Managing 20 years of existence is quite an achievement in my eyes, especially given how clumsy and accident-prone I am. These are a few of the main life lessons I’ve come to integrate into and live by.
1. It’s always worse in your head
I’ve lost many, many hours manifesting situations into bigger problems than they actually are, and thinking people are horrendously upset or disappointed with me over something minor. Yet I’ve found through practice, that talking to people to put situations into perspective can definitely help lower your stress levels.
2. Travel on your own
Being an only child has given me a lot of independence, and has made me grow up a lot faster. A makeshift Jack Kerouac, I seek out adventures by myself; the freedom to travel and explore the way I want to at my own pace. It’s the best time to be selfish, with the biggest reward. You don’t need to wait or rely on anybody. Just go.
3. Priorities matter
How we choose to spend our time reflects both on the kind of person we are and our values in life. This can be based on who we spend our time with, as well as what we spend our time doing. Tim Urban mentions how by the time we leave college, we’ll have used up 90% of the time with our parents. I think that’s pretty insane. Taking some time to really think about how you want to spend your time will reduce how much regret you feel in the future.
4. Support your friends
Support your friends in their life, no matter how big or small the achievement. It’s always nice to know someone is rooting for you and has your back. Listen to their ideas, celebrate their victories, go to their events, buy what they’re selling, remind them of their importance, show your gratitude for their existence in your life, push them to achieve their potential. A little support can go a long way.
5. Give back
To a charity, a person, a society. Anything that you feel has benefitted somebody in some way, deserves some recognition and praise. Buy that homeless person a coffee. Spend some time talking to the people that are raising money for a charity. Volunteer your time for a good cause. It’s not hard to be a good person, it just takes a small selfless act.
6. Don’t be an idiot
Be aware of your surroundings, it always helps to not fall off a chair down a set of stairs. Neither does it help to spray hairspray directly into your eyeball. Or accidentally melt butter lids on the hob of a rented apartment.
Not speaking from experience…
7. Be unapologetically yourself
We are our worst critics; we often wouldn’t speak to our friends the same way we speak to ourselves. It’s something I’m coming to terms with myself, but we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves. Believe in yourself. It’s fact that comparison is the thief of joy, and when this is relayed back on ourselves it really does sap the happiness from our lives. Because the truth is, there’s nobody else like you, and we’re all individually pretty great. Walk your own path, and be yourself.
8. Make lists
I have the worst memory and am constantly reminded of it by all of my friends (whether I ask for it or not). Whether it’s minor like shopping, or something more worthwhile like goals for the future, it’s always good to look back on and remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing.
9. Don’t lose your inner child
We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. By succumbing to the pressures in life and become a little too conscious, you ultimately lose it. Be true to yourself by honouring and embracing your inner child; it’ll bring you more joy in life.
10. Open up
You’re not burdening others with your story. I’ve personally found that they want to hear it, and even more, be there for you.
Confiding in someone, whoever it is, will allow you to open up all the bottled feelings that have been kept in, and will feel like a weight has been lifted from your chest.
11. Don’t assume everyone has their sh*t together
You have no idea what is going on in somebody’s life, and a lot of people have a very strong façade against all their baggage. Harmless judgement and comparison of others seem to have become the norm for people nowadays, and in all honesty, is an easy habit to start. But before you start prejudicially criticising someone, remember they haven’t had the same opportunities and advantages you’ve had in life.
12. Friends come and go, and that’s ok.
You are the average of the 5 people closest to you.
I used to think the friends I made at primary school were the only ones I’d ever want, and have. Right now, I don’t speak to anyone from that far back. It’s the natural cycle of life. You change, they change.
To quote Steve Jobs: ‘Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and thinkers, but most all, surround yourself with those who see greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.’
13. Take photos
Document your life, the good and the bad. I love looking back on periods of my life and how I was living in high school, sixth form, and even throughout the pandemic. It’s a good timeline to see how far you’ve come and progressed, as well as being able to relive the memories of your past.
14. Growth comes from a lot of discomforts
It inevitably defines who we are. It’s uncomfortable, messy, and sometimes a daily battle. Just don’t let your self-doubt become so contagious it creates a barrier between yourself and growth. The worse it gets and the more unhappy we become, will just mean when the time comes we will inevitably shine brighter than before.
15. Time heals
It might feel like things aren’t getting better, and that everything is so overwhelmingly difficult to comprehend, but hold on. It will get better. In months, years, or even decades, it will be easier.
16. It’s ok to not be ok
Social media portrays a rose-tinted reality of life; it can get very overwhelming for people when all they’re seeing are people happy ‘all the time’ and looking their best ‘all the time’. But this is essentially just their highlight reel; a small section of their life being cast out for people to see. Nobody is going to be happy every day of their life, it really is ok to struggle and feel down for however long of a period. Life is hard and will beat people right down, so do not feel like you are the only one in this and are isolated.
17. There’s no mental health without physical health
Taking care of yourself is the biggest form of self-respect, and can start with your physical health. Something as little as going on a walk in the morning and drinking more water can do wonders for your body. You’ll see a noticeable difference in your mindset, sleep, energy levels, and concentration. As someone who’s an avid volleyballer and squash player (and wannabe gym rat), I can vouch for the health experts that preach exercise is vital for your health and wellbeing.
18. Your attitude towards life is important
Attitude is a little thing that can make the biggest difference.
If you seek out negativity, it will most likely find you; your attitude towards life ultimately determines your happiness. It’s the same saying of ‘are you a glass half empty or half full kind of person?’. We can shape our own lives and can recognise opportunities and accomplishments by adopting a positive mindset.
19. Care less about what others think
Your life stops becoming yours the more you start caring what others think. This is personally a big challenge, as the struggle of remembering I don’t have to change or fit in to please people is a constant one. It is essentially overthinking others opinions that waste time that could be spent doing things you love. When you stop seeking approval from strangers, you become more and more empowered. At the end of the day, character is who you are. Reputation is simply what others think of you.
20. Eat that goddamn cake
You don’t want to be on your deathbed reminiscing on all the cake you didn’t let yourself eat. Just do it.