At 28, I look back on my 20’s in an interesting way. I’m not yet out of my 20’s, but I’m old enough now that I’ve started looking back on the past 8 years with a lot of clarity. I don’t take any of it back, as regretting the past is as useful as placing your hands on a hot stove, but if I was back in my early 20’s again and knew wiser, there are so many things I would do differently.
Making the most of life isn’t as difficult as it might sometimes seem. You can have an amazing life right now if you give up doing these nine things:
1. Settling for less than your worth
Whether it’s settling to be with someone you don’t truly love, deciding to just take that 50 hour a week job your friend offered you because you don’t think you’ll ever finish school, or turning your back on what you love, don’t settle for less than your worth.
Likelihood is, you’re worth far more than you give yourself credit for. By the time we’re young adults, we’ve been through so much in life that we can often think things like, “I’m not good enough” or, “I don’t deserve that”. But you are good enough, and you do deserve that.
One of the greatest fallacies in life is the idea that we’re incomplete. That we’re missing a screw, lacking something, or altogether messed up. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
You were born absolutely and completely whole, and you continue to be no matter what you go through. No matter how many mistakes you make and no matter who wronged you, you’re the same beautiful person you began life as.
Realize that you’re priceless, and stop settling for less than you’re worth.
2. Changing for others
I was guilty of this myself. We act like someone we’re not to get the girl or guy we like, we do something unlike ourselves to impress a group of people we want to be our friends, and overall we give up what makes us “us” just so that others will like us.
But all this ends up doing is making us lose track of ourselves in the needs of others. We forget who we are, and when we “come to,” we realize all that time was wasted wandering around in disillusion.
Don’t change who you are for others. The people that are right for you will love you for you, not for who you’re trying to be.
3. Spending the day online
The internet is the future; it’s as simple as that. Everything you could ever want to know is on the internet, and a lot of the most popular forms of entertainment too. Oh, and you can make a living on the internet to boot. So it makes sense that we’d spend so much time online.
But to spend almost literally all day online is unhealthy, both with regards to your body and your mind. Maybe you’re a programmer, or run a blog, and spend a huge portion of each day online. That’s fine, you’re making a living, or are working on making a living through the internet.
But even then, you need to get out and experience nature, talk to people face to face, and just plain have fun with all those things that life has to offer that you can never find or experience online.
Learn how to balance your life between time online and time fully experiencing the beauty of life while disconnected and you’ll be far happier and healthier.
4. Thinking likes and followers = genuine friends
One of the biggest mistakes we make in our 20’s is convincing ourselves that Facebook friends, followers, +1’s, and the like are genuine friends. But genuine friendship is built upon the depth of the connection between two people. You can’t “go through things,” or experience life, with followers and Facebook friends. The most you can do is like the same post and occasionally say “What’s up!” or “Yeah, me too!”
Today, do a quick inventory. How many genuine friends do you have? If you’re having hard times, or something comes up unexpectedly, who do you have that you could turn to? If that answer is one or none, you probably need to get out and start building some genuine friendships.
Our relationships are the most telling factor in not only our ability to be happy but plays a big part in helping us thrive in all areas of life, so invest time in building friendships. It will serve you well for the rest of your life.
5. Sweeping problems under the rug
When we’re younger, we tend to push our problems aside or ignore them, often for endeavors that help us drown them out and forget about them altogether. But that won’t make them go away. They’re still there, waiting for their chance to strike.
Adopt the habit of taking care of things, whether regular responsibilities, serious issues, or surprise occurrences, head-on and as soon as they come up. Remind yourself that whether you take care of it now or later, you still have to do it eventually, and that if you put it off it can escalate into a far worse problem than what it is now.
You’ll begin really living life the day you decide to face yourself. All your problems, whether big or small.
Decide today to lift the rug on all of your problems and shine a light, and you’ll discover how exhilarating and joy-filled life can be.
6. Caring what others think of you
The number one fear that holds us back is the fear of what others may think of us. At one point or another, we all suffer from it. It’s only natural to feel this way. I felt this intensely from the time I was a young teenager all the way up into my 20’s.
This is probably most intense from high school on into our 20’s. A time where we often want to impress or, at least, not feel the critical eye of numerous groups of people from the other sex, groups of friends (or potential friends), to potential employers, and family.
But guess what? In a very real sense, while you might think that all these people are constantly looking at you and being critical of you, most people are never, if every, thinking about you. Once you realize this, it’s nothing short of a life changing realization.
Don’t believe me? Use yourself as an example. Are you constantly thinking about those around you, nitpicking and being overly critical of everyone near you? Or are you too busy being concerned with your own problems and aspirations to sit around thinking critically of everyone around you? Likelihood is, you don’t. And almost no one else does either. And those that do? Well…
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. – Dr. Seuss
7. Thinking you only have a few options
I grew up thinking I had to go to college to make something of myself. And while this is a respectable path, thinking this was my only option is just another example of limited thinking.
Don’t convince yourself that you have to take some specific path in life. This all comes down to not restricting yourself and thinking your only options are what you see everyone else doing, or what others expect you to do.
The world really is open to you and you have so many different options in front of you. Look around, use your creativity, and don’t take no for an answer.
Get out there and live your life, and don’t let anything hold you back.
8. Living absent-minded
Truth be told, this isn’t a problem only 20-somethings have, but it is a critical ingredient to thriving in life and something which, if tackled now, will show huge dividends both immediately in your life now and for decades to come.
The way we usually live our lives, we’re pushed and pulled here and there based on a combination of responsibilities, impulses, and only the occasional moment of clarity. We live quite literally only half-awake to the moment in front of us, more often worried about the future and regretting the past.
Do this simple exercise: say to yourself, “I am awake. I’m here, right now, fully alive to the beauty of this moment.” As you say this, focus your attention completely on the present moment experience. Get out of your head completely, stop purposely thinking (thoughts will still crop up without you doing anything, this is OK), and be fully alive to this moment.
Your entire life is waiting for you, realize how amazing your life can be by simply becoming fully awake to the moment in front of you.
9. Thinking you have all your life
Right now, it can seem like you have so much time that there’s little bother rushing to tackle anything of value. This is natural, and you shouldn’t rush around doing anything either way, but you need to live aware of the fact that life is a lot short than you think.
Before you know it, you’re going to turn around and be 30. And when this happens, you’re going to wonder where all the time you wasted went.
Create a “bucket” list, make plans, and get out there and do all those things you’ve always wanted to do.
As you grow older, you’ll find the only things you regret are the things you didn’t do. – Zachary Scott
10. Looking for “happily ever after”
Since we were little tykes, through T.V., movies, books, and stories of all kinds we’ve been fed the idea of “happily ever after.” That is, when you can gain the perfect conditions for happiness and an overall great life, such as your special someone, your ideal house, a nice job, and the like, then the rest of your life you’ll remain blissfully happy.
This idea is never more present than when we’re in our 20’s, setting out in the world for the first time, searching for ourselves and striving for our goals.
But “happily ever after” isn’t at all true. Nothing will magically make you happy for the rest of your life. But this isn’t a bad thing, and it doesn’t mean we can’t find happiness.
On the contrary, you don’t have to wait 3, 5, or 10 years to find happiness. The conditions for an amazing life all exist right now within you. You don’t need to find “the one”, you don’t need to make more money, and you don’t need to get rid of your problems.
You can be happy right now in this very moment by fully accepting yourself, embracing your struggles, and realizing that it’s through these very things that you can see the beauty in life.
Stop waiting for the perfect conditions to start really living. Realize you can be truly happy right now by embracing life fully with open arms.