Wisdom//

17 Nuggets of Wisdom We Wish We Could Tell Our Younger Selves

Since we can't go back in time, use this advice to inspire a future you.

New Africa/Shutterstock
New Africa/Shutterstock

There are a lot of great things about being an adult — including, but not limited to, setting our own bedtimes and owning the pet of our choice. But perhaps most importantly, with age comes the wisdom and perspective we only wish we had when we were younger.

This Is Us actress Mandy Moore opened up to Variety about some of the key lessons she’s learned since she first entered the entertainment business: “I feel like I’m operating at my best now. I know what I want; I know how to ask for it; I know how to not settle until I get that,” she told the magazine. “I’m better at stepping up to the plate and acknowledging the value I bring to the plate. I guess that just only comes with the wisdom and clarity of time and age.”

Though we can’t go back in time, we can reflect on the hard-earned knowledge we wish we had known then. We can even use it to inspire our future selves.

So we asked members of the Thrive Global community to share the advice they would give their younger, greener selves. Here’s what they wished they’d known earlier:

Stop changing yourself to make other people happy

“My younger self probably wouldn’t listen to any long-winded advice, so I’d keep it simple and say: ‘Stop trying to change yourself to please others, and start focusing on the things that fill you with joy. You’ll see that you’re enough…exactly as you are.’”

—Susie Ramroop, mindset coach, London, England

It’s OK to fail

“I would tell my younger self that it’s OK to fail and keep trying. I spent so much time beating myself up and feeling depressed over my first business that didn’t work out. Only years later, I now realise that it was merely a stepping stone to bigger and better things. Without failure, there’s no lesson. Every idea won’t be a success — especially the first one — and you’ll need to get back up many times in life. Entrepreneurship is built on belief, courage, and strength, and unless you’re willing to fail, you’ll never succeed.”

—Raimonda Jankunaite, entrepreneur, speaker, mentor, and founder, UK

Know your worth and ask for what you want

“I would stop believing the lie that I wasn’t qualified or worthy to ask for what I deserved. My male counterparts seemed to have no problem asking for exactly what they desired. If I wanted the job or the opportunity, I would say to ask for it — I don’t need to wait until I feel 100 percent qualified, because that won’t happen!”

—Kelli Thompson, life and leadership coach, Omaha, NE

Don’t believe your inner critic

“Just because you think it doesn’t mean it’s true. For years I believed all my negative self-talk, as if it had some useful information or was helpful, impartial advice. Now in my late 40s, I understand that this thinking is nothing more than a glitch in the system. It can’t advise or help me — it’s simply a thought, nothing more, nothing less. I have everything I need within me and when I let the unhelpful thinking go, I return to being completely ok.”

—Andrea Morrison, personal performance coach, York, UK

Focus on what you can control

“Time has taught me that we control very little of how life turns out. However, we control nearly every aspect of our response to the situations and events that are out of our control.”

—Colleen Wildenhaus, teacher, writer, and founder, Columbus, OH

Remember that you’re the director of your life story

“Surround yourself with people, places, and things that make you feel safe, lucky, and successful. You are the director of your life story, so live it the way you’d want to see it on the big screen.”   

—Carrie McEachran, executive director and founder, Mooretown, Ontario, Canada

Cut yourself some slack

“I’d say that it’s okay to relax a little, lighten up, and kick back. It’ll be alright.”

—Janice Taylor, career coach and writer, Brighton, UK

Don’t let others’ expectations drown out your desires

“It’s fine to not want what others expect you to. Everyone doesn’t want to get married and start a family. Taking ownership for your own needs and desires requires deep introspection and bravery. Always honour yourself.”

—Marian Toledo, marketing assistant, Ontario, Canada

Bask in the moment

“Memento mori. ‘Remember that you shall die.’ This isn’t morbid — it’s befriending your death and letting it inform your life. Let death drive urgency into your life. Let it make you grateful for all the beauty that elates you.”

—Paul Boardman, funeral chaplain, Seattle, WA

Show people how you want to be treated

“People will treat you the way you let them. Whether it’s a friend, lover, or family…you dictate how they treat you. If you let people disrespect you, there will be a vicious cycle of anger and forgiveness. Often times, when you set emotional boundaries at the start of a relationship, both people understand that respect is a must.”

—Tina Johnson, family travel blogger, Windham, NH  

So much of what we worry about doesn’t matter

“Many of the things we stress out about aren’t that big of a deal. Petty people, deadlines, and our unsure future are all parts of life. While some require our attention, we don’t need to feel extra stress from making things a bigger deal than they need to be. If I had to give my younger self advice, it’d be that there are more important things to worry about. I spent way too much time wondering if a girl liked me, if I would pass my class, or if I would look like an idiot for speaking my mind. Once I let that go and realized that most of our daily challenges aren’t that major, I handled them a lot better, and I began feeling a lot better. I didn’t hold myself back. I had more space to focus on life’s big challenges.”  

—Andrew Kuttain, communications and recruitment specialist, Ontario, Canada

You don’t need a 5-year plan

“Throw that five-year plan out the window! I used to lose countless hours of sleep coming up with how to best position my accomplishments in order to set me up for those notorious one-, three-, and five-year career plans. I’ve learned that if you focus on the now, you’ll still be successful and probably much happier. Harness that energy towards executing your current project well, and the opportunities will naturally present themselves.”

—Hank Hoang, data analytics, Washington, DC

Be more open to feedback

“Accept and value criticism and negative feedback because it’ll be extremely valuable in the years to come. Also, take it less personally because it might not be about you, but rather, the person sharing the feedback.”

—Sabrina Cadini, certified brain fitness coach and life-work balance strategist, San Diego, CA

Invest in yourself

“Invest in your goals and dreams, and allow yourself to become the person you truly want to be. Invest in your mental health, educating yourself, eating healthy and taking care of yourself. Invest in your future and security by investing financially as soon as possible, even if it’s only a nominal amount. You only get one you, so treat yourself like gold. Clothes and trends come in and out of style, but who you decide to be and the body you’re living in is yours for a lifetime. Also wear your sunscreen — sun damage isn’t fashionable at any age.”   

—Karla Kueber, health and wellness blogger, Chicago

Just go for it

“Just do the damn thing, whatever it is! Stop focusing on why it can’t be done or the fear, and just do it. No one’s going to give you permission or an invitation, so stop waiting for it. Stop looking over your shoulder for fear you’re going to be ‘caught’ or called out for being a fraud — you’ve got just as much of a right to be here, engage, and participate as anyone else. You’ve worked so hard, so it’s time to step into your power and intentionally choose success instead of withdrawing and worrying about failure. The future hasn’t happened yet, so make your future whatever you want it to be.”

—Heather Larivee, founder and CEO, Milford, NH

Use your unique traits to your advantage

“Everyone’s a little messed up. The older you get, the more you start to notice how everyone you meet has this side to themselves, and no matter how hard they try to hide it, whatever issue they’re dealing with, your intuition will detect it. What’s important is having the capacity to embrace your craziness, come to terms with it, understand it and learn how to control it because despite its ability to ruin your mindset. It has its purposes, so use it to your advantage.”

—Adam Young, filmmaker, Manchester, UK

Everything’s going to be OK

“I would tell my younger self that it’ll all work out! All the stress and being overwhelmed isn’t worth it. My mom told me once that three bad things may come down the path, but two always fall in the ditch. It took me many years to finally understand that! But it’s the truth. Somehow it all works out.”

—Sharon Torrence Jones, Ed.D., computer science/technology educator, Charlotte, NC

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