27 Things That Would Have Changed My Life If I Knew Them In My Early 20s

by Anthony Awadalla

"I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger," are words spoken by Rod Stewart that I truly agree with. Imagine knowing what you know now when you were younger.

What would be different?

If I could go back in time and teach my younger self a few lessons, they would be the following:

1. Know yourself better than anyone.

We keep hearing about “following your heart,” but sometimes we wonder what the hell that even means.

To me, I think happiness and long-term fulfillment are better attained if people assert their personal strengths and passions into causes they believe in, which is why it’s good to know yourself better than anyone else. Keep track of what you love, what you don’t love, what’s important to you and so on and so forth.

2. It’s nice being invincible young ... until you’re not.

You start to slowly understand all the reasons your parents told you about things, like warming up before exercising, or being careful when you go out or on a trip.

All it takes is one accident or incident to change the whole scope of your future -- a little extreme to say, but I’ve seen some sh*t!

3. The combination of acting on your gut-feeling or that little voice in your head and being brave can lead to extraordinary things.

Doing something you’ve always wanted to do, like starting your own fitness company or performing at an open mic show, possibly putting an end to a toxic relationship, leaving a job you’ve been dragging on at for months or years, or booking a trip of a lifetime that just takes a few seconds of blind courage can lead to some immensely liberating things.

The rest is just showing up.

4. Go out less and save more for traveling and experiences.

You forget about nights out around town, but you’ll always remember adventures in foreign lands.

It’s always nice spending time with people close to you in whatever city you deem home, but with time, it gets to a point where a lot of it becomes repetitive and predictable, which, for me, causes it to lose the whole "exciting" factor.

Making new experiences outside of your habitat is much more memorable.

5. Respect is given or broken based on the level of respect people believe you deserve.

In less complicating words, it’s human nature and instinct for us to put our own personal interests, wants and desires before other people's.

We all do it. Whether it’s someone you love who puts drugs over your friendship or someone who just considers you chopped liver, it’s not necessarily on you.

Some will lie, not show up or cheat you in one way or another.

Don’t beat yourself up. It’s something to do with that individual and whatever he or she is going through. You either bring it to that person's attention, accept it for what it is or keep him or her afar.

6. Invest time and money in yourself, above anything.

Think about how much money you spend on things that don’t really matter. For example, bar tabs or fulfilling our artificial senses of materialism are a couple that come to mind.

Bottom line, if you have the option, investing in yourself is always worth it, even if it has to do with taking time off before or after college to go on a journey of self-discovery.

Even giving yourself a year to turn one of your passions into a career. At least you can look back and say you tried.

7. Discipline and consistency are everything.

Why is it a common trend for some of the most successful people to wake up before dawn with a morning routine? It’s a habit of consistency and discipline.

For three months, I was able to wake up at 5 am every morning with the following routine: read or watch an inspirational video/speech on YouTube, make a smoothie, go to the gym, write down three things I’m grateful for and do homework before heading off to work.

After that three-month mark, I lost my consistency and screwed it all up. It’s all about remaining disciplined and consistent, which, if done successfully, will reflect in all other areas of life.

I think that's what sets a lot of people apart.

8. Don’t let go of yourself, your loved ones or become comfortable just because you’re busy with work or in a relationship.

It’s happened to me to some extent and might be happening to you or someone you know. I mean, let's be honest: We all had that one friend at some point in our lives who disappeared because of a relationship.

9. Being selfish is good to a certain extent, but being selfish without consideration of other people is a sure way to damage a relationship.

I’m guilty for having my DGAF moments; I’m only human, but the older I get, the more I realize how my actions can impact people who care about me, and vice versa.

If you're stuck in your way of doing things and always have a "me first" mindset, would you really blame someone for running off?

Let's be honest -- relationships involve two people, and meeting halfway is how you two reach a mutual agreement, right?

However, not that I'm married, but I think the proper way in that scenario is for the man to go about 99.99 percent of the way in order to remain married.

10. Open your mind and soul to the world, and you’ll be surprised how much it guides you to a better version of yourself.

I think it was sometime in the past year or so when I started caring less about what people thought or worrying less about what I say or do and just started taking steps toward showing my peers what I’m all about.

Whether it’s been blogging or just being open about experiences with life, you start attracting like-minded people and opportunities that are more aligned with who you are and what you love.

11. Read more books than you watch TV series.

I just think of it this way -- you probably have something you’re striving toward in your career or a certain area of life.

There’s a 99.99 percent chance someone who you want to be like has written a book or article sharing how he or she succeeded in the same thing you desire.

Reading that person’s book is the equivalent of basically having dinner with that person to pick his or her brain. Read more.

12. You may regret some of the things you do, but the damage has been done, so find the positive in it, and move on.

Have you ever been in a situation in which you looked back far after something happened and realized how embarrassing you sounded? Man, I have handled some situations so poorly looking back.

I've had my emotional breakdowns, said the wrong things in interviews or just acted way out of line, whether it was saying something malicious to someone I cared about or acting recklessly with little care of repercussions.

Almost every single time, it’s been because I wasn’t in control of what was going on inside. I let my feelings get the best of me.

As I do consider those moments low points, I also take them as opportunities to improve. Once you master your emotions, you’re a much more powerful person.

13. Don’t waste energy on things outside of your control.

Instead, focus on improving things within your control.

This touches on the same points as the previous lesson, but the idea is whenever I found myself in a downward spiral, the only things that made me feel better was focusing, balancing and maintaining my mind, body and soul.

Examples include exercising, being grateful, dieting, praying, meditating, giving (donating) and just surrounding yourself with what you love.

14. Listen more by understanding what is being received, ask questions if confused, and remember details -- especially names.

I’ve been pretty terrible at remembering names. Literally in one ear and out the other.

But I’m really impressed if someone remembers my name or something about me that I mentioned in previous conversations -- it leaves an impression.

It's all about that active listening life.

15. Take classes that force you out of your comfort zone (ex: improv class, toastmasters, etc...).

Not only will you have a story to tell, but you’ll break down personal barriers by putting yourself out there.

16. If you aren’t sure how to handle a situation, take a step back, ask yourself if you have time before making a decision and use that time to regroup your mind before moving forward.

Have you ever been in a job interview or let's even say a conversation with someone you’re dating and whatever you say or do may risk everything?

I’ve been offered jobs or been in conversations in the past that I felt pressured into and made the mistake of going down a rocky road. However, these situations could’ve been avoided by just asking for more time.

When you feel pressured into something, you aren’t thinking straight.

It’s important to assess the situation and regroup your thoughts if that option is available.

17. Some things you firmly believe in now will change as you grow older, so always keep an open mind.

You may say you don’t believe in marriage or having kids but find yourself married with kids 10 years later.

Maybe you might get in a fight with someone close to you because you highly disagree with something he or she is doing, only later to do the same thing with the same effect.

Now you’re just a hypocrite. Always keep an open mind and perspective and see the world through different eyes.

18. Understand the difference between chasing and persistence.

I think, above all, stop chasing people who don’t want you. Or maybe they did want you, but you’ve scared them away by acting out of desperation and neediness.

It’s so damn exhausting.

I’m easily guilty for this. Instead, just do you and shift your focus elsewhere, like toward enjoying the moment you’re in with your friends, or yourself, or whatever you’re doing.

Attract instead.

If someone finds you interesting and wants to figure you out, then by all means.

You’ll be told “no” a lot of times in life, but know when to come back or when to try again. Knowing that requires patience, maybe even a different approach.

19. Do you without expectations from others.

My buddy always used to send me the Gestalt Prayer (Google it.) any time I found myself in the middle of a crossroad with a significant other.

You may see it as a bit corny, but judging off my "cliche article of lessons learned," you can easily categorize me into that stereotype, you know, the type who reads motivational quotes and feels something from them.

But anyhow, if you’re in any way the same (which I think you are if you’ve gotten this far in the article), it may help you as it did for me!

20. If you’re afraid of doing something, jump at the opportunity.

Whether you do well or poorly, the results are exhilarating.

Will Smith once said in an interview how he had an obsession with doing things he feared.

If he feared something, he had to do it. It's how he pushed himself to new levels.

21. If you find the major for you in college, then you already have a headstart on everyone else who’s trying to figure out life post-college.

Personal advice: pursuing a field of specialization gives you more value as a job-seeker, as opposed to something broad.

For example, an accounting degree vs. business major. In my opinion, it's better to offer a specific skill than a broad knowledge.

22. Find a trusting mentor, coach or someone to guide you -- especially someone you want to be like.

Yes, a lot of people make it on their own, but I think they owe it to someone or something they envisioned to replicate.

For example, I like taking fitness and diet advice from people who have the same exact physique and level of strength I desire.

And in a way, that ideology goes for everything else you strive for.

23. The power of asking: If you never ask, you’ll never know.

We all have that daring friend who has no shame in pushing boundaries and seeing how far he or she can go by simply asking.

I have a friend who has managed to get me into free shows, VIP entrance and upgraded suites just by charming his way into it.

If there's is a will, there's a way.

24. Instead of complaining, find solutions.

We’ve all been behind on work or in a situation with our team in which we’re completely out of sync to achieve a common goal, so we bicker, moan or whine.

Instead of doing all that negative stuff, which only creates more problems, step back and identify the problem. Then find ways to resolve it.

If you can't get clients, don't get stuck in the negativity -- just work harder. If you're already working hard but constantly find yourself struggling, maybe you need to reevaluate your approach.

25. Don’t take life too seriously.

Remember to make light of a situation at any opportunity you have to do so.

I get caught up sometimes in my outlook on life, but for the most part, I would say I mess around a lot, especially with people.

Go prank a friend. Now!

26. Say hi or talk to strangers.

Basically the exact opposite advice our parents told us when we were kids.

I always pay attention to the social butterfly types, especially at work.

They say hi or strike up conversations with anyone, whether they cut the silences of elevator rides down or strike up conversations in the cafeteria.

One of my friends is really impressive to me because he is exactly that type who just knows how to talk to anyone and draw people in.

If I’m in line with him at the movies or shopping for shoes at Foot Locker, I expect to meet at least five new strangers and sometimes make some new friends in the process!

27. Turning 27 sounded so old when I was younger, but I don’t understand why I felt that way.

Life has barely even started in a lot of ways, and for all the “youngins” worried about entering your mid-to-late 20s, I can reassure you that it’s actually a lot nicer.

In my opinion, I think your 30s will be the start of some of the best years to come.

When you’re young, you’re still trying to figure everything out, which can be a pain in the "arse" at times.

Personally, each year for me has gotten better because I’m honing more into who I am as a person, and I just think that’s normal for a lot of 20-something-year-olds because a lot of us are still exploring (not that growing ever stops). But it’s a nice feeling to know that your perspective on life gets bigger and bigger as time goes by.