There is a series in LinkedIn titled, “If I were 22 again . . .” My contribution to the discussion is below.
A motto I hold dear is one I learned at an early age. It is from the Cub Scouts, “Do your best.” Not necessarily BE the best or succeed as well as Tom or Sally but “Do YOUR best.” I am 41 years old now and although I would slow down and appreciate the speed of life more, I have no regrets. I have done my best, I have worked hard, and with the help of many, moved on when I was knocked down. My top 10 tips of advice, “If I were 22 again:”
- Be wise in marriage–Marriage can be such an incredible joy and add much solace to you. It is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make and one which will have the biggest impact upon your emotional well-being. Seek a spouse to complement you in life but not have to bear the heavy burden of “completing you.” You are not there to make each other “happy.” If you cannot make yourself happy, your spouse will never fill your void. Don’t seek someone to solve your problems or rescue you. Too big a job for one human being. Our emotional bandwidth is only so long. Be careful in who you choose to become emotionally connected and take up your limited “bandwidth.” Marriage is a gift but be wise.
- Make peace with your spiritual life. To be a truly healthy person, recognizing there is more to life than the here and now will keep life in perspective. Dig deep and seek to find out what you believe. Is there a Creator? Is there a God and does He care? Few issues in life are more important than these. A strong spiritual life can become deep roots for you to withstand the expected storms.
- Be bold, seek exceptional mentors. Seek the best in the fields you are interested in pursuing. Don’t be afraid to ask their advice. I am a huge fan of Jim Collins and his Ten To-Dos for Young People. Build a personal board of directors for your life, selected for their character and integrity.
- Build your emotional intelligence. Surround yourself with affirming, positive people. Life is hard enough to be beat up by those closest to you. Focus on the positive and never give up hope. Read this great Fast Company article on 7 Habits of Highly Emotionally Intelligent People. Don’t waste time being an insensitive jerk or focusing on the negative. Life is short.
- Be quick to forgive and learn how to get up again. This has been a hard one for me. People will beat you up. No one is exempt. Sometimes friends will betray you or you will lose a job. Honestly, you will want to curl up in the fetal position. Do so briefly but get up and move forward. If you allow a root of bitterness to fester in your life, all will “smell the aroma” of anger and unforgiveness in your life. Let it go, seek help, and move forward with your life. Otherwise you will remain stuck in the past. Excerpt from Dave Stoop’s outstanding book on forgiveness. It is well worth reading and changed my life.
- Invest in the people you care about. I have been surprised by how fast life is. Be intentional in connecting and investing in your closest friends and family. Verbally express your love to them, spend time together, and let your loved ones know you are grateful for them. Sadly, some may pass out of your life in an instant. Few things in life are more precious than loyal and faithful friends and family. Article I wrote about mine.
- Travel as much as possible. Seeing the incredible world God has created for us will expand your worldview, cause you to appreciate diversity, and expand your creativity due to the beauty of it all. Travel if at all possible before you have children! Trust me, it is brutal traveling with small children anywhere! It is also fun when you are young and seeing the world with your friends. It is a precious but a very brief window of time in life. Don’t miss it.
- Work out your life issues. Find a good, understanding counselor. Acknowledge we all have issues and things to resolve. Journal and work through them. Face hard truths, forgive those who have hurt you, and grieve your life losses. Your mental health depends upon it. It will make you more productive member of society and easier to be around!
- Never, ever stop learning. I love reading now more than I ever have. Learning new ideas, seeing things from a different perspective, and having a light bulb go off in your head are truly life altering experiences. They affect every part of your life. Pursue degrees, expand your horizons, and do not allow others to talk you out of your dreams.
- Establish healthy life routines. Make exercise a consistent part of your life because it is far easier to exercise when it is a habit. Excellence is all about establishing routines and systems in your life. A more orderly and clear functioning life is a less stressful life. Routines help defuse stressful situations and cause us to keep going when life gets rough. Find your happy place, develop it, and protect it. If it is fly fishing or yoga or canoeing, don’t feel guilty when you include it as a part of your life. Relax, recharge your batteries, and make a healthy routine you treasure.
What has surprised me is just how incredibly fast life has gone by since I was 22. In the blink of an eye, I am 41 years old. I hope I am wiser, more understanding, and more caring to those around me. Thanks for reading!