“Hindsight is always 20/20.” This is a favorite of mine. We all look back on our lives and wish we had done some things differently. But we have learned from them, gaining what we call wisdom. Another way we gain wisdom is to benefit from the wisdom of others who have gone before. If you are new to full adulthood, specifically not yet 26, here are 26 pieces of wisdom you might want to tuck away.
You Are Now Fully Responsible for Your Choices
You may say you have always been fully responsible for your choices, but not really. Growing up, you were gradually allowed to make more and more choices independently, and your parents let you make some poor choices and live with the consequences. But they also protected you from making some really poor choices – the big ones that would have longer-term consequences. That’s all over now. Develop a process for making decisions, by honestly listing the pros and cons. Another good practice, especially when decisions may involve values, is to think of someone who has been a model of integrity. Ask yourself if that person would be okay with your choice.
Gain Perspective About Life’s Bumps
As a teen and even through very early adulthood, we tend to exaggerate our problems and crises. Thus, failing a test or losing a first love rises to the level of life-changing. By the time you are 26, it's important to put bumps into categories. One of the best “tests” of a problem, a decision, or a “crisis” is to ask yourself if this issue will matter five years down the road. If it won't, then deal with it and put it to bed.
Stop Judging Others
Wayne Dyer once famously said “Judging someone else doesn’t identify them as what you judge them to be. It identifies you as someone who needs to judge.” Beyond that, however, the need to judge is a huge turnoff to others, except those who need to judge too. When you accept others as they are, it is so liberating. You do not have to choose the beliefs, values or lifestyles of others – they are on their own paths as are you. Embrace diversity and the richness it provides.
Go for Experiences Not Things
You probably can’t remember all of the birthday and Christmas presents you received during your childhood. But I bet you remember vacations, your first love, and a high school teacher you loved. These are experiences. Of course, we have needs and some unnecessary “wants,” but beyond that, memories of experiences will never wear out. If you have extra money, take a trip instead of buying that new car this year.
You Have Time
You do not have to “conquer the world” by age 30. Of course you have goals, and that’s a good thing. But take the time to enjoy all of the other things the just living brings – enjoy your meals, your friends and family, nature, books, conversations, and all that is going on around you. If you don’t take time for these things, you will burn out.
You Will Not Please Everyone
Don’t even try. Doing this is buying a one-way ticket to stress and burnout. And you will have no life of your own. Slavery was outlawed long ago, so don’t be a mental or physical slave to anyone.
Don’t Hold onto Anger
Nothing is more destructive. Someone may have “wronged” you – now they are renting space in your head for free. Letting them stay there sours you and takes time from positive thoughts and energy. Let go. Move on. Ad work on forgiveness – it’s pretty liberating too.
None of us has everything we want, whether that is the perfect job, relationship, home, etc. But we all have a number of things we can be grateful for. If we focus on these things, our attitude and our happiness is increased. Holding personal pity parties is unproductive and depressing.
It’s Not All About You
Teenagers tend to be the epicenters of their universes. As the mature into adulthood, they learn that the world is a much larger place with opportunities to reach out to others. Being mindful of the needs of others is a sign of wisdom.
Mind Your Health
Bad health habits begin to take their toll by age 30. Get into good habits now – healthy diet, outdoor activities, no smoking and drinking in moderation. Keeping these habits means later life health too. Think long-term.
It’s Okay Not to Know
One of the best things about life is we learn as we go. You will never know all that you want to, but the journey is part of the fun. Make lifelong learning a goal rather than a mountain too high to climb.
You Won’t Always Get What You Want
None of us do. Life just happens. One of the best things we can practice is adapting to change and to things not going just as we had planned. Every failure is a learning experience, and when you look back on your life, you’ll see that those changes and “failures” pushed you to something better.
Get Comfortable Being Alone with Yourself
Being alone with yourself is not the same as being lonely. And it is important to be alone with our thoughts and goals. Alone time becomes more and more important as we mature, because it allows us to re-group and renew ourselves. You will come to cherish your alone time.
Don’t Limit Yourself
Sometimes we get “stuck” in our jobs, careers, and even relationships. They become “comfortable” but we are not growing. Seek opportunities to learn new things or to pursue some new learning that will lead to new career goals.
Hang Out with People Who Support Your Goals
If you want to be successful, then put yourself around other successful people. They will help you stay motivated and support you on the path to your own success.
Seek a Balanced Life
You have your work; you have a social life; you have learning; and you have your spiritual life, whether that is through organized religion or other activities that develop your inner self. Find the time for all of these things. When we become unbalanced, life ceases to be enjoyable and purposeful.
Watch Your Budget
It’s easy to go overboard with expenditures. Setting up a reasonable budget will keep you on track financially. Average credit card debt for Americans is $5,700. If you have student loans and other normal expenses as well, then you have to make certain you can pay all of those bills every month. Nothing is more stressful than being in debt and unable to pay.
Pay Yourself First
There are some very disturbing figures about retirement savings. A recent study reports that 25 percent of people in the work force and even those nearing retirement have nothing saved. Millennials are not saving either.Commit to 10 percent savings from every paycheck. If you get in the habit now, you will have comfortable retirement.
Love is More Than a Feeling
When love is new, it is wonderful. But long-term relationships involve more than emotions. They involve communication, compromise, and commitment. Don’t rush into a relationship until you and your partner can exhibit these traits.
Learn How to Cook
You cannot live on fast food, and you cannot eat healthy at restaurants all the time – it is just too expensive. Get a good cookbook and get going.
Regular Car Maintenance is Important
Don’t put off car maintenance – while they are not fun expenses, they are necessary. Get the oil changed, rotate those tires, and replace windshield blades regularly.
Take Opportunities to TravelLife’s responsibilities add up as you get older. While you are still young, see new places; mingle with cultures different from your own; become more “worldly-wise.”
If You Want a Better Career, Take Steps Now
If you discover that you want more in a career than your currently have, then do those things that will make you valuable in that profession. Go back to school; take online courses (many are free or very cheap), and prepare yourself for the future you want.
People in Authority Are Not Always Right
A titled position is not automatic intelligence and rationality. Bosses are not perfect. If you can practice diplomacy, you can often point out mistakes in a way that does not seem like criticism.
Be a Team Player
At work, in your neighborhood, and in your community, there are always needs that are not your responsibility. Pitch in anyway. You buy a lot of good will, and people will reciprocate when you are in need.
Integrity is Your Best Asset
Stand up for what is ethical and honest. If you do this, you will never have to suffer guilt or the consequences of very bad decisions. Have the courage to eliminate those from your life who want you to compromise on your principles.