When I was growing up, I always wanted to do big things – great big things, in fact. I used to tell my family that all the time: “I’m going to do great big things.” Everyone would laugh as if it was the cutest thing they’d ever seen or heard. I was a dreamer and I lived with my head in the clouds. I had no idea that by the time I was 26, I would feel more lost than Dory from Finding Nemo.
With that being said, though, here are 10 things I’ve learned in trying to be my best self.
1. Your 20s Really Are Some of The Best Years of Your Life
Regardless of what anyone tells you, your 20s can be the best years of your life. This is the time you get to go from job after job and figure out who you are and what you want to do.
Though it’s true that every year should be the best year of your life, there’s something about your 20s that’s so different. Use your 20s to experiment, create and find who you are.
2. A Positive Attitude Will Win Every Time
I used to be the most negative person anyone had ever met. I’d play the victim card at any given moment, and not a single word that ever came out of my mouth was ever really positive in nature.
What did I learn? Be positive. Even when you feel like you can’t be positive, do it anyway. You won’t regret it. Because years from now, you know what? You’re going to look back on life and wonder why you spent so much time on being negative, mean or just plain unhappy. Life is far too short.
3. The Old Adages About Eating Healthy, Exercising and Sleeping Are True
Sneaking a multivitamin in there wouldn’t hurt, either, but I’m so serious: You have no idea how trading a bag of chips for an apple, or a soda for a glass of water, is going to improve your mood! It isn’t just about your physical health, either; it’s about your mental health too.
I suffer from depression and anxiety, and I had no idea that by going from processed foods to fresh produce, healthy fats, whole grains and proteins, my mood would improve so much. I’m not an expert in this area, but I can tell you from personal experience that changing things up in your life is going to help you improve immensely.
4. Make Friends
If you’re new somewhere or you’re just looking for different places to go, hit up local libraries! The first week in Aurora, I went to the library and signed up for a book club. The local library hosts a monthly gathering where people can discuss the book of the month. It was one of the best things I could have done.
Humans need interaction, and we need people who see things both differently and the same as we do. Get out there. Make friends! I promise you it’s okay to meet people. As a 26-year-old in a new area where I know next to nobody, it’s been fairly difficult for me to acclimate on those grounds alone. I’m scared to go into any place by myself, but I shouldn’t be and neither should you; get out there! Most towns and cities have websites, so check out the “Recreations” tab, ask what’s out there and don’t be afraid of trying new things.
5. Be Cautious (But Not Too Cautious)
If something doesn’t feel right, about 90% of the time I’d say that gut instinct is what you’ll want to follow. If your instinct is telling you that something’s off with a group of people, for example, listen to it. You may not see red flags right away, but eventually people’s true colors will begin to show.
6. Go Out Alone
I swear to you, you won’t regret the decision to go out alone. Since I’ve lived in Colorado, I’ve gone out alone twice, and while I didn’t acquire any new friends, I did talk to some people. If someone sees you sitting alone eating a meal, they’re bound to talk to you in some way (at least in the places where I’ve been!). Don’t be afraid to strike up conversations with people!
Even if you’re just in your favorite shoe shop and someone tries to talk to you about the most menial things, take that conversation! Don’t be afraid to talk to people! I know in today’s world it’s hard not to be a little timid when it comes to talking to strangers, but give it a try every once in awhile!
7. Get Used to Boredom
You have to get used to boredom, even if you’re dating someone or are around a million people all the time, but why? Why do we have to get used to boredom? Because people aren’t always going to be around. That’s not negative. I’m simply saying sometimes your significant other, friends or other peers won’t be around. In those instances, you’ll want to know how to entertain yourself!
The moments of boredom are the moments most of us hate and never get used to. We always have to be moving. We always have to have something to do. I’m telling you, though, to get used to boredom, because it’ll prepare you for the moments that will come later on in your life when you’re in a new place, far from home, traveling or your friends are all away.
8. Don’t Plan So Far Into the Future
I keep telling my roommate that in a year I hope to be back in Nebraska or Iowa; I’m sure it gets annoying. The other night she looked at me and said, “Why are you even planning so far ahead? You have no idea where life is going to take you.” She’s right. I’ve got absolutely no idea. You think you’re working a job you love, but what if someone offers you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in six months or in a year or next week? You wouldn’t very well turn that opportunity down now, would you? Don’t plan so far ahead that you become anxious or depressed when those plans fall through or change.
9. Get Used to Criticism
I wish someone had told me this and taught me this as I was growing up. Sometimes you’re going to receive rude criticism, and sometimes people are going to be really nice to you about it. Either way, you need to learn to accept it, use it and move on. One of my own tricks is realizing that I can take the criticism of others and use it to better myself. Another one is to take into consideration what people say and how you really feel about it.
As we hear criticism or read criticism, we can react in one of two ways: We can either become upset by it or we can take that criticism and turn it into a snowball of amazing changes. I’m a writer, and yet accepting criticism isn’t something I do well, or rather, it’s something I never used to accept. I would be so distraught when people didn’t like my work. Now when people offer up criticism on my work, I use that criticism to make my writing better.
When someone feeds us criticism most of us automatically become defensive. We don’t want someone to point out our flaws! How dare they? This is the wrong mindset to have, though. Instead of being defensive when someone offers up criticism–whether they’re rude about it or nice about it–take that criticism and stash it in a safe place in your brain. Use it later on as a guideline of how you can change.
10. Keep a Journal
Keep a journal to track your progress as a person. Often times, it’s interesting to go back and look at how we’ve changed as the years have gone by. When we keep a journal, we’re also keeping our changes tracked, our feelings monitored and our mental state intact.
This goes for everyone! Keeping a journal is not mutually exclusive to women. Men can do it and absolutely should do it. There was a time when I stopped journaling (and my journaling habits now are even a little spotty), and I could kick myself for it! Journaling is such a great way for you to gain mental clarity as well as help you grasp who you are!
Write down how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking and what you’re doing. In a year, go back and look at those entries and see just how much you’ve changed as a person. It can be fun and exciting to see that, and it can motivate you to continue taking chances you never would have before!
Most of all, though, learn to embrace life. I know this isn’t a bullet point, but I’m serious. If you can’t embrace life, the chances of you leading a happy one are pretty slim. I used to be one of the unhappiest people I’d ever known. I’m not sure how I did it or when it happened, but I started to embrace life. It’s still hard sometimes to embrace the shortcomings life hands me, but it’s gotten much easier.
Don’t be afraid to live.