28 Lessons I've learned by 28
My most significant male influence in my life at the moment - who has the blessing of many more years of life wisdom than I do - has repeatedly lauded 28 as being 'the year' for female blooming. He claims that based on his years of observation, 28 is the age during which most of his female friends and partners really have grown into their own, found their purpose, and stood on their own feet. My initial assumption was that he was merely trying to pacify my insecurities of aging in a world where youth is the winning formula. But after researching the experiences of other women during this time, I realize, well, he wasn't just placating me. Turns out, it's actually a magical age for a lot of us.
It makes sense though - friends getting engaged crescendoes into bridal showers, weddings, and even babies. We naturally make more conscious decisions wedding out dating prospects, adjusting our outlooks on life and focusing more on "me time". We flip the switch from party girl to marriage material that has absolutely nothing to do with a ticking biological clock. It's like a metaphorical light has turned on, where you realize you're young enough to change your life for the better, but old enough to use your own wisdom to realize change is necessary.
An interesting observation I've made in my own life is that I suddenly am more conscious of what matters to me and my unique idiosyncrasies. I've become acutely aware of what I like and don't like, what inspires and depresses me, and am now able to presciently identify what will make me happy. It's almost like I've become my own fortune teller. I guess it's an age at which we've lived enough of life that we can finally establish educated parameters of what matters to us and begin to feel like we're really growing into our own skin. I'm finally feeling like I understand, me.
And while I'm nowhere near concluding that journey, I have identified some key guidelines for the way to optimize life and continue on an upward trend of progression and growth. Here are some of my thoughts so far:
1. People are attracted to good vibes and positive energy. It's incredible how much more willing people are to do things for you when you ask nicely and smile.
2. Always look for the silver lining. You may not see it now, but "remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck." — Dalai Lama
3. Take time for solitary introspection. Do it in nature, and without technology, distractions, books. You've probably been avoiding a lot you need to confront, and a mental holiday can go a long way in resetting your mindset.
4. It's okay to outgrow friends. Just do it gracefully. Life has a funny way of coming full circle.
5. Take care of your body. Exercise, the outdoors, and clean foods will always make you feel better. Your mental health is directly influenced by your physical, and this is reciprocal.
6. If anyone is to change, it’s for themselves. Don’t try to fix someone else. Focus on yourself, and good people will naturally gravitate towards you.
7. Independence is empowering. Becoming responsible for filing your taxes, paying bills and making dentist appointments will make you feel surprisingly proud.
8. Explore the world. Travel with friends and alone. Even if you don't need to, do it on a shoestring. You'll be amazed at the lessons you learn being frugal in a foreign place.
9. Make changes often. Try new things. Keep people guessing as you keep growing.
10. Befriend people from all backgrounds and experiences. They know something you don’t.
11. Seek feedback from friends. They see you differently than you view yourself, and their advice will serve as useful constructive criticism.
12. Listen to your gut on people's characters. Observe characteristics you respect in people, and emulate them. Identify characteristics you dislike, and avoid them.
13. Pay it forward with friends and at work. Your friends are your family and your coworkers are your team. It will never detract from your life or career to help out a peer and they will always appreciate it more than they acknowledge.
14. Choose a romantic relationship based on how you feel each time you walk away from the person. Your partner should inspire you to be the best version of yourself, not make you feel like you need to change who you are.
15. Take risks. Seek out challenges that you don't know how to do, and endear yourself to people that do. People always love to help those that want to learn. "If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you don't know how to do it, say yes and learn how to later" - Richard Branson.
17. If you don't esteem your boss, don't respect your peers, and don't feel like you're you at work, you're probably in the wrong job. Choose a career that capitalizes on your strengths, not emphasizes your weaknesses. Measure your career by how it makes you feel.
18. Stop letting your career and achievements define you. You are bigger than your resume.
19. Do things for you, not for what culture and society tell you is acceptable. You don't need to be confined to the box that normalcy dictates.
20. Social media has its purposes, but be wary of obsession. Your life is not validated by the number of likes and comments your next post gets.
21. You'll be shocked at how quickly you can turn interactions around by just being pleasant.
22. It's a judge of someone's character how they treat the staff, not the celebrity.
23. Minimalism will always make you happier than accumulation. Buying that new purse or gadget will not improve your self worth, but it will add to the clutter.
24. It's said that we're a product of our five closest friends. Surround yourself with people that you admire and you will find that you naturally will rise to their level.
25. Always say hello first. And don't be afraid to go for the hug. It's scientifically proven to develop bonds.
26. Adapt. Just as in life, our plan only takes us so far. "Security is mostly superstition. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." — Helen Keller
27. Put yourself outside of your comfort zone regularly. Whether it's dining solo, speaking in public or booking a spontaneous trip, you'll literally feel yourself growing as you do. And next time, it'll be that much easier.
28. Participate and be present. "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. " — Chinese Proverb
And not that I'm a career guru of any sort, to the contrary, I'm still working out where I want to be next, but I'm offering some career advice I've been given over the years that I think also applies across the board. Keep these in mind for all facets of life: 1. Change your perspective on failure. Trying is having the intention to fail. Decide you can do something, and identify all the reasons that you can rather than the excuses for why you can't. Begin with small wins, celebrate them, and eventually you'll find yourself approaching the big goals with ease.
2. Be flexible. Let go of rigid mental structures and open your mind to new possibilities. This applies to all kinds of relationships and experiences. Your plan isn't always going to work, and you aren't always right. Allowing yourself the freedom to pivot and alter your course will often create new bridges and open new doors.
3. Cultivate meaningful relationships. Avoid transactional relationships where you always have an agenda. It is transparent and leads to superficial or stifled relationships. Keep promises, take responsibility for your actions, and consider how you can nurture relationships long-term. Sincerity goes a long way in strengthening trust, which will ultimately come full circle down the road. Integrity and accountability are key to successful relationships.
4. Be mindful. As I mentioned above, focus on being present. This applies in all areas of life, but it's especially important in a networking context. Providing canned and rehearsed responses without listening will come off disingenuous and you will likely miss organic opportunities for connection. Off the cuff is always more real and raw.
5. Develop a growth mindset. We have a tendency to think myopically, to make decisions based on short-term gains. This is ingrained in us even to the corporate level, with quarterly profits being lauded as the KPI for success. Instead, try not to balk at immediate failures and allow yourself time to grow and evolve. Learn through experimentation and trial and error. Develop a goal-centered mindset and celebrate all the little steps on the way to achieving that goal. You'll fell constantly inspired and motivated, rather than downtrodden that you are still so far from the big picture.