There is a movie called Peggy Sue Got Married where a grown woman miraculously travels back in time to her high school years. She then tries to avoid all the mistakes she made, especially not hooking up with her future husband.
She did it all again. The same way she did before.
While of course, this is just a movie, it is true that when you reach a certain age, you tend to look back on your life and think about what you could have done better.
I turned 41 last year, would you believe it? I do not.
But I am happy with it.
It wasn't always that way.
There was a time when I was afraid of getting older. I had the feeling that time was my enemy, and that every day that passes I was losing something really important – an opportunity.
I was afraid of change.
As if getting older means losing your youth and vitality. It does not.
Not if you don't want it to. You can still start a new business, snowboard, jet ski, jump out of planes, date young women, climb the K2.
You can still do everything you want to – it only depends upon your will and determination.
It is my belief that with age, you win so much more.
Among other things, you gain wisdom and experience (note: this might not apply to everyone).
Along with this, sooner or later one important question arises:
If you look back at your time as a young adult, (for some of my readers this is not long ago), would you have done things differently with the experience you have now?
You certainly would.
One good friend of mine once said that when he looks back on his life, he only regrets things he has not done – he never regrets the things he did.
This is so true for me.
Having that in mind, I asked myself what I would have done differently back then, (and I'm going to come completely clean here).
Here they are – the ten things I would do differently if I were 18 again:
1. Fear would never stop me
Fear was a big problem for me back then. Additionally, I was extremely shy too and had low self-esteem, (believe it or not).
I was afraid of so many ridiculous things.
All of them irrational fears, which only accomplish one thing: they prevented me from growing and emerging.
All the things I would do better, (and am doing better now), were grounded in fear.
2. I would always march to a different drummer
Don't be ordinary. Be different.
Don't do the things that everybody is doing – think and act differently.
The world is full of ordinary people.
Only when you are different can you accomplish extraordinary achievements.
To be different, you have to be independent. More independence means mainly: do more things alone, depend less on others.
Independence is the key to many things in life.
If I had been more independent, these irrational fears would have vanished with time.
3. I would learn to handle women, even then
If I had been a master in the dating game already, that would have spared me from a lot of trouble and frustration. Getting the relationship you want early will save you from regrets later.
There are simply some things and rules you have to learn in order to get the girl you like.
Learning them the hard way, by trial and error can be arduous and frustrating. Especially when you are a shy person like I was.
You can never learn the rules of dating and seduction early enough, (kindergarten may be too early, though).
4. Find out what kind of person I am
This is a tough one of course.
People try doing this their whole lives and still do not succeed.
If I had known the techniques for self-discovery and self-improvement back then, I would have taken the right path of knowing who I really am much earlier. This is a vital step in improving your self-esteem.
5. Get an education that corresponds to the person I am
I went to university and studied the subject my parents wanted me to. While this made my parents happy, it made me unhappy.
This is a big mistake.
Everybody should choose the perfect field of study corresponding naturally to their skills and interests. This will set the ground for a fulfilled business life, (which is one part of being a happy person).
Remember the three pillars of happiness.
6. I would do crazy things more often
While this is definitely not for everybody, it would have been important for me.
I was a very serious person and didn't know really how to have fun.
Doing enough crazy (legal) things and having fun when you are young will ensure that you are not doing them when it's inappropriate.
“But we're never gonna survive unless we get a little crazy”
7. I would not have a long-term relationship before 25
This is a big one for me personally.
I rushed into long term relationships when I was too young and too immature for it. This led to discontent on both sides and prevented me from getting experience.
8. Find my dream and never let it go
What is your life-dream? What is your life-goal?
These are vital questions. Had I known how vital they are, I would have spent more time on finding and pursuing my dreams back then.
The problem is – you don't really care when you are young. You have other problems.
Investing time and energy in finding out what you REALLY want, and finding ways to get it is not normally on the priority list. There are too many distractions.
How important this really is, comes back to you when you find yourself alone after a break up or divorce.
9. I would have gone backpacking around the globe
Getting away from everything you know, leaving your comfort-zone, will help you to get more independent and will force you to enjoy many new experiences.
Many unexpected opportunities will present themselves outside your comfort zone. I could give you a hundred examples.
Meeting unknown cultures and people is critical to broaden one's horizon.
10. I would get a mentor
Having a person in your life, older and wiser than you, who will guide you with your life-goals is something very valuable.
There you have them, ten things I would do differently if I were 18 again.
Please keep in mind that those are my personal things I would do differently – most likely they are not for everyone.
Who knows how my life would be now if I had done all those things back then.
I certainly am not complaining about where my life is now – it is great how it is. (I did eventually do all these things much later, so it's never too late).
But I believe that I would have spared myself a lot of suffering if I had done these things right from the beginning.
Then again, we are who we are, and the experiences we had throughout our lives have made us – the good and the bad.
Would I go back again and do things differently if I could?
Maybe. It's a hypothetical question.
What's not hypothetical is the fact that you can change your life anytime you want if you are not happy with it.
You do not even need a time machine for that. The power is in your own hands.
I’m not so sure we can change our future and destiny. I came from a very fucked up home. Father worked all the time and my mother would sit around all day listening to Johnny Cash drinking Miller and Schafer beer. She would wait for my father to come home so she could start a fight and claw his face and throw ashtrays at him. I was always worried about going anywhere in public with them because you never knew when a fight was going to start. They finally got divorced I was put in several foster homes during the process. Due to my acting out. Although I still know it was because I saw the social worker (Jerry Horowitz) fucking my mother the next day I was removed from home. My a Father ended up getting custody of me and over the next ten years had a series of fucked up relationships with a bunch of mental cases like my Mother. The only thing that saved me from being a complete head case was the Army. Now I have been Married for 30 years and have three children. I have panic attacks, constant stress , and anger issues not with my family just seem to have a chip on my shoulder most of the time. I’m hoping when I die that will be the last of the mentality that was my childhood and not too many traits of my bad childhood are passed on to my kids. Long story short I don’t think you have total control over what choices you make. You just have to do the best you can with what you have in your head.
I loved this post. The first one is my favorite. I think I’ve always been too afraid but I’m slowly letting go of that fear at 24. I disagree with the serious relationship though. I think I’m in the place of my life that I’m in because of what I learned from my relationships. I even think that my heartbreak was one of the best things to ever happen to me. Otherwise I agree with the above!
I am in a long term relationship!! And I'm 23…it started when I was 20…I bet that sucks. But it's still cool. I think it's part of growing up and knowing what you like and what you hate about a partner. If you fall in love at your early 20's, how can you miss that opportunity of being loved back? :/
Awesome have to admit, pretty much the same for me, and have to also admit I followed a very few of them, I have to admit, the long term relation ships, I had one from when I was 15, that very special girl is still with me today, I guess shes the only thing I'm glad i have done, My dream wasn't exactly the way I pictured it to be, & I kinda did back packing with scouts, so I guess that counts for me 🙂
Admittedly my life may have had its ups and downs, and probably wasn't everyone cup of tea, But i wouldn't change anything, I am who I am today because of those events, and If I was anyone else, that girl may not be with me, my dream may have been non existent, fine I may of got a better job, maybe never found the right someone, Is it really worth following rules, they were meant to be broken off course 🙂
any way, good article 🙂
Thanks for this comment…I was starting to freak out about having a long term relationship at my early 20's…But I really love my guy..and he's my SCUBA buddie! 🙂
Love this article. I would have done a lot of things different if I could when I was 18, I’m now 26. I wish that I would’ve waited to be in long-term relationships after age 24, finished school when it was paid for through a scholarship and started a hair salon from building a clientele early on.