“What are the lessons people most often learn too late in life?” originally appeared on Quora–the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Answer by Drew Reggie, entrepreneur and writer, on Quora:
No one lives a life free of regret. As humans, we will always consider the past and find something we wish we’d done differently. But a truly self-aware person will have substantially fewer regrets in life. Our journeys are a series of successes and failures, experiences that build us up and challenges that knock us down. We make friends and find soulmates and lose some, too. And we never stop learning. But some lessons in life we often learn too late. Don’t let these be on that list.
1. Live Life for You
Life has different meanings to different people–different priorities, different thoughts on what matters and what is expected. Live your life for you. Be your own person. What matters to you? It might be a lot different than what matters to your dad, or to your grandparents. If your family has a three-generation history of practicing medicine, that doesn’t mean you have to become a doctor. It means that it might be harder for you to gain your parents’ approval, or feel validated. But giving in and doing something you don’t love is a much deeper pain in the long run. Do what is important to you.
2. Work Hard for Tomorrow, but Enjoy Yourself Today, too
Here’s the thing–and you’ve heard this before: We never know when our time on Earth is up. Work relentlessly toward achieving your goals in life, define what you want, work backwards, and execute your plan to get there–but don’t forget to enjoy today, too. Hard work is hard work, and of course there are plenty of things you’ll have to do that you don’t enjoy. But build in time today for things (and people) you love. Pause and enjoy the present. Take a walk with a friend. Play the guitar outside. Have lunch with your mother. Talk about things you care about.
Live for future you, but never neglect present you.
3. Spend Quality Time
How much of the time you spend with friends and family is with your phone in your hand or in front of your face? Look up. Listen to people you are hanging out with. Talk about real things. Learn together. Go places. Do things! Go on adventures with people you enjoy. No one remembers time spent in silence watching TV, laptop on lap, phone in hand, on a couch with some friends. Make memories. Do new things.
4. Take Care of Your Body
Your body is the only one you get, and it’s your only vessel for exploring the world. Take care of it. Exercise and eat healthy foods. Take the stairs instead of the escalator. Choose the salad a few more times each week. Take care of your body so you have more time on Earth to do what matters.
5. Manage Money Wisely
Live below your means. Start saving the moment you start earning, even if you can only part with $1 each month–start forming the habit. Invest. Grow your wealth. Don’t increase spending as soon as you get a raise. Save and spend your money on things you actually care about. If travel is important to you, save and research how you can travel cheaply–see Google Flights, Airbnb, Hostels.com, etc. Use your money on what (and who) is important to you, but never stop saving.
Everyone has regrets, but through self-examination you can actively work to reduce how many things you wish you did differently in your life. Take a solo trip. Understand exactly who you are and what you care about.