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I Wish I Knew These Sooner: 15 Mistakes 20-Somethings Make

I Wish I Knew These Sooner: 15 Mistakes 20-Somethings Make

Twenty-somethings get a lot of condemnation on the internet and this list below isn’t meant to demoralize you. Rather, it’s an acknowledgment that life is hard, especially when you only have about 20 years of experience (most of which was spent on Pokemon cards and bike riding). Here are 15 common mistakes 20-somethings make — and how to avoid some of them.

1. Poor living arrangements

Wouldn’t it be awesome to live with my best buds, or my new, amazing girlfriend? Nope, probably not. Moving in with a partner too early, or with certain friends, could mean unpleasant surprises. There are courteous people, and there are those who blast Biggie Smalls at 6 a.m. Unfortunately, you may not know the difference until it’s 6 a.m. Know their flaws before you live with them. This way, you’ll at least be prepared to work around them.

2. Taking on too much

Today’s schedule reads: cleaning the house, work, volunteering, going on a date, visiting a friend, grocery shopping, and then the gym. Sounds great. In theory. Unfortunately, you’re confined to this human body that needs sleep and stuff. If you’re an introvert, this is an even more insane schedule. We may have the freedom to “do it all,” but that doesn’t mean we have to do it all right this second.

3. Lack of direction

College is a time for discovery and trying new things, right? I guess, but at what expense? College doesn’t have to be a time for wasting all of your (or your parents’) money. It doesn’t have to mean skipping classes, losing focus, and trying to please everyone with your “coolness.” While all of this may be a learning experience, it’s also a big time waster. Let’s face it, people who chase the “college experience” usually just end up peeing their pants.

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4. Dating catastrophes

I’m a firm believer in everyone not dating until they’re 40. Anything before that just gets in the way of your development. Alright, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but 20-somethings who drain all their energy in a bad relationship are wasting precious time. If you are settling in at college or a new career, a bad relationship is something that will just hold up your personal progress. Fights, sadness, confusion, jealousy, etc. All of it is an unnecessary distraction.

5. Debt

Loans are a bummer, so let’s just get them out of the way early on this list. Loans are not always a mistake. However, if you take out a loan only to realize later that it did not benefit you (and you’re now stuck with meaningless debt) — that was a 20-something move. In our defense, ever-expanding tuition costs and the complex uncertainties of the job market make investing in education a game of musical chairs. You don’t know if you’ll end up in a cozy salaried seat or standing out in the cold. So just keep in mind that your aspirations may change.

6. Heat-of-the-moment tattoos

“Wow, wouldn’t it be awesome to have a penguin riding a shark on my leg forever?” No, absolutely not. But when you’re a 20-something, an “absolutely not” can look like a “hell, yes.” I have plenty of friends with random, not-so-flattering tattoos that they got for free, at a convention, from a friend, while drunk, or all of those combined. Maybe you even got your girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s name tattooed, only to curse them out and break up a week later. It happens to the best of us. Just look up a tattoo removal specialist, stop with the self-induced shame, and move on, 20-somethings.

7. Caring what others think (a lot)

This is always a mistake, no matter what age you are. It seems like as we age, we’re a little more equipped to deflect other’s judgments and discouragements. But when we’re fresh out of our Sociology 101 class, we may not deal with unintentionally hurtful people well — people who are nursing their own wounds while judging us under false pretenses. This is not your problem, and it is not about you. You will never stop caring what others think until you truly believe that.

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8. Drinking too much

Some people will never have this problem. They are sure of themselves, responsible, and emotionally mature. For the rest of us 20-somethings, there will be those nights. For a fraction of us, a lot of them. Know this: drinking does not solve problems. It does not fix relationships. It does not make you happier, more fun, or more attractive. If you use alcohol to boost your self-esteem, you’re going to be disappointed eventually. You shouldn’t be drinking your courage; you should be earning it.

9. Marrying too quickly

Divorce has become quite common ever since we stopped condemning divorcées to hell a few decades ago. But that doesn’t mean you should collect divorces just because you can. Sure, you may be in love with someone while in your 20s, but that doesn’t necessitate marriage. If you have different values or can’t live comfortably with someone now, marriage will only intensify those problems.

10. Your youth: would you like fries with that?

I know it feels harmless to eat nothing but Arby’s cajun fries until you’re about 28, but there are plenty of reasons not to. For one, many illnesses nowadays are chronic and degenerative, meaning you could work up to a disease after several years of neglected health. It’s also a bad habit to develop early in life, meaning it will be tougher to break when you get old and have to.

11. Relocating for the wrong reasons

Twenty-somethings are all about relocating, and it works great for many. However, if your reasons for relocating are anywhere along the lines of bettering yourself, changing your relationships, “finding your passion,” or “making a clean start,” be careful. A lot of these things are entirely internal processes. You may regretfully realize upon arriving at your new “mecca,” that things (aka you) are exactly the same.

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12. Extensive planning

Remember that girl from high school who had her wedding day planned out right down to the last detail? Remember how nuts you thought she was? Right. So what makes you think that your extensive planning is any less nutty? It’s great to plan out your day tomorrow, or plan a general career trajectory if you know what you want. It’s just not good to get bogged down in details that probably won’t even matter when the time comes. Trust your future self. He or she is totally awesome, and knows more than you possibly could right now.

13. Going against your gut

Maybe you believe in intuition, conscience, instincts, etc. Regardless of what you call it, your guidance system shouldn’t be ignored. Your gut is on your side; it’s not trying to screw you over. Listening to my gut would’ve saved 22-year-old me hundreds of dollars in scam money — too bad I had told it to shut up that day.

14. Being selfish

Isn’t it funny how volunteer positions are often targeted at older, retired people or stay-at-home moms? What is it about being young that makes us think our time is too valuable to help others? Yes, it’s a time when we are not financially stable, but selfless endeavors don’t have to take up your whole week. Helping others always makes people happy. It’s in our bones. Just ask every successful person ever.

15. Beating yourself up

On the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s sometimes hard for 20-somethings to give themselves credit. Most of your time during this decade will probably be spent in a “working towards” mindset, instead of an “enjoying being” mindset. Try to counter that by taking note of how far you’ve come and what you’ve already achieved. (Not going to Arby’s today totally counts.)

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Conclusion

Don’t worry, this doesn’t cover them all. There are plenty more mistakes you can make as a 20-something! But in all seriousness, you can survive all these and more — and you’ll be wiser for it.

Featured photo credit: Nemo via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on September 30, 2020

How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Future

How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Future

We often hear people talk about the importance of living in the present and the different ways it will benefit us. It all sounds wonderful, especially the lower levels of stress and anxiety, but how exactly can we live in the moment when our mind is constantly worrying about the past or plans for the future?

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the benefits of living in the moment you may not be aware of. Then, we’ll look at some of the obstacles and why we worry. Finally, and most importantly, I’ll show you how to live in the moment and stop worrying using some simple practices that you can easily incorporate into your busy schedule.

The result: a happier and more fulfilling life.

The Importance of Living in the Moment

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha

While it can be difficult to live in the moment, it has innumerable benefits.

Here are just a few that will enhance your life tremendously:

Better Health

By reducing stress and anxiety, you avoid many of the associated health consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Studies have shown that being present can also improve psychological well-being[1].

Improve Your Relationships

Have you ever been with someone who is physically present, but mentally s/he’s a million miles away?

Being with unavailable people is a struggle, and building relationships with them extremely difficult.

How about being with someone who is fully present? We enjoy being with her/him because we can make a much deeper connection.

By living in the moment, you can be that person other people enjoy being with, and you make relationships much easier.

Greater Self-Control

You have greater control over your mind, body, and emotions. Imagine how much better your life would be if it weren’t at the mercy of a racing mind and unpredictable emotions. You would certainly be more at peace, and much happier[2].

Why Do We Worry?

Before we answer this question, it’s important to distinguish between worry and concern.

When we are concerned about something, we are more likely dealing with a real problem with realistic solutions. Then, once we do whatever we can to address the problem, we’re willing to live with the outcome.

Worrying, on the other hand, involves unrealistic thinking. We may worry about a problem that doesn’t really exist, or dwell on all the bad things that can happen as a result. Then, we feel unable to deal with the outcome. Either way, we have difficulty dealing with uncertainty, which is a normal part of life.

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Certainly, some of our problems may not have desirable outcomes, such as a serious health issue. Some problems may be beyond our control, such as civil unrest or economic downturn. In such cases, it can be hard to avoid worrying, but not impossible.

3 Steps to Start to Live in the Moment

Step 1: Overcome Worrying

In order to overcome worrying, we need to do two things:

Calm Your Mind

When you calm your mind, you are able to see more clearly.

The reason some problems seem so daunting is that our mind is racing so fast that we cannot see things as they truly are. Then, we make up a bunch of possible scenarios in our mind, most of which are unlikely to come true.

In addition to seeing more clearly, a calm mind will help us think more realistically. Unrealistic thinking is fueled by confusion and uncontrolled emotions. Calming your mind will reduce confusion and calm your emotions, allowing you to live in the present.

Focus on Solutions Instead of Problems

Some people tend to be more solution-oriented, and others more problem-oriented. Some of the factors that may determine this are gender, upbringing, and education.

People with more education tend to be problem-solvers. That is what their years of education train them to do. In addition, their jobs probably reinforce this way of thinking.

If you’re not problem-solving oriented, don’t worry. You can train yourself to worry less. We’ll discuss that soon.

Step 2: Identify Obstacles to Living in the Moment

In today’s busy world, it can be a challenge to live in the moment. The reasons revolve around how our mind works, as well as outside influences.

Racing Mind

Many busy people have a racing mind that never seems to slow down. Their mind gets so agitated from too much sensory stimulation.

You see, anything that stimulates any of our five senses will trigger a thought, and that thought leads to another, and then another, and so on.

If you have a busy life, all your activities will overstimulate your mind and make it seemingly impossible to slow it down.

Unpleasant Situations and a Troublesome Past

None of us want to be in unpleasant situations, or remember those of the past. They can bring up painful emotions, which we don’t want to feel.

So how do most people cope with painful emotions?

By doing whatever we can to avoid them, we can take our mind to another place and time where things are more pleasant.

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In other words, we avoid living in the present moment.

Some people resort to things that stimulate sensory pleasure, such as food, alcohol, or sex. Others will consume substances that dull their mind and keep them from thinking about unpleasant or stressful situations.

A Wandering Mind

From the moment we are born (likely sooner) until the time we die, our body and mind are active performing some function. Therefore, it’s natural for our mind to have some level of activity, whether conscious or unconscious.

Generally, a wandering mind is unproductive. One thought starts an endless chain of thoughts, and this process can go on until we need our mind to perform a specific function or get distracted with something else.

Now, there are times when a wandering mind can be productive, such as when creating works of art, or trying to find creative solutions to problems. In such cases, we need our mind to explore different possibilities[3].

Outside Influences

Most of us are not fully aware of how our environment and social norms influence our thinking and behavior. People and institutions are constantly competing for our attention. The media draws our attention to the past, and advertising usually to the future[4].

Many people around us who dwell on the past or future try to draw us to their way of thinking. Even the whole concept of the American dream is geared toward the future. It tells us that if we acquire things like a good career, family, and house, then we’ll be happy.

Step 3: Practice Mindfulness

So how can we live in the moment in a world that is constantly trying to draw our attention to the past and future?

Before we get into concrete actions you can take, it’s important to understand what mindfulness is. You’ve probably heard the term before, but may not fully understand what it means.

Understand Mindfulness

The concept of mindfulness is actually quite simple. To be mindful is to live in the moment.

When you are mindful, your attention is focused on what is happening in the present moment, and you are fully in touch with reality[5].

You are aware of what is happening in your body, mind, emotions, and the world around you. This is different than thinking about these things. To develop greater understanding, you don’t have to think about them so much, but rather just observe them.

This may be counterintuitive to many people, especially intellectuals, because they’re so used to using logic to develop greater understanding. With mindfulness, we calm our mind and emotions so we can see clearer. Then, much of our understanding will come from simple observation. When we develop mindfulness, we literally expand our awareness.

To develop mindfulness, we need to train ourselves to observe things more objectively, that is, without our emotions or preconceived ideas influencing our views.

If you’re ready to live a better life, read on for some simple mindfulness practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you live in the moment.

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You don’t have to do all of them, but rather choose the ones that appeal to you and suit your lifestyle.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is the mainstay of developing mindfulness and living in the moment. To practice mindfulness meditation, all you really have to do is sit quietly and follow your breathing. When your mind wanders off, just bring it back to your breath.

Notice how your lungs expand with each in-breath and contract with each out-breath. Let your breathing become relaxed and natural.

You don’t have to do it perfectly. The idea is to start spending time away from the constant sensory stimulation of all your activities, and just allow it to settle down naturally. Start with about 5 to 10 minutes per day and work your way up to about 20 minutes or longer.

This practice is highly effective, and can have both short-term and long-term benefits.

If you want to learn more about mindfulness meditation, take a look at this article: What Is Mindfulness Meditation? 7 Ways to Start Meditating

Mindful Breathing

While this may sound the same as mindfulness meditation, all you’re really doing is taking short breaks occasionally (10 to 15 seconds) to observe your breathing. Stop whatever you’re doing, and take a few mindful breaths, then resume your activity. That’s it.

You can do mindful breathing at any time of the day during your busy schedule. What it does is interrupt the acceleration of your mind. It is like taking your foot off the accelerator while driving. It’s a nice refreshing break you can take without anyone noticing.

Here’re some breathing exercises you can try to learn: 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)

Mindful Walking

Walking is an activity that you perform several times throughout the day. We often think we’re being productive by texting or calling someone while walking. But are we really?

Instead of getting on your cell phone or letting your mind wander off, why not use your walking to train yourself to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand?

Mindful walking is similar to mindful breathing, but instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your walking. Pay attention to each footstep. Also, notice the different motions of your arms, legs, and torso. When your mind wanders off, just bring your attention back to your walking.

You can even make a meditation out of walking. That is, go walking for a few minutes outside. Start by slowing down your pace. If you slow down your body, your mind will follow.

In addition to paying attention to your walking, notice the trees, sunshine, and critters. A mindful walk is enjoyable and can really help your mind settle down.

You can discover more benefits of walking in nature here.

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Mindful Eating

Eating is an activity that most of us perform mindlessly. The reason is that it doesn’t require your attention to perform. Therefore, many of us try to multitask while we eat. We may talk on the phone, text, watch TV, or even hold a meeting.

The problem with not eating mindfully is that we don’t eat what our body and mind need to perform at an optimal level[6]. We may eat unhealthy foods, or too much. This can lead to various health problems, especially as we get older.

Live in the present with mindful eating.

    Mindful eating has many health benefits, such as reduced food cravings, better digestion, and even weight loss[7].

    So how do you eat mindfully? Start by slowing down, and avoid the temptation to distract yourself with another activity. Here are 3 different aspects of eating where you can practice mindfulness:

    • Eating itself: Focus your attention on choosing a portion of food to insert into your mouth. Notice the smell, flavor, and texture as you chew it; then finally swallow it. As with following your breath during meditation, pay close attention to every aspect of eating.
    • Choice of foods: Although you’ve already chosen your food before you have begun eating, you can still take the opportunity to contemplate your choices. Think about the nutrients your body needs to sustain itself.
    • Contemplating the sources: Most of us don’t think about all the work it takes to provide us with the food we eat. While you’re eating, consider all the work by the farmer, shipping company, and the grocery store. These are real people who worked hard to provide you with the food necessary for your survival.

    You can find more tips about mindful eating here: 7 Simple Steps to Mindful Eating

    Mindful Activities

    Choose an activity that you perform regularly, such as washing dishes. Focus all your attention on this activity, and resist the temptation to let your mind wander,. When it does, just bring your attention back to washing dishes.

    Notice some of the specific movements or sensations of washing dishes, such as how the soapy water feels on your hands, the circular motion of scrubbing the dish, or the rinsing. You’d be surprised at how such a mundane activity can truly expand your awareness.

    You can choose any activity you like, such as ironing, folding clothes, mowing the lawn, or showering. Over time, you will begin doing all these activities with greater mindfulness.

    Final Thoughts

    Practicing mindfulness is like regularly putting small amounts of change in a jar. They will all add up over time, and this will add up to greater peace and happiness, as well as get you closer to achieving your goals.

    Remember, you don’t have to do the mindfulness practices perfectly to get the benefits. All you have to do is keep bringing your mind back to the present moment when it wanders off.

    Practicing mindfulness may be a bit challenging in the beginning, but I can assure you it will get easier.

    The benefits of living in the moment are well within your reach, no matter how much your mind is racing. If you stick with these mindfulness practices, you too will learn how to live in the moment and stop worrying. When you do, a whole new world will open up for you. This is what Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh calls the ultimate reality.

    More About Living in the Present

    Featured photo credit: Smile Su via unsplash.com

    Reference

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