Along with all the new freedoms and rights comes also a great deal of responsibility. A responsibility for yourself, your life and what you make of it.
When you are 18 you meet quite a lot of decisions that have an impact on your future life. Some of these decisions turn out to be really great, others not. Wouldn’t it be great to know exactly what kind of mistakes you need to be wary of when you are young?
If I had the possibility to meet my younger self this is the advice I would give. These are the things I wish I knew when I was 18.
Things every 18 year old needs to know.
1. Friendship is about quality not quantity
When you are young you want to go out and meet all sorts of new people. Most likely, you’ll even find yourself in situations and places where you get to know lots of interesting people. That is great as long as you don’t fall for the illusion that amassing friends is more worthwhile than a couple of real friends.
Only your true friends will be there for you when you need them. They will come running for you, even if you call them in the middle of the night. Your best friends will be on your side and give you strength in times of great despair.
All the other people are nice acquaintances. They are nice to get to know and fun to hang around with. But they might not be the people that help you fighting off whatever life throws at you. If you are able to discern between true friends and mere acquaintances, you will be very well.
2. Don’t worry so much
Worrying is a big waste of time. Being troubled over something gives you unnecessary headaches about things that will not even be important to you in a couple of years. Plus, there’s always something to worry about: your grades, your future, the economy, global warming. The list never ends.
I always worried about failure. Only later I realized that there’s something far worse than failing: not trying at all.
If something troubles you then by all means: get up and do something about it. Worrying alone never solved anything. Use that precious time of yours for solving the problem, not for worrying about it. The advice I would give my 18 year old self about worrying is this: do your best and everything will just be fine.
3. Live within your means / avoid getting into debt
Spending money that you don’t have is not such a good idea. Do it the old-fashioned way. If you want something, save until you can afford it. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. This simple rule can help you to stay out of a lot of trouble.
Buying things on credit is not super cool. Instead, you end up paying interest on top of the price. Let me repeat this. You pay more than everybody else.
Getting into debt can turn into a real nightmare. One day you wake up from it and you realize two things. First, that your paycheck is now largely spent on paying back the debt. Secondly, that you could have bought some pretty expensive things from the accumulated interest that you have paid all over the years.
4. Don’t marry too early
The younger you marry, the more likely it is that you will get divorced (statistics taken from: National Center for Health). As a consequence, the highest rate of divorce can be found amongst those who marry under the age of 20. The divorce rate starts to decrease for couples who are 20 to 24 years old when they marry. Divorce is even less likely for those who marry at the age of 25 or thereafter.
If you are young and want to avoid a stupid mistake, then wait with marriage until you are really sure. See how the relationship develops over the years.
5. Save half your paycheck
The feeling of holding the very first paycheck in your hands is just incredible. Finally you can afford to buy all those fancy things that you always wanted. But make not the mistake of living from paycheck-to-paycheck.
As a young person you have not many financial responsibilities. There is no family that you have to take care of. No mortgage to pay off. Use this time to lay the proper financial foundation for the rest of your life. Saving parts of your paycheck helps you to build a safety net for times of uncertainty. But it will also allow you to invest a certain amount of your money with a nice return.
Trust me. The letter to my 16 year old self has this one important sentence in it: “spending two of your paychecks on a Nokia 3310 looks like an incredibly stupid thing to do, 10 years later. We use mobiles with touchscreens now.”
6. Take responsibility for your mistakes
Most people blame anyone else but themselves for the events in their life. That’s the easy route to take, you’ll always find someone to blame. Where does this lead? Victimhood—you become a victim, instead of taking action. Stop doing that, you’re not the victim. Man-up and take responsibility.
Mistakes happen so that you can learn from them. If you play the blame game you will learn nothing. Instead, the same mistakes happen to you all over again. That is until you start to seek the reason for what happens in yourself.
7. Don’t make money your highest priority
Sure, you need money. That’s a given, but money should not become your ultimate motivation. The people that profoundly changed the world all had a vision in mind, not the money they could make from it. Pursue your dream and see if you can create something of great value both to yourself and others.
Also, you will have to ask yourself if a satisfying job is more important to you than a higher-paying job that turns out to be soul-crushing. Only you can answer this question.
Should you even manage to find a profession that you are really interested in you are a lucky person. Being really passionate about what you do is a prerequisite for success. And always remember, no one ever wishes they had worked more when they die. But many people regret not having spent enough time with their kids and family.
8. Take care of your health
As an 18-year-old you are near of reaching your physical peak. Your body will tolerate all kinds of stresses with great ease. Something you really don’t want to do is abuse this feature of your body. Instead, use this phase to lay the proper foundation for a healthy life. This is the best time to develop strength by exercising regularly. It is much more difficult to do this at a later time. Consequently, losing weight will become a lot more difficult when you are older.
Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity. – John F. Kennedy
9. Avoid excesses
Moderation is the big keyword here. Managing to avoid excesses is something that your body will thank you for in later life. Nobody asks you to live like a saint, but if you are able to stay away from smoking and drugs you can avoid a lot of problems. Also, eat and drink with moderation. You have only one chance. Once you have ruined your health it’s incredibly difficult to restore the damages. Sadly, most people only realize this when it is too late. Don’t be one of them.
10. Learn to appreciate the little things
When you’re young you want to take on the world. You dream big and have high hopes for the future. However, not all wishes come to fruition. Be prepared for this. Too high expectations can lead to pretty big disappointments.
Sometimes we take everything for granted, without realizing the prosperity in our lives. Try to appreciate what you already have. If you are not happy now then no Porsche or big mansion will change that (in the long run).
This mindset is a great foundation that cannot be shaken too easily, even if you are not able to reach a given desire. It helps you to shift your focus away from desperately trying to purse all that which you don’t have. This pursuit is a rat race that leads you nowhere.
11. You always reap what you sow
Karma will always get you. As a young person you think that you are somehow immune to the consequences of your actions. But in miraculous ways your past will always catch back up. Sooner or later, all that goes around comes back around. You can learn it the hard way or you can try to do good things.
12. You only live once, so what?
YOLO is a great excuse for meeting irrational decisions. The “you only live once” attitude will lead you nowhere, except to places bad ideas generally lead. Living ones moronic desires is never a good idea, celebrating stupidity neither.
Don’t get me wrong here; there is nothing wrong about making the best of life and living it to the fullest. But there is a great difference between spending your time in a focused manner, and wasting it on the fast lane.
13. Cherish your family
Family comes first, need I to say more? Don’t put down the people who supported you from the beginning and will continue to do so. Spend time with them and enjoy their presence.
14. Know what you want
Not knowing what you want will lead you astray. If you have a goal, a vision or a dream your focus will become much sharper. It will help you to prioritize that which is important. But it will also increase your willingness to make sacrifices.
If you don’t already know exactly what you want from life, then you’d better figure it out. As soon as possible.
15. Nothing good happens after 2 AM
Seriously, did anyone ever tell you that “you wouldn’t believe what happened after 3 AM?” These stories always end up with someone being taken to hospital. Or the stories have words like cops, bouncers, mistake or vomit in it. Don’t waste your next day and go home when you feel that the party is starting to decline, it will never reach its peak again.
Further advice for 18-year-olds:
- Don’t be so hard on yourself
- Accept that you make mistakes and move on
- Learn from your mistakes
- Don’t let anybody stop you from living your dreams
- Get to know your parents
- There is never a right time
- Relax, everything is going to workout
- Don’t try to fit in, be proud of standing out
- Hope for the best but plan for the worst
- Don’t move together too quickly
- Don’t worry about what others think of you
- Don’t waste your time trying to get others to like you
- Travel the world
- Don’t be embarrassed about everything
- Don’t spend everything you have; don’t save everything you have
- Have a great partner or have none at all