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Dear Me...

What if you could send a message back in time to your younger self... What would you say?

What would I say to my teenage self, filled with doubt and teenage angst and terrified at the prospect of going out to make my own way in the big, wide, scary world?

I guess the first thing that comes to mind is that there would be no point in sending such a message because teenage me would not have listened! The wonderful thing about being a teenager is that you already know everything, so no one can possibly tell you anything. That aside, with the benefit of hindsight, what did I really need to hear back then that would have helped me on my journey through life?

Here in no particular order is my list of "if only I'd known then what I know now".

1. Think. Or thwim.

Your mind is an amazing tool, so use it. But make sure it’s working for you and not the other way around. You’ve heard of the notion of “taming the mad monkey.” Do you want the mad monkey to be in charge of your life? Teach yourself to think critically; examine what life presents to you and don’t accept everything at face value. What you see is not all there is.

2. Know yourself.

Know your own strengths, weaknesses, hopes and fears, likes and dislikes, devices and desires. What do you love? What gets you out of bed in the morning ready to face the world? What makes you laugh? What makes you angry? What makes you weep? What do you see in the world around you that you want to change?

3. Be kind to yourself, always.

If you’re your own worst critic and you beat yourself up every time you feel you’ve fallen short of what you “should” have done or how you “should” have been, you’ll miss the truth of who you are. If you forget who you are, you’re lost.

4. Be kind to everyone else, too.

They’re all so busy rushing around getting stressed out and exhausting themselves trying to live the perfect life when they actually have no idea what a perfect life is. A smile and a kind word might not change their life, but it will make them feel a bit happier about their day. Show them who you are - it might remind them of who they are, and then they won’t feel so lost.

5. Relax.

Don’t rush around getting stressed out and exhausting yourself. Take a breath. Slow down. Smell the roses! Wherever you go, there you are. Be there, completely.

6. Don’t worry.

Ninety-nine percent of the things you worry about will never happen. The probability that any of those terrible things could happen is quite small, and the effects of tiny number of them that actually do happen will never be as terrible as your worrying would have you believe. Worrying is pointless! Plan for the things you can predict, take prudent risks but don’t be reckless, look where you’re going and take only one step at a time.

7. Be happy.

What, you want to be miserable? Life might not be perfect just now, but you’re still here, still moving along, still you. There is much ugliness, dishonesty and cruelty in the world but there's much that is good, too. Everything you do will be easier when you remember that somewhere the sun is shining, and that if you look deeply enough within yourself you’ll find an inexhaustible well of joy waiting to fill you up. Let it, and let it spill out into the world around you, too.

8. Connect.

Do you think you’re Robinson Crusoe? Humans are a social species. No man is an island entire of itself, as John Donne puts it. So reach out to those around you, show them who you are, be curious about who they are, and share a little kindness with them. You need it, and the world needs it too. There's no "us and them", there's only us, human beings living our lives in the best way we know how.

9. Be humble.

You’re important, but no more and no less so than anyone else. Don’t let your ego take control, but don’t be a Uriah Heep either. Offer to assist those in need, and don’t be too proud to accept help when you’re in need yourself.

10. Be sincere.

Say what you mean and mean what you say. Do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it. Never make threats, and don’t make promises you know you can’t keep.

11. Be truthful.

Don’t lie. Don’t tell half-truths. Don’t obfuscate in order to mislead or disguise an unpleasant truth. Tell it like it is and be prepared to accept the consequences.

12. Dream big dreams, but do not forget to live.

Your dreams can show you what you want to have, to do, and to be in your life, so pay attention to them. Set objectives, take resolute action, and live life to the fullest. Embrace whatever comes your way. There’s an opportunity in everything, so accept everything as an opportunity to live, to learn and to grow.

13. Everyone's entitled to their opinion...

... but you don't have to accept their wisdom as greater than yours. Listen to them, by all means, but don't feel pressured to agree just because they represent the mainstream or because you think disagreement will put you on the outer. "Experts" are often smug, complacent, lazy and dazzled by their own brilliance, and a lot of people love to expound and offer advice on things they know very little about. Make your own decisions. Remember who you are and stand by your principles. If other people don't like it, well, that's their problem.

14. Do what you love...

... and love what you do. Life's too short to waste it doing things that feel pointless, drain your energy and don't align with your purpose. Don't let anyone tell you what you "should" be doing. Listen to your heart and act on what it tells you.

So that's my list. What would you include in your own message to your teenage self?

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