It’s my 37th birthday, which means I’m officially past my early thirties and am now inching my way towards the big 4-0! On this occasion, I first feel incredibly grateful for the countless good things and people in my life, for my health, and for another year on this planet. I also can’t help but think about all the ups and downs over the years, and about all the lessons I’ve learned. While I don’t regret past experiences, there are definitely some nuggets of wisdom that I’ve picked up over time. And I’m sure that these nuggets—had I known them back then—would have helped me along immensely in navigating this thing called life. So, if I could go back in time, here are 15 things I would tell my younger self:
1. The key to life is giving less f*cks.
Pardon my French, but it’s true! When you stop caring about what other people might think, you will start doing things with more intention. You will rid yourself of the opinions and influence of others, and you will be true to yourself. Only spend time and energy on the things that are most important to you.
2. “Stop letting people who do so little for you control so much of your mind, feelings & emotions”.
When I first heard this quote from Will Smith, it was probably the biggest lightbulb moment I’ve ever had in my life! I used to take things so personally and I would ruminate for days and sometimes even months over negative interactions and relationships with people. Once I heard this, I immediately stopped and the biggest weight was lifted off my shoulders. Try it and you’ll see for yourself!
3. Forgive and move on.
A grudge is like a self-inflicted prison of the mind and spirit. If someone hurts you, you don’t have to forget. But you should learn, forgive (out of compassion), and move on from it, so that you can heal and free yourself of the imprisonment.
4. Do not expect things from people.
Holding people to the same high standards you may hold yourself will inevitably lead to disappointment. Expect nothing from people, so when they do do things, you will appreciate them so much more.
5. There are certain key factors to job satisfaction.
If you can achieve some or all of these things, you will be much happier in your job:
- Working for yourself – while I know this is not for everyone, my happiness increased immensely when I became my own boss. I have autonomy and control over my environment and the only person I have to answer to is myself.
- If you don’t work for yourself, having a real respect for your boss. If your boss is a d*ck, and you do not fundamentally respect him or her, unless there are other aspects that keep you happy on the job (like the actual work and/or your co-workers), you will be miserable every day.
- Feeling appreciated – everyone wants to feel valued for their contributions. And if people work for you, keep this in mind as well.
- Having work/life balance
- Being able to walk to work – let’s face it, commuting is a bitch.
- Loving what you do. As the saying goes, “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life”.
6. Spend time on self-development.
It is some of the best time you’ll ever spend. Schedule time to work on yourself, whether it’s every day or every week. Read resources about self-improvement, speak to people, listen to podcasts, watch documentaries – whatever you need to. We should all strive to become the best versions of ourselves.
7. Take better care of your mind and body.
As you get older, you’ll realize the importance of eating better, drinking less alcohol, drinking more water, and exercising. Yes, you can eat the ice cream and drink the champagne, but do it in moderation. Use the 80/20 rule. Honour your body because you only have one. Treat your mind with the same amount of care. Mental health is just as important as physical health.
8. Comparison is the thief of joy.
Overly comparing your life or your work with other people’s is the surest way to unhappiness. That being said, there is a healthy level of comparison. It wouldn’t be wise to stick your head in the sand and ignore what others in your life or in your industry may be doing. But, use this as motivation. The only person you should truly be in competition with is yourself.
9. Don’t apologize for spending time the way you want to.
My biggest resentment in life is having to spend my limited time in situations I don’t truly want to be in. Learning to say no to things that don’t serve me and that do not help me reach my goals has been one of the keys to productivity and success.
10. Try to overcome negative thoughts.
Negative thinking is unhelpful and leads to self-sabotage. Once you get out of your head, you can focus on being present and in the moment. You will look at the world through a different lens.
11. Have an attitude of gratitude.
Living life with gratitude is one of the best ways to do #10 above! It’s also the key to being happier. When you start focusing on your blessings and all the positive things in your life (both big and small), it changes your entire perspective. Start a gratitude journal. Tell those around you why you’re grateful for them. Celebrate your own accomplishments.
12. Be kind to others (and to yourself).
There are so many benefits to being kind. So throw kindness around like confetti (even to the a**holes).
13. Spend time and travel alone.
How can you love yourself if you’re not comfortable being alone? As an extroverted-introvert, alone time is necessary! I’m also such a huge proponent of solo travel. My first solo trip was to Thailand in 2008. It was life changing. While I haven’t made enough time for solo travel over the years, my trip to Cartagena last year reminded me that: the single best way to connect with the local culture and with yourself is to travel alone. Being alone means you can do what you want, roam with your own thoughts, free of the opinions and influence of others, and truly form your own impressions.
14. Having a dog is one of the greatest joys in life.
I’m pretty sure I like dogs more than people! They are the best and we really don’t deserve them! Their love is unconditional and they increase happiness in your household tenfold. Having a dog is honestly like daily therapy!
15. Life is too short to take yourself too seriously.
Have fun, laugh often!
What are some valuable lessons you’ve learned and that you wish you could tell your younger self? Let me know in the comments!
Photography by: Laura Clarke Photography