When I look back at my younger self I feel great appreciation for her courage and determination. Life gave her many obstacles to overcome. Some were of her own making, some beyond her control, others thrown into her path by well-meaning (and not so well-meaning) people. I would tell her that setbacks, delays and heartbreaks are more than offset by the wisdom she will gain from her experiences. To make her journey more enjoyable I would add four pieces of advice.
It’s tempting to believe someone out there has the answers, an authority figure that can show you the way. There are experts who can give you direction, techniques, know-how and the benefit of their experiences. But true authority resides within you, the instinct that warns you when you are in danger, and when you are on the right track. Take time to think before you make decisions. Gather all the information you need, and then act. Whatever happens, have no regrets. Whatever mistakes you make, you will learn from them.
Do Your Best (But Not Always)
Trying to do your best all the time is bound to lead to frustration and anger. The only person you have to please is yourself, so balance your desire to achieve with having fun. And be selective about your time. Excellence requires focus. Take a break when you feel overwhelmed, talk with someone who can encourage you to persevere through self-doubt and fears. Mediocrity is easy, which is why there is so much of it. Reaching your full potential requires that you forgo shortcuts, no matter how appealing they seem at the time. The wrong choice is always easy at first, and then it gets difficult. The right choice is difficult at first, and then it not only gets easy, it’s exhilarating.
Take Good Care of Yourself
Your body is the vehicle for your soul. Treat your body with affection. Exercise. Sleep. Eat moderately. Don’t say yes when you need to say no to what is not good for you. If you do give in, correct quickly. Don’t block your emotions with food, alcohol, drugs or entanglement with people who sap your energy. When you overextend, retreat to recharge, without feeling guilty. Feel and express your anger before it festers into resentment. Otherwise, you will develop chronic bodily ailments no doctor can cure.
Negativity is no match for humor. When you can laugh at worst-case scenarios, those raging in the outside world as well as inside yourself, you will be immune to others’ gloom and doom predictions. Tune out those who do everything except look inside for the source of their problems. When you are criticized, consider the critic. Instead of assuming they are right and you are wrong, ask yourself if he or she has achieved what you are trying to do. Does this person want the best for you? Or are they secretly envious? How you feel after you are around people will tell you who is a true ally.
Develop a Spiritual Life
There are many paths to God. Find the one that enlarges your spirit. Meditate, pray, and be open to what life is teaching you. You are here to become who you were designed to be. Have compassion for the struggle that is part of the human condition, your own as well as others. Learn from those whose lives demonstrate the truth of what they say. Ignore the rest. Most of all appreciate and love you.
Funny thing is, this is the advice I’d give myself today.
Originally published at medium.com