Whenever I hear someone say, “if only I knew this when I was younger,” it makes me cringe. Why, in the 21st century, should anyone ever have to say that?
Why do we continue to struggle and learn the hard way when we have access to all the life tips and tools we could ever need thanks to technology? We have the ability to seek out wonderful mentors and coaches, learn from powerful thought leaders, and gather knowledge from incredibly successful people who inspire us.
Hindsight can be a wonderful thing, but we should also be proactive in seeking out those wise and fruitful nuggets of counsel that can help us establish an enriching and powerful way of life.
Here are five useful pieces of advice we should all know and be passing down to the younger generation:
1. Other People’s Opinions Are None of Your Business
“Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it’s a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands.” – Dr. Brené Brown
Researcher Brené Brown’s TED talk on The Power of Vulnerability has been viewed and shared by millions of people around the world. In her influential speech, she states vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.
She says that to be great, we must let go of our need to appear perfect, no matter how scary or uncomfortable it feels. If we stop worrying about people judging us and focus our energy on reaching our full potential, it will open up a cavern of endless possibilities.
Should you encounter a failing, remember it is not a reflection of you as a person. It is a re-routing or a temporary result. A setback does not mean you are undeserving or lack capability, nor does it preclude success on your next try.
She also impassions that we come into this world entirely worthy. It is everyone’s natural entitlement, not a merit inseparably bound to whatever individual effort we are making at that moment. With this in mind, we can daringly pursue our goals. We do not need to chase our significance or fear losing it.
Believing with a deep and unadulterated conviction that we are born both worthy and capable, no matter what anyone says, is incredibly empowering and an essential state of mind for victory. This is true whether we are preparing for college, at the beginning of our careers, or striving for new levels of accomplishment.
When Brene was suffering from harsh criticism and insults in response to her own act of vulnerability, it was Theodore Roosevelt’s wise words that made everything crystal clear and shifted her perspective. She is no longer interested in the opinion of the people playing it safe in the stands, and you shouldn’t be either.
2. Thoughts Are Not Facts
“You live most of your life inside your head. Make sure it’s a nice place to be.” – Unknown
Self-criticism can cause a very distressing conflict between mind and emotion. It can take place in different forms and seamlessly sneaks into your life, scattering negative sentiments like fear, shame, and guilt.
This unwelcome inner critic threatens, “you are going to fail;” monitors weaknesses or mistakes, “you messed this up again;” commands, “you should stop acting like a fool;” and judges, “you don’t look good.”
But here’s the thing: thoughts are not facts. When you are engaging in disparaging self-talk, ask yourself whether what you are saying is true. Many times we are amplifying ideas and concepts that aren’t true.
Often, that voice in your head is a little gremlin planted by someone else in your life, typically during your childhood. Always remember, those seeds of self-doubt can only impact you if you let them. We may not be able to silence those mental murmurings entirely, but we can be aware of them when they are happening and, in turn, determine how they will affect us.
Even if there is some truth to what the inner critic is saying, there is no need to be cruel to yourself. Shift to a kinder tone in your head and use the feedback in a more motivating and constructive way. Ask yourself: How would you say what you are thinking to a child or someone else you love?
Changing critical self-talk can be a challenge, but with practice, it can be done. Being mindful throughout the day is key.
3. Taking Care of Yourself is Productive
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” –Anne Lamott
Do you spend time each day practicing self-care? If not, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to improve your happiness and productivity. Neglecting to tend to yourself can result in more stress, increased fatigue, and potentially life-threatening physical and mental health problems.
Working ourselves to exhaustion may be celebrated in this fast-paced world. But to reach peak levels of success in a sustainable way, personal wellness must be one of your top priorities. When you are scheduling your busy week, you must be sure to reserve downtime to relax and recharge as well.
Do not fall victim to the false perception that working until you collapse, or have no personal life, means you are more committed to your job. That’s a lie we have been embracing for far too long and it’s incredibly destructive.
4. Self-Criticism is Harmful for Your Health
“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” – Jack Kornfield
Whenever we engage in self-deprecating thought we activate our sympathetic nervous systems fight-flight response. Our brain sends signals that increase blood pressure, adrenaline, and cortisol, which mobilizes the strength and energy needed to confront or avoid a threat. Although this flow was designed by evolution to deal with physical attacks, it is triggered just as readily by emotional strikes, including those that are self-inflicted. We are the attacker and the attacked. Why would we ever want to do that to ourselves?
On the other hand, when we soothe our painful feelings with self-compassion, not only are we changing our mental and emotional experience, but we’re also shifting our body chemistry.
Research shows that self-compassion is a powerful prompt for the release of oxytocin. High levels of oxytocin increase feelings of calm and safety, which lowers our levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Making us feel better and allowing the body to operate at a more optimum and healthy level.
So, the next time you are about to beat yourself up for something that went wrong, or for simply not being perfect, remind yourself your thoughts are having a physiological impact on your mind and body.
Choosing kindness and compassion towards yourself will make you happier, healthier, and more resilient.
5. Do What Lights You Up Inside
People think they will feel fulfilled when they check off their life to-do list: getting married, having kids, buying a certain house, getting a particular car, having a specific title, or reaching a particular profit level in business. But happiness doesn’t come from money and success. There are many people of great wealth and fame in the world who are malcontent and remain in constant search of their joy. It’s the people who apply their gifts and talents to what lights them up inside that truly shine and make an impact on the world.
We must stop focusing so much on what we need to do or want to have and concentrate more on how we want to feel. That is the path to a full and truly abundant life.
Always remember, the person you aspire to be is available to you if you believe in yourself, work hard, and let go of the need for approval and accolades from others. Follow your passion with bold and brave determination, and don’t let any failures slow you down. We all have the capacity for greatness, so get in the arena and fight for the life you want and deserve. And don’t forget to share the wisdom you acquire along the way.