Without character we are nothing. Defining character is a whole other issue because there are always small disconnects, changing opinions and unexpected discoveries. Because it’s personal. Because we are human. Flawed. Capable. Ever changing.
Character and values have played a big part in my life from the time of my eager naïve younger self, to the current more skeptical and slightly less naïve older self. I’ve been through an impressive array of life circumstances, and growing pains. I’m sure this is relatable to anyone living on our planet.
Life will constantly present us with opportunities to find out who we are. How to create happiness. How to deal with disappointment. How to tune in to our inner child and where to find purpose in this fantastically diverse world we are connected too. We don’t know, what we don’t know. The unknown unknowns are waiting. But here are a few pieces of advice I wish I could have imparted on my impressionable younger self.
You Won’t Be Who You Thought You Would Be
You may not be the person you set out to be, and neither will many others. That degree you were into, may now only bore and hinder you in what your true passions are. Those goals that were so important to impress others left you empty to discover how to love yourself. Who you are and who you want to be will change throughout your lifetime and learning to think critically and intentionally about who and what you value most will provide positive inner dialogue. A dialogue you can carry for a lifetime. Who you turn out to be is not something you get to request. It’s not given or owed, it’s learned from growth, change and experience.
Being Kind Even in the Face of Adversity Will Serve You Well
Empathy, kindness and compassion seem to be a rare and endangered species these days. I sometimes wonder when people will return to a focus on intelligence and caring. Life can be bleak. It won’t be all the time, but those times will seem lonely, as if you’re the only one who could possibly feel this way. You aren’t. Seek support before if becomes overwhelming and give support because you know what it feels like. People can be cruel. It won’t be all of them, but those that are, will seem to destroy your life. Act will integrity, and kindness even in the face of cruelty. There is peace and strength in knowing you acted your best through pain and adversity.
Don’t Try to Life Up to Expectations of People Who Throw You Crumbs
It’s not easy to stand up and speak out on what’s important to you, what you deserve, and those you believe in. But it is worth it. It’s harder to stand alone than in a crowd, that’s why so many people follow instead of lead. But those who don’t have your best interest in mind, who make you constantly prove yourself as worthy of them, they breed negativity and smallness. Step away while you can. You deserve better than crumbs. Don’t fall into the self- deceit because others want you to be afraid. Move on for your sake, they already feel small, this is not your path. Inexperience is not an excuse, continue to learn, you’ll understand why later.
There Are Few Things That Are Constant
The sun, the moon and the physics of our world are constant, not much else is. Surrender to this. If you’re here to give your younger self advice you’ve already passed through ongoing change. Change will come in all forms. Your relationships. Your work. You family. Yourself. Forgive yourself for change that was out of your control because you can count of things changing again. Be comfortable with change, it builds skill. In Heraclitus writings he says “The way up and the way down are one and the same. Living and dead, waking and sleeping, young and old, are the same.” Two opposing views and both of them are true. Don’t resist change.
You’ll Regret Not Trying
You may even regret trying. But what’s worse wondering “what if” or knowing something worked out beyond your wildest dreams or you learned an important lesson from failing? That’s where learning happens, and better people (and character) are made. There’s nothing better than imparting wisdom on your younger self than from experience. Trying can mean different things to different people. Maybe’s it’s all in, maybe it’s dipping a toe to test the waters. Don’t only seek information that matches your views. Becoming a slave to confirmation bias narrows experiences. Our neural pathways grow with opposing opinions and critical thought.
You Only Have One Body & Brain Keep Them Healthy
Laying the foundation for a healthy body and brain starts in our younger years. My younger self loved being outdoors, but I never considered anything beyond the occasional gym visit or yoga class. I gave even less thought to my diet, with a steady menu of caffeine, chocolate, wine and beer. That’s a 180 from my current life in the outdoors, as a certified yoga and fitness instructor, eating a heart and brain healthy diet that gives me more energy than a decade prior. Healthy living can be difficult to live up to, but maintaining cognitive, psychological and physical health now and into the future is important to consider now. You’ll thank yourself.
Live a life you care about, and in another few years impart more wisdom on yourself.