7 Life Lessons You Wished You’d Learned 10 Years Earlier

You know how they say youth is wasted on the young and wisdom is wasted on the old? While there may be some truth to the old saying, it’s never too late to introduce positive changes in your life—which means which means right now is always the right time for valuable life lessons.  

Big Ideas

  • Success in life is all about making consistently wise choices about the small dilemmas that confront us each day. The effects will pile up over time to create lasting positive changes in the long term. 
  • Your time and willpower are two of your most valuable resources. Spend them on things that matter.
  • Knowing yourself and watching your thoughts are key to self-improvement.


1. Start taking care of your health early in life

Most of us are not particularly good at taking care of our health. Studies show that less than 3% of people are nonsmokers, sufficiently active, eat a healthy diet, and maintain a recommended body fat percentage. 

You shouldn’t wait until you have health problems to start looking after your physical well-being. You may be able to get away with smoking, drinking, and eating junk food in your twenties. However, unhealthy habits will eventually take a toll on your body. The sooner you commit to a (reasonably) healthy lifestyle and start having regular checkups with your doctor and dentist, the better. 


2. Leverage the power of compound interest

No one is too young to be putting money away for retirement. The earlier you start, the higher your savings will grow thanks to the power of compound interest. A few years down the line, you’ll be happy you did that and invested in your future.

But there’s more to compound interest: it doesn’t just apply to savings. Over time, the small choices you make each day—such as what to eat, whether to hit the gym, or when to go to bed—also pile up and can have a big impact on your quality of life.  

The earlier you start putting money away, the higher your savings will grow thanks to the power of compound interest.


3. Time is your most valuable resource

Is working overtime in exchange for more money worth it? It might be. However, according to this 2019 study by the University of British Columbia, people who value time over money tend to engage in more intrinsically rewarding activities and report greater levels of happiness. 

Of course, money matters—you have bills to pay. However, once people start making $95,000 a year, further increases in income tend to lead to lower life satisfaction and levels of well-being. 

With this in mind, consider prioritizing the things and people that really matter to you and dedicate as much time to them as you can. 


4. Don’t be naïve—people should earn your trust

Neuroscience suggests that the ability to trust may be innate. It enables us to connect with others and form the intimate bonds that are necessary for our survival. Unfortunately, however, trust can also get us in trouble. It makes us vulnerable to con artists, narcissists, Ponzi schemes, and propaganda—to name just a few. 

Unlike trust, skepticism seems to be a learned behavior, and it may be a skill you want to practice until you become good at it. And no, that won’t turn you into a grumpy cynic. As long as you keep both your trust and skepticism in check, you should be fine.   


5. Watch your thoughts carefully

Repetition elicits powerful chemical interactions between the neurons in your brain, which creates long-term, hardwired memory. That’s great if you’re trying to memorize information or master a new skill—but not so much if you are looking to get rid of a bad habit.

The more you think of a certain thought, the stronger the connection between the respective neurons becomes. If you aren’t mindful of your thoughts, you may end up etching neural pathways for negative thoughts and behaviors in your brain. These can then influence your life without you being aware of it or without questioning them.

Mindfulness practices like meditation, yoga, and talk therapy can help you become more aware of your thoughts. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) may be especially helpful in this regard, as it provides you with tools to identify and change unproductive thought and behavioral patterns. 


6. You’re not special

Or rather, you are very special—and so is every single one of the 7+ billion people on the planet. It’s important to recognize your unique skills and talents and have a healthy sense of self-esteem. However, you shouldn’t let it go to your head.

Remember: no matter how capable you are, there will always be a lot more that you don’t know and can’t do. Focus on self-improvement without tooting your own horn, and make sure you are kind and respectful to the people you meet along the way. 


7. Understand that willpower is a limited resource

Back in 1998, a group of psychologists from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, conducted what would become a groundbreaking study

The experiment was pretty straightforward. The researchers placed a bowl of radishes and a plate of freshly baked cookies on a table. They then asked some of their subjects to eat the radishes and others to have some cookies. 

Half an hour later, the researchers asked the subjects to complete a difficult geometric puzzle. The cookie-eaters worked on the task for almost 19 minutes on average. In contrast, the radish people gave up after a mere eight minutes.

What this experiment seemed to suggest was that willpower is a limited resource. Spending it on resisting the cookies had left the participants with little self-control for future situations. Numerous subsequent studies have produced similar results, building a convincing case for the phenomenon of willpower or ego depletion.

Now that you know this, consider setting up as many systems that encourage and automate your desired behaviors as you can. This way, you will be saving your willpower for your most important goals.

Graphic: Tips to renew your willpower


Being proactive is one of the best life lessons

Knowing these life lessons doesn’t count for much unless you put them into practice. If you want to change your life, earn more money, and enjoy a better work-life balance, consider joining Vector Marketing today. You can start work within the week, and you don’t need any professional experience. 

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