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What Advice Would You Give to Yourself at 18?

    1. Learn your purpose and articulate it with unassailable conviction.

      This does not mean ‘know what profession you’d like to pursue’, nor does it have much to do with lifestyle. Your purpose is the thing that gets you out of bed every morning.

      To figure it out, find a pattern in why you’ve done the things that you’ve done. Perhaps the common thread is a desire to self-improve, perhaps it’s a need to increase your autonomy, perhaps it’s a drive to help suffering people. Commonly, it’s some combination of several components. Something will make coherent all your previous pursuits & decisions, even if they seem disparate at a glance.

      Once you’ve figured it out, learn to articulate it concisely. For example, you might say:

      “My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.” - Stephen Hawking**Notice here that the purpose is not a finite goal, but an infinite pursuit.**

      This becomes as a mantra, but also a standard against which you can weigh important decisions. If a decision doesn’t further your purpose, it won’t be peaceful or joyful or maximally productive for you in the long run.

      It also helps one judge the relative merit of various life choices, such as career. For example, if your goal is similar to that of Dr. Hawking, it probably doesn’t make sense to spend years starting a restaurant chain and treating your passion for knowledge as a ‘side hobby’ for the occasional quiet Sunday. Why we make decisions has more to do with our long-term success and happiness than what decisions we make, and the healthiest decisions are guided by purpose.

      Finally, being able to describe with authority why you get out of bed in the morning gives you a certain power, a certain confidence that inspires the people around you. You demonstrate self-security and self-worth because you derive validation not from arbitrary, transient sources (e.g. the esteem of a boss, a standardized test score, or the size of a Christmas bonus), but from an ongoing internal evaluation of progress towards that greater end.

      A life lived with purpose is indeed a life worth living.
    2. Kindness is a skill, a blessing to yourself and a gift to others.

      “Psychological research has shown that the most reliable route to personal happiness is to make others happy.” - Henry Marsh

      A practice of kindness is both one of service and one of self-care. When a person perceives that they have been treated kindly, they feel validated, empowered to be their best selves. They become more productive.

      This practice will make you sought after as a friend, employee, student, boss, community member, or any other social entity. Who wouldn’t want to be around someone that enhances the productivity and mental health of people around them?

      It is also important that one recognizes kindness as a skill. It’s something as admirable as academic genius, surgical prowess, musical virtuosity, or athletic brilliance. Feel good about yourself for practicing it, and acknowledge with humility the good you may do in the world by mastering it.
    3. Self-care is a fundamental act of gratitude.The state of well-being is established by an acknowledged, honored spirit (i.e. purpose/sense of connection), a meticulously-curated mind, and a body that’s maintained with discipline.

      Pursuit #1 establishes health of the spirit, and pursuit #2 cultivates health of the mind.

      The body is best maintained through a regimen of diet, sleep, and exercise.

      Exercise is perhaps the best way to start. Our minimum aspiration should be 30 minutes of rigorous exercise at least 5 times per week. It’s a chore at first, but develops into an act of catharsis and celebration with sufficient effort over time. Do something you find fun (or at least admire): swim, run, dance, practice a martial art -just be consistent. Group exercise can be a great accountability-booster and source of support, especially during the initial push!

      Sleep comes next. Wake up with the sun (or just before it) no matter what day of the week it is. When life is lived with purpose, we no longer are so addicted to sleeping in because we’d rather be up and working towards our goals (so this is a bit easier and more joyful than it at first might sound). Early-rising necessitates early-setting, so figure out what time you must sleep in order to feel refreshed in the morning. Stay away from technology & communication at least one hour before retiring, and remind yourself that the day went precisely as well as it should have, then resolve to strive for an even better tomorrow.

      Food is a powerful thing. The right diet will make you feel energized, happy, healthy, and sharp. Conversely, eating without thinking about how food makes you feel may insidiously damage your capacity, productivity, and experience of health. Ask yourself with every morsel “How did that make me feel? Should I eat that again?”

      When carefully-established regimens of sleep, diet, and exercise are established, the body becomes a sound seat for the mind and a healthy environment for the spirit.
    4. Decide upon the quality of each day.Every day people are born, and every day people die. For every tear that is shed, another one dries.

      Days are not ‘good’ nor are they ‘bad’, days simply are. Therefore, we must make a conscious effort to perceive goodness in the world around us.

      Nobody is obliged to feel sunny and delightful all the time, but deciding to feel good every day certainly makes success more likely.
    5. Remember the followingComparison is the death of contentment.

      Attitude overcomes aptitude.

      Toughness is more valuable than talent.

      In victory and in loss, choose gratitude over grief and generosity over greed.

      Be not extreme except in balance.

      Live not for what you might gain, but for what you might give.

      Dignity is a right, so teaching is a responsibility.

      Speaking is worth more than talking, listening is worth more than both.

      It is the heart’s light that illuminates the mind.

      Success is what you define it to be, so do so carefully.


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