“The Universe is not outside of you. Look inside yourself; everything that you want, you are already that.” ~Rumi
I remember when I was a kid, “thirty years old” sounded very old and mature. “Someone who is thirty clearly knows everything about life and has it all figured out.” That was my assumption.
Life taught me that not only thirty-year olds, but most people in general have no clue what they’re doing with their lives and why they’re here.
Although I’m far away from knowing all the answers to life’s biggest questions, I feel like my twenties have been such a learning curve.
I lived in eight different countries, changed careers, started my own business, transformed my body several times, met my soul mate, overcame major challenges, and it feels like I’ve become a completely different person.
I recently turned thirty and it made me reflect on the last decade. Although it often seems like life doesn’t change much and every day is the same as the last, when I look back at my life it feels like I’ve traveled to a parallel universe.
I’d love to share the life lessons I learned in my twenties.
1. How other people judge us is none of our business. We won’t please everyone anyway.
I spent my teen years and early twenties worrying about what other people thought and said about me. But later in life I realized that it could only affect me if I allowed it to.
What other people say or think of us is a reflection of them—their values, expectations, insecurities, and standards—and has nothing or very little to do with us.
People who are wise and/or know who we truly are will not judge us, as they see and know our essence. And those who don’t, we can’t control their thoughts and actions.
2. Admitting mistakes and apologizing is a sign of strength, not weakness.
I used to think that apologizing was a sign of weakness and used to play cool and ignore my mistakes. But now I think that the sign of weakness is being full of yourself, having a huge ego, and trying to pretend to be right, no matter what.
When I noticed how much I respect people who admit they are wrong and apologize, I embraced this behavior myself. It feels liberating.
3. No one is perfect; we’re all works in progress.
People might seem like they have their lives together and live perfectly, especially if you judge them by their Instagram pictures. However, when you get to know people more intimately and they open up, you see that even the most successful and seemingly perfect people have insecurities and problems. Some of them have even more than you could ever imagine.
My life, too, may seem perfect on the outside: I love what I do, travel a lot, live in the tropics, and have an amazing partner. But I still have plenty of challenges and ups and downs in my life—you just won’t find about them on my Instagram account.
4. Living according to our values and truth is the most satisfying thing in life.
Determining my main values in life (which are currently health, freedom, connection, and contribution) has put me on a journey to growth. It’s given me clarity and strength to make difficult decisions, like moving countries, ending relationships, and changing careers.
No matter what you do, if you let your values and truth guide your decisions, it will turn out well, even though at times making these decisions might feel scary and make you feel vulnerable.
5. Money is just a form of energy.
I went through periods when I put too much importance on money, as well as times when I criticized money as not being spiritual. It turns out money is just a tool that enables us to do certain things, and it can even help us grow spiritually if we face our patterns or limiting beliefs.
At the end of the day, money is just a form of energy. The more energy and value you give, the more it comes back (although there’s often a time gap between giving and getting).
6. We’re not stuck in our reality, our identity, or our story.
Our sense of self, or identity, is a conceptual fabrication. It’s nothing more than a summation of what everybody else—our parents, teachers, mentors, friends, and society—told us we were, and we accepted as truth.
We can change instantly if we choose to, although most people unconsciously choose not to. The only thing that keeps us stuck is our own mind. Investing time and effort in mind training, aka meditation, has been one of the most valuable things I’ve done in my life.
7. Outside circumstances are usually a reflection of our inside.
Negativity could never affect us unless there was negativity inside of us in the first place.
Anything that triggers us is a gift, as it points out the areas that we haven’t dealt with or things that are unhealed.
8. Health is more important than appearances.
I want to be in great shape because being healthy and fit improves the quality of my life, not because I need to look hot to impress others.
Although I tried to convince myself that I shouldn’t care about what other people think of me, I still cared a lot—until I learned how to love myself and realized that all I ever needed was a genuine acceptance and appreciation from myself, not others.
Once we know who we are and are confident about it, external approval becomes less and less important.
9. Forgiveness is the key to freedom.
We’re all going through life and doing the best we can with the resources and knowledge that we have at any given time. Let go of anger and grudges, and forgive others and yourself for being an imperfect human.
10. I’m biased (and so are you) and I know it (and so should you).
We’re all biased, and realizing that our perspective is neither better nor worse than someone else’s has been both scary and liberating. Letting go of the need to be right and understood has accelerated my growth and allowed me to see the world from many different perspectives.
11. Loving-kindness moves mountains.
Whenever I walk with loving-kindness, in my heart, the whole world smiles at me. I mean it literally, not just metaphorically.
If the world seems like a sad, scary, or unfair place, practice loving-kindness and compassion, and you’ll see from a different perspective.
12. Listening to our heart, even if it looks ridiculous from a logical perspective, will never fail us.
All my best decisions in life didn’t make sense. From the outside perspective, I looked like a mad person when I made some of my choices. But there was this inner voice saying, “Even if you don’t know how exactly it’s going to turn out, all is going to be okay.”
We all have this inner voice; we just need to remove the distractions that hinder us from hearing it, and most importantly, find the courage to listen to it and act on it.
13. Plans are for adjusting.
Nothing has ever turned out exactly how I planned. But I believe life always gives us what we ask for. It might not be in the exact form we ask for, though. If you ask for patience, you’ll get a queue in a bank. Life will give you people, opportunities, and circumstances to learn what you need to learn the most.
14. If we want our relationships to succeed, we have to leave our ego behind.
Relationships challenge us and facilitate growth. My romantic relationship taught me that trying to be right or holding your pride just doesn’t work if you want it to succeed.
You have to see a relationship as one ship. If you try to fight and argue and win the “battle,” you’re trying to sink the ship you’re on, so it’s best to see the common goal and common good. This was very challenging in my early twenties but probably the best lesson I’ve learned in life.
15. Connections are the key to happiness.
We’re social beings and we long for connection.
No matter how many cool and amazing things you have going on in your life, if you don’t have people to share it with, you won’t be as happy.
Surround yourself with people who make you feel your best and recognize who you truly are.
16. Comparing ourselves to others is the fastest way to feel anxious and unfulfilled.
It takes practice and self-love to be able to celebrate others’ success, especially when things are not going the way you want to in your own life. But understanding that we’re all on our own journeys has helped me stop comparing myself to others and instead be inspired by others’ journeys and success.
17. Learning and investing in our skills is the best strategy for future success.
Physical things, money, even people in our life come and go. The knowledge and skills we’ve acquired is what we carry with us.
18. Don’t take things personally.
We suffer when we identify with things, people, circumstances, situations, job titles, and relationship statuses. Embracing the attitude that nothing belongs to us and “all just is” has been very liberating and has brought ease and joy to my life.
19. Other people don’t always want our help.
We have to stop forcing our beliefs or trying to help if our help is not welcome.
I made this mistake way too many times in my early twenties. I was always passionate about helping people, but it took some time and bad experiences to realize that if someone’s not ready for your help, they will not accept it, and you might even do damage rather than service.
20. Building healthy habits will pay off one hundredfold.
When I was twenty, I used to smoke, drink alcohol, consume excess caffeine, and eat foods that were unhealthy for my body. And I was fine for a while. When you’re that young, your body can handle anything. But later your body starts tolerating these habits less and less, plus they add stress and your body starts to break down.
Becoming healthy and changing my lifestyle has been one of the best things I’ve done in life. It gives me so much energy and I feel amazing every single day, thanks to a healthy lifestyle I lead.
Chances are that on my fortieth birthday I’ll look at these lessons from my twenties and think that I had no clue about life whatsoever. That’s okay. The only constant is change, and humans are consistently inconsistent. I’m can’t wait to see what my thirties will teach me and what kind of person I’ll to become.