22 is a pivotal year for many. You graduate college, enter the “real world,” and suddenly find there’s pressure to perform. Did you land an entry-level job? Are you moving to a cool city? What kind of jobs are your peers landing? Which cities are they moving to?
The mindsets you hold — your assumptions, ideas, preconceived notions — define how you react to this pressure. And I often wonder how different my 20’s would’ve looked if I could go back in time armed with what I know now.
Assume for a second that I could. Here are five mindsets I would take with me.
1. The Truth Defends Itself — Always
I used to spend an embarrassing amount of time arguing on internet forums. Most of the time, it was over “honorable” topics, like religion, philosophy and politics. Occasionally, it was more trivial matters like sports. In the last eight years, I must’ve spent over 4,000 hours drafting and refining responses to other people’s opinions.
What do I have to show for those 4,000 hours? Aside from moderately sharpened debate skills, pretty much nothing. This year, I realized that no matter how academic or valuable the topic you’re debating seems, most internet arguments don’t go anywhere. If you want to make lasting changes, meet up with someone in person — humans base their opinions on emotions, not logic. And certainly not snide internet comments.
More importantly, the truth doesn’t need you to defend it. Truth upholds itself whether or not it has someone arguing in its favor. So let things play out on their own.
2. “Don’t do things you know are morally wrong. Not because someone is watching, but because you are.” -Naval Ravikant
You’re never alone. There’s always someone paying attention to your actions: yourself. In most cases, your subconscious knows the difference between right and wrong. When you choose the devil over the angel, you tell your subconscious you’re incapable of making the right choice. This damages your self confidence.
Turns out morality is about so much more than just helping others. If you struggle with self esteem, review everything you’ve done in the last year. Have you made morally sound decisions even when they were difficult? Or do you often cave in to what’s wrong because it’s easier? If you identify with the latter, work to get back to the former. You just might find that your opinion of yourself improves drastically.
3. It’s Never Personal
Here’s the cold, hard truth: at the end of the day, people only think about themselves. Sure, there are some exceptions when it comes to a family member or a loved one. But your coworker who insulted you yesterday? Or the guy in the car who yelled at you to hurry up as you crossed the street? Those things weren’t personal — they were the result of someone having a bad day (or even a bad life).
Most things we perceive as attacks are just projections of personal unhappiness. When push comes to shove, they don’t really hate you — they’re just using you as an outlet for what’s bothering them in their own life. In fact, they’d probably be happier not thinking about you at all. So when someone hurls an insult at you, meditate on this concept, then let it go. This makes life exponentially easier.
When I was younger, getting yelled at affected me profoundly. I’d be stressed and annoyed for days on end. But when I embraced the fact that the offending party was probably upset about their personal life, it became much easier to put the event in the rearview mirror.
4. Develop Your Talents Before You Develop Your Interests
I spent the first half-decade out of college trying to start flashy consumer goods businesses. It was the cool thing to do at the time, but in hindsight, not the right thing for me to pursue. What I should’ve been doing instead was developing my copywriting skills, where I had natural talent. When I finally started freelancing this year, I made more per month than I had ever made in my life.
Moral of the story: when it comes to your career, prioritize your talents over your interests. This will allow you to make money a hundred times more efficiently. Once you’ve built a healthy income stream, you have the luxury of pursuing whatever your heart desires.
This runs against the “chase your passions” cliché, but embrace it and I promise you’ll be much happier in the long run.
5. More is Not Always Better
I used to work out seven days a week, 100 reps a day, on top of a four mile walk. After doing this for four years in a row, my body began to experience symptoms of overwork, including poor sleep, night sweats and leaky gut. A month ago, I put a hard stop on my workouts, restricting them to three times a week. The result: increased energy, better sleep and drastically lower physical stress.
In our productivity-driven society, the idea that “more is better” is a trap. Don’t get me wrong — I am all about productivity. But you have to pay attention to your limits. For most, pushing full speed ahead all the time ironically prevents you from optimizing productivity.
If you’re burnt out, take time off, especially when it comes to exercise. It’s not just a way to get further, it’s the only way.
How to Use These Thoughts
I’m almost 30 now, and I’d like to think I’m at least a tad bit wiser than I used to be. When I’m 40, I’ll inevitably look back and write another article on all the mindsets I wish I had when I was 30. But until then, I know without a doubt that the five mindsets above would’ve made my 20’s better — less stressed, more focused.
Are you still in your early 20's? Use my regrets to enhance your personal development. These articles are both fun and painful to write because they remind you of both how far you’ve come and how far you could’ve gone. But if times is on your side, spend time absorbing the regrets of others, then use them as a roadmap to avoid regret in your own life.
Some day, your 30-year-old self will thank you for it.