20 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was 20

20 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 Years Old

Recently, after I finished a lecture about the power of the mind, a young man who was about 20 years old approached me with a sad, sunken face.  Before he even opened his mouth I could see the confusion in his eyes.

“I really liked what you said,” he told me, “and I hope you can help me because I’m really having some trouble.”

He proceeded to list off all of the things he was nervous and afraid about: finding a job after graduating, making enough money, developing his relationship with his girlfriend, a broken friendship and a teacher who was hassling him.

With an innocent and eager expression on his face he asked me question after question.

  • What should I do if I don’t like my job?
  • How can I stand out and be unique?
  • What if I pursue the wrong career?
  • What if my relationship with my girlfriend doesn’t succeed?
  • How can I truly be happy?

We spoke for a while and I did what I could to advise him.  Afterwards, he thanked me and we both went on our way.  As I rode my bike back home I thought about our talk and I realized that this young man reminded me of myself when I was his age.

In my college years, I would ask the same sort of questions and had the same sense of confusion about life as this young man had.  Then, I began to think about all of the things I would love to tell my 20 year old self.  When I got home, I wrote them down.

Here are 20 things I wish I knew when I was 20 years old.

1.  Make Mistakes – Ask any person who is successful in any area of life if they made mistakes along the way to success and they will tell you of course they did. Not only that, but they will tell you that it was the mistakes that were the keys to their successes.  Mistakes are opportunities to learn and become better.

As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

2.  Things Have a Way of Working Themselves Out – As a young man I would always worry about how things would turn out. If I could speak to my 20 year old self, I would tell him to just work towards solving your problems and know that, one way or another, things have a way of working themselves out.

3.  You Don’t Need to Figure Out Your Whole Future in Advance – I always felt overwhelmed trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Little did I realize that, no matter what path I chose to go down, I could always change and go down another.

Life is all about trying one path and adjusting along the way.

4.  One Step At A Time – While it is important and powerful to know what your goal is, keeping our minds only on the end goal can overwhelm us. If I wanted to become a black belt, it would probably seem like an impossible goal if I thought about the work I would need to do to get there.  But if I just focus on getting to the next belt, the next level, it will be less daunting.

If you climb a mountain, an occasional glance at the peak is all you need to stay on course.  However, if you keep your eyes forever on the peak, not only will the goal seem far off, but you are more likely to slip along the way.

5.  Work and Then Play – Fun is most enjoyed when it is earned and you don’t have work hanging over your head. Balance is key in life.  Make sure to work hard and to play hard.  Play will refresh and rejuvenate you so you are able to get back to work.

6.  Don’t Take Things Too Seriously – In the end, life should be enjoyed. So, maintain a healthy discipline, but have fun, laugh, watch comedies and be silly.  Learn to laugh at yourself.

7.  Cherish Your Loved Ones – There is nothing more important in life than the people you love and care about. Yes we all get busy in life and can easily forget to call or to express our feelings, but make sure that if your loved ones need you, you’ve got their back, above all else.

8.  It’s Not About How You Say Goodbye – Oftentimes we feel bad or beat ourselves up because the last thing we did or said to someone before they passed away wasn’t what we wished we would have. However, what really matters is the time you spent together.  What is important is the overall picture.

We can never know for certain when the last time we see someone will be.  Knowing this, we should keep in the back of our mind that each moment and interaction is precious and to strive to treat others well.  But, at the same time, forgive ourselves when we make mistakes.

9.  Be Quick to Forgive Yourself – Life is complicated and confusing and you will make mistakes. When you do, contemplate them, learn the lesson, forgive yourself and move forward.  If you dwell on your mistakes you will becomes bitter and angry.  Forgiveness will set you free.

10.  Be Quick to Forgive Others – Everyone you meet is dealing with their own issues. They too will make mistakes.  When you remember that everyone is trying the best they can to learn how to live, it becomes easier to forgive.  Just like forgiving yourself, forgiving others will release you from the pain of anger.

11.  People Will Remember How You Made them Feel – In the end, everything we do is because we want to feel a certain way or avoid feeling a certain way. We look for a relationship or pursue a profession because of how it will make us feel.   You may want a nice car, but you want it because of how it will make you feel.  You may seek status, but underneath it, you want it because of how you think having status will make you feel.

People will forget what you say, they will forget what you do, but they will remember how you made them feel.  If you hurt someone, they will harbor ill-will towards you and may seek to harm you in return.  Make it your mission to give others joy and happiness and they will remember you for that.   And that is what you will receive in return.

12.  Be Giving – When we give our time, effort, energy, love, money and resources to those who need it we help make the world a better place. Be a vessel for giving.  Be a conduit for love and sharing.  Let abundance flow through you and direct it towards those who need it and abundance will follow you forever.

Holding things too tight (money, time, people, etc) is the best way to lose something.  Nothing that we have is ours forever.  Use what you can to better the lives of others.

Yet, be fair to yourself as well.  Do not give to the point where you harm your own situation or deprive yourself of what is necessary for you.  You must maintain and enhance yourself, so that you can continue to give.

13.  Love is an Action – Love is something which you give and receive, not have. Give love to your spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend and family.  Do acts of kindness and treat others well.  In return, you will receive love.  If you expect someone to return your love in a certain way, you have not given love, you have given an obligation.  Acts of love are when you give, solely because you love them, simply because you want to give to them.

14.  You Get What You Give – This is a big one. This is a law of life and, if you think about it for a bit, you will realize its truth.  If you want respect, then give it first.  If you want love, give it.

If you give anger and disrespect, then that is what you will receive in return.  What you receive in life is within your control; it is the result of what you give.

15.  Giving Comes Before Receiving – Whatever you want in life, you must give it first. We don’t expect a fruit tree to just appear in our backyard ready for us to pick it.  The seed must be planted, watered, fed and nurtured.  The more care you give it, the more likely it is to bear fruit in return.  This is an unbreakable law of the universe.  Your actions are seeds which will bear fruit, so plant good seeds.

16.  Be Honest – Trust is crucial to any relationship and being dishonest destroys trust. Being honest also means you never have to worry about remembering what you said.

17.  Explore Your Mind – The world within us is enormous untapped potential. The answer to every problem lies within you and unspeakable joy, peace of mind and happiness are all the result of looking within.

18.  Always Take Time to Think – One of the greatest sources of pain and suffering of our age is the constant distractions in life. If we always distract ourselves from our thoughts by watching tv, listening to music, reading and talking, we never spend time with our thoughts.  It’s not that we shouldn’t do those things, but if you don’t regularly spend time with your thoughts, distraction free, you will always feel as if you are running and alone.

Your thoughts are calling out to you to be addressed and if you perpetually ignore them, they will build up and wreak havoc on your life.  Make time to think, it might be the most important thing you could ever do to transform your life.  Words do not do justice in explaining this.  The thinkers of the world know what I mean.  If you don’t, just sit and think regularly and you will come to understand this.

19.  Be Yourself – We hear this all the time, and it is cliché, but there’s a reason for that. It is cliché because it is so incredibly true.  Don’t be phony, don’t be a fake.  Be yourself, follow your inner voice and don’t live your life to please others.   Things will never work out if you live that way.  Be who you are, be open and honest and, almost magically, good things will come your way.

20.  It’s All About Your Attitude – Perhaps the most important piece of advice that I could give to my 20 year old self would be that how you see the world determines how you experience it. And your thoughts determine how you see the world.  Practice intelligently directing and controlling your thoughts and you will be the master of your life and your destiny.

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