I asked some of my friends around the world to share advice they’d give to their younger selves. And I was blown away by their responses.
Their advice is not only a great reminder to live life to the fullest—but filled with wisdom and perspective. This article was inspired by Thrive Global, a community of people who thrive in life (just as my friends do).
Here’s what these 15 brave humans shared with us:
Embrace living in the moment
Embrace living in the moment – that’s the advice I’d give to my younger self. People are always waiting for the next thing in life. “Once I graduate from school, after I get my dream job, when I get into a relationship – then I’ll truly be happy.” But this constant focus on the future prevents people from enjoying the beauty of today. It prevents them from understanding that their present selves are already worthy, even before reaching these goals. So keep working towards your dreams, but embrace all that’s good in your life right now and who you currently are – because once you accomplish that goal, you’ll no longer need to wait to be truly happy.
—Sarah Rahman, Registry Officer, Ottawa, ON
Invest time with people that bring you joy
If I had to give my past self advice, it would be to “invest your time and resources with people and hobbies that bring you joy”. Too often, I have tried to salvage a dysfunctional relationship, when I could have reinvested that time with someone that enhances my self-esteem. There are plenty of people out there in the world that like my lame jokes, values, and interests, so why waste time trying to put on a facade? That’s not to say I wouldn’t try to restore a friendship if there was a miscommunication, but I strongly believe in spending my free time with friends and experiences that I enjoy the most.
—Wesley H, Higher Education, Kansas City, Missouri
Don’t expect things to go according to plan
It’s good to make plans and set goals, but don’t expect things to always go according to plan. Life will throw obstacles at you, so try not to be too overwhelmed, and remember to breathe. Take things one step at a time and one day at a time, and hope for the best! And always try no matter the results, because that way you know it wasn’t because of lack of effort on your part and you won’t be left wondering what-if.
—Gusharan Sidhu, Medicine, Chicago, IL
Learn to love yourself
Always remember that you are loved and that God has you in its arms. You know, already, how painful life can get. Yet, somehow, you wake up every day and keep forging ahead. Keep your spirit. Enjoy the highs in life, sure, but no one ever teaches you how to enjoy the lows as well. Show love to people. Never compare yourself. Lastly, know that the only time you should look at what someone else has, is to make sure they have enough. But above all else, learn to love yourself.
—Gregory Mohamed, Case Processor, Toronto, ON
It’s okay to fail
I’d tell my younger self that it’s okay to fail. Failure is the greatest opportunity for growth and to not be so hard on myself when things don’t go right. I am a worrier and I tend to over plan to ensure everything goes “right” but sometimes it doesn’t and it’s okay. The most important thing is to learn from it and to rise stronger each time.
—Jocelyn C, Senior Marketing Operations Analyst, Toronto, ON
Smile your way through life
Smile your way through life. Life’s too short to live in bitterness. Always be grateful and try your best to see the positive in everything, and good things will come your way! Take a few minutes throughout your day to think of how blessed you are compared to the less fortunate living in poverty, hardship, and corruption. Here are some things to always be grateful for: your health, food, shelter, and a safe place to live. Stress less, everything will be okay. What’s meant for you will come, just be patient. Smile more, don’t stress, do your best, leave the rest.
Live life under your own expectations
Live your life under your own expectations. Fulfill yourself with the goal of being the best version of yourself; you can’t expect that from anyone else. Break out of your shell, nobody’s opinion matters. Eat healthy, and sleep. Things that keep you up at night, emotions, games and shows won’t matter to you later on in life. Work hard, and get involved as much as possible. Go on that exchange. Don’t hold yourself back because of money; you will earn it back in your working years. Remember your bucket list? Just do it. Life and commitments will come and you will have a harder time to go do that. Continue to be kind.
—Willa Huang, Finance, Toronto, ON
Step outside of your comfort zone
Get out of your comfort zone. Throughout the past couple of years of traveling, I have met so many people who congratulated me for being brave and living abroad. I think that anyone can do it as long as they do their research and reach out to the right people who can guide them along the path.Everyday is a new adventure and even just going to a new coffee shop can open you up to a whole new world.
—Kinga Szilagyi, English Teacher, Wuhan, China
Learn from your pets
I would tell my younger self to beg mom to get a dog sooner. Having 5 dogs now makes me realize that I have a lot more to live for in life. I come home to all 5 fluffs running towards me at the door way and it makes me think that I’m always treasured in their little hearts. With one shoe off, not knowing if I will be tackled down with licks or with paws, I will always cherish the moments when my dogs are excited to see me. These creatures have nothing but loyalty and companionship. They wait around all day for you to arrive home so they can go on walks with you, get massages from you, eat with you, and sometimes even steal and hide your shoe away so you couldn’t leave. If I had a dog growing up as child, I believe it would’ve taught me to be more responsible, caring, and not blinding of my family’s concern of me coming home late all the time.
—William Tran, Government, North York, ON
Make yourself a priority
Make yourself a priority. It’s easy to get caught up with your responsibilities, friends, family and forget about yourself. You’re not a superhero. You can’t give what you don’t have. Take care of yourself. This means eat regular meals, sleep 8 hours every night, try to exercise and reflect. Identify your worth. Relationships should not be one sided. Time is precious and you should spend it with those who want to be in your life. It’s not easy to let go but cherish the memories and take it one step at a time. You never know what will come next.
—Heather Pangilinan, Radiological Technology Student, Toronto, ON
Use your time and money wisely
Proper use of time and money is key to success. In my younger years, I wasted plenty of time without having any goals. In 2003, I came to Canada as an international student and slowly realized the importance of the time and money. Time carries opportunity and opportunity carries money. During my undergraduate studies, there were many co-op options and at first, I did not take the opportunity available to me. Later, I realized how great it was. But it was competitive and I missed my chance.
—Mohammad Hussain, Engineer, Scarborough, ON
Don’t take life too seriously
Don’t take life too seriously – it’s already serious enough on its own. Life is short, don’t spend it with unnecessary people you dislike or don’t make you a better person. Don’t be afraid to live outside your comfort zone – most of the time you won’t regret doing things out of the ordinary, even though it seems scary at first. Be true to yourself and don’t conform to society because of peer pressure – that just never ends well.
—Nadine Coetzer, Scientist by day, Avid Cookier by night, South Africa
Stop worrying about what others think of you
I would tell myself to stop worrying so much about how others think of you. Back in high school I had this constant worry about what others thought of me. Not surprisingly, I became extremely self-conscious. Am I cool enough? Do I look dorky? Will they like me? These types of questions stopped me from developing as a person because I never thought about who I wanted to be. People come and go. You are the only true constant in your life. Live for yourself.
—Martin, UX Designer, Toronto, ON
It’s okay to be unsure about your “purpose” in life
It’s okay to be unsure about your “purpose” in life. You will figure out what your interests are. Know that all the choices you make, whether it be big or small, will have some impact on your life. That may sound scary, but my advice is not to do something because it’s easy. Do it because it intrigues you, broadens your knowledge, and scares you. Know you can do better and that you have choices. If you don’t know what to do, then TRY. You won’t know what you like or don’t like if you don’t try. No one will understand it better than you. You never cared about what people thought, even when you were in second grade when that kid tried to bully you. So, don’t start now.
—Priscilla Wong, Beauty and Lifestyle Blogger, Toronto, ON
Things do get better
I’d tell my younger self that things do get better – “keep your head held high, love yourself, and let that confidence shine through.” Growing up gay within a community where it was frowned upon (and during a time where Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson were just solidifying their status as gay icons), I was terrified and hid many parts of me, hindering my growth in many ways. I doubted my potential and in turn, closed myself off from pursuing things I was most passionate about. As Mariah says, “there’s a hero, if you look inside your heart, you don’t have to be afraid of what you are.”
—Anthony O, Communications and Brand Manager, London, UK
I also pondered over the question “What advice would you give to your younger self?” and came up with this:
Be brave with your life
Don’t be afraid to dream big and do what makes your heart dance. Stay true to yourself, trust your intuition, and don’t let the fear of making the “wrong” decision hold you back—because everything is a learning experience. So, continue to explore and invest in people and experiences that challenge you to grow. Focus on the person you want to become and the legacy you want to leave behind. Because when you’re brave with your life, you inspire others, attract greater opportunities and even more incredible people. But remember that you’re never going to have it all figured out and life will get messy—so choose (self) love, celebrate vulnerability, and just enjoy the ride.