There’s something about the departure of your twenties that instills a sense of apprehension that you now need to pull your socks up and enter a more mature adult phase of your life. Whilst growing up it’s continuously reinforced that you need to thoroughly enjoy being young (”you never get the time back”) but don’t for a second let go of that crippling expectation to have it all together. And by together I mean things such as houses, marriage, babies… it’s as though you hit 30 and suddenly your youth is expelled and your responsibilities prevail. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves and I know many others that share my woes, so it just sort of sucks when older people make patronising comparisons to back when they were your age.
Today we are in a much different place than a generation ago, with opportunities being vast and within easier reach. However, this unfortunately amplifies the pressure because now we’re expected to have all of the above in addition to a career. For most, our twenties are spent working out who the hell we are. Part of this is an exciting journey and but sadly isn’t detached from making mistakes, suffering from a hell of a lot of knock backs and conjuring anxiety whilst trying to
climb jump on the career ladder, save for our futures and just generally establish ourselves in life.
I do feel that as I’ve waded through my twenties – which passed by far too quickly – I’ve become more stable in who I am, both in a career and person sense. So it seemed a perfect time to reflect on my 20s with 20 things I’ve learned and would tell my younger self. I see these as being the sort of fundamental building blocks to successful self development.
1. Look after yourself
It’s fundamental to look after yourself. Since I grew up as an athlete I fortunately need no prompting to look after my physical health, but I sometimes have to remind myself that the pillars of well-being impinge upon a healthy mind too. Which is about reaching your full potential and constantly developing but also about knowing your own limits, learning to say no and asking for help when you damn well need it. One aspect of self-care I am still grappling with is overload; I’m constantly straddling that fine line between being very busy and overloaded. Over time I’ve become much wiser at understanding and prioritising myself and have learned to spot the creeping signs of exhaustion before it takes its toll. It’s so incredibly important to understand your own limits and take care of yourself before you can even start to be of any benefit to anybody else. Love yourself first. Prioritising your needs or putting yourself first is sadly sometimes perceived as being selfish; but it’s quite the opposite. It’s about fitting your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs.
2. Don’t be too hard on yourself
I’ve always been a perfectionist and on reflection wasted too much energy by being needlessly hard on myself. Negative thoughts about myself paved their way into a lot of self-doubt. Wouldn’t it be great if we could discard all of our maladaptive thoughts, feelings, emotions, habits, behaviours? Unfortunately our minds do not distinguish between the good and the bad. I wont get into the science, but our brains do anything to preserve energy and consequently create shortcuts. Which is why habits and/or repeated thoughts become automatic – essentially it’s true that what you think you become.
It took a lot of energy to override my destructive thoughts. Hence now I pay close attention to the way I talk about myself as well as my thoughts and feelings, because the power of the mind is incredible – having positive thoughts and using positive language really makes you feel that way.
3. Nip self-doubt in the knackers
A gentle reminder to nip self-doubt in the knackers because it’s detrimental to success. Believe you can and you’re half way there.
It’s also fundamental to trust your instincts. Most of the times that I ask people for their advice it pretty much serves the purpose of validating my own thoughts. My gut instinct proves right the majority of the time. The flip side is true to, if something doesn’t feel right, it usually isn’t.
4. Tough times don’t last, but tough people do
A reminder that this too shall pass. Whatever a situation, an emotion or frame of time, it will pass and you’ll feel differently tomorrow, which applies just as much to the overly good times as well as the bad. I wouldn’t go as far as being grateful for having some incredibly tough times to deal with, but I am proud that I fought some demons head on and came out the other side as a much, much stronger and insightful person. Challenges are inevitable in life but what is more defining is how we respond to them; because tough times will not last but tough people will. Each time I’ve been knocked down, I’ve risen that little bit higher. It teaches you that you can overcome obstacles in life and each one gets that little bit easier.
5. Quit comparing to others
There have been times when I’ve felt behind my peers. But I’ve learned that it’s completely fine because I’m on my own journey and will do things in my own time. The mindset that ”I should be here by this age…” causes a silly amount of pressure and anxieties regarding ‘milestones’. Everybody is on their own ladder in life and it’s much better to be half way up your own than at the top of another. Some of my friends are single, some are married and some have children, but none of this is correlates with their happiness.
It’s a different ball game now with social media platforms because they accentuate peer comparisons to a colossal scale. Luckily my teenage years were devoid of social media, but even as a relatively secure adult I can be swept in to comparing myself, so I have to stop and remind myself that the majority of content on those platforms is edited. It’s important to reiterate this.
6. Be comfortable being alone
I’ve always been fortunate to depend on others, so it was only upon being single at 27 (for the first time of my entire adult life might I add) that I went to living alone. Despite my trepidation it taught me an incredibly important lesson of how to rely on myself. It ignited my fierce independence, and shortly after I travelled solo to Japan after a work trip in Korea, something I would have previously might have turned down. I admit I was apprehensive, but after thoroughly relishing it I realised that I’d probably turned a lot of things down in the past out of fear of doing them alone.
I hate living with regret so going forward I rarely turn things down. If there’s something I want to do I’ll just do it. I truly believe everybody should live on their own or travel solo trip at some point in their lives, and stop waiting for other people to do the things you want.
7. Reflect, but don’t live in the past
It’s important to take stock, but only in the sense of reflecting on bygones to help you move forward through life. An element of nostalgia is healthy, but too much and you’re at risk of being stuck living in the past, which only conjures up feelings of resent, loss, or guilt. We all have an interesting backstory, but don’t ruminate, hold grudges or live with regret. Don’t get trapped there. Move forward and choose to not be defined by your past.
8. Live for the now
On the flip side, being too future focused is also unhealthy. I think a lot of people live with a mindset that ‘I’ll be happy when …’ which is completely redundant. As cliche as it sounds if you were to die tomorrow and never reached that goal, went on that future trip, or lost that weight, would you live your life differently today? I’d bet you would. I found that by expressing gratitude and incorporating mindfulness, meditation and yoga has helped me tremendously to appreciate the present day, live in the now and embrace the little things in life. It’s the mindset of enjoying the weekdays rather than waiting for the weekend.
Yes, I have PLENTY of goals, desires, plans and dreams but I definitely enjoy moments of today. Read my tips for living in the now.
9. Embrace change
Change brings upheaval, ignites fear but is inevitable. What’s worse is being complacent and never developing through seeking security and clinging on to the comfortable things in life. This is a reason why people stay in jobs they hate or relationships that should have ended, because they’re comfortable. It’s far easier to stay stuck in a rut and complain than it is to do something about it and make a change. I suffered on both of these accounts and sadly wasted too much time fearing the unknown, but trust me, life is way too long to be devoid of happiness.
10. Slow down
I used to be so busy that when I eventually did have a bit of time free I’d either not know what to do with myself or become incredibly bored. It was only last year when I realised I was doing way too much and consequently not enjoying anything because my mind would be in a constant flux of whatever was next. Slowing down made me re-connect with my inner self and re-discover what the hell I like doing. I reconnected with people, started writing and discovering the joy in having hobbies and free time. Read about my experience here.
11. Cut out the toxicity
Being empathetic and naturally absorbing the energy of the people around me is both a blessing and curse. Spending time with upbeat and positive people I flourish, whereas expending too much time around toxic people really drains me. It was a long process of cutting out those that were simply toxic and negative from my life (read my post here).
12. Surround yourself with good people
Quality over quantity every time. A reminder that you are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most of your time with.
13. Saying yes opens new doors
In all aspects. Say yes to things you wouldn’t normally do. Be it a new sport, meeting new people, trying new food or music. Be open to a multitude of careers. Opportunities don’t tend to simply turn up; you have to search, craft or build your own, and this is often achieved through saying yes to the seemingly small things. I misunderstood the importance of this and used to turn opportunities down if they didn’t seem grand enough. I missed out on a lot simply for being ignorant. Now if it’s even in the vicinity of being within my radar I will sniff it out and latch on to it. Self development 2.0
14. You can make your own luck
Dreams, goals or desires definitely do not manifest on their own accord. You never see the behind the scenes of a person’s achievements; so whilst it might appear that a lot of luck and good fortunate has come their way, you wont have seen the blood sweat and tears it has taken for them to get to that point. You really do make your own luck, and I by luck I mean a lot of hard work. Which is great because if you want it you can go out there and grab it.
15. Don’t worry about what other people think of you
Worrying about judgements from other people is exhausting and debilitating. If you’re judged or thought badly of, remember that it speaks more about their character than yours. They’re entitled to an opinion just as you are. But does your your opinion hold other people back? I very much doubt so. There’s a really nice quote to sum up my sentiments about this: those who mind don’t matter, and those that matter do not mind.
Being overly self-conscious about the things you say or do will only prevent you to take action. There have been so many times when I’ve probably made a fool of myself, and I couldn’t really care less. What’s worse is letting that the fear of others stop you in your tracks.
16. Widen your friendship circle
My friendship circles are so varied now compared to a decade ago. Whilst I used to spend time with those predominately in my own demographic I now mix with people from a mixture of backgrounds. Your world is crafted merely within the context of your surroundings and growing up for me this was a place predominately dominated by one race and one religion, so I wrongly assumed the rest of the world shared the same views, values and perspective as me. Since meeting people from different parts of the world with different backgrounds, religions and views enabled me to develop perspective and much more awareness for the world. I absolutely love the diversity, culture and mixture of people I call my friends.
17. Gain perspective
Hearing the views of others, especially when they differ or contrast with my own perspectives completely opens my eyes to seeing things in a new light. If you’re open to listening to other people, with a view to understanding rather than imposing your own views, you gain perspective. I like to consult a variety of people for their opinions, especially those who I know would probably disagree with me. It helps me to understand, consolidate and challenge my perception.
18. Asking for help is not weak
I was completely misguided to ever think that asking for help was a sign of weakness. It’s the opposite. It’s wise, powerful and demonstrates a huge sense of personal awareness. It’s foolish to think one person can do everything.
19. Your education should never end
It’s only when we stop learning that we become stagnate, complacent and bored. Life is about learning and this is not limited to formal education.
20. Travel and explore
I’m lucky to have travelled across continents to a plethora of countries across the globe. I immerse myself in the way of the local people and it completely opens my eyes to different ways of life. Travelling is one of my favourite, albeit expensive hobbies. I absolutely love learning about culture, people and food so travelling for me is heaven.