rush hour traffic get to you. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff and get worked up over things you can’t control. Remember this when something unexpected and frustrating comes your way.
Realize, nothing others say or do is because of you. Each person’s opinion is a product of their own reality. It is easy to get offended and internalize what people say as truth, but don’t give power away by letting others dictate how you feel. It is often because of their own insecurities and shortcomings, a reflection of an unhappiness within their own life. When we take unkind words from others to heart, we assume that they know the inner workings of our world.
3. Learn to get comfortable being alone.
It can be a tricky skill to master, finding comfort in your own company. As an extrovert, it took me a long time to understand the value of “me time.” Having time to yourself to relax and rejuvenate is completely underrated. Take yourself on dates, treat yourself to spa days and get to know yourself on a deeper level.
Alone doesn’t have to mean lonely. It’s a mindset. It means maturing as an individual and growing strong for yourself, and yourself alone. We should never rely on another for our happiness and sense of self-worth.
4. Time is your most valuable asset.
Let’s face it: there will never be enough hours in the day. But lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem.
Everyone I know seems to be ‘crazy busy.’ We fill our free time with commitments and end up feeling guilty for not relishing every waking hour. But did you ever consider how our jam-packed days are to avoid feeling empty and unfulfilled at the end of the day?
We make time for things that matter. Despite loaded schedules and unexpected obstacles, we all have the potential to make our passions and important relationships our top priorities.
5. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
What if everything goes terribly wrong? But then again, what if everything goes terribly right? Failure is both the best and worst thing that can happen to you. When you don’t fail, you succeed. When you do fail, it is experience and a lesson learned. Not getting what you want can often be a wonderful stroke of good luck.
Some people are content staying forever within their comfort zone. But this places bounds on experiencing all life has to offer. I urge you to continuously stretch yourself and risk looking foolish. I have come a long way from my perfectionist teen years, realizing some of the best life experiences and opportunities will transpire only after I dare to lose.
6. You are stronger than your excuses.
How do you feel about your life at this moment? Do you love what you are doing? Are you looking forward to the future? Or are you still caught up on the past? What’s stopping you from living your best life?
I am the only one that has power over how I react to my circumstances. I refuse to let limiting beliefs hold me back or excuses keep me small. I have decided to shift my focus to areas I can improve to put my best self out into the world.
7. Find a way to get out and see the world.
Some people are afraid to venture out and explore the unknown, more content in their comfort zone. Others believe they don’t have the means, either money or time, to travel. Let me tell you, this is BS. If you prioritize travel in your life, you can make it a reality, no matter your circumstances. Instead of buying material things, I spend my money on plane tickets. Travel and new experiences are the best education money can buy.
The world is too large and beautiful to stay in one place and it’s aching for you to put your mark on it. For me, this means opening my mind to a whole new world of ideas, opportunities, people, places, and cultures. I already have compiled lessons I’ll teach my daughter if she decides to follow in my footsteps. 35 countries later and I’m not stopping any time soon!
8. Vulnerability is a beautiful thing.
Vulnerability is powerful; the place where creativity, passion, and love are born. It is key to cultivate intimacy in any and every relationship; emotional, physical, and spiritual.
But vulnerability is scary. It requires us to give up complete control and be seen for who we truly are – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Only if we are strong enough to open our minds, hearts and souls to the unknown, with the bravery to be imperfect.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Vulnerability is having the courage to live in the grey area where there are no promises for the future. To apply for that dream job, to move across the world, to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out, to love with your whole heart, even with no guarantee.
9. Strive to be a better listener.
When talking to someone, ask more questions than you answer. Listen more than you talk. Be genuinely curious and interested in what is being said. Be present with the person in front of you.
If you take time to be engaging, the other person will feel understood and cared about. When I’m out, I always put my phone on airplane mode so I’m not bombarded by notifications taking my attention away from the people I’m with. The more we can bring our wandering mind to the present, the easier and more natural it becomes to listen and connect.
10. Minimize the negative influences around you.
It is inevitable that if your life is overflowing, you will never feel content or able to manage it all. This will eventually lead to burnout. Learn to be okay saying “no” to anything that doesn’t add value to your life.
Simplify. Simplify. Simplify. Think toxic people, unhealthy foods, and physical clutter. Surround yourself with like-minded friends who will encourage you and build you up. You are a product of your environment, so make sure you’re spending it with amazing people.
11. Don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future for too long.
My anxiety caught me in this vicious cycle all too often. I am learning to rise above. Learn to be present in the here and now. Change is the only constant in life.
12. Have beliefs, defend them, but be open-minded.
People with strongly held opinions, beliefs, and values have an air of confidence to them. If you ask someone what their favorite type of music is and they answer “Anything,” they are infinitely less interesting than someone who answers “I am obsessed with the Acid House scene from Chicago in the ’80s” The key is being able to admit if you are wrong and to appreciate the viewpoints of others.
13. Resist the urge to settle in what’s comfortable.
“Comfortable” is often an excuse for complacency. The truth is, there are far too many things we settle for in life: the sub-par job in the ideal city, the cheaper yet practical dress, the healthier but blander meal. Love should never be one of these.
I don’t want someone who lets me win but someone who realizes I’m worth the fight. I’m not looking for someone to clean up my chaos, but to appreciate my beautiful mess. I need a partner in crime that can join me in my crazy lifestyle, unafraid to take that journey and leap of faith with me.
Why should a relationship mean settling down? In love, you deserve somebody who betters you. Somebody who inspires and encourages you, who drives you towards dreams and goals. Who challenges you to grow into your very best self.
14. Time heals all wounds.
One day you will wake up and realize you are better off without that dream job that turned you down or that boy that broke your heart, as hard as it is to see in the present. Embrace every tough time, broken relationship and failure as a lesson learned to better your future self, an opportunity with the potential to come back stronger then ever and bring even more joy to your life.
15. Perfect is an unreal ideal.
For 10 years, as I battled an eating disorder, I was reaching for the unattainable. My pursuit of perfection became dangerous. News flash: there is no such thing as perfect. And perfect is boring anyways!
16. You don’t have to play by the rules.
Traditional dating rules say “Don’t be too available” “Don’t message him first” “Don’t try to define the relationship” “Take it slow” . ZZZ boring! I throw those out the window. If I’m into you, you will know. Games aren’t my thing.
17. You cannot change what you refuse to acknowledge.
That means admitting you have faults and imperfections and having the courage to make a change for the better.
18. Learn to be spontaneous.
I had to consciously teach my Type-A self how to let go of the need for control and certainty. I used to be so set on a rigid routine and would become upset when plans fell out of place. I’ve done a complete 180 in the past few years.
Try that new ethnic restaurant rather than your go-to favorite. Book a plane ticket on a whim. Take a spontaneous weekend roadtrip to getaway.
19. Don’t be afraid to open your heart again.
In a millenial culture of dating apps, casual relationships and hookups, it inevitably leads to many misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and bruised hearts. Instead of casual flings, choose people who have similar goals and passions as you. Be kind with others’ feelings and treat them the way that you expect to be treated.
I do not believe in love at first sight, but rather lust and desire to know someone on a deeper level. For me, love is beyond purely physical attraction. It takes getting to know a person’s personality, their quirks and flaws, to fall in love. I also don’t believe that there is one specific person each of us is destined to be with. But rather, trial and error in relationships until you find the one who complements you just right, and is willing to make the sacrifices inherent in love.
20. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.
When I was battling my eating disorder, I never wanted to ask for help because to me, that meant admitting defeat. Quite the opposite. The beauty of being human is in our failures and our imperfections. I eventually went public with my struggles as a platform to help others.
You don’t have to figure it out all by yourself. If you’re struggling to find balance in life, reach out and ask those around you to lend a hand. Accept the love and support of family, friends, and mentors. We are not alone if we choose not to be. And remember, truly “helping” someone means giving them the tools to help themselves, not enabling them.
21. Do not shrink for anyone.
Don’t be afraid to be “too much” Too sensitive, too emotional, too straightforward, too bossy… Above all else, believe in yourself and your value. Speak up for what you want and don’t be afraid to flaunt your achievements. Live your life on your own terms, without anyone else’s approval.
22. Learn to see the good in every situation.
We can’t control the world around us, but we can control how we react in any given situation and decide to carry ourselves with poise and grace. There will be high and lows, ebbs and flows, but that’s just the nature of this crazy little thing called life. No need to stress about things that don’t work out as planned, because eventually things will look up, they always do.
23. Comparison is the thief of joy.
Don’t worry if you are the best, worry whether or not you did your best. Most of the time we only see one side of someone – the edited version. Everyone has insecurities and no one is perfect. Only work on becoming your very best self.
24. Learn to love yourself first.
It is so vitally important to love yourself above all else. I’ve realized it is damn near impossible to love another and have a healthy relationship until you are confident in yourself.
You cannot depend on another person for your sense of self-worth. By placing your happiness in the hands of another, you give them power over your emotions. So please, do yourself a favor and stop looking for the perfect person, for prince charming to sweep you off your feet. He will find you when you least expect it, when you are in the midst of doing those things you love most.
25. Never stop learning and growing.
1% compounded every day is 3800% in a year. Figure out the 1% you want to improve on every day.
Beyond a college degree, there are so many opportunities to learn in your lifetime. I don’t believe I will ever reach complete fulfillment. Each and every day, month and year, I am reaching for something more. Bettering myself every step of the way.What are the best life lessons you have learned over the years? Who inspired them?