They say hindsight is 20/20.
Now that I’ve reached a certain age, I finally understand what this means.
I’ve stumbled through life and made a lot of mistakes, but I’m lucky enough to have learned from them. It wasn’t always easy, but I’ve done my best to live life to the fullest, minimize damage from bad decisions, and accept myself for who I am.
Throughout the process, I’ve learned many important life lessons, and I’m that much better for it. If you want to thrive in your 20’s and beyond, take the following advice to heart.
1. Travel as Much as Possible
Creating memories and enjoying experiences is far more valuable than collecting things. Before you get locked down with marriage, kids, and a demanding career, set aside some time to explore the world.
Learn how to travel on a budget and dedicate a portion of every paycheck to supporting your excursions. Instead of focusing on the destination, enjoy the journey. Go off the beaten path, spend time with the locals, and immerse yourself in the culture.
2. Don’t Accept Bad Behavior
In dating and friendship, refuse to accept behavior you’re not willing to deal with for the rest of your life.
If he’s not returning your calls, drinking too much, or ignoring your needs, don’t be foolish enough to think it’s going to get better. If your friend talks behind your back, doesn’t support you, or tries to crush your dreams, run away as fast as you can.
Behaviors you allow early in a relationship will only get worse as the years go by. It’s true that people can sometimes modify their behavior, but a permanent change is very rare. Don’t bet your life’s happiness on it.
3. Take Care of Your Skin
By the time you realize your skin is aging, it will be too late. Put some effort into taking care of your skin while you’re young and it will pay off for the rest of your life.
Take off your makeup and wash your face every night. Exfoliate and moisturize. Wear sunscreen, even if you’re not planning to spend the day at the beach. Trust me, your future self will thank you.
4. Cook Your Own Meals
Cooking your own meals might seem like too much effort right now, especially if you’re single, but learning how to cook is an investment in yourself that will pay off throughout your lifetime.
Not only will cooking at home save you money, it will help you keep the pounds off as you get older. You may think you’ll always be able to down cheeseburgers without a second thought, but unfortunately, that’s usually not the case. Start this healthy habit now, and you’ll be less likely to struggle with your weight when you get older.
5. Choose Your Career Wisely
Money is not as important as you think. Don’t sacrifice yourself to a career that will suck the life out of you and make you miserable.
Does your job excite you and make you feel fulfilled? Do you love it so much that you would continue to do it even if you didn’t get paid for it? If not, then it’s time for a change. Don’t settle. Keep trying new things until you’re truly happy.
6. Save As Much as You Can and Stay Out of Debt
Being in debt makes you a slave to your current circumstances. It creates unnecessary stress and significantly limits your life options. Do everything you can to avoid owing money. Live within your means, stick to a budget, and pay off your credit cards every month.
Put at least ten percent of everything you make into an emergency fund. Saving up a comfortable cushion gives you the freedom to make choices that many people don’t have.
7. Stay in Touch with Your Family
There are lots of reasons why we lose touch with family members. Sometimes we just get busy and forget. Other times, we get sick of their incessant nagging, annoying drama, or other perceived flaws. We choose to avoid reaching out because it’s inconvenient or uncomfortable.
The truth is, life is short, and tomorrow is never guaranteed. So pick up the phone, send an email, or just show up at their door. Even if it’s difficult now, someday you’ll be glad you did.
8. Know When to Let Go
Although family and friendships are important, you must also know when to draw the line. If the people in your life are constantly bringing you down, speak up about it. If they refuse to listen, remove yourself from the situation before the damage gets worse.
Taking a step away doesn’t mean you can’t ever reconnect. In fact, it’s often the first step towards re-establishing a healthy adult relationship. Asserting yourself confidently may be enough to make people take notice and start giving you the respect you deserve.
9. It’s Okay Not to Want Kids
Not everybody shares the dream of having a pristine home with a white picket fence and 2.5 children. If you’ve been bitten by wanderlust, prefer to focus on your career, or just find kids annoying, that’s perfectly okay.
Don’t listen to people who try to convince you that you’ll change your mind, and don’t let society make you feel like there’s something wrong with you.
10. Stop Trying to be Something You’re Not
If you feel different from the rest of the world, don’t assume there’s something wrong with you. Do some research. Talk to people. Explore your feelings to see if there’s an explanation.
If you have an introvert personality, social anxiety, or other issues, don’t make the mistake of wasting years of your life with unnecessary struggle. Instead, acknowledge your differences and develop coping mechanisms. This is the best way to lead a successful life while still honoring your true self.
11. Learn to Enjoy Spending Time Alone
There will be plenty of times in your life when you are alone, either by choice or by circumstance. Learning how to enjoy yourself without company will help you feel less isolated when that time comes.
Try to find a hobby you can do by yourself like writing, painting, gardening, hiking, or yoga. Tap into your creative energies and learn to enjoy the peacefulness of solitude.
12. Journal Every Day
Journaling is the gateway to your soul. Spend some time every day pouring out your thoughts and exploring your subconscious.
Don’t destroy your journals, even if they represent a time of discomfort. Instead, keep them in a safe place so you can revisit them in the future. These deepest thoughts will help you see the light when you need it the most and keep you from forgetting the important life lessons buried inside.
13. When in Doubt, Make the Effort
It’s always better to go the extra mile. Stop and pick up those flowers for a friend. Wear the nicer outfit. Leave a couple extra dollars for your server or bartender.
Very rarely will you look back on a situation and wish you had done less. Even if things don’t work out, you’ll have the comfort of knowing you’ve done your best to leave this world a little better than you found it.