Turning 25 at the weekend had me reflecting on the past 12 months – thinking of some things I would have done differently and others I wouldn’t change for the world.
Our days are filled with a constant stream of decisions. Most are mundane and don’t have much impact on our futures, but some are so important that they can haunt you for the rest of your life.
“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” –Stephen Covey
Decisions that are minor, are like deciding what to eat, which way to drive to work, or in what order to tackle tasks; others are more difficult, such as choosing between two job offers, whether to move to a new city for someone you love, or whether to cut a toxic person out of your life. Regardless of the magnitude of the decision, our brains make it hard for us to keep the perspective we need to make good choices.
Don’t worry about what other people think.
When I think of some of the decisions I’ve made over the years, some of them I wish I hadn’t made while others I am happy I did. But the one thing I’ve come to realize is that we should never make a decision based on what we think other people think. When you make your decisions based on other people’s opinions, two things tend to happen:
You make a poor choice.
You fail to uphold your morals.
The best way to avoid falling victim to the opinions of others is to realize that other people’s opinions are just that—opinions. Regardless of how great or terrible they think you are, that’s only their opinion. Your true self-worth comes from within. We often don’t reach our full potentials because we are scared of what is going to be said. One thing I have learned especially over the past 12-18 months, is no matter what you do in life, someone will always have something to say. So why hold back? 99% of the time, the reasons behind their vicious comments and negative criticism stems from a lack of direction and excitement in their own lives. They are too scared to follow their own dreams and ambitions, or lack of, and therefore put others down to feel better about themselves.
Learn the importance of balance.
12 months ago I was a completely different person to the girl I am today – 12 months ago, I was self-obsessed with my image and fitness and suffered from an eating disorder. It was a slippery downhill spiral, and as a result made some decisions that I am still trying to make up for and some that I will honestly say I am ashamed of.
I stopped hanging out with my friends, eating out, going to family events because I wanted what I thought then was the ‘perfect’ body. Let me tell you this, 12 months on, I can barely even remember how I looked, but I do remember all the things I missed out on last summer by being so self-obsessed and only focusing on my own goals.
Working hard on your goals is a great way to impact the world, to learn, to grow, to feel accomplished, and sometimes even to find happiness, but it becomes a problem when you do so at the expense of the people closest to you. Ironically, we often work hard at achieving things for ourselves and the people we care about without realizing that they value our company more. The key is to find a balance between doing what you love and being with the people you love. Otherwise you’ll look back one day and wish you’d focused more on the latter.
Don’t be afraid to speak up and express yourself. If you’re feeling happy, show it. If you’re feeling sad, open up. If you love someone, tell them. If you’re lonely, talk to someone. If you’re mad at someone, tell them. If you’re struggling, turn to someone.
One thing I wish I had done sooner is expressed my true feelings – Feelings of happiness and sadness. We’re taught as children that emotions are dangerous and that they must be bottled up and controlled. This usually works at first, but boxing up your feelings causes them to grow until they erupt. The best thing you can do is to put your feelings directly on the table. Though it’s painful to initiate, it forces you to be honest and transparent and sometimes can lift that heavy weight off your shoulder.
Keep in Touch.
I cannot express how important it is to stay in touch with friends. When you get caught up in your weekly routine, it’s easy to lose sight of how important people are to you, especially those you have to make time for. Relationships with old friends are among the first things to fall off the table when we’re busy. This is unfortunate because spending time with friends is a major stress buster. Close friends bring you energy, fresh perspectives, and a sense of belonging, in a way that no one else can.
Just be Happy.
I wish I had let myself be truly happy sooner. When your life is about to end, all the difficulties you’ve faced suddenly become trivial compared to the good times. This is because you realize that, more often than not, suffering is a choice. Unfortunately, most people realize this far too late. Although we all inevitably experience pain, how we react to our pain is completely under our control, as is our ability to experience joy. Learning to laugh, smile, and be happy (especially when stressed) is a challenge at times, but it’s one that’s worth every ounce of effort.
Some decisions have repercussions that can last a lifetime. Most of these decisions are made daily, and they require focus and perspective to keep them from haunting you.