Ten Things I Wish I Knew At 18

Some of you asked for Ten Things I Wish I Knew At 18 all in one place. Thanks for following that series. Here you go!

One of my cousins just graduated high school and I had been wondering what to get her as a gift. Of course, the usual things like money, or a nice piece of jewelry went through my mind. I wanted to do those things, but also wanted to write something to her that let her know how special it was to me to watch her grow up through the years.

I remember how I felt at age 18, feeling mature in certain areas but not in others. And trying desperately to pretend that I knew what was going on and fooling nobody. I didn’t yet realize that at 18, you’re only partially baked and that’s just the way you are supposed to be at that age. I decided to share with my Lil Cousine what I would have wanted to know when I was 18. And now I’m sharing it with you.

1. YOU ARE A STAR

The first thing I wish I had realized – just how wonderful I was. Not in an arrogant “look at me, I’m so cool/smart” but that I was wonderful just because I was wonderful. I kept thinking there was always something to fix. Boy was I wrong! There is always something to learn, but there was nothing wrong with me, nothing that needed ‘fixing’. I wasn’t broken just because I didn’t always do things perfectly. Part of being young and human is making mistakes. Part of being older and human is making mistakes too We are born magnificent and somehow, through all the criticisms we receive while growing up we begin to lose sight of that. So, here is your reminder from me. You are wonderful and magnificent.

What would you have wanted your 18 year old self to know?

2. OWN YOUR VALUES

Don’t compromise your values in order to get someone to like you. Everyone has a different personality style, I’m a bit of a people-pleaser myself, but I think we all sometimes sacrifice our integrity in order to get approval. It took me longer to learn this one than I want to admit but eventually I did.

This applies particularly in romantic relationships. At some point you will be asked to do something you either aren’t ready for, comfortable with, or just isn’t the right thing to do. And by ‘right thing’ I don’t mean morally right, I mean a decision that you will feel good about tomorrow and the next day and the next.

It was hard to learn to say no, to challenge someone, to risk conflict. But a funny thing happened to me as I learned to do this: I earned respect. Respect that came for standing up for my values in a firm yet gentle way. And best of all, I got my own approval, instead of needing it from others.

3. PERSPECTIVE – THERE IS MORE THAN ONE!

Give up the need to be right. I wasted so much time with this one. In short form, every one of us sees ourselves as right. And usually if someone’s opinion differs, we tend to see them as wrong. They are not. From their perspective, they are just as right as you are.

When two people need to be right, this is how conflict starts that may have difficulty being resolved. The flip side of this is don’t let someone make you wrong for believing the way you do. Instead, respect their point of view and ask them to respect yours.

4. WE’RE ALL INNOCENT BEGINNERS!

People pretend they have it all together when they really don’t. I remember feeling as if I was the only one who was clueless about certain things: what that word really means; how to do something my boss asked me to do; how to handle a difficult conversation with someone I cared about.

Don’t buy into someone’s act, realize they feel just as insecure or unconfident as you do. There isn’t a situation where everyone else gets the keys to Life and you missed it. It’s okay to sometimes not know what’s going on. Don’t let that shake your confidence, it’s just a part of being a beginner at things.

5. YOU DECIDE

Take the time to define your own values and beliefs instead of what you think you ‘should’ be doing. Doing this is what defines you as a person, as You!

As children, we get a lot of (appropriate) messages to conform, and this is what protects us while we are learning to look out for ourselves. I’ve seen so many people who didn’t take the time to learn what they really wanted out of life; to reflect on what they really believed, only to ‘wake up’ one day in their 40’s miserable and yet they did everything they ‘should’ have done.

We all have an inner compass that unfailingly directs us—we just have to take the time to learn how to listen to it.

6. CONSCIOUS CREATION

Your thoughts create your reality.

Our thoughts, repeated and habitual, drive our life experience and form our beliefs, which then become our story. I’m not talking ‘positive thinking here’, but what you deeply believe and the repetitive thoughts you have about that. For example, if you are afraid of taking tests based upon an unexpected bad grade a few years ago, you might imagine yourself looking at an upcoming test score and being disappointed. That helps bring that about!

What I’m suggesting is to get into the habit of picturing and imagining the best possible outcomes that you can. Your imagination is the fuel of life. You are ALREADY creating your life, you’re just doing it unconsciously and haphazardly.

7. LOVE IS [NOT] ONLY A FEELING

Love is an action, not just a feeling. I thought for years love was just about how I felt about someone. Then I came across the concept of love as an action and it really blew me away. Any time you do a kindness, or go out of your way for someone it’s love. Speaking kindly to someone you care about is love.

Make it a daily practice to do something loving toward someone in your life; to make a choice toward them that says, “What can I do for you?” instead of “What can I get from you?”. I promise this will be hugely rewarding for you!

8. THE POWER IS YOURS!

Every single thing we do in life is a choice. You choose to get up in the morning. You choose what to wear; where to go; who to hang with and on and on. We pretend that we ‘don’t’ have a choice’ when in reality we don’t like the choices that we see. We ALWAYS have a choice, even when we can’t see effective possibilities.

Not understanding this concept creates what I call this the ‘Myth of Victimhood’. Any time you feel powerless or helpless or find yourself saying things like “It’s not fair!” in an attempt to get someone to ease up on you, you are in the Myth of Victimhood.

Realizing that we choose our lives is the first step toward empowerment and release from powerlessness and fear. It may take a while to incorporate this sense of choice in everything you do (even your thoughts and what you tell yourself!) but it’s worth it in the long run to give you a sense of mastery of Life.

9. PLAY WITH YOUR NARRATIVE

We make up a story about Life and our place in it, and that story determines our thoughts, actions, behaviors and choices. The stories we hear turn to stories in our heads. Once you realize that you make up the story (the power lies within you, not from a source outside yourself), then you may learn to create a new story for yourself that is more to your liking.

We are influenced by what we hear and what we experience…and the conclusions we draw about that experience. The key to change is to listen to yourself talking to yourself. Your story can be reframed! How exciting!

10. CHOOSE JOY

Finally, don’t take yourself and life too seriously! Play, have fun, choose joy any time and any way you can. This doesn’t mean abandoning your responsibilities, it just means to stay in balance with the fun things in life.

I wish for you to be happy; to have creative and fulfilling work; to have loving and joyful relationships; and to create wealth, abundance and health.

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