1. Write ‘Thank You’ notes.
Write them for your teachers after you leave the school you’re in, write them after you go on a job, write them after you tour a school for college, write them to people who wouldn’t expect them. In a world full of technology, ‘thank you’ notes make you stand out. However, don’t buy cards that say ‘thank you’ on them. Buy blank cards. Apparently the one’s that already say ‘thank you’ are tacky — unless it’s written in Shakespeare: “Evermore, thanks” is acceptable. Write about what that person did to touch you or help you grow as a person, or in the case of a job interview, thank them for taking time out of their schedule.
2. When you’re invited into somebody’s home, whether that is for a small party or to spend the night, bring a hostess gift!
Chocolate is always acceptable. So is a bottle of wine. No matter what you bring, this is a custom most people don’t still expect, and you will be immediately loved.
3. Stand up straight.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but there is actually a lot more to it than you think. Standing up straight makes you appear more confident to other people because of your body language. Slouching makes you look like you want to crawl into a hole. Don’t do it. I’m just as guilty as you are.
4. “You can’t keep going back to the thing that is causing you pain for relief.”
This was said to me during what was probably the worst break-up of my life thus far. It rings true not only for that, but also for other relationships in your life. If somebody is causing you pain, you need to either fix that or weed the person out of your life. When I say, “fix that” I don’t mean spend four months trying to get them to change. I mean try twice and then be done with it. Some people don’t want to change, and that’s just fine, but you need to get away.
5. Weed out the people who you no longer have functional friendships with.
I don’t mean the people who you talk to once every few months and will always remain close to, but the ones who are talking behind your back or only call you when they need you for something like moving. Friendship is a two way street, and both people need to be putting in the effort to care about the other person. If somebody doesn’t make you feel good about yourself by doing things like putting you down, you don’t need that negativity in your life!
6. Don’t be afraid of those people who are different from you.
This doesn’t just go for personality, but race, sexual preference, political views, and more. Make friends with people who are different from you. If your views are so strong that you’d probably start yelling at one another if you spoke about them, just don’t discuss them! One of my best friend’s and I have opposite, quite extreme views on abortion, but we choose not to discuss them with one another because we know that we wouldn’t get anywhere. Be friends with people who challenge you to be a greater person. Be friends with people who make you question who you are. Be friends with people who are different.
7. Follow your instincts.
Your gut will always be your best form of judgment. I once read a book called The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker. The man is brilliant. He teaches you about how trusting your instincts can not only be good for your mental health but could also save your life. If a part of you says something is wrong, don’t do it, even if your heart is screaming for otherwise.
8. Don’t be afraid to take the path less traveled.
I recently decided that I was going to take a year off college to do other things. College at this very moment isn’t for me, and that’s okay. I’d be lying if it wasn’t the most terrifying thing I’ve ever chosen to do, because I love learning and my identity as a student, but I know that this is the right thing for me at this moment in time. When something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to look for solutions that wouldn’t be typical. With that, also don’t be afraid to boldly look others in the face and tell them you’re doing things your way. Say “I respect your opinion, but this is what I need right now.” If they have issues with it, so be it. This is a part of growing up. At some point you need to start making your own decisions.
9. Once a year, clean out your entire closet.
Look at all of your clothes and make three piles: “To Give Away,” “Trash,” and “To Keep.” When you run into clothes that you associate memories to but which no longer fit, say to yourself “how excited would someone less fortunate than me be to have this piece of clothing,” and then toss it into the donation box. If something is stained, it goes in the trash. No questions asked. You don’t need all of those clothes. The same goes for shoes.
10. Respect other people.
It’s the one thing that can get you extremely far in life. Respect the police officer that’s writing you a ticket because 10 minutes ago he might have had to deal with a drunk driver killing a family of 4. Say “please” and “thank you” when you’re in a restaurant. Don’t act like the server is there only to serve you. That’s another human being pouring your water for you. Act like it. Respect those that have jobs that are above you, because if you don’t respect the people you meet on the way up you will most certainly get beaten up if you head back down. Respect the homeless man on the street; because he’s still a human being, he just happens to have gotten some bad luck. Not everyone who is homeless is a drug addict. Some are homeless just because they lost their job or ran into some bad luck. Some people run away from a bad living situation and have nowhere to go. If that were you, wouldn’t it make you sad to have people avert their eyes when they walked past you? Be friendly towards them. Respect your elders, respect your family, respect your friends, and respect everyone else you come in contact with. If they don’t respect you back? Turn the other cheek. There is serious truth to the phrase “kill em’ with kindness.” Go do it!