7 Pieces Advice I Would Give My Younger Self
By David Sivecz
When I left home, I believed I had a plan. The plan was to work in the professional sports industry, make plenty of money, be married in my mid-twenties, and have three children. It was MY twist on the “American Dream.”
It’s how I expected my life would turn out. That’s why I went to the college I did. That’s why I transferred. That’s why I acted how I acted. Those were my expectations.
Newsflash… NONE OF THAT HAPPENED. Instead, life took a completely different turn, and I am grateful for it. How I ended up where I am is a story for another time.
Looking back, I would love to tell the younger “me” a few things that would’ve not only made life much more manageable but also made it much more fulfilling. I believe that’s why we do what we do. We want the most out of life, whether it’s continuously traveling, advancing our careers, making tons of money, partying every weekend, or anything else.
Now, each of these things that I would tell myself might not apply to everyone. So, when I say “you,” they are directed to me. Each of us has our individual life experiences. As I think about these pieces of advice, people did tell them to me. They only make sense now because I went through them. But, I hope just one of these things might make you think a little more as you move forward towards whatever direction you’re living.
1. Embrace Your Journey
Even though I “thought” I knew where I was going, I didn’t. Heartbreaks and failure can either make you bitter, or they can help shape you. Stop dwelling on the past. You can’t change it. You can only shape your future.
There were times I was so resistant to accepting my mistakes and accepting the past. I believed that being defensive was the only way I could change where I was going. The sooner I admitted my mistakes, the sooner I could learn from them, and the sooner I could move to a better future.
2. Keep Getting Outside of Your Comfort Zone
The best experience I had was when I moved to new cities. When I moved somewhere new, I was excited to explore, meet new people, and try different things. It’s one thing to travel and visit another city; it's another thing to build new relationships. People make life worth living, not careers, destinations, or experiences.
The longer I lived somewhere, the easier it was to get into a routine and get comfortable. It takes effort and intentionality to meet new people so sign up for a new club or begin a new hobby. Take the leap and keep trying, even if it’s in the same city you’ve lived in for three years. The worst that can happen is that you learn you don’t like it.
3. Accept Where You Are In Your Life
I went to school, went through an examination process, and worked with people who were two or three times older than me. There were times I was expected to live up to lofty expectations. One of the phrases that was my biggest pet peeve was, “You’re young.” It was a connotation that I was immature and irresponsible.
On one hand, I knew I was learning. On the other hand, I should’ve embraced my youth instead of defending it. I should’ve said, “Yup, I’m young. I have energy, passion, and a zest for life. I have time, hopefully a long time, to become old, close-minded, and apathetic.”
4. Give Yourself a Break
Yes, this might be contradictory to “Getting Out of My Comfort Zone.” I have frequently thought I should get out of my apartment more. But, on those days when you don’t, GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK! If you want to watch a movie, play video games, or sleep, do it!
First, don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison will rob you from experiencing joy in life. Second, don’t feel guilty or ashamed that you need some “me” time. Rest is important. If you don’t want to go out, maybe that’s your mind, body, and spirit saying you need rest. I have found that I am most fulfilled when I go out one night and stay in the other. More importantly, when I’m rested, I can do more work in less time.
5. Conflict Reveals Your Integrity and Character
All of the skills, intelligence, connections, and status mean nothing if you don’t have character and integrity. Conflict is a part of life. None of us are the same. That means you won’t agree with everyone. That means you will have disagreements. That means you will encounter conflict.
Conflict will reveal your character and integrity. That means it’s critical to work on your character and integrity, two, three, or a hundred times more than your professional skills. That doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes, lash out, or go against your judgment. But it means, if you do, you will know what you’re doing, can accept responsibility for your actions, and live with yourself.
6. Take Care of Your Issues
Yes, that might sound crass, but it’s true. Go to a therapist, see a doctor, ask for help. Everyone has mental health; it’s no different than having physical health. When you are physically ill, you see a doctor. Why not do the same thing if you have scars or wounds from your past experiences?
This can impact your character and integrity. That doesn’t mean you’re going to be perfect. Instead, if getting help provides you with a more fulfilling life, then why not get it? It’s either continue to suffer or get help. There’s no shame in it.
Bonus: no one has to know! Ok, tell a close friend or family member, but it will change you for the better!
7. Show a Genuine Concern for others
Here is the biggest secret that no one knows, “When you care more about others, your problems become smaller.” It could be your career, personal life, hobbies, politics, finances, or whatever. When you put others before yourself, you notice that you can cope with your problems much easier.
In the words of Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see.” On the flip side, if others care about other people, then they will care about you. Then you won’t be alone in your problems. It’s amazing what happens when everyone cares about others. But you can’t wait for others to care about you before you care about others. It begins with you.
Here’s the critical note, we are human beings. Each area of our lives is connected to other parts. Our personal lives impact our careers. Our careers impact our finances. Our finances impact our personal lives. So, work on the issues that are holding you back from experiencing a fulfilling life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: The Rev. David M. Sivecz is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). He received his Bachelors in Business Administration from the University of Miami (FL), Master of Divinity from Emory University, and Master of Sacred Theology from Lenoir-Rhyne University. He came to the Phoenix area to redevelop Celebration Church in Peoria.