21 Character-Building Truths I Wish I Knew When I was 21

Crossing the barrier into the next decade of life with some valuable insights.

21 Character-Building Truths I Wish I Knew When I was 21
Anangsha Alammyan on Instagram

Crossing the barrier into the next decade of life with some valuable insights.

Your 20s are a weird phase in your life.

You’ve just started earning. You’ve begun to realize that things you say hold power to sway the decisions of older family members. You’ve just tasted power. You know what true freedom feels like.

Your whole life is ahead of you. You can do just about anything you want.

And that’s where the problem begins.

You feel you’re invincible, that you can do nothing wrong. This puts you in a position of vulnerability. Your dreams get bigger than your heart can handle, filling you with this mad rush to accomplish every single goal immediately.

If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed that way, this post is for you. It lists 21 lessons I’ve learned in life which would have greatly helped me had I known them when I was 21.

1. Take that nap!

I know a nap is probably the last thing on your priority list right now, but trust me, the other ten things would get infinitely easier if you take a 20-minute nap.

2. Don’t worry about your age

No matter how many times the world tells you otherwise — your life doesn’t end at 30.

Longevity research from the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine establishes that in the next ten years or so, significant improvements will happen in the field of medicine, allowing the average human to live a healthy life well after crossing 100.

At 30, barely one-third of your life is done. How can you say it’s over?

Don’t treat your 20s like a mad race only focusing on the future.

Live in the moment. Breathe. Laugh. You’ll not get your 20s back.

3. Peace of mind > Societal validation

The world might treat you as an outcast, but if you find it difficult to fit in, remember this quote I loved in the Hindi crime thriller series Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors:

“Jin logo ne duniya badla hai, kabhi na kabhi to jaat-bahar hue hai.
(Anyone who has changed the world has at least once been treated like an outcast.)

If you think, act, and behave like everyone else, you’ll deprive yourself of the chance to live an authentic, honest life.

If you only act in the way the world expects you to, you deprive humanity of knowing the magic that flows in your veins and being dazzled by the burst of colors inside your soul.

4. You can love someone without being with them

Not all relationships have a happy ending. It doesn’t mean they were a waste of your time.

In life, you’ll meet several people who will make your heart flutter. Your tired soul will come alive again at their memory.

But more than love, compatibility is important to keep a relationship alive. If you both don’t have similar goals, plans, and attitude towards life, it will be hard to live together, no matter how much you love each other.

Sometimes, the most selfless way of loving someone is by letting them go because you know they deserve someone who loves them more than you do.

5. Your planet is your only home

Just because you were born on earth doesn’t mean you get to treat the planet like trash and not care for her at all.

Our planet has limited resources, limited ability to keep you alive. If you aren’t responsible for how much you hurt her by tracking and minimizing your carbon footprint (the total amount of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane, that are generated by your actions), you’re behaving like an entitled a##hole who’s slowly killing the only place they have in the universe.

6. Your body is your biggest resource

You’re young and full of potential. You know you’ll take the world by storm one day.

You’re so busy in working towards making your dreams come true that you aren’t able to find time to take care of your body. You’ve been dragged to the gym before by health-conscious friends, but you’ve always made excuses, thinking you could have earned so much money if you spent those few hours in front of your computer.

See, here’s the truth. No matter how rich you are, all your money is meaningless if you don’t have good health to enjoy it.

You might feel invincible now, but soon, your age will start showing. And the only way you can delay the onset of sickness and old age is by exercising.

Go on. Stop making excuses. Your body is the most valuable asset you own. Taking good care of it is the least bit of investment you can make in yourself.

7. No one’s going to save you

Don’t waste your life waiting for the person, the relationship, the job, or the family that will “save” you.

If you don’t take control of your situation, no one’s going to hand your dream on a platter.

You’ve got to work for it. That’s how the ones who succeeded before you did. That’s how the ones who come after you will.

Your courage blooms the day you stop waiting to be saved and become your own savior.

8. People won’t be honest with you

How can they be, when most people aren’t honest with themselves?

Use your judgement, trust your gut, and don’t expect anyone — not even your closest friends and relatives — to be 100% honest with you all the time.

9. When in doubt, look for the “signs”

Actions speak louder than words.

When you’re confused about a big decision ahead, observe your own actions and see in which direction they point to? How do they align?

Perhaps you’ve already been taking actions that lead you towards the place you want to be. Perhaps your heart is already guiding you towards the goal that’s destined for you.

This is where all the “signs” you need come from. You’ll know where your heart wants to go.

10. You don’t have to explain everything to everyone

Save your explanations for the people who have the bandwidth to listen. Not everyone would be willing to listen to your full story.

Sometimes, a simple “I’m not doing it” is enough.

Explaining your reasons to people who aren’t interested in your full story will only give them an opening to question your judgement. You can live without that negativity.

11. You’re probably defining “confidence” wrong

Confidence rarely has anything to do with knowing that you’ll always succeed. Confidence is also about knowing there are times you’ll fail, but that’s alright.

In other words, confidence is about how comfortable you can be with failure.

Failure is a part of the learning process. It doesn’t define your self-worth.

And the best part is — you don’t have to be confident all the time. Even if some failures feel more crushing than the others, allow yourself time to be sad over them, mourn the loss of that opportunity, then move on. Your lost confidence will be back with time.

12. Make decisions based on your future, not your past

Don’t think of how good someone or something was for you. Nostalgia will color your memories, leaving you barely able to see anything for what it is.

Don’t look back. You’re not going that way.

Instead, focus on where you want to be in five years, and make your decisions based on that

13. You don’t have to be positive all the time

Happiness and sadness are two sides of the same coin. One can’t arrive without the other.

If all your life was consistently happy, you couldn’t distinguish one happy moment from the next. Eventually, the meaning of “happiness” will change.

Some times and events are hard. That’s alright. That’s how they’re meant to be. Live them, leave them, mourn them, then let them go. Don’t pressure yourself into thinking positive all the time.

14. Learn to be okay with being alone

Solitude can be the biggest teacher, if you let it.

Spend a lot of time alone so you can be comfortable with yourself in the silence. It will teach you a lot more about yourself than any journaling technique can.

15. Say thank you

Gratitude can be your secret armor.

You can wear gratitude like a weapon and use it to crush the battle of life. The more you say “Thank you,” the better you’ll feel, and the more likely you’ll be to make your dreams come true.

16. Say sorry

Few things in life are as irreversible as burning bridges. Don’t let your ego come between you and the next opportunity.

If it’s your fault, apologize. You’ll learn more about yourself and the other person involved.

17. Choose your problems

No matter how hard you work, you’ll of course face problems.

But these problems should be such that you enjoy solving them. Each challenge should teach you something new and help you explore an unknown part of yourself.

Problems are inevitable. But if they’re problems you enjoy solving, you can treat each small “failure” as a stepping stone to success.

18. Don’t put your life on hold until…

Until you reach your goal weight.

Until you get married to a “dream” spouse.

Until you earn X dollars every month.

If you wait for happiness to come after you reach a certain milestone, you’re doing it wrong. You’ll end up wasting precious years of your life you can never get back.

The power to be happy lies within you. Don’t box it in with restrictions.

19. It’s okay to just be

Sure, every failure can be a lesson, but if you obsessively look for a learning in everything life throws at you, you’ll start feeling suffocated.

Sometimes, things happen for reasons beyond our control. Let them be.

Sometimes, there’s no lesson, but the consequences are still real.

Sometimes, it’s okay to have faith in a higher power and just be.

20. Don’t envy what you don’t want

Someone might have reached a position or stage in life where you know you’ll never reach. It fills you with envy and desire to see that person fail.

But understand that maybe there are other aspects of their life that you won’t trade anything of yours for.

You don’t know a person’s full story. If you did, chances are you won’t be willing to bear the cost at which their success came to them.

There’s no point envying them. Rather, you can take tips and lessons from their journey and emulate them to push you forward on your own path.

21. At the end of the day, it’s your life

Your parents might have made a lot of sacrifices for you. Your friends might have gone to great lengths to help you. Your partner might have given up on their dreams so you could chase yours.

But none of them have a say on how you choose to live your life.

Unless it directly involves them, you alone are responsible for your life choices. You’re free to make your mistakes and derive your lessons.

No matter how trapped you might feel, there’s always a choice. Don’t let anyone else convince you otherwise.

What did you think of these lessons? Do you agree with them? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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