Take Your Own Advice
If you could travel back in time and meet your younger self, then no doubt you would have lots of advice to share. You would probably tell them what mistakes to avoid, what worked well and how some experiences (even though they were painful) had turned into valuable learning lessons or unexpected opportunities.
I imagine this is something you have thought about at some stage but how deeply did you consider it and is there actually an opportunity here that you may be missing?
Firstly, let’s examine those lessons you would share with your younger self:
Lesson 1 – What mistakes to avoid
No doubt there are quite a number of mistakes that you’d like to avoid (if you were able to do it all again). We all know how painful it is when we make mistakes but it’s actually the painful memory of this experience that helps prevent us repeating it in the future (even if sometimes we do make the same mistake twice). If your younger self hadn’t experienced the pain of making a particular mistake would they actually avoid it, even with the benefit of your advice? After all when you initially made that mistake you probably didn’t expect it to turn out the way it did and when you experience something for yourself it has more impact than when you follow someone’s advice. This is why it’s so important to go through your own learning experiences (including the mistakes).
Lesson 2 – What worked well
I imagine this would be a very a positive thing to share with your younger self. It would confirm the right choices to make and there would also be a sense of pride in sharing your successes. Pride in your achievements, however, doesn’t just come from achieving something, it also comes from being proud of trying something even when you weren’t sure it would work out. In fact when there’s a greater possibility that you may fail, achieving success is even more satisfying. Would you be cheating your younger self of this sense of satisfaction if you took away this risk factor and advised them only to do the things that worked?
Lesson 3 – Things that didn’t go as planned
Sometimes plans that don’t work out can turn into valuable life lessons or new opportunities (although it’s always much easier to appreciate these experiences in hindsight). If you told your younger self how painful or disappointing an experience was going to be, would it result in them avoiding it? We tend to move away from the things that cause us either mental or physical pain. Even with the benefit of a new learning or a long term opportunity we may seek to avoid this type of experience or try to find a shortcut (which may not lead to the same place). However, being unaware of what is about to happen sometimes leads us to a better place simply because we don’t get the chance to swerve away from the pain or disappointment that is an essential part of it. These painful experiences provide the opportunity to show our real strengths and gain valuable new insights and learnings.
Lesson 4 – What you regret not doing
No doubt there are things you regret not doing (e.g. travel, education, a different career path, living in a different location etc.) Sometimes these things seem more exciting on reflection because they differ from your current life (and you may be just bored with the routine of things). However, some of these things may have added great value to your life or helped you discover a new passion. Either way you’re unlikely to know the answer to this unless you have a chance to choose some different paths. And could you actually be advising your younger self to go in the wrong direction, when you don’t know what the outcome will be?
Now, let me ask you a very challenging question:
Could you take this valuable advice that you’ve just offered your younger self and change your life for the better right now?
I imagine all sorts of mental barriers popped up when you read this question (and you probably want to stop reading now because you don’t think this can go any further) but stay with me a little longer.
Those thoughts that popped up will probably be things like “I don’t have the money, I’m too old, I have to consider others now, it’s too late, I’ve already invested already in xxx”. All very understandable reactions but let’s go back again to your younger self. Couldn’t they have come up with similar objections (e.g. “I don’t have the money, I don’t have the training, I don’t know where to start, I’m just getting started I can’t try something like that it’s too risky”). The fact is there are barriers that come up at every point in our lives and yet we can also choose to find ways around them. The real reason that going back to your younger self is so appealing, is because there’s a sense that at that stage in your life it doesn’t seem to matter if you try something and fail and you feel like you have endless time to achieve anything. At this stage you probably also have no established lifestyle, relationships or location and your impressions of how the world operates and what is possible may also be more open. The idea of changing everything that you’ve established is daunting, after all it’s harder to risk losing something than trying something when you have nothing to lose. But that doesn’t mean you couldn’t do it if you really wanted to and maybe you should also have a little more faith in your abilities?
Chances are your younger self probably wouldn’t listen to you (even if you could time travel back to them). They would want to experience things for themselves and make their our own mistakes (and we all know how we felt about taking advice at that age). However, you’re in a different position – you know how valuable your advice is because you’ve lived through it. If you’re unhappy with where you are in your life (even if it’s just one aspect of your life) then isn’t it time to start listening to your own advice? Imagine if you could start your life over right now (acting as if you were your younger self) but with all the benefits of your experience and knowledge?
It’s a challenge I know – but take the time to think seriously about it. How amazing would that be? What would it take to make it happen and what do you really have to lose?
And one last thing, in 20 years from now when you’re looking back on your younger self (when I asked you this important question) what will you say then? Will you regret not taking this opportunity? Take the valuable lessons you’ve shared with yourself today and act on them as if you were your younger self (even if it’s only in a couple of areas of your life) and you’ll find that time travel is possible after all.