Hindsight is a funny thing—it can teach you valuable life lessons or fill you with regret. The question is what are you going to do with the benefit of hindsight? If you draw lessons from experiences that have happened and take notes to self, hindsight can empower you to face the future.
Here are ten things many people wish they understood when they were younger.
1. You need to live your life for yourself (not others)
Many young people live their lives to please others. They pursue careers, start businesses and even pick marriage partners to please their parents, friends, spouses and even kids only to realize later on in life that was a big mistake. Back out of people’s plans for you and run away from dreams that aren’t your own. You only have one life to live. Live it in the most meaningful way for you.
2. Your work can make you truly satisfied or truly miserable
Steve Jobs explained it best when he said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” The sooner you understand this fact the better. It becomes increasingly harder and complicated to switch careers as you grow older.
3. Your education is always a good choice—whatever form it takes
Although formal education is often looked down upon by young people, many people who have lived through their youth wish they would have either gone to or stuck to college. One such woman laments, “Why, oh why did I not finish college and have a real career? I am 55 and qualified to do absolutely nothing. Just always thought something will come along. Now I will struggle to pay bills the rest of my life and will never retire. I caution my girls, 17 and 16 to work hard and value their education.
Whether it’s to land you the career of your dreams or to meet people from different walks of life or to learn to see things a little differently, take learning seriously and never stop educating yourself.
4. You really need to marry well, or not at all
There is nothing worse than a bad marriage. It is almost impossible to do well with your life if your marriage isn’t working. That’s what many people say they wish they understood before getting into marriage. They would have done things differently if they knew this earlier—taken time choosing a life partner and not rushed into marriage. Marry well or not at all and it will spare you a lot of agony in the future. Any kids you may have will also be spared a lot of pain in a dysfunctional family.
5. You need to start saving sooner rather than later
Old age catches up on all of us faster than we imagine. Your 30’s, 40’s, 50’s creep on you and before you know it you are in your sunset years. And nothing is as heartbreaking as staring at the bleak reality of your 401K in retirement. You might find yourself counting every nickel and dime you wasted on frivolous expenses in your youth, and it sucks. Start saving now for retirement. No matter how little your income, try to save a small portion of it. Remember, as cheesy as it sounds, a penny saved is a penny earned.
6. You need to cut back on your debt from the start
Many people are burdened by debt and lament that they are forced to take any job they find because they are tied to monthly payments. Their advice is: TRY and incur as LITTLE loan debt as possible. No matter what they tell you, think long and hard before getting a credit card—it’s not free money. And no matter how high the credit limit, you shouldn’t go blow it all on designer duds and a fancy vacation. Developing large debt early limits your options and narrows your choices in life. Debt is slavery.
7. You need to speak your mind and stand up for yourself
Believe it or not, many of the biggest regrets people have in life have to do with not standing up for themselves. People never seem to forget or forgive themselves for being too scared to speak up against bullies. And many of these bullies are in our work places. Maybe it’s a boss that you wish you had told off even if it cost you your job. Speak your mind boldly and confidently in front of others and never be afraid to stand up for yourself. You are your one and only true advocate. Besides, regret is terrible.
8. You shouldn’t worry unnecessarily about what others think about you
Many people, particularly when they are young, place way too much importance on what others think about them, which is unfortunate. They are constantly wondering: What will they think of me? Will they like me? However, people well past their youth offer this advice that they wish they had known in their youth: Take all those worries, tie them all to a balloon and cut it loose because in the end none of that matters. You might think other people’s opinions are crucial to your future success and happiness but that simply isn’t true. Other people’s opinions only affect you when you yourself allow them to.
9. Your travels will provide some of your best memories
Most people stay close to home. They don’t travel all that much. And yet, trips with family, friends or just by yourself to Disney World, to Africa, or even to the lake give you the sweetest moments of life. Traveling offers an opportunity to see the world, experience new cultures and have fun, even when it rains. You really remember trips so travel more often when you are young, advice people who have traveled a little more and lived a little longer. It’s the stuff that memories are made of later in life.
10. Your health is a priority
Many people tend to take their health for granted when everything is okay and only acknowledge it when things go wrong. Sadly, this is one of the main reasons many people find themselves incapacitated because of their health—a problem that could have been avoided had they taken their health seriously. Adopt healthy habits now that lead to a long life where you’re healthy enough to do everything you want to do, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Also, break bad habits like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Bad lifestyle habits have ruined more lives than most other causes.
What other things can you add that you wish you understood when you were younger?