Graduation season is winding down and the minds of wide-eyed young adults are focused on the future. By now, graduates have listened to inspirational commencement speeches and read countless greeting cards. Each well-wisher attempted to offer the perfect piece of wisdom and congratulations fitting for such an occasion. But no matter what words or expressions are offered, nothing can fully prepare graduates for the voyage ahead.
Do you remember what it felt like when you graduated high school? A sense of uncertainty filled me that pivotal summer. I remember feeling a mix of relief and eager anticipation, along with a hefty dose of fear.
Life Lessons Learned
Recently, I listened to a Good Life Project podcast episode where host Jonathan Fields spoke of what he would tell his 20-something self if he could. While thinking about graduation and the comments shared on the podcast, I began to consider what I would tell my younger self if I had the opportunity. What wisdom would I impart? Would it make a difference at all?
Here are 25 life lessons I wish I knew when I graduated high school:
- Your education is just beginning. Embrace it. Learn for the pure fun of it and study what you’re curious about. Go deep into the well of knowledge for what it will make of you.
- Someday is a complete fallacy. The perfect day to pursue what’s important to you will never greet you with a balloon bouquet and trumpets hailing its arrival. Don’t wait for better circumstances or the right time. Take action today, even if just a small step.
- Intentionally design your life. You don’t have to live according to the limits others impose on you. Keep your hands firmly gripped around the steering wheel and drive. Don’t be a passenger in your own life. You’ll be much happier and healthier.
- Accept advice from those who have succeeded at what you wish to accomplish. Ignore the counsel of those with a track record you do not wish to emulate.
- Incredible experiences and accomplishments await just outside your comfort zone. The risk is well worth pursuit.
- You will become like those you spend time with, so choose your associations carefully.
- You can reinvent yourself anytime. If you don’t like who you’ve become or where you’re at in life, make changes. You are only shackled with permanence if you choose to be.
- You are capable of far more than you dare to imagine. Don’t try to be someone else. Instead, live who you are.
- Pursue meaningful work. Your labor doesn’t have to be drudgery, but instead can be a way to make a valuable contribution.
- Your words, spoken or written, may echo through someone’s years, so choose them well.
- Be kind. Your kindness will come back to you a hundred-fold.
- Someone else’s harsh criticism of you says far more about them than it ever does about you.
- It’s not selfish to care for yourself first, it’s necessary. Only after you care for your own needs will you be better able to care for others.
- Fear is not necessarily the big, bad enemy you think it is. Fear will show up when you’re pushing yourself. View it as a sign of growth reminding you it’s time to move forward.
- Everybody else is just as scared as you are. When you look at the brave, know that they are the ones who decided to face their fears.
- You always have a choice. Exercise your ability to make decisions. Being decisive will serve you well.
- You alone govern your attitude. You determine your response to forces outside your control. Happy, sad, joyful, angry, apathetic? You decide.
- Regret is needless torture and 100% preventable. There’s nothing more gut-wrenching than suffering with regret for what we could have done but didn’t. Take the chance while you can.
- Worry and doubt commit grand larceny against time and potential. They are thieves of the worst kind.
- Practice courage.
- No matter what, we are all more alike than we are different. At our core, we really do want similar things. We can find common ground if we choose to do so. And it’s well worth the conversation, the struggle, and the understanding that results.
- Question your thoughts. It’s healthy to routinely examine how you came to your beliefs.
- Your internal compass points true north. When you wander off course, as we all do periodically, simply recalibrate and move ahead.
- Money doesn’t make people good or bad. It’s merely a resource. The more financial resources you have, the more you can do for yourself, your family, your friends, your community, and the world.
- We live in an amazing, beautiful world full of wonder. Go explore!
Finding Our Own Way
I’m not so sure my younger self would have been open to receive any of these life lessons. For these understandings, after all, come with time, with living, breathing, and finding our own way.
What lessons have you learned through the years that you would love to go back and share with your younger self if you had the chance?