“How am I ever gonna get to be old and wise if I ain’t ever young and crazy?” goes the song by Frankie Ballard. I concur.
At 20, like most of my peers, I was immature and unwise. I had no clue of the kind of life lessons that awaited me or of the wisdom I would acquire as I grew older.
As I write this, I’m a few weeks shy of my 49th birthday and it’s made me think about some of the actions and decisions I took when I was young and ignorant.
I believe that if I’ve learned even a few useful lessons from all those years of poor judgment, I can say that I’ve lived well.
Of course, there are always some lessons that, in our minds, are more important than others. The ones that might have changed the trajectory of our lives had we known them at 20.
I have these favorites too and I wish I had known these things when I was younger, so that I could have avoided some of the more painful lessons of my past.
So here are the 5 things about life I wish I knew when I was 20.
1.Happiness is a choice
I read about this concept in Richard Carlson’s book, Shortcut Through Therapy. It was a book that changed me and changed my life.
You see, like many people I had always believed that happiness or unhappiness was conditional and caused by external factors. By things that happen to us.
But that’s victim thinking. Because at every fork in the road, we do have a choice of whether to choose happiness over unhappiness. I decided to choose happiness and it changed my life for the better.
It’s not that I never feel sad or angry. But today I know I can let those emotions flow through me until they dissolve into acceptance and peace.
If your happiness is conditional on whether you achieve success or do well in your career or find someone to love, you’ll never be happy.
When you learn that happiness is a choice, you never have to feel like a victim again. Your happiness doesn’t have to depend on how successful you are, or who you have in your life.
It’s all up to you and you’ll be happy when you decide to be happy. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
2. Your life is a reflection of your thoughts and beliefs
This is not news to those in the personal development sphere. It’s a sentiment that was expressed by the Buddha and many wise men that came after him.
Law of Attraction teachers, Abraham-Hicks, teach that our thoughts determine the frequency at which we vibrate and we attract into our lives that which we think about the most.
As they say, “What you are living is the evidence of what you are thinking and feeling, every single time.”
So when I’m feeling a bit negative, I ask myself why I’m feeling that way, and then I reach for a better feeling thought.
Had I known that my thoughts attract my reality when I was 20, I can only hope that I would have chosen more empowering thoughts throughout my life.
3. You are responsible for what you create in your life
A long time ago I read about the concept of radical personal responsibility – the idea that we must take responsibility for everything we create in our lives.
It comes from the knowledge that our outer experience is a mirror of our inner experience. When I take responsibility for everything I create, I can choose to stop being a victim of circumstances and instead be the one who designs my life.
I find this a very empowering way to live, because it means I can stop blaming other people and being a victim. Instead I can look within when I find that I’m not creating what I want in my life and make the change necessary to create what I do want.
3. You ALWAYS have a choice
When I speak to women, especially those who are experiencing a disempowering or abusive situation, they often tell me that they don’t have a choice.
Now, this may be true when you’re a child and don’t have the agency to act on your own behalf. But when I hear an adult telling me that they don’t have a choice, I know this is not true.
Because I have felt this way when I was younger, and I know that every moment I remained in a less-than-ideal situation, I was choosing to do that because I didn’t have the courage to leave.
No one forced me to stay in that situation. Choosing not to do anything is also a decision. You can either complain or you can choose to act. As an adult, you always have a choice, and what you choose to do will define the course of your life.
5. Money and spirituality are not mutually exclusive
As children, especially growing up in India, where spirituality is often synonymous with hardship and deprivation, we are fed so many false beliefs about money.
That money is not spiritual, that rich people are corrupt and wicked. Thankfully I learned that these false beliefs were just lies fed to us by people who needed to justify to themselves why they were poor.
From my spiritual and business mentors, I’ve learned that money is just a form of energy that we receive in exchange for the value we create in the world. The more people whose lives we impact in a good way, the more money we will have.
I have no idea how my life would be today had I known this at the age of 20. Perhaps I would have chosen to pursue money, or perhaps not.
But it would have been nice to have had a mindset of abundance and to have known what I know today – that money and spirituality are not mutually exclusive. That money is a magnifier and only makes you more of who you already are.
That if you don’t have enough money to sustain yourself, you have nothing to offer anyone else anyway. And that rich people are some of the most generous and giving human beings on the planet.
Do you have your own list of the things about life that you wish you knew when you were 20? Do share them in the comments below.