If I were 21…

I have learnt so much over the past 10 years; things I especially wish I would have known in my twenties. These are 4 lessons that I wish I would have known when I was 21.

#1 The dots eventually connect.

There were several childhood experiences that seemed unrelated until stacked together; my parent’s Gold’s Gym in the 80’s, going to my mom’s aerobics classes when I was 6 (and even being frustrated in Step Class at that age!), starting my own Hello Kitty store at 14, not getting a job at lululemon and working part-time at a gym in university. Ultimately, these events shaped my view of the world, helped me realize what I loved and each experience prepared me for my future career path.

We all have unique experiences that help make us who we are; no one is the exact same. Even when someone has the same experience as us, our perceptions can be different. I think back to the story of three men:

A man came upon a construction site where three people were working.  He asked the first, “What are you doing?” and the man replied: “I am laying bricks.” He asked the second, “What are you doing?” and the man replied: “I am building a wall.” As he approached the third, he heard him humming a tune as he worked, and asked, “What are you doing?” The man stood, looked up at the sky, and smiled, “I am building a cathedral!”

Although they are doing the same thing, their experience is different. Because of this, we all have a unique gift to give to the world and you are the only one that can provide it. So you have to trust that your experiences are bringing you closer to your purpose. Steve Jobs talks about this is his “Stanford Commencement Speech; How To Live Before You Die” where he discusses how the dots connect:

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.

In my thirties, I am now in a place of 100% trust. Every experience, whether it initally feels positive or negative, helps me grow and shapes me. I don’t fight it anymore; I try to embrace it as I recognize that there is a greater force at play; you just have to trust it.

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#2 Stay connected to the good.

I have met many great people on my journey. There are people in my life that I couldn’t imagine living without. These relationships helped me get through thick and thin and you never know how lucky you are until you need those friends.

Friendships are like an emotional bank account; you invest time and energy into the relationship, which are your deposits. You can lean on that person when you need it, which are your withdrawals. I tried way too long to make certain friendships work where the bank account wasn’t equal. Certain relationships always felt difficult because I was invested but I wasn’t getting the same in return. Some friendships just aren’t meant to be; let them go. If it is hard to be friends with someone, free up your time for things that give back in your life. John Maxwell talks about the “Elevator Principle” which relates to all relationships; people are like elevators and they either bring you up or bring you down; stick to people that lift you up and add value to your life.

I always had much more fun with my real friends; the ones that were easy to get together with and those are the people that still matter; those are the ones to invest in.

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#3 Don’t let the bad ruin you.

As may great people as I have met, I have also met some shitty people along the way. These people weren’t looking out for my best interests and could have ruined me emotionally if I had let them. I took these interactions very personally as if they were personal attacks. I have learned to let go.

What I realized is that if someone is treating you poorly, that is most likely how they treat themselves. This doesn’t mean you have to put up with it. You have choices; you can speak up, you can leave, but don’t take it personally; it isn’t about you, it is about them. Whether it be a bad relationship, a bad boss, or even someone in your family; do what is right for you and you will never be disappointed. I would have stood up for myself more, left bad bosses or toxic relationships or spoke up more often. You don’t need to be friends with everyone and it doesn’t matter if everyone likes you. Just do you.

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#4 Perfection doesn’t exist, happiness does.

I spent a lot of years trying to be “perfect”; trying to be more fit, trying to eat better and trying to be happy. What I realized along the way was that my ambition to learn more was great; I can’t imagine a life without wanting to learn and grow. It was the “why” behind the change that left me feeling empty and that I wasn’t good enough. I felt I had to change because I wasn’t happy with who I was and that if I could change, I could be happy.

This wasn’t a formula for success. When you are focused on being in a different place or state, you can never really appreciate the moment.  When I think back to my happiest moments, they are being with my family, traveling and adventuring with my husband. All of these events relate back to my core values and none of things have to do with being “perfect”.  Happiness and “living in the moment” is about being so excited about what you’re doing, you forget about being happy. Instead of trying to change myself, I try to embrace the things I love and do more of them. The more I focus on what I love, the happier I am. Amen.

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I would love to hear your thoughts and stories in the comments below! Thanks so much for reading!

4 thoughts on “If I were 21…

  1. Very well put Ashley, you have taught me lots in my development and I keep learning by reading your posts. I will take a lot away from this one especially. Thanks for sharing.

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