As you graduate from high school and prepare to take on the world and all the unknown adventures ahead, here are a few nuggets of wisdom; unconventional graduation wisdom. Keep this with you as you move forward in life as a reminder that you can do or be anything you want. There is nothing there to stop you, but you.
Please pardon the morbidity, but I want you to think about your future as what your obituary says about you in 99 years. Will it say, “she truly lived her life to the fullest, traveled the world, challenged herself to be the best, changed many lives,” or, “she was a good person. She worked at the same company for 50 years until she retired. She didn’t like her job, but the money was good. She didn’t travel much because she had so many people who depended on her…” do you hear what I’m saying?
If you listen to the top five regrets from people who were dying, you will see what I mean.
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
“This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.”
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
“Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
”This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”
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Now that your life is officially within your control, what is the most important thing you can do? Might I suggest what Mahatma Gandhi said, “You can be the change that you wish to see in this world.” Yes, it can start with you.
Live a fearless life
Just imagine if everyone lived following their own guidance system and didn’t think about “what other people think,” what a planet this would be! This is the planet I recommend you occupy. Don’t give a second thought to what others think about what you do and your actions. If you feel like dancing in the rain, go dance in the rain. Jump off of cliffs and play like a child.
Happiness comes from within
I’m going to save you years of disappointment with the first point. Whether it is striving for that dream career, the beautiful house, a perfect body, the perfect partner, no matter what you are going after, knowing once you achieve it that you will be happy… bad news; you won’t be happy. Don’t get me wrong; you can achieve any or all of those things. The moment you achieve it will feel terrific. The problem is, when you attain that desired “thing,” you will find you still feel the same empty feeling you did before. “Wherever you go, there you are” is very true. From living in a tent or a mansion, if you are not happy within, you will never be happy attaining anything. If you are happy within, you can be as happy in a tent as you could in a mansion.
It is funny however, because when you find peace and happiness within, you no longer want things! “Stuff” no longer matters.
You are not your job
Unless you discover something that you are completely passionate about and end up making money doing that thing you love, please remember this. You are NOT what you do for a living. Never associate a job title with “who you are.” We are so complex with many layers. Labels cannot define who you are; who you are is your character. It’s who you are when no one is looking.
When you make a career out of doing something you love, you never consider retirement because what you do IS who you are.
Along this same line, if you were the high school baseball star, an Olympics-bound gymnast, or the champion chess player, these too are labels. They describe something you can do, but they do not define who you are. Too many high school star football players find out they aren’t nearly as celebrated when they are in their mid 20’s and find themselves lost. Don’t be what you do well. Do it well and have fun with it; that’s all.
Listen to Your gut
You are young, so you are going to have friends and family members coming at you from all angles telling you what is best for you and offering advice from their experience. These people are not you. They have no idea what your inner voice is saying, so they are speaking to you from theirs.
Take the time to listen to your gut. I’m not talking about the voices in your head; I’m talking about instinct, that “gut feeling” you get from deep within. This is the only voice you need to find and listen to for the rest of your life. It will never do you wrong. Trust your instinct!
You will find when you listen to others and go along the path they prescribe; you will feel angst and turmoil with negative emotions. You won’t understand why it isn’t working out for you until you step back and analyze how YOU feel. You need to align your every move and decision with what your gut is telling you to do. It is the only voice you should listen to. You will find it is the only time you are not in emotional upheaval. Listen to you. You already know what to do. Just take the time to be silent and listen. This is how you will hear it.
Have no expectations
Don’t have expectations or try to live up to expectations of others! This is a biggie! It could potentially be the hardest to overcome, but also very important.
People are always setting themselves up for disappointment because they have an idea about how they need you to react or what they need you to do. When you don’t do what they anticipated, they are hurt and let down. Even something so simple as not making a big enough deal over their birthday or saying you will join them at the mall. You have your reasons for not doing what they “hope” for, but in their minds, you have let them down in a huge way. This is the biggest cause of arguments!
The only way to get around this is always to be 100% honest! If you can or can’t do something; tell it exactly like it is. At that point, it is up to the other person to either honor your honesty or decide they would rather get angry. This becomes their choice and their problem.
Align yourself with others where you can be 100% authentic all the time. There will never be a question if you are honest or not because everyone will have the agreement that this is all you will accept.
As Kyle Cease puts it, “Nobody can break your heart. They can break your expectations. When they break your expectations, you will eventually surrender and move closer to your heart.” Enough said.
Love yourself completely! Love yourself 100%. Not worrying about what people think is the greatest form of self-love. We are NOT IN THIS WORLD to live up to other people’s expectations. There will always be haters. Just love them in return. This is the best you can do.
I want you to make huge mistakes, fail and suffer! Yes, I do. This is the only way we get it right. What about Michael Jordan? I love his quote: “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” Do you have any idea how many times he failed? There were too many to count. You learn and grow from every mistake, failure, and suffering. Find the lesson every single time and don’t fear that it won’t work out. Many times, it won’t. Tweak it and do it again. Never stop trying.
You will find you will need to work many jobs early on to earn money. Don’t approach any of these with negativity. Be the best at everything you take on. Let everyone witness your strength, your power, your attitude and your magnificence.
Say how you feel
Recently I learned that two boys I knew during high school had feelings for me and I never knew about it. Had I known, I’m sure I would have returned the feelings – had they said anything! My point is, I had no idea whatsoever that anyone had feelings for me. I couldn’t if they didn’t tell me! Don’t leave your feelings inside. There was a boy I had a huge crush on during most of high school and I am just as guilty. I never told him either! What if I had? I will never know.
Be authentic with your feelings and share them as you feel them. What is the worst that can happen? They may not feel the same. What if they do? What if they don’t have the guts to step up and you get the ball rolling? It can change everything for you.
With that said, put down your device and pull your eyes back up to eye level. Look at the people around you. Make eye contact. You have no idea how many missed opportunities you’ve already had, but if you start now, you can change the future. Eye contact is a huge way to feel a connection with someone – if you are looking. If you aren’t looking with your eyes wide open, you are going to miss so many beautiful things.
Know that your parents did the best they could raising you, and their parents did the best they could raising them. You are not your parents. They set the examples that they learned as children; this doesn’t have to be the way your life unfolds. You can be the change you wish to see in this world – and this will come from within; not what you learned growing up.
What you experienced growing up is what you know as “life.” You only saw what happened in your home, on your street. This doesn’t make it the way you need to live. Everyone guesses and plays their cards the best way they can. You can live a life based on what you know to be your truth; not a truth you were taught by someone else, whether you believe it or not. You can create your own existence from the ground up. You are unique with your set of values, hopes, and dreams. If you allow yourself the space to let yourself blossom, you will become what you are intended to become.
Stay away from the news and television as best as you can. The news creates fear as the more atrocious the stories are, the higher the ratings for the station. Find your headlines somewhere, so you are aware of what is going on in the world, but don’t sit and watch and absorb it. It creates fear and anxiety you don’t need to carry with you. Be present and aware of what is going on in your universe right now and around you. Not overseas or in our nation’s capital.
Learn to accept what is. Remember with every single circumstance you may encounter, if you didn’t cause it, you can’t change it or control it, walk away and let it go. You will find great peace using this tool. When you at least accept what you are doing (perhaps a job you don’t like, cleaning, laundry, etc.) at least you are one with it until you can change your situation. Let acceptance be the lowest you will go. Above acceptance, approach life with enjoyment and when it’s possible, with enthusiasm.
From “The Four Agreements,” which I highly recommend you read: Be impeccable with your word. Never take anything personally. Never assume anything. Always do your best.
Pay attention when you feel somebody is trying to put you in the role of filling a need that they have. That is not your role. You don’t need to be there to fill up their source of a lack. You are here to create your world; not be someone obligated to someone else.
And finally, learn how to sit in silence to listen to yourself with meditation. You don’t have to sit for hours but give yourself at least ten minutes every day. Also start a daily yoga practice – a great way to tie together the mind and body spiritually.
You truly can do anything or be anything you can imagine. Live your life fearlessly! Don’t allow excuses to be the reason why you don’t try. Live life to the fullest. Dive into dangerous and unfamiliar territory because right there, you might find something in yourself you didn’t know you had. Challenge yourself to be your absolute best. Don’t ever care what anyone else thinks. Let your story be the one told generation after generation because you did it all, and you were completely happy the whole time. Live your absolute best life. Make it one hell of an amazing eulogy!