As a person who has made it through more than 50 years on this earth with minimal amounts of “scratches” (three surgeries on my right leg definitely keeps me out of that “without a scratch” category), I would have to say that there are a few things I’ve learned along the way that I wish I had known when I was younger. Ok, so some of these are things that my Mom may have told me when I was younger that I chose to ignore, because I was … well, young and thought I knew it all!

So, if you are younger and reading this, take heed! Otherwise, in 20 or 30 years from now, you may be sitting on your couch typing up your own “10 things I would tell my younger self” blog post!

(I’m going to count these down, mainly because it seems like a more fun way to do this. Not because when I get to #1, that it is the most important of the list. Or maybe it will be the most important. We shall see…)

Number 10 – always wear sunblock

I don’t care what your skin type is, this is for everyone! Whether you are a person of color, you get tan at the blink of an eye or you burn within 2 minutes of being outside, you need to wear sunblock! Because it’s not just about avoiding looking like a lobster. It’s about skin cancer and wrinkles, people! I actually wrote a whole blog on this on my previous blog platform, which you can check out here.

I hope none of you ever have to deal with skin cancer, and that if you do, that it’s caught early (which means making sure you get your skin checked by a dermatologist regularly). But wearing sunblock is also important for avoiding wrinkles! Just think about how much you’d save on botox if you lather on some sunblock!

Number 9 – don’t burn bridges

While this was a good military strategy to literally burn a bridge that the unit just crossed in order to not allow enemies to follow, it is a VERY bad strategy when it comes to the modern work world!

You may have hated a prior job, or prior boss, or prior co-workers. You may even have very unhappy feelings about your current job. But every industry, no matter how big it may seem, is actually really really small! It’s like that 6 degrees of separation (or for those who prefer, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon).

Whenever I was interviewing for jobs, it always happened that the people I would soon be working with (if all went well in the interview … oh, who am I kidding, it always went well!) would know at least one person I used to work with at a prior job. If you leave those prior positions with them having negative feelings about you, those people will probably “off the record” let their friends know. Although officially most companies will only say the length of time you worked there, and maybe how many days you were out or late, there is one questions future potential employers can ask to read between the lines as to what your former company/co-workers really thought of you, without risking a lawsuit for defamation. “Would you hire this person again?” So, keep those bridges in good shape!

This applies to a lot of social contacts as well. You never know when you may want to reconnect with someone you lost touch with. If you ended on bad terms, it’s less likely they’ll want to reopen that door!

Number 8 – never stay in a job that does not make you happy

While it’s important to never burn bridges, it’s equally (if not more) important to not feel that you must stay at a job that makes you unhappy! We spend approximately a third of our lives at work! And when you consider that you spend approximately a third of your life sleeping, that means you spend half of the hours you’re awake at work!

So, if you’re unhappy at your current job, take some time to sit down and determine what it is that is making you unhappy.  Then think about how you can change the things that are contributing to that unhappiness.  Don’t think that it’s just the way it is and that you just have to deal with it.  It’s true, you cannot control everything, but you do have a say in matters that involve you.  And if things are bad enough that it is affecting your mental well-being, what’s it going to hurt to voice your issues?  Just make sure to stay professional and pleasant in doing so.  You may be surprised that some things may improve.  If not, well, there is always the option of finding a new job.  But you should never leave a job you have without at least trying to improve your current situation.

Number 7 – Look for a new job while you have a job.

In connection with never staying at a job that makes you unhappy, you should also try to not just leave that job without something else lined up!  This is something that my Mom and Dad had always instilled in me from the time I was first entering the work world and something that I have been fortunate enough to follow.  Their reasoning behind this is that if you have income still coming in, and you can pay your bills, you won’t just jump at the first job offer, just to make sure you have a job, any job.  Granted, that first job offer may be the best one, and you may take it.  But it should be for the reason that I just mentioned … that it’s the best one, and not because you’re desperate to find any job.

Another reason to look for a job while you still have a job … employers actually have a bias, whether it’s conscious or unconscious, that someone who is employed is more desirable.  I know, you being unemployed may be because your company had massive layoffs, and you got swept up in that on the unfortunate side. Although, those who are left at that company that just did a MASSIVE downsizing will be left with having to do a LOT more work to cover for all those who have been let go, so who knows which is more unfortunate.  But still, employers tend to think that those who are employed are more “employable”.  And they will think that if you just up and quit a job because it wasn’t making you happy shows a unreliable, unprofessional, and immature quality.  Not a good first impression!  And this feeling that the employed are more employable becomes greater the longer the break is on your resume.

(I feel I should clarify this, in case any of my current coworkers are reading this.  I am NOT currently looking for another job!  I actually like my current job (for the most part) and my current coworkers (for the most part)!  Today is actually my 2-year anniversary at this job, as I sit here and write this blog.  And no, I’m not writing this AT work.  I took today as a vacation day!)

Number 6 – never stay in a relationship that does not make you happy

So, if you’re not going to stay at a job that makes you unhappy, you surely shouldn’t stay in a relationship that makes you unhappy!  And yes, I mean all forms of relationships.  From intimate, love relationships to friendships, they should all add positivity to your life.  Not stress! 

Again, this needs to be clarified.  I am not saying that at the first sign of disagreement that you should bolt!  Unless that “disagreement” is physical or emotional abuse.  Then yes, bolt as fast as you can!!  But if it’s normal relationship stuff, where you have an argument, or where you feel taken for granted or ignored, try to work through it first. 

No two people are going to see eye to eye on everything.  We all need to learn to agree to disagree.  Some things may be deal breakers, and yes, they probably won’t be able to worked through.  Don’t compromise on who you are, what you want, and how you should be treated! 

Like I just told a good friend of mine who recently went through a breakup … it’s better to be alone (or with good friends) than to be with the wrong person.  Breakups (romantic and non-romantic) are hard, and they take time to get over.  But in the long run, you are opening yourself up to the possibility of finding the one who is the right one for you.

Number 5 – Alone time is extremely important to one’s sanity!  As is time spent with others!

We all lead busy lives.  We all have commitments that we need to honor.  Work takes up a lot of our time.  Then there are social activities, the gym, and family commitments.  If the only “alone” time you have is when you’re in the restroom or asleep … this is not good!  We all need time to just be by ourselves where we can think without interruption, and sort through all that is going on in our noggins!  Or to just decompress with some good music!  This does not mean having to lock yourself away in your home (or room, if you live with others).  It could mean taking a walk with your earbuds plugged in.  Just time away from interaction with others.  Time for YOU! 

But, too much alone time is also very bad for one’s sanity!  Humans are a social species!  We need interaction!  Work can be social, but if that’s the extent of your social life, you need to adjust that!  And the gym, while somewhat social is not necessarily the type of social I’m talking about.  I actually really enjoy my boxing classes and do socialize with those that I’m friendly with at that gym.  But it’s not the same as getting together with friends and having a cup of coffee, a meal, some fun activity or just a nice conversation!  So if you just go to work, then go to the gym or go home, you are spending too much time “alone”.

Recently, I have felt that I am spending too much time with just myself.  Yes, I have many hours spent in the company of others, but a lot of that is not what I consider social time.  So, I’ve made more of an effort to reach out and get together with friends, with some success and some failure.  It is the time of year that everyone has a lot of commitments, so I understand that not everyone I reached out to had time to get together.  But the times I have been able to hang out with friends has been helpful to the feeling that I was having too much alone time.  I also actually just signed up to take a creative writing class.  It’s something that I know I will enjoy, and hopefully meet new friends while participating in the class.

So, if you’re feeling that you have too much alone time, take steps to change that!!  

Number 4 – don’t compare your life to other people’s.

If you look at anyone’s social media feeds, it would appear that everyone is having a better life than you are!  But we all need to remember, people only post what they want you to see!  Nobody is posting about the bland, boring stuff.  And they are definitely not posting about things that are going to make themselves look bad!  Instead of looking at what others have and comparing that to what you don’t have … look at what you do have, how much you have accomplished and determine what YOU want to do to improve your life for YOU!  Not for how you can compare to others!  Stop thinking of your life in terms of what photos you can post to Instagram!

Number 3 – being true to yourself is more important than being popular.

When we were younger, in junior high and high school especially, we were all either trying to be (or stay) popular, or envying those who were.  Yes, there may have been some who didn’t care about that even when they were in their school days.  I did have good like-minded friends in high school, and I personally didn’t let the whole “popular” thing affect me that much.  Yes, there were times I wished I were in that “elite” group. But honestly, it was much more fun to be part of my crowd. 

As an adult, I know that finding out who you are, what you like and being true to that will be more important in the long run.  As an adult I know that the junior high and high school days are such a tiny blip on the screen of your life!  But, while we are deep within that blip, it is everything!  For my younger self, and to those who may be in that blip themselves right now … stay true to who you are, find like-minded people, and know that you will be much more happy if you are able to be yourself rather than trying to be who you think “they” will accept more readily.

Number 2 – staying in shape is so much easier than getting back and shape!

OMG, is this SOOOO true!  First off, ask anyone who is in shape and they will tell you, the “getting there” was much harder than the “maintaining”!!  Also, those who have always stayed in shape can do so more easily because this is their lifestyle!  It’s just part of who they are and how they live. 

For those who need to get back in shape, this involves change!  And for everyone, change is not easy!  It means eating less than you are used to, cutting out certain things that are currently in your diet, or adding in more exercise that you’re not used to doing.  It means changing your lifestyle. 

Here are some interesting statistics … It is estimated that 160 million Americans are either obese or overweight!  That’s nearly three-quarters of American men and more than 60% of American women!  The number of people in the United States that are currently on a “diet” …. 108 million!  annually approximately $20 billion is spent on weight loss in the United States.  This includes diet books, diet “drugs”, and even surgeries. 

Losing weight is not easy.  But STAYING in shape seems to be more difficult for most, even though it shouldn’t be.  And difficult doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be done!  Getting in shape can be a tough journey, but it’s definitely worth it!  Just make the decision to do it, find the tools that will help you achieve and stick to it!  And when you are finally in the shape you worked so hard to achieve …. continue to stick with it!   Make it a lifestyle change, rather than a temporary change in your diet and exercise habits!  Don’t set a “goal” weight or physique and once you get there think that “ok, now I can go back to my old ways”.  That won’t work, unless you want to be on a weight loss rollercoaster! 

Number 1 – Find what makes you happy!

There is so much out there that we can participate in.  So many choices.  But not all of it will be what makes us happy.  There are things I love to do that I know others really dislike.  I love karaoke.  For others, even the thought of it makes them cringe.  I really enjoy playing board games.  To others, it’s more like “bored” games.  Find out what makes YOU happy and find people that also like those things!  You don’t have to do things that aren’t your thing just because it’s the thing of those around you.  At the risk of offending the author of that NY Times article saying it is narcissistic …. You Do You!!