1. View your everyday life as an adventure; don’t see adventure as something that can only happen in a foreign place.
Over the summer I had the opportunity to go abroad for the first time and it was every bit the adventure I dreamed it would be. The one thing I learned, however, was that I had to actively seek out my adventures in order to have them. Setting foot in Europe, Asia, or wherever you dream of going doesn’t automatically make it an adventure; you have to be the one to set out new people, travel to the sights you want to see, take a risk you didn’t intend on taking, spend a night in a tiny hostel with 11 strangers, and see where you end up. When I came home, my taste for adventure was so high that I started to live in my hometown as if I hadn’t lived there my whole life, and it made every day so much more fun. I found new hikes, tried new restaurants, and sat in my backyard to watch the sunset instead of watching TV. Your desire to leave where you are should never be stronger than your desire to live the way you want to live wherever you’re currently at. Things don’t magically get better or more exciting with a change in location — it begins and ends with a change in your perspective.
2. Make a conscious effort to leave the past behind.
It is so easy when life gets difficult, unpredictable, and unstable to let yourself soak in memories of a time you thought you were much happier. Whether you’re romanticizing a former relationship, your freshman year of college when all you did was drink and sleep in, or a time where you found the most success in your career, letting yourself be consumed by your memories keeps you from making your present as wonderful as it has the potential to be. Tell yourself every morning — or as often as you need to — that it is time to look forward. Replace memories of the past with hopes for your future, stop yourself from looking at old photos or calling old friends/significant others who no longer have a place in your life, and keep yourself busy by making plans, goals, and even shopping lists that are relevant to you right now.
3. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions come your way.
For most of my life (and some days now), whenever I felt too angry or sad, a feeling of extraordinary guilt would begin to take over me. The fact is that a lot of people label their emotions as being too much, which can instantly make us feel even worse about ourselves. It is better to allow yourself to feel however you’re feeling and work through it rather than reprimand yourself for feeling anything that isn’t “positive.” We are often taught that extreme emotion means that we are being immature or irrational — and yes, sometimes my feelings probably are immature and irrational — but that won’t stop me from feeling them. Give yourself the freedom to be HUMAN and don’t feel like you need to pretend that sadness, anger, jealousy, bitterness, and anxiousness aren’t a part of you as much as happiness, peacefulness, and gratitude are.
4. Embrace the unknown.
A lot of us (and I am especially guilty of this) feel like our lives have to unfold according to a plan we imagined for ourselves, and even before our lives truly start taking shape. This plan usually looks a lot like: school, college, travel, then find a good job, and start a family. If you deviate from that plan, there’s a possibility people will look down on you. Even if you follow it, but aren’t quite on the same timeline as most others, you still tend to be looked down on.
Choosing to embrace your life as it comes and to make choices that feel right to you is just as important as it is terrifying. But it is also one of the only ways to achieve true happiness (in my opinion). As soon as you stop pressuring yourself to get married by a certain age or about finding a financially secure job right out of college, you’ll have the freedom to live according to your own definition of happiness. And it will probably be much lovelier than anything you could have ever planned.