I remember so vividly turning 21. Back then you could drink at 18 so it wasn’t about the legality of consuming booze that made the event memorable.
Somehow turning 21 meant I was really crossing the threshold into adulthood. It was an age that put my teenage years behind me and my adult independence within a hands reach.
As I celebrate my son’s 21st birthday, I think about my 21-year-old self and the lessons learned. How many times did I spend worrying about inconsequential things, or kept my mouth shut when maybe it would have been better to advocate more vocally for myself or for others.
It’s always easier looking back. But if we keep sticking to the hard work – the work that requires to stand tall, live by our values, be professional, show up, and have the discipline to take courageous small steps forward, we can all live meaningful and fulfilling lives.
What would you tell your 21 year-old-self?
1. Be kind yourself and to others.
Being kind yourself is a lot harder than you think. Self-compassion and forgiveness are cornerstones to building a life of happiness and humility.
2. Enjoy the journey.
The destination for all of us is death. Don’t rush through life. Savor the days. Savor the moments that really matter. Look for the good.
3. Learn when to say ‘no’.
It is easy to fall into a trap of pleasing others. Risking rejection or feeling that you might be letting someone down are difficult emotions to navigate. At the end of the day, you need to respect yourself which is more important than anything. Learn when you need to walk away. Learn when saying ‘no’ serves you.
4. Keep getting up and be professional.
When you were learning to walk, you fell down a lot. It was not a big deal. Falling down was just feedback on how you might get better at standing upright. Make mistakes and learn from them. They help you grow. But also there are times when you are not going to want to do something. You just don’t feel like it. But keep showing up. Be professional. Don’t give to the whims of your emotions.
5. Be aware of your assumptions.
Sometimes we are all quick to judge and quick to assume. But our eyes and our perceptions fool us constantly. Watch out for assumptions as they could easily lead you down the wrong path. Learn how to ask really good questions. Dive deep. Discover new truths.
6. Make the world a better place.
Materialism, power, and money are seductive. You will be most proud of doing work that is meaningful to you and is helping others
7. Laugh often.
And mostly at yourself. Life can be serious, difficult, challenging, discouraging, and hard. Laughter can decrease your stress hormones and build up your immune cells. Laughing is contagious – what a great thing to spread.
8. Keep exercising your courage muscle.
Courage is the opposite of fear. No one can accomplish any courageous act without experiencing fear or self-doubt. Practice stepping outside your comfort zone. Every single person experiences fear. Just feel the fear and do it anyway.
9. Friends matter.
Liking something on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram does not cultivate friendships. Snapchat is not a conversation. Pick up the phone and call someone and have a meaningful conversation. Go visit someone. Reach out personally. Treasure conversations with friends outside of social media.
10. Save for a rainy day.
If you live to be 100, you will be working for 65 – 70 years. Build your financial nest egg first. Life will bring you uncertain times or you will want a change.
11. Live by your values.
Knowing your values and what is really important to you will help you make better decisions. It’s easy to get distracted. Know your “why?”
12. Don’t take too much personally.
Stuff happens. People say things or do things that really have nothing to do with you. Don’t take too much personally. Seek feedback from those you can trust. But otherwise, don’t get rattled by other people’s stuff.
13. Know your biases.
We have a lot of biases. Maybe over 100. The two that seem to trip us up a lot are our unconscious and cognitive biases. Challenge your biases, the same way you need to challenge your assumptions. The world is complex and nuanced. It is easy to distill information down to a way that only supports your way of thinking. This will limit you. Understand where your thinking may be limiting you.
14. Forgive and forget.
People are going to do things that piss you off. You may even do something that causes shame or embarrassment. Get over it. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Move on. Life is short. The planet has been spinning for 4.5 billion years. If you can’t forgive, or you feel guilty about something, go make it right, and then move on.
15. Cultivate curiosity.
A curious mindset will help you immensely. It opens up doors to creative thinking and keeps you in the present moment.
16. Learn how to ask for help.
Life will throw a curve ball or maybe several. Unexpected events happen. Cultivate a network of friends. Accept your own vulnerability. Ask for help. We are here for each other.
17. Have plan A, B, or C for your near future.
It is great to have goals. They help you focus and achieve results in your life that really matter to you. Willpower, deliberate practice, and commitment are attributes that will help you achieve results. But sometimes life doesn’t go as planned. When you have alternative options, you will feel more in charge of your life and less likely to be a victim of circumstances.
18. Know what you can and cannot control.
A lot of stress and anxiety is lost to thinking about things we cannot control. At the end of the day, you are in control of your emotions, your thoughts, your behaviors, how you spend your time, and your actions. Pretty much everything else is outside of your control. You may be able to influence outcomes or people. That is very different from control. Understand the difference between control and influence. Let go of things that are outside of your control.
19. You always have a choice.
Often we can get stuck in a victim mindset when we feel as if we have no choice. But if you dive deep into the situation, you probably find that you have more choices than you realize, even if the choice is how you respond to a situation.
20. You will most likely have 5 careers or more.
The world is changing so fast. New careers are being created all the time while others are disappearing. You have no idea what types of new jobs will be available even in 5 years from now. Keep an open mind. Don’t let your past passions or professions define your future. Most of us are multifaceted with multiple interests. It’s ok to change. Be open to possibilities you haven’t even imagined.
21. Know that you are loved.
You are enough just being you. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone except yourself. Maybe you won’t understand this now, but there is nothing like a parent’s love for their children. It’s deep and wide. We aren’t perfect. Sometimes we say the wrong things or make mistakes. But know that you are loved!!
22. Practice a sustainable lifestyle
It’s easy to experience burn out. Pace yourself. Eat well. Make exercise a priority. Walk in nature. Meditate or practice mindfulness. Advocate for clean air, non-toxic environments, and natural resources. These steps will allow you and our planet to be around for a long, long time.
Tribe of Mentors by Timothy Ferriss
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
The Five Second Rule by Mel Robbins