18 things I wish I’d known at 18

It’s my birthday today. May the fourth be with you. I’m 48. 30 years since my 18th birthday. Here are some of the things I wish I’d known when I was 18.

1. ‘This too shall pass’

Learn to embrace the good, bad and ugly parts of your day and let it go. Let ‘This too shall pass’ be your mantra for life.

2. It’s OK to fail

What if you believed that the greatest failures could teach you the greatest lessons? Failure can be a huge gift and put you back on the right track when you’re going in the wrong direction and point you in a new direction that you were too blind to see.

3. It’s OK to lose

Learn to lose graciously. It’s wonderful to win but hard to lose. If you’re going to be a loser, be a likeable one.

4. Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses

It’s easier when you’re good at something, and you enjoy it. Put your attention there versus trying to improve the bits you struggle with.

5. Love is always the answer

Always be kind.

6. Know when to shut up and when to apologise

If you’re right, don’t tell them you’re right. If you’re wrong, make a gracious apology.

7. When you feel awkward in a social situation – just ask questions

From ‘how do you know the host’ to ‘what’s the most exciting thing you’ve done this year?’ Stop thinking about yourself and put your attention on listening to other people’s stories.

8. Spend more time with your friends

Creating a ‘family’ of friends that you love and nourish will keep you sane when you hit the bumps in the road.

9. Practise the art of self acceptance versus self improvement

I’m not sure why, but most of my friends are very organised and anally tidy. Ever since I’ve been on my self improvement journey, I look at their lives, take notes and think – that is so impressive and add to my to-do list of ‘must do better/be more organised/tidier/have matching socks’. And I never, ever manage it. I realised that my to-do list kept me running, out of breath, trying to reach an expectation that I constantly failed to meet. What if I gave up my to-do list? I wrote down a list of all the things I felt I ‘should’ do to be this shiny person that I always thought I’d grow up to be – from wearing matching knickers and bras to creating a computer database of all my addresses – and then I ripped it up. My fear was that chaos would reign. But no, everything remained the same, I just got more relaxed. When I stopped trying to be a tidy/organised/should have all my addresses in one place sort of person, I let go of this huge big weight of guilt. Yes, we all wear odd socks in our family now but we did anyway. The difference is now I am no longer spending time fretting about it. Which leaves more time for just, well, enjoying myself.

10.Meditation works

It took me a long time to learn this but when you meditate, life gets better.

11. Give up being the victim of life and be the creator

Shit happens, life doesn’t always go your way. It hurts to lose, be rejected, lose people you love but we can’t control what happens to us but we can control how we react to it. And that is the difference between a happy life and a miserable one. Live your life by the serenity prayer – ‘God Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.’

12. Find new ways

The definition of madness is doing the same thing but expecting different results. Find new and innovative ways to succeed.

13. Define what success means to you

Never let anyone dictate what success means. Decide what makes you happy, what fulfils you and create your own definition.

14. No matter how alone and lonely you feel, there is always someone who can help

There is always a way back from the dark to the light. Even if you have to sit through the dark night of the soul, the sun always comes up…..eventually.

15. You become more confident by becoming more competent

Expect to be crap at the beginning, but keep trying until you get more skilled and then become a master. According to author Malcolm Gladwell, it takes 10,000 hours to become a master. Start today.

16. Hidden shame corrodes

Get a good coach or therapist and shine a light into the corners you feel most ashamed about and discover the deepest compassion for yourself in the company of someone unconditionally supportive.

17. Study the Enneagram or Myers Briggs (or another personality testing system) and learn what makes you and other people tick

18. Always be brave enough to reach for the stars. You can always compromise later but in the first instance, be brave enough to say what it is you really want …and go for it…

  1. Julie Dennis
    Julie Dennis05-05-2016

    Happy birthday for yesterday Suzy. Lovely reflective blog post. I definitely wish I’d been kinder as a teenager!

  2. Diane Priestley
    Diane Priestley05-05-2016

    Thank you for this profound advice to the Younger Self. I especially like the point about studying the Enneagram personality types. I did this in my 40s and it changed my life. I finally got to understand myself and others. The knowledge has been the bedrock of my empowerment, along with other psychology studies. And yes, be brave!