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.