No one has life figured out early on. Living is a process of growing, and as the years progress, if you’re like most people, you’ll look back with a combination of pride and regret. Those who’ve seen more than a few changes over numerous decades can point to some mistakes you’re probably making as a young person, but have time to work out.

Accepting What You Hear and Believe

Young people may hold strong opinions, but fail to challenge what they believe. Youth should be a time of learning, but also questioning what you are told and even delving deep into your own cherished thoughts and points of view. Experience may lead you to discover that issues that seem black and white are actually many shades of gray.

But with age doesn’t necessarily come wisdom, and many young people too easily accept what they hear from older generations. Many young people don’t trust themselves enough to speak up about what’s important to them. Following your gut instincts can take you a long way.

Focus on learning. Yann Girard says reading books is better than blogs, because books provide the story you need for your brain to remember information. Clyde Rathbone encourages you to debate and change your mind.

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Thinking There Is a Guaranteed Path

Many people get out of high school thinking that if they get a certain degree or embark on a prestigious career they will be happy. But if you are poorly matched to your job, you won’t be good at it. Even if you do well, if you fail to enjoy it, contentment will elude you.

Start by trying to find something you like and then worry about the practicalities. You should not throw caution to the wind, of course, but don’t get disheartened if your plan doesn’t unfold the way you expected. Nelson Wang says he wished he’d been more flexible instead of trying to stick to the life roadmap he made when he was only 18. According to Wang, life “almost never goes according to plan.”

Bari Bardhan reminds youth that “talent” is not a sure-fire ingredient that leads to success. Fancy degrees alone don’t make someone smarter or more capable than you. Virtue, character and luck, more than intelligence, lead to accomplishment, according to Bardhan.

Lacking Gratitude and Avoiding Risk

Youth is a time for new responsibilities. Many are living on their own for the first time and have sometimes competing pursuits of work and education. While many become overcome with the stress of obligation, few take the time to be grateful for their opportunities. Not everyone has access to higher education and not everyone has employment or choice of where to live. Remembering to be grateful can lead to long-term happiness.

One enticing opportunity is to take risk and seek out greater challenges. Many young people are trying hard to earn credentials, build a social and professional network and figure out what they want out of their lives. All of this is noble, but taking risks becomes harder as you get older. Rathbone says challenge is essential to live a full life, and “challenge isn’t possible unless we are willing to fail.”

Trying to Make Everything Work

Girard says he struggles with doing too much, and has to learn to do less. Not everything will work—in personal relationships, careers or family. If something isn’t working, there may be a point where you have to let it go. Prasham Mehta cautions against friendships with people who are not “lifting you higher.” Don’t waste time on relationships by virtue of geography or convenience. You’ll sacrifice energy trying to make these associations work at the expense of finding people you can really connect with.

As a young person, you may be a bit of a people-pleaser. But it is impossible to get everyone to like you, so don’t try—do your best to be your true, authentic self.

Thinking You Can’t Leave

James Altucher writes that people have “evolved to master change.” It is within your power to leave a job, a relationship, a city or any situation that isn’t working for you. Of course, no one is suggesting making any rash decisions necessarily, but Altucher argues that people have the power to change their circumstances. He writes that he stayed in circumstances that were wrong for him just because he was afraid to leave.

His fear wasn’t just about life disruption; it was about hurting other people. He advises young people to not “fight evolution” by refusing to spark change in their lives. But knowing you have to make a change isn’t always apparent until you spend some time alone—something Shravan Venkataraman recommends.

Many find being alone difficult, but it is invaluable to become a better, happier person. Venkataraman says spending a couple of hours with oneself every day to write, meditate and reflect can help ease the “transition from the stage of the unbearable loneliness to the invincible aloneness,” in order to gain a sense of one’s self without the distraction of others.

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Isabelle Daigle
Isabelle Daigle

Isabelle Daigle runs all content marketing for Hello Focus. She's an avid writer and loves long Netflix binge sessions!