"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."
I have two nephews who recently graduated from high school. They are wonderful young men who have incredible lives ahead of them. As I thought about the two of them moving to a new phase of life, I reflected on some of the lessons of life that I’ve learned in the last 21 years. Below, in no certain order, are ten things I wish I had known when I was 18.
1. Life is about relationships
- Anthony Robbins states that relationships magnify the experiences of life. This is true. Life is not ultimately about money, fame, fortune, or any other marker of success that society directs us toward. A well-lived life is about relationships - a relationship with our Savior, our family, and our friends. Wherever you go and whatever you do – do not forget this.
2. Forgiveness is not about the other person
- There will be moments in life where you will be hurt – there is no avoiding this truth. When those moments occur, remember that forgiveness has nothing to do with letting the other person “off the hook.” Forgiveness is about letting go of hurt and pain that, left alone, can nibble away at your life. Understanding the truth of forgiveness is life-changing. To find the true origins of forgiveness, study Jesus of Nazareth.
3. Drink deeply from good books
- Books can absolutely change your life. Books have the power to inspire, uplift, guide, and lead us on and through the journeys of life. Don’t think of reading as a reading assignment for school – this is the mistake most people make. Rather, spend some time at the bookstore (or on Amazon.com) just browsing and looking until something grabs you. I cannot overstate the power of books to change your life.
4. Save, save, save
- This must be the most overused expression relayed to high school and college graduates. We’ve all heard about the power of compound interest and how, if we just save a small amount, we can be a millionaire when we retire. Don’t take my word for it, but do the research. Start now!
5. Understand the true meaning of prayer
- Many people (myself included) come to God with a laundry list of requests when they pray. While God did tell us to “ask,” I believe prayer has a much deeper meaning. Prayer is about being so close to God that he bends our will to what He truly desires for our life. Prayer is powerful…but use the power to know God in a deeper and more profound way.
6. There is no “magic” bullet.
- Go ahead right now and drop the idea of some “magic” bullet to cure whatever issues you are experiencing. You will not be happier when you are married, or when you are out of school, or when you move out on your own, or any other “whenever” that you can dream up. Today is what you have – no more, no less. Do not waste today waiting for a tomorrow.
7. Live intentionally
- Life should be lived intentionally. Please do not coast through life doing today what you did yesterday. Map out a plan for your life. Where do you want to be in 5 years? In 10 years? In 20 years? Be flexible as you progress through life…but, make plans. Only you are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of your life. Accept this responsibility.
8. Understand the concept of small steps
- The key to reaching your goals in life is taking one small step at a time. What is it that you want to accomplish? Make a plan and then start. Don’t try to do too much. Just take a tiny, small step. After you do this for a month, a year, or 5 years then you’ll be on to something. Don’t become overwhelmed with life. Just take baby steps in the direction that you want to go.
9. Define success for yourself
- I spent many years trying to live up to a definition of success that society created. Even now, I have to guard against the tendency to define my success through the lens of others. To live a truly successful life, you must define success for yourself. My definition of success at this point in my life is much different than it was 20 years ago. All I am saying is to not let someone else tell you what it means to be successful. Decide upon that right now – and never forget it.
10. Outlive your life
- The only way to truly do this is through Jesus Christ. However, while you are on earth, there is a way to outlive your life as well. You do this by making a difference in the lives of others. I am just now truly understanding this concept and it breaks my heart to think of the time and talents that I have wasted over the years. Make your life a light to others. Make a difference to other people. Never forget this.
QUESTION: What do YOU know now that you wish you'd known when you were 18?