I love posing questions to the community that has sprung up around my Facebook page, and a while ago I asked what single piece of advice they would give a 20-year-old on how to live the best life possible. I was deluged with dozens of wise responses from people all over the world and will share ten of my favorites with you here, along with my thoughts on each.
1) Don’t sweat the stuff that you have no control over. —Karen E.
This reminds me of the Serenity Prayer: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
I recently coached a client about her frequent reactions to things she couldn’t control. Someone would do something that upset her and she’d fume for the entire day, spending huge amounts of precious energy and wondering why life felt so exhausting. Spend your mental and emotional energy very carefully, saving it for things that really matter and focusing on aspects of your life and relationships that you can actually influence.
2) Learn people skills. Above all the dreams and education, how you relate to and understand other people is THE most important asset you can attain. —Tara B.
I wholeheartedly agree, as an introvert who is also highly sensitive I find this area of life hard. I find it challenging to express myself when it comes to difficult conversations and placing boundaries, and most of my life I have been way too optimistic (or naive) when people have shown me their true colors.
Read respected books on relationships, seek to understand what healthy boundaries look like, develop your communication skills and aim to understand others. Get in-person help from experts when you run into difficulties with other people, they will teach you things about yourself and your relationships that you might never realize on your own.
3) Never put your self-worth in anyone else’s hands. —Ramona T.
This is beautiful. Many of the people I coach have low self-esteem and a lack of confidence, usually because of incorrect or hurtful things they’ve been told by others in their lives. A good exercise to do is to write out the negative beliefs you have about yourself. Ask yourself whether each belief is actually true and try to figure out where you learned it. What you discover might surprise you!
4) Live below your means. —Paula D.
I am still working on this one, I was given a huge line of credit as a 22-year-old starting medical school and it really messed up my concept of cash flow (and delayed gratification). You will save yourself much grief and stress and enjoy much more freedom in your life if you follow this one strictly, no matter how much credit is available to you.
5) Always keep a part of your life in service to your fellow man. It is not all about you. —Gina P.
One of my favorite things about happiness research is that it repeatedly reveals that our greatest fulfillment comes from blessing and helping others. If things aren’t going well in your life, reaching out to help or connect with someone else who needs an emotional lift will make you feel better (and is proven to boost your health, too).
6) Don’t listen to anyone else’s opinion of what you should do with your own life. That includes your parents. Listen to your heart! —Craig S.
My life wasn’t really my own and wasn’t very fulfilling until I finally stopped doing what others told me would be best for me. Parents and others who tell you what to do are generally well-meaning but are motivated primarily by security, they want to see you make “safe” choices. By all means be wise in your choices as you make them, but learn to listen to what your heart knows is best for your life. If I had listened to everybody who thought it was nuts to pursue dancing and writing after becoming a doctor, I wouldn’t be here writing to you right now. Following my heart gave me the life I have now, it still amazes me to this day.
7) Be true to yourself and do not follow the crowd. —Stephanie B.
This is such great advice. It’s hard not to follow the crowd; it can feel really lonely. Most of my life I felt like I didn’t fit in. That is, until I started pursuing my true passions and doing what called to me, even if it was light years from the path of a typical doctor. The more I became me, the more people like me that I met. Before I knew it I’d discovered a new crowd (scattered worldwide) who didn’t expect me to follow any set of conforming rules to belong—they just wanted to hang out with the real me. That is a fantastic feeling.
8) Life changes, be adaptable and enjoy the process. —Mayra L.
Life is full of unexpected turns, many of which seem unfair and even devastating. Learn to trust that there is an inherent wisdom and purpose to all that happens, even when it’s the last thing you expected or wanted. Go with what the current season demands of you and grow with it, it will equip you in ways you never expected and often you’ll find that the new improved you ends up right back on the path to your original dreams. Your dreams weren’t lost, you just needed to become someone new to really make them come true.
9) Love yourself and others enough to courageously follow and live your dreams! —Erin T.
The dreams you have in your heart are there for a reason. Yes, pursuing and experiencing them will bring you much joy personally. Yet I am convinced that the reason why life places specific dreams in our hearts is because we will bless, help and inspire others as we walk that unique path. It was my dream to write books and teach the world about living a happier, healthier life. I have heard so many times now that reading the story of my depression has given someone hope and prevented them from giving up (and in some cases even prevented a suicide). Your dreams matter, don’t die without the world being blessed by what you were made to do and give.
10) Strive for the best, prepare for the worst, and accept each lesson from God as the blessing which will take you to your final destination. —Gina P.
A life well-lived comes out of a curious blend of optimism, practical wisdom and an openness to accepting and facing whatever shows up, good or bad. Sometimes you need to fight what comes against you, sometimes you just need to go with the flow; learning what to do in different situations and seasons is an art you’ll spend your whole life learning. I really do believe that all things we face are blessings in various forms, though we often can’t see the good until much later.
Live your life as it comes, don’t get stuck looking back and don’t look so far forward you miss what’s in front of you now. Enjoy the journey, yours is totally unique on this planet and the way you live it can either inspire or discourage others.
Aim to inspire.