20 Things I Wish I Had Done In My 20s

I wish I had

Last night I had an odd dream that made me think about things I wish I had done differently in life. I went back in time to when I was in my 20s. I had no real purpose or mission in the dream so I just strolled around to get some bearing. I found my old car and met people along the way that were part of my daily life at the time.

It felt very weird but empowering to see things from my current self, with all the experiences I have accrued, but in a different timeline. The dream didn’t go very far and when I woke up I wrote down the dream together with others I remembered in a journal I keep.

The strange dream kept me thinking for the rest of the day about the hypothetical scenario of me returning back to my 20s with my current frame of mind. What do I wish I had done? What could I offer to myself back then with what I have learned almost twenty years later?

Of course this is an idea many people tinker with in their mind’s eye—quite often upon the realization that a possible past could have turned things around quite differently in their present. A common thought that is entertained by many is “If only I could have done more of this or less of that, I would be in a much better stage of my life right now.”

Unable to warp back in time as in the dream and tell our younger selves what to do or not, those lessons and experiences can only serve to offer a word of advice to others who are still in that stage in their life. It’s extremely valuable advice to take and I wish I could have been served with that opportunity more often in my younger years.

So if you are still in your 20s, let me recommend my own list of things I wish I had done had I the opportunity to do so:

1. I wish I had done more things that excited me

This is by far the greatest piece of advice I can give out freely to anyone—and on second thought not just for those in their early years. I have said elsewhere that it is not about success and funnily enough it’s not even about happiness. Ultimately it is about doing more things that excite you. Don’t let society box you into a dull conformity. Doing the things that excite you most will give you the strength, energy, motivation and happiness to be you. Is there greater success than this? I doubt it.

2. I wish I had been more open to opportunities

When you are young and opportunities come your way, you are either less receptive to them (being distracted by the less meaningful things of life) or you think that they will keep on endlessly coming… so, no pressure.  When you are young you are riding the wave of youth. You feel that you will stay young forever. There were many opportunities that came my way in my 20s that I could have done so much with but didn’t pick up as I whizzed by in the fast lane.

3. I wish I had worried less

In the hypothetical back-to-the-future scenario where I would meet my younger self face-to-face, the first thing that I would say is “Hey, stop worrying. It’s useless. Life will turn out just fine. But you can make it better by following this advice…”

4. I wish I had instilled the habit of saving money

As is normal when you are still young, I was quite mindless about money. I didn’t save, invest or capitalize on my earning potential. I was carried away by the whims of the moment. A few simple things could have gone a long way financially such as creating a savings plan, investing wisely and refraining from spending money on useless things.

5. I wish I had the confidence to own up to my ideas

When I was in my 20s there were many times I came up with some brilliant entrepreneurial or artistic ideas that I left there on the shelf. Many times, I did not feel the urge or have the right confidence to realize and own up to those ideas.  They ended up being just dreams closed up in the closet.

Quite often the same—or very similar—ideas were materialized by someone else who tapped into the same fountain of ideas but also had the right motivation or support to push them through. The bottom line is that when you get some crazy but exciting idea: own it up. Find the motivation or the backing to get it through. Make it happen. Don’t leave it hanging because it won’t wait too long. That idea will hop on to someone else who will have the will to realize it.

6. I wish I had juiced out more creativity

Researchers will tell you that we are more creative in our 20s than in the later years. Now past my 20s, I can attest to this. There are more creative juices running when you are younger. Not squeezing out that juice is once again a missed opportunity. Do not let it pass you by. Forget the must-dos society is telling you that you should be doing. Do things that you feel more creative in. Trust me, it will pay off.

7. I wish I had helped others more

One problem with youth is that you are more self-centered. With things happening and changing too fast, you are absorbed in your dreams, goals and aspirations, which is good but makes you less mindful to the needs of people around you. I wish I could have spent more time and energy giving out a helping hand when needed… or just listened more.

8. I wish I had been more present

For the same reason mentioned above, being present in the moment is more difficult when you are in your 20s. There are too many things going on. I have to admit, I didn’t even yet know the value of being present at that age. Yet if I were more present, so many things would have been so much easier!

9. I wish I had read ‘The Power of Intention’ or ‘Change your thoughts, Change your life’ by Wayne Dyer

Okay perhaps, the latter was not yet published and I’m not sure about the former—but nonetheless, I wish I had known the things being taught in the books. They were life-changing later in life—imagine in my 20s!

10. I wish I had simplified more

As I grew older I started understanding the power of simplicity—an idea so much needed when you are young. So much time, energy and money is wasted on things that only serve to clutter and complicate our lives. They render things more difficult and obscure the vision of your life’s purpose. Had I known how important simplifying life is, I would have done more with so much less!

11. I wish I had not worried about what others thought of me

As with point number one, this applies to everyone but is more prevalent when you are young. You are intimidated and influenced by peer pressure, authority and ‘role models’ to behave or not behave in a certain way. Many of my decisions were influenced on the presumption of how it might look in the eyes of others or whether they would have approved of it. This is nonsense. Living a happy, authentic life entails shaking off this fear or influence.

12. I wish I had had the patience to sit down and learn more

Once again, when you are young and restless it’s hard to quiet down, sit back and go slow. The lights shine brighter and flicker faster and you are so distracted with life’s currents. Putting my older self’s perspective into my younger self would have definitely made me try to be more patient, sit down and learn the more important things in life… and it’s so much easier now!! If only I had YouTube!

13. I wish I had focused more on understanding my life’s purpose

Some people are blessed with knowing their life’s purpose from a young age.  I wasn’t, and I’m sure many of you aren’t either. Knowing your life’s purpose is one of the most important quests in life. For many, youth passes by without without getting to know your life’s purpose.

Of course the big question is “how do I find my life’s purpose?” I have one very powerful tip for you. Simplify life and discard what you don’t need and what doesn’t belong to you. The purpose of your life will then slowly come into view.

14. I wish I had allowed others to help

Ah, the pride of youth! I can’t recall how many times I refused other’s help or shied away from it.  Use other people’s help when it is offered and especially when you know you can’t make it on your own. It will make life so much easier.

15. I wish I had spent less time complaining and being a victim

As with worry, I wish I had known much better how futile and useless complaining is. Drop it, drop it, drop it!

16. I wish I had taken more risks

This may sound counter-intuitive since we all know that when you are younger you are more prone to take risks. This, however, depends on the character and personality of the person. Although I did take some bold risks when I was younger, I wish I had taken more. This would have shaped me more and taken me farther away than playing safe would have.

17. I wish I had watched Pink Floyd in concert

Okay, this perhaps applies only to me and other Pink Floyd fans. I never got the opportunity to watch my favorite band live and now that they announced they will not play live anymore, I guess it has to be on my list of ‘should haves.’

18. I wish I had listened more to adults’ advice

Why don’t we ever listen to adults’ advice when we are young? I have somehow the feeling that I wouldn’t have even listened to my older self in the back-to-the-future scenario. Yet how much pain, effort and trouble it would have saved me. If you are in your 20s reading this, do yourself a favor and when you get some good advice, take heed!

19. I wish I had learned to use the power of intention/goal-setting

They certainly don’t teach this at school or university. Learning how to use the potential of the human mind should be obligatory and the first topic on the list should be how to live with intention. All the energy and creativity of youth can be channeled to work wonders if used with intention and proper goal setting. My goals at that age were quite blurry and I didn’t yet understand how setting your intention on something can be so powerful and amazingly efficient.

20. I wish I had changed jobs I didn’t like

Another thing I wish I could have done more is change dead-end jobs that I felt stuck in. With more courage and resolve, I could have saved myself from endless hours in a work environment that didn’t fit my purpose, skills or talents.

Final words

The best thing I can offer you, is the chance to take control of your own future now, and don’t pass up the opportunities like I did. Hopefully you will never find yourself looking back in a dream about things you never accomplished. If you think that one day you will say “I wish I had,” then, by all means, do that thing right now!

About the Author

Gilbert Ross is a researcher, blogger, philosopher and online media expert. He teaches personal development topics through workshops and the online media, particularly about positive life transformations and unfolding the human potential.

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