“I love this age!” I distinctly remember loving being 16. I wasn’t the prettiest, richest, most popular at 16 – but I remember being happy and just blissful. The world revolved around boys sneaking gazes at girls, as most girls giggled and enjoyed the attention. That was what it was like being 16 in high-school in India. Of course, there were altercations with parents, with teachers and authority in general, as I paraded through life with reckless abandon at 16.
Life eventually look over, and I now find myself a completely different woman in her mid-30s. My past weekend was spent surrounded by insightful women on the path to self-reflection and the question came up, “what would you tell your 16 year old self?” A loaded question, but an essential one. It is critical to look back at our lives and marvel at the wonderful opportunities and challenges life has presented, shaping our current persona.
I am eager to hear what our insightful readers would tell their own 16 year old self. Here are some of the things I would tell myself at 16!
Simplify Simplify Simplify
Over our lifetime, we collect stuff – memories, experiences and material items. And over time, we just pile on these things instead of cleaning house. Don’t collect stuff – live simply. It means getting rid of clothes that don’t fit, giving away furniture that clutters, and opening up the living space, so that there’s room for positive energy to flow through our homes and work spaces.
The bigger challenge is to not hold to emotions, especially the bad. Letting go is essential in moving forward and cultivating a more healthy mind and body. The process starts with forgiving our own self for letting ourselves go through challenging experiences we wanted to avoid, such as a bad relationship. It’s equally important to forgive those around us, friends and family who might have not lived up to our expectations. This practice starts early in life and takes discipline.
As wise Lao Tzu once said –
Have few desires.”
Don’t stifle chances at an amazing life living fearfully
“What’s the worst that can happen?” Have you ever asked yourself that when approaching an insurmountable challenge. At work, at worst you could get fired or your meeting could go sour or a deal could fall through. In personal life you could be rejected or feel abandoned, at worst.
Everyone goes through heartbreak, but even the worst of heartbreaks heal and we learn from the experience. So the next time you think 10 times before telling someone you love them or taking a chance at a job that you don’t think you deserve – think about the worst thing that can happen. A rejection at worst, and eventually you move on a wiser and stronger person.
Stephen Richards said
“When you’re scared, you stay as you are!”
Slow down and enjoy relationships!
We live our lives today as if life was one big emergency. We are stressed about our work, our children, our spouses in a desire to upstage our friends. In a desire to advance materially, we have put our health and peace on the line. Primitive drives such as fear, anger, jealously take over our balanced souls.
Unlike the popular belief that success comes hard and one must crush the competition to get ahead, I have observed a fair majority of balanced go-getters, intellectuals and creative geniuses who are grounded, happy and content. They enjoy their work as much as they cherish and value the company of people around them. Balance in life is therefore important because success cannot be attained or enjoyed alone.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson, is the one book that had the most profound impact to help me lead a manageable and joyous life. And I am re-learning how to manage my life everyday.
I feel sometimes, it’s good to live like our parents in the 80s and 90s, when it was okay not to be a virtuoso, to be in the same job for 20 years, to get a new pair of clothes during birthdays and festival season and so on. It was important however to slowly build social networks, get to know neighbors and friends, and take on life one day at a time.
Stop being with people who don’t value you
Right around hitting the 30 mark, I suddenly came to value my time on earth. My friends in their 30s had the same epiphany. I have come to value transparent, happy and emotionally stable friends in my life. Frivolous friendships, or relationships that drained me emotionally fizzled away over time or are on the path to dissipating. One habit I would like to inculcate is to talk about inspiring ideas to evolve my life, rather than talking about people and their struggles and failures.
Every time I give in to skittish gossip, I have to make a conscious effort to retrain myself to avoid talking about others. Here’s another trick I am trying to practice – rather than placing judgement, I am re-learning to just talk about facts. For example, if my significant other didn’t show me affection, I refrain from saying, “You don’t care for me”. I am relearning to say, “I miss you kissing me on the forehead like before.”
I also appreciate people who have shown me immense love so that I can be their rock. I realize, I don’t need a million best friends to appreciate life.
Stop talking about yourself…so much!
We humans are narcissistic – we love to talk about their problems, our successes, our lives! Instead of stopping to listen to the other person’s story, we all jump on the opportunity to share our story, as if our own story is more important than other’s. Every chance we get, we discuss our miseries at length with anyone who will listen.
Discussing ourselves on social media or in real life is self-centered…and we are all guilty! Though we must ask for advice when needed, we must stop using our loved ones as forums for self-promotion. We must learn to manage our business, so you can be more effective human beings. This virtue must be developed fairly young – when we are self-absorbed and cannot stop gabbing with our friends about ourselves. Modesty and the capacity to listen compassionately must be developed as we mature through life.
Fear of missing out? Invest in yourself!
When we’re young, we don’t want to miss out on the next big social event – a party or a chance at hanging out with friends. Investing in activities such as skill development is a seemingly boring choice, as we spend countless hours planning our next social gathering. But time flies quickly, and as adults we rarely have time to cultivate our passions.
Focusing on our passions, our hobbies from an early age is therefore critical. Hobbies help us develop skills we find useful in future. For example, so many of us used to scrapbook as youngsters, but we abandoned scrapbooking eventually. I now observe young bloggers using scrapbooking techniques to develop aesthetically pleasing blogs – once a dismissible skill set that now earns them a living.
Author Victoria Moran stated eloquently,
“In terms of days and moments lived, you’ll never again be as young as you are right now, so spend this day, the youth of your future, in a way that deflects regret. Invest in yourself. Have some fun. Do something important. Love somebody extra.”
Nothing good comes after midnight
No matter what our biological clock is – sticking to a routine – waking up on time and sleeping at least 7-8 hours is a must. Lack of sleep is a leading cause of ailments, stress, fatigue and premature aging. So if there’s one investment we should make early in life – it is to develop healthy sleeping habits. Some suggestions may help:
- Establish a bed time and a wake up time, and stick to these times even during weekends
- Wake up to gentle music rather than a blaring alarm to ease the waking up process in the morning
- Do not pump your system with caffeine as soon as you wake up, instead drink warm water to ease your body into waking up
- Meditate as soon as you wake up to allow the mind to wake up gently and peacefully
- Do not keep your phone in the same room as you sleep – disconnect from the world before going to bed
- Re-establish the habit to read or write before going to bed
- Turn stimulating lights off, keep the temperature comfortable and dress comfortably for sleep
- For those who suffer from sleep ailments, addressing stress triggers is critical, investment in meditation and yoga often helps, and seeking timely help in traditional medicine should be considered.
Follow your heart
Following your heart is by far the most important advice for all of us who desire a content and passionate life. For those who think that following the heart doesn’t ensure an economically stable life – think again! With technology progressing, passions and skill sets can often be merged into a lucrative career.
A contemporary example – Leo Babauta has emerged as one of the most authoritative blogger about life management – he is a father of 6, had huge debt at a time, was overweight and a smoker, but had a passion for writing. As he struggled through his own demons he began blogging. His blog ZenHabits is now one of the most popular blogs on the internet. Leo also makes his earnings by offering courses, conferences and writing self-published books. Leo is not an isolated example – history is replete with examples of successful people who achieved immortality by following their true passions. After all you get to live only once!
I always remember this quote from Steve Jobs, to help guide my decisions:
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.
Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it, and that is how it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”
So get up and make time for what you think matters to you, go explore and travel and live life, join a class to pursue that forgotten hobby, write the book you thought couldn’t be published, and most of all, love those around you!
Learn from amazing people who inspire you and actively cultivate the habit to observe the best in people and only say good things about your friends and family. Lastly, lighten up and be awesome!
- Healthy Sleep – Harvard Medical School
- Why Lack of Sleep is Bad for your Health – NHS, UK
- Zen Habits – Leo Babauta
- The Third Metric, Huffington Post
- Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…It’s all Small Stuff, Richard Carlson