26 things I’ve learned by 26

I remember as a kid being quite confident about the fact that I would have my life figured out by the time I would hit my 20s. Somehow the 20s seemed so old and mature. People seemed tall and I literally looked up to them. To be completely honest, anything above 18 was old to me at the time. Well reality was not exactly spot-on. I know now that our 20s are a time of exploration and self-discovery. Some might be ahead of the game and have plenty figured out before even hitting the midway mark. Others will come to a screeching halt at 29 with the frightening realization that they still don’t know what on earth they are doing.

Now, I figured one year after the supposed ‘quarter life crisis’ age, that is 25, I must have some revelations to share. I can tell you already that I do not feel as wise and mature as the younger version of me thought I would be. But I guess there is still time for that and no rush really, right?!

Sit tight because this will be quite a long read. Enough said though, here are my 26 learning points by 26.

1. It’s okay to say no

There is nothing wrong with saying no. Learn to say this word and know that it is not a crime to use it. If something doesn’t feel right, to you, and you don’t want to do it no one should be able to pressure you to do otherwise. Period.

A ‘No’ uttered from deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.’

— Mahatma Ghandi

To a certain extent we all have the desire to be liked. It is human nature. No one sets out to be disliked, but if it happens along the way, that’s a different story. However, quite often we fear telling others ‘no’ because we do not wish to disappoint or be disliked by them. But there is no need to feel guilty since we do not live solely to please others. There is no need for you to compromise your convictions just to conform to someone else’s beliefs. Nor should you try to fit into someone else’s image of you. Let go of the need to constantly control the narrative. After all, you cannot control everybody’s opinion of you.

2. Thinking about and investing in yourself is smart not selfish

Don’t disregard yourself. Don’t factor yourself away. All you will be left with in the long run is an unrecognizable and miserable shell of a person. If you’re not thinking about you then who will? Because first and foremost people need to think of their own fundamental welfare before they are even in a position to help others. This is the minimum threshold where if you can’t help yourself, you can’t help others. But mind you, this is not a license to disregard others.

The idea here is that by adding value to yourself you indirectly add value to those around you.

3. You don’t need to impress anyone

Too many people spend money they haven’t earned to buy things they don’t want to impress people they don’t like.

— Will Rogers

Everyone is busy minding their own business and lives to be overly concerned with yours. The people that you so incessantly feel the need to impress, will probably never even know that they had such an affect on you. They will probably never know that their approval/acknowledgement ever weighed so heavily on your daily life.

So why continue spending your time and energy worrying about it? What will it help you achieve? Nothing. For once achieved, how long before you find your next target to please. How long must it go on? Do you really plan on spending your life in a hamster wheel of pleasing people? Do yourself a favor and just let it go.

4. Being yourself is one of the most freeing things out there

There is nothing wrong with you and being yourself is probably the coolest thing you can be. That is, as soon as you stop comparing yourself to others and being so tough on yourself.

You are actually a pretty amazing person. If you haven’t figured that out yet then it’s time to start embracing this truth and start getting comfy in your own skin.

Trying to be anything and anyone besides yourself is wasted energy that could be better spent being authentic. Being yourself is freeing because it does not require any effort or extra energy.

5. Each day is a gift and not a given

One thing that sets us apart from most other inhabitants of the planet is our ability to live not only for today but also for the future. We live with the big picture in mind. Not only thinking about the here and now but also concerning ourselves with what is to come.

Yet, sometimes in doing so we lose sight of the reason we started examining the big picture in the first place. To live. We can get so caught up in planning for the days to come that it is easy to start taking the days for granted. We start assuming and dare I say even feeling entitled to our future days. All the while, nothing in life is certain. I do not mean this in a bleak existential what-is-the-meaning-of-life type of way. Simply put, do not forget in the midst of all that life planning to carpe that diem!

6. Life doesn’t always go as planned

It’s up to you to adapt when life throws its curve balls at you. Also, when life puts obstacles in your path, it’s up to you to figure out how to get past them, whether it’s over, under, around or straight through. How do you carry yourself through these critical make-or-break moments?

Whatever you do, you have to keep going. Accept that there are many times in life that things will not go as you planned for them to go. Instead of giving up, learn to tackle these moments. While you are at it, do not ever be afraid or ashamed to ask for help if you need it.

7. Comparing yourself to others does not make you happier

It might make you feel good for a while but that won’t last. It’s not a sustainable source of happiness and definitely not good for your self -esteem. It makes you overly dependent on external validation.

The only person you should be comparing yourself to is yourself. Always strive to be better than you were yesterday. Even if it is a small thing, every step is progress and counts towards your overall growth.

8. Success is up for grabs

Everyone has the means to be successful. Queue the automatic response: “then why isn’t everybody successful then, huh?”. It’s actually quite simple. Not everyone is willing to put in the work. Are you?

If someone told you exactly what you had to do today and every other day after that to reach your goal, would you have the motivation and discipline to do it? If you need to think about it then the answer is most likely no. That’s just the reality.

Even though we as humans can be stubborn and set in our ways we are agile. We have the ability to change our narrative and muster the necessary motivation and discipline to attain our goal(s).

9. People either give you energy or they take it

Be wary of the people you let into your life. Your energy is your life force. Your energy is your everything! Never forget that. It helps to focus on two fundamental things: your time and energy. Lose sight of one and your whole foundation in life can become unstable. If you don’t keep your energy in mind then you might not have enough when an opportunity arises. On the other hand, not keeping an eye on your time, can put you at risk of becoming aimless. Without a way to track and measure your time, it can be hard to learn and develop.

Always remember that every single thing you do requires energy. Just like with your precious time, be wary of who you spend it on. Celebrate the joy of life with those that give you energy.

10. The ability to ask for help is a strength not a weakness

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness it is a sign of strength. It shows that you are smart enough to know when you need to ask for help. Never ever let anyone make you feel ashamed of asking for help. Throughout the course of our lives we all depend on others to do the things we need to do.

11. Friendship is a two-way street

It takes work. You need to put in the work and so does your friend. Friendships can be a beautiful thing when it is watered and nurtured. Effort is therefore essential for making a friendship bloom and last. Put in the work and enjoy reaping the benefits.

On a more general note, remember to appreciate the people around you. Never take people for granted. For it is not guaranteed that what is there today will be there tomorrow, without the necessary effort from both sides.

12. Trust your gut

That underbelly feeling is something you should always take into account. I’m also not saying to trust it blindly but definitely give it some serious thought when you are considering your options.

The way that I see it your gut is your subconscious talking to you. Even when you might not be able to put your finger on why something might feel off, deep down you do remember. This is your little physiological notification, so don’t ignore it.

13. Starting is half the work

In order to accomplish great things and be successful, you need to start and finish things. But how can you finish something you never start. Quite often we never get to where we aspire to be because we do not even have the willpower to start. It usually isn’t half as bad as we tell ourselves prior to starting. Don’t fall victim to psyching yourself out. Fear should never be the reason you don’t accomplish let alone start something.

14. Discipline can get you a lot further than motivation ever will

I like to think that motivation is in the mind and discipline is in the body. You just don’t always feel like it and that’s just the truth. Mentally, you might not always be up for it but a workaround is to condition yourself to do the work anyway. We can’t just expect ourselves to wait around for motivation to hit us. That’s why discipline is so important. For those days when you just don’t really feel like. We all have them, things are not going as planned and you are generally just off.

Therefore, we develop habits and repeat, repeat, repeat until they are practically an automated action performed by our body. Our very own autopilot. We just need to learn how to program our desired tasks. Then for those rainy days where motivation is hard to find, discipline steps in to save the day and maintain your progress.

15. Whether you think you can or cannot you are right

Believing in yourself is probably one of the most important things you can do. I think I will even go so far as to say that this is where it all starts. Believing that you can(not) do something is the deciding factor that determines the outcome.

Whether you are telling people that you can or cannot you are always right. We bring to life what we think we can accomplish. Most potential achievements remain just that, potential. That is until someone dares to take this potential and bring it into motion. Just like in physics, manifesting achievements requires work to change them from potential to actual achievements. We need to put our potential achievements into motion.

This self fulfilling prophecy bring to life that which you constantly repeat to yourself like a mantra. Our thoughts are the seeds of our actions. Therefore, be wary of that which you speak into existence, for you reap what you sow.

16. You always have a choice

Being reactive or proactive is a choice. Sometimes things happen that we did not foresee or wish. Despite, unforeseen circumstances you still have the control to decide how you react to it. That always remains a choice. A choice that snowballs into what happens next. There are many things we can blame on circumstance and truth be told, the blame game can be quite addicting. However, shoving the responsibility away is not the solution. We remain accountable for ourselves and our choices.

Remember that you are in control of your emotions, they are not in control of you. You have the ability to choose how you react to things that happen around you.

Sometimes it can feel like we do not have a choice, but it might just be that we do not see the options which we WANT to choose from. Sometimes we unconsciously blind ourselves from the options we HAVE in the hopes of a better circumstance in which a more favorable selection of options appears. There can be so many other reasons why we might miss what is right in front of us. Try to be open tot be possibilities, because often it is when we adjust our perspective that other options appear to us.

17. It’s better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have one and not be prepared

Preparation is key! Even if you are currently not where you want to be, that does not mean that you should sit still and wait for your situation to change. Be proactive and increase your chances for success. For few things can make you feel worse than when you are given a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity but you are not ready to do something useful with it.

18. Sleep is golden

Not everyone needs the same amount of sleep to function. Everyone is physiologically different and yet no one can function without sleep. Finding what the ideal number of hours that works for you is a process in itself. You try, and try until you find what works for you.

It is easy to take sleeping for granted or to forgo it for what seems at the time more fun or critical for short term gains. Yet, nothing is as rewarding and as regenerative as sleeping. Like with many things in life, too much of it can be harmful as well. Nevertheless, when it comes to sleep, getting a sufficient amount can leave you ready to seize yet another day!

19. Everything is relative

Perspective is key! Your end of the world scenario might be someone else’s best case scenario. Don’t get too hung up on your own situation that you lose sight of the bigger picture.

20. Eat that friggin frog!

As much as it might suck, as much as you might dread it… eat that frog! Let it be one of the first things you do that day. Not a day in your life should pass without having consumed a frog. The idea here is that you start your day with a bang. You get the hardest thing out of the way and in comparison everything else will seem like child’s play.

21. Learn to love yourself

If you’re not going to do it then who will? Learning to love yourself is a powerful step in your personal development and growth journey. Embrace every part of you. When you are able to love yourself, you set your standard of love for everyone to see and uphold.

When you love yourself you indirectly also communicate to others how you would like them to treat you, when it comes to love.

22. Speak your mind

You have a voice and every right for it to be heard. Do not let others silence you and most importantly never silence yourself. Whether other bully you into silence or you are your own worst enemy, you have to fight for your voice to be heard no matter what.

23. Listen rather than assume

Quite often we think we know it better and we are even quick to act on our own assumptions of the situation. There are instances where this works in our favor but at times it can lead to confusion and misunderstandings. I am not saying assumptions are bad but having them grounded in observational input puts you in a better position to ‘read the room’ as they say.

24. It’s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them

Life is one big learning process, we learn as we live and the more we learn the more we grow. For the longest time I was afraid of making mistakes, of being wrong, of not having the right answer. It’s the pressure of succeeding. In school we are taught that there is a right answer and until you get it, you cannot obtain ‘full marks’.

Funnily enough there is no explicit right answer in life. We come out of school and we’re thrown into an environment where we scramble to do the ‘right’ thing so we can get out ‘full marks’. Little did we know that the rules of this game called life, had changed. in order to succeed in life you need to be open to failing. Life is about trial and error; one big social experiment. Every mistake is an opportunity. A lesson waiting to be learned. Now I know, it’s never fun to be wrong or to fail but never let that stop you from living, learning and growing.

25. Having a purpose in life is key to living

Oh wow, I know. How terribly cliché! By it is a learning point I had to bring up. Only you know what can make you happy and what makes you feel truly alive. In order to really live, I strongly believe we need to have a purpose in life. I have seen people that lacked purpose in life and those that were strongly driven by it. The difference was profound m. The difference was a clear sense of a more fulfilling existence.

26. If you are going to do something, give it your all.

Yes. Your everything! No half this, or half that. Your effort is not like seasoning a dish with a pinch of salt here and a dash of pepper there. If you decide to commit yourself to something, BE ALL IN. You might as well unscrew the lid and dump the whole content in there. A bit of a crazy reference but hopefully you catch my drift :).

The reason we often never make much of the goals we set out for ourselves is because we are treating them like a dish that needs to be seasoned here and there with some effort. That is just not going to cut it. When applying effort you need to be all in. 100% or bust.

Each year is a true blessing and one year where you do not learn, is a year where you do not grow. Honestly speaking, can we really call it living if we’re not growing?

Takeaways

These are my 26 learning points by 26. While on the brink of entering a new year and saying goodbye to 26, it seemed fitting to reflect and share what have been my most valuable learning points so far.


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“Life must be understood backward. But it must be lived forward.”

— Søren Kierkegaard

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