This is it. The big 25.
After years of thinking that 2016 is beyond light years away, ah, well, it has finally arrived. I am about to be a quarter century old, and to be quite frank, it’s kind of nerve-wracking! Suddenly, a million and one questions popped into my head. Have I even done anything remotely impactful or memorable the past 25 years? Have I become the person that I have always wanted to be? How many goals have I realistically checked off each year? And most importantly, what life lessons have I learned these past 25 years?
“Happiness comes out of being willing to do your work in your twenties to find out who you are, what you love.”
– Candace Bushnell
Reflecting what I’ve learned is a wonderful process in itself as I have the opportunity to sit down and experience everything that has happened, but in hindsight. After all, your hindsight is always 20/20. I know that I still have so much to learn, but here are 25 life lessons that I’ve realized thus far, and I hope some of them resonate with you too. We all have our own ways of experiencing and discovering our potential, so I hope you take the time to reflect on yours.
#1: Choose Happiness
Similar to most, I try to find happiness in work, in people, in school, or in moments. I was under the impression that if I find happiness in all those places, that I’d ultimately be satisfied in life.
I was wrong.
Happiness truly comes within yourself, and it is a never ending journey of self-discovery. Sure, your friends and your career play a huge role in your life, but they are ever changing. We have to truly look deep within ourselves and conquer those dark places we fear the most. It’s at those places where we will discover our inner strength and a path of freedom. When we achieve happiness, we reach a peak point where we are the most content with every aspect of our lives. It’s where our inner peace co-exists. When we are happy, our perspective on life is rich with endless possibilities. So many people had the happiness formula wrong, myself included. We are under the influence that if we attain certain goals, we will then be happy. We live in a state of ‘becoming’ happy rather than being happy. It is, in fact, the opposite. Happiness shouldn’t be perceived as a goal, but rather a lifestyle. Happiness is the stillness that exists within energy and movement. It is a state of mind and can be the fuel to help you become a better version of you.
Choose happiness over everything else, and I promise you that everything will fall into place the way it’s supposed to.
I highly encourage everyone to read The Desire Map by Danielle Laporte if you haven’t already! It’s a worthwhile read for anyone who’s looking to do a little bit of soul-searching. I’m far from reaching my peak, but I’m slowly inching there on my own.
#2: Eventually Never Happens
When we are young, we need to realize that our greatest asset is time. We constantly put things off thinking we have more time, but that is the biggest lie we are telling ourselves. As we grow older, there’s a higher risk of us not wanting to do what our hearts desire because there are other factors we need to consider: A significant other, a salary, mortgage, kids… the list goes on. I, for one, have always been very cautious of what I can do and what I should do. It mostly has a lot to do with my parents and how I was brought up. There have been so many instances where I wish I could have taken a stand and done what I wanted to do… but I didn’t. Instead, I put it off thinking that there will be more time in the future for all that. Don’t make that same mistake.
We are only young once! Buy that pair of shoes. Go take that 6 month long trip after graduation. Take the job that you want instead of the one that pays more.
Our time is NOW.
I’d rather regret the things I have done than the things that I haven’t.
#3: Be Comfortable With Yourself
I have always been known to be surrounded by people. I enjoy socializing with everyone and anyone, and I would feel out of place if I wasn’t. It wasn’t until this year where I moved into my own bachelorette pad where I realized the importance of being comfortable with yourself. By actually spending time alone, I started learning who I am as a person beyond what I do, who I hang out with, and what I wear. I began to notice my habits more intricately. I began to learn to cope with my pet peeves and my rainy days. I began peeling back all those layers and falling in love with myself the way I was supposed to.
Who are you when nobody is watching?
#4: Learn To Say No
90% of the time, I would say yes over no. Why? Because it was easier for me. I say yes because I constantly think that I’ll be able to handle it. That’s the planner in me, perhaps, thinking that if I can logistically schedule everything, then I would be able to accomplish it. Not to mention, I was also a big people pleaser. I love helping people and I hate disappointing people. You can only imagine the added amount of stress I can create for myself sometimes…
Now, I have learned that I have to be a bit selfish. My time is valuable, and I should be saying yes to things I want to do, or things that are beneficial for my well-being. Soon after realizing that, I started to evaluate my schedule and within myself to know when to say “yes” and when to say “no”.
- Don’t fear the “no”. It might be two letters, but it has a powerful impact in the human language and can also be profoundly liberating. Saying “no” is your own personal battle shield for deflecting distractions and staying true to yourself.
#5: Live The Experimental Life
I love to experiment. Whether it be sampling food, testing out ideas, or saying yes to something uncertain, I love being adventurous to the unknown. When you treat life more as an experiment, you discover a whole new world that’s completely unexplored. To me, experimenting is an attempt to live life more vigorously and passionately. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, but it allows you to try new things and pushes you out of your comfort zone. After all, as cliche as it sounds, you only get one life, make it count.
Some things that I experimented with the past 6 months:
- 30 Days Hot Yoga Challenge
- Setting my alarm for 6:30am everyday
- No bread!
- Reading a book once a month
- Speaking what’s on my mind
#6: Nothing Happens The Way You Want It To
If you have lived a life where everything goes accordingly as planned, you must be either dreaming or delusional. Being a planner, I like to be in control. I’d envision a specific way an event or situation would unravel, then I would be highly disappointed if that outcome is different than my vision. It’s actually kind of ridiculous how much time I spend imagining the end goal when it serves no purpose to me. Now, I’m slowly learning to let go of all those little details and rather focus on the big picture.
Word of advice: Stop being so fixated on the outcome, instead focus more so on the journey.
#7: Take Care Of Yourself
This one is a no-brainer, but it needs to be said. Get to know what your body needs in order to be the healthiest you can be. Be conscious of what you are putting in your body, and find an exercise or sport you enjoy to let go and sweat it out.
I graduated university with a pretty unhealthy mindset. I’ll admit it right now: I wasn’t eating that healthy, I drank frequently, I barely went to the gym, and I focused on everybody else but myself. Over the past couple years, I decided that it was time to snap out of my routine and to grow up. By all means, I don’t regret my university years, but I knew that chapter was slowly coming to an end and that it was time for me to start writing a new one. So I began buying more groceries instead of eating out. I applied for a post-graduate program that I was interested in. I started to read again for my own personal enjoyment. I designed a daily ritual for myself that I attempt to follow every day. All in all, I started focusing on me.
You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.
#8: Put Yourself In Someone Else’s Shoes
None of us are in the position to judge anyone unless we have been in their shoes. Nobody. So don’t do it.
#9: Less Is More
This philosophy has been growing me for quite some time now, and it has been a harder one for me to grasp. I’ve always been a collector of souvenirs, and I tend to get involved with one too many things at once.
Having a lower quantity allows more time to focus on quality. That being said, this is applicable to people and things. I’ve learned this past year to prioritize more the tasks I want to accomplish and the people I want to surround myself with. By cutting out the excess, I have slowly begun to free up my schedule to relax and focus on my personal growth. By simplifying my life, I am slowly helping to clear the clutter in my head and finding gratitude in the little things.
#10: It’s OK To Be Single
For those who have known me for quite some time now, you’d know that I was in a pretty unhealthy relationship a few years ago. There was a brief period of time afterward where I lost myself trying to be someone else’s version of perfect. I would find myself with the wrong people or situations desperately trying to repair and recreate this perfect fantasy in my head with some perfect person. I was naive and heartbroken, but it was because of this specific relationship where I now learned that it’s OK being single.
That relationship consumed me wholeheartedly. It was passionate, yet it was manipulative. It taught me what love and sacrifice were. It brought out the best in me, but it also brought out my demons. It was a brewing storm waiting to happen, and it did. It rained for a long time, and now I’m finally slowly seeing the sun for the first time from spending a lot of time by myself. I’ll be honest, there are times where I do get lonely or feel defeated, but it doesn’t mean that my faith in love was gone. I learned a lot about myself in that relationship and I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world despite the catastrophe that it was, and now I’m simply going to continue doing me until the right person comes along.
Don’t chase people. Be yourself, do your own thing and work hard. The right people, the ones who really belong in your life, will come to you. And stay.
I could write down a hundred and one reasons as to why you should take the time to travel when you are young. Here’s a few:
- Travelling lets your explore your creativity
- Travelling allows you to meet other people from different cultures and parts of the world
- Travelling empowers you to take on new challenges
- Travelling humbles you enough to let you realize it’s not all about you
- Travelling expands your educational horizons
- Travelling pushes you out of your comfort zone
- Travelling opens your eyes and broadens your perspectives
The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.
#12: Invest In People Who Invest In You
Anyone who doesn’t view you as an investment has no value to you. Your energy is a valuable currency. Don’t spend it on people who will drain you, instead, spend it on people who will challenge and lift you.
#13: It’s Not What You Said, But How You Said It
Communication is such a vital part of human interaction. The language, the tone, the attitude – they all matter when you are conveying a message to one another.
When I attended a leadership camp when I was younger, a quote stuck by me. He said, “Treat others how you want to be treated”, and since then, I would think twice before I speak. Words have such a big impact on us, and it’s so important to keep in mind how we word specific things. No matter how frustrating a situation is, there is always a nicer way to voice something aloud. Use that to your advantage and be the bigger person. Not only has this helped calm my nerves, but it has also strengthened my relationships.
#14: Your Career Doesn’t Define Who You Are
Sure, your career is a big part of who you are and what you do during your day, but by no means does it define the person that you are. It may contribute a small part as to who you are as a person, but keep in mind that careers change all the time. Your character don’t, and THAT is what defines you.
We, as a society, need to learn to see the value in others for who they are, not what they do. As long as you are doing something that makes you happy, you are successful in my eyes.
I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as making a ‘life.
#15: Learn To Ask For Help
Knowing when and how to ask for help is the greatest lesson you can learn throughout your life. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak but rather the opposite. It’s important to know not to let pride or fear get in the way of that.
I used to think asking for help would make me feel incompetent or annoying, so I would avoid asking anyone unless I was down to my last resort. I can’t tell you how much time or resource I have wasted doing that. Now, I’ve learned that not only do I save so much more time, but it has also helped strengthens my relationships with family, friends, colleagues, and strangers. We are surrounded by people who would love to lend an ear, a hug, or a little advice. All we have to do is ask.
#16: Take A Stand
Stand up for yourself. If something is making up feel unhappy, fix it. You are the only person that are capable of doing so, nobody else. Stand up for yourself and speak up that brilliant mind of yours!
#17: Failure Is A Good Thing
Failure is a necessity in life. When we fail, we learn. We learn to be better, smarter, and stronger. It helps strip down our ego and mold us to become someone better. If you try to go through life without failing at all, then you aren’t living your life at all.
It’s through failure that we learn the greatest lessons that life could teach us.
In order to succeed, you need to fail first.
#18: Ask For What You Want
In life, if we don’t ask for what we want, we will never get it. It’s as simple as that. I am slowly learning to swallow my pride and my fear of rejection every day by asking for what I want in order to advance in various aspects of my life. And to tell you the truth, the outcome has been nothing short of amazing. Sure, there has been a few bumps along the road and I can’t expect to get a positive response 100% of the time, but it truly is surreal how much you can get by just asking a simple question.
We, as humans, are prone to give. We love to help others out the best way possible. So use that to your advantage and just ask.
#19: Find A Hobby
We are the most creative when we are young. Instead of spending all your free time watching Netflix, focus your energy on doing something you love! Whether that be an activity from your childhood or trying something new, a hobby can be a great way to clear your mind, ignite creativity, and even foster new social connections. Not to mention, they also add layers to your identity and help define the person that you are looking to become.
A couple years ago, I wasn’t exactly certain of what I want to do, or what my interests really are. Luckily, being surrounded by such a supportive circle of friends who constantly push me to strive for better really encouraged me to think outside the box.
- I never thought I was a good writer (and tbh, I still don’t), but I decided to commit to it short-term to see how I like it. So I bought a domain and picked a theme I liked, and started writing once a week. 6 months later, I’m still here. Some weeks are harder to get inspired, but I’d like to think I really surprised myself taking this challenge up.
- I’ve always had an interest in volunteering with a non-profit or charity, so I really took it upon myself the past few years to discover which niche I am the most interested in. Right now, I can proudly say that I am a board member with an organization called Lit Without Limits, and am also slowly working on creating my own empowerment organization with two of my best friends.
#20: You Can’t Please Everyone
No matter what hard you try, there is absolutely no possible way to make everyone happy. Do what is right or what makes you feel happy because that’s what matters the most.
You can’t please everyone. You aren’t pizza.
#21: Trust Your Instincts
No, seriously. Your gut knows best. Don’t question it and just go with it.
#22: Laughter Is The Best Medicine
Instead of moping around when I’m sad, I have developed a tendency to find a way to make myself laugh, even if it’s just for a short period of time. Whether that be watching a funny Youtube video or reading an Archie’s comic book, there seriously is no better medicine than laughter (and great friends).
#23: Prioritize Yourself
Choose yourself over anyone else. Write down your goals and find a way to achieve them. Don’t spend your life serving someone else before serving yourself.
You are the driver of your own life, Don’t let anyone steal your seat.
#24: Fake It Till You Make It
None of us really know what we are doing in our twenties (believe me, I sure don’t)! The catch is to just go for it even if you aren’t sure what the next step is or what the outcome might be. Take it one step at a time, and eventually, you will get to where you need to be.
You don’t need to have all the answers to begin.
#25: Let Go and Move On
Being emotional by nature, one of the biggest challenges I face is the inability to move on. There are times where I hold onto people, sentimental items, memories, or even grudges when they no longer serve a purpose for me. I do it because I find it harder to let go, which is sometimes one of my biggest downfalls. This is a mantra I’m still struggling to overcome, but I am working on it bit by bit every day.
Happy Birthday to me eh? It has been a fantastic 24 years, and I’m excited to see what this upcoming year brings. For me, this year is all about change, and I can’t wait to get started!
What’s the most important lesson you have learned?