What Would You Tell Your 20-year-old Self?

Bites of advice we wish we'd had

Posted Mar 20, 2015

So you’ve lived a good, maybe hard, life. No matter how you’ve lived, once you hit 30, you likely have some bits of wisdom that you could pass along. What are they? 

I meet periodically with a group of interesting women of all ages and professions, from different types of backgrounds and experiences. And they are all “pay it forward” kinds of people. They’ve helped others and we celebrate that. They may be ambitious, but they still are committed to helping others and the community get better.

One night, we asked the question of what we’d tell our younger selves. Here are a few of the ideas that emerged. Nothing startling, but always good to remind ourselves.

Assume everyone knows every one. 

We live in a moderately sized city and it seems the degrees of separation are never more than two. When something happens, word travels fast. It’s like being part of a complex plant, like a dandelion, where the bits are connected and yet are so fragile.  So listen to what your mother said and behave yourself!

Source: N.K.Napier

You have more choice than you think you do.

At so many stages of life, we let others and situations guide or force decisions.  What if we changed decision making to include more of the “this is what I want to keep” versus “this is what I feel I must do.” 

I recently read about the Japanese author Marie Kondo who speaks of “the life changing magic of tidying up” (Ten Speed Press, 2014). Her question is not what to throw out as you tidy; her question is “what sparks joy?” Keep those items.  Great way to choose and take control.

Get in touch with your “no muscle.”

How often have you said yes to a request that you may not REALLY want to do and suspect that you’ll regret accepting later? You subconsciously hope that, because it’s so far in the future, maybe it won’t really happen. But it always does. 

Instead, right up front, use the words, “let me get back to you on that,” and then take a day before you commit (or don’t). Whether you say yes or no, it comes after a bit more thought. But realize you can say NO. When you do, know will the earth won’t collapse. Instead, just practice that “no muscle” a bit more.  

Drama is overrated.

I have a friend who married an exciting guy, who experienced high ups and downs, just as she did. While it made for a thrilling ride when things were going well, they had enough drama to lead to an end.  

Eventually, my friend divorced and now she’s planning to marry someone who is even keeled, all the time. 

Put your drama away
Source: N.K.Napier

“No drama,” she whispers on the side about him. His outward show of emotional range is narrow. And she likes it.

So what would you say to your 20 year old self?