Self-Improvement

7 PIECES OF ADVICE I’D LIKE TO GIVE TO MY YOUNGER SELF

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Looking back at my younger years, I am sometimes amazed at how life has turned out. Nothing is exactly what I had originally planned for. The only thing that stays the same is who I am, my values, and my interests.

Fast forward to today, I have moved to a new country and to two different cities. Most importantly I have got myself involved in a lot of things I would have never thought of if I was living a mundane life and trying to stick to plans. Nonetheless, I have summed up what I have learned – some new perspectives on life. And if I could go back in time and hang out with my younger self for a day, here’s what I would tell her.

1. Everything happens for a reason.

Whether it’s good or bad, everything comes into your life for a reason – even though it might seem like something has come into your life to hurt you. It is only natural to feel like things are not meant to happen that way – people are not meant to leave, you are not meant to get rejected, accidents are not meant to happen – and if you had done something differently, the situation might have turned out different. However, as time passes, you realise that things were supposed to happen the way they did because one event led to another. People came into your life to teach you something. At the time, they may have seemed horrible, painful, or unfair, but they happened for a reason. And in reflecting, you realise that they helped you become stronger.

 

So here’s the advice I’d like to give to my younger self :

Understand that everything happens for a reason. Without mistakes and failure, you would never have learned. Without breakups, you would never have met someone new. Without pain, you would never have grown. Once you understand this – really understand this – you will know that everything comes in to serve a purpose and then it will go. You will not dwell on disappointments or view unfortunate events as regrets. But rather, you’d see them as opportunities in disguise. Only those with a sharp brain and a spiritual mind can understand the fleeting nature of events in life. So don’t stress or think that life is unfair, because everything happens for a reason. And only time will tell what it will teach us.


 

2. Focus on one thing at a time. You can have it all but not all at once.

It seems like we forever debate on the topic of productivity whether it’s practical for us to multitask. At one point in my life, I was multitasking like an expert. I was involved in 3 different start-ups, I was doing my own consulting work, I had another writing gig, and I was managing this blog. I was single and had all the time in the world to myself. So why not keep myself busy, right? I thought I could manage. I thought I could wait to see which startup would take off first and that it would become my main focus for years to come. But I was wrong. I felt overwhelmed. I was multitasking too much. At the end of the day, I realised that none of the startups were my true passion. This blog is my true passion. Having my own brand is my true passion. Nonetheless, the experience I had while I was working for the start-ups taught me quite a few things. I learned what it’s like to pitch to investors. I learned about growth hacking and a bit of coding. I met so many talented people during those times, people I’m still friends with and can ask for business advice. I don’t regret my decision for taking on too many things. Although none of them succeeded because I did not focus, I learned a great deal. And I believe the process – though you may feel like you have wasted time – is actually needed for you to grow and learn so that you can be ready for what’s next.

 

So here’s the advice I’d like to give to my younger self :

Focus on one thing at a time. You can have it all in life, but not all at once. And if you don’t remain focused, you might not achieve anything.

It is not surprising that many of us are doing too many things at once. We need to make ends meet. The early days of working on a dream start-up can be an emotional burden. But if you are working three jobs at a time, it is not likely that you will succeed at any of them. You need to put all of your energy towards whatever it is that you want to achieve the most in life. You have to keep your eyes on the big picture. An extra few hundred dollars might help you make ends meet, but the opportunity cost might actually be worth thousands. Can you move back to your parents’ house to save rent for half a year? Can you sacrifice eating out to work on your dream? I got distracted several times over the past few years because every opportunity presented in front of me seemed great. They seemed interesting, seemed to have potential, and seemed to align with my interests. However, opportunities will keep presenting themselves. You have to ask yourself what exactly do you want to achieve for the next 10 years? What is that one main goal? Make it a priority. Focus on one thing at a time. Achieve your goals one by one. Make a to-do list and a bucketlist and work towards ticking them off ONE BY ONE.


 

3. You can plan ahead but your plan will definitely change when the time comes.

I remember so vividly that when I was a kid I used to dream of going to an Ivy league college. I wanted to go to the US for college. I wanted to work in branding in New York. I had it all mapped out in my head and I was working on the plan to achieve those goals.
Fast forward to today: my plan has changed completely, as if there was never any plan. My goal to go to the US fell through. I ended up in Zurich, Switzerland, and instantly fell in love with the place. But then, I had to leave. I cried really hard on my flight back. I didn’t think I would actually move to Australia for university … and I definitely didn’t think I’d end up living there for almost 8 years. I didn’t even know where Melbourne was. I’d been to Sydney and I loved it. But I moved to Australia to study Marketing and halfway through, I switched to study Entertainment (Music) Business Management instead. I became a club promoter to make new friends and happened to become one of the most well-known promoters in 2010. The way that everything happened was like a snowball effect – one event after another. Life was flowing like crazy. I had the happiest years of my life. The next thing I knew, I started to adopt the Australian way of life and started to “go with the flow” instead of planning things too far ahead. I learned to be spontaneous and embrace life as it comes. I found myself opportunities and jumped into them without fear, like becoming a promoter even though I didn’t know anyone to start with.

 

So here’s the advice I’d like to give to my younger self :

You can plan ahead because sometimes planning ahead can give you a clearer direction of where you want to go. Planning can drive you and motivate you. The planning process can teach you something. However, don’t be too fixated on a plan. Plans will almost always change, so be prepared! Live life with open arms. You will go where you’re supposed to be headed. Don’t stress.


 

4. Trust your instincts.

Doubt occurs several times throughout our lives. It could be in the job that doesn’t make you happy, a relationship that leaves you feeling uncertain, wondering whether you can trust the people you’ve just met, or wondering about the move you have to make and whether you should go left or right.

Prior to writing this article, I asked 20 friends of mine “what life lessons would you like to give to your younger self?”. This is one answer that I particularly like:

The sooner in life you realise that you gain more from feeling your way through than thinking you way through, the better life is and the more you can achieve.

There are a lot of factors that influence the way we think, the way we feel, and the way we see the world. A lot of it has to do with our upbringing. Some parents are more logical than others. Some are free-spirited, artistic and creative. Some are practical and pragmatic. This has become the way of life for us and how we react to things.

I grew up with a conservative Asian mother who is very pragmatic and practical and a father who is a creative thinker. Even though I possess innate artistic abilities, I am still heavily influenced by my mother’s practical nature, which makes me more inclined to find logic in the world around me. However, as I get older, I realise that no matter how logical some things are, if they don’t feel right, sooner or later you will realise that they are not right. And if you ever have any doubt between two choices, wherein one choice follows logic, the other follows heart, always follow your heart.

Having lived overseas over the past 8 years without my family in a new city, I’ve learned to embrace autonomy and make decisions on my own. With so much freedom in hands, it’s sometimes hard to pick between choices. However, after lots of trial and error, I can assure you that your gut instincts never lie. They are always right. Even if you follow logic in the beginning, you will change your mind later. Let your heart win.

 

So here’s the advice I’d like to give to my younger self :

Don’t worry too much about a decision you have to make. Don’t try to weigh the pros and cons and follow logic. Just do what feels right. Do what you believe would make you happiest. You know what you want. You might consult other people. But deep down, you know what you want. You don’t need to seek outside assurance to confirm what your heart knows best. Do what makes you happy. Because at the end of the day, even if you follow logic, you will want to quit and follow your heart.

Always. If something doesn’t feel right or leaves you with doubt, even just for a little bit, it’s probably not right.


 

5. It’s okay to be unsure about your purpose in life.

At one point in life, you might stop and ask yourself “what is your purpose in life?”. The project you’re working on doesn’t seem to provide meaning to your life anymore. You feel like you have lost your purpose. You try to search for it, but as you keep going, you feel a bit lost, confused, and unsure.

I was one of those super determined kids who tried to map her life out and plan ahead in the best possible way. I was passionate about a lot of things and I was very good at all of the things I was passionate about. However, when I graduated, I felt a bit lost. Suddenly, there were so many options to choose from. Even though I knew exactly what my passions were, it was not easy to pick that one career path to fulfil me on a deeper level and make me feel like I was living a purposeful life. I had to dip my toes into quite a few different things, and each one took at least a few months before I realised it’s not my purpose in life. Pressure from parents and society – where some people may be sticking to one career path – can make you feel a bit like a loser. However, without trying so many different things, I wouldn’t have known what I know now. I wouldn’t be the confident and assured person I am today.

 

So here’s the advice I’d like to give to my younger self:

You might be graduating or have hit a turning point in your life with your career. You might feel a bit lost and unsure of where to go. It’s okay. Go out there and try as many different things as you can. Don’t ever feel like you’re wasting your time. The process that you’ll be going through will shape you into who you will be. If you let your intuition guide you, you will almost certainly be in your most fulfilled place in the future when you find your purpose in life. Enjoy the journey. Don’t rush. Every little path will lead you somewhere. And looking back, you will be able to connect the dots. It will all make sense.


 

6. Don’t try too hard with people

Dating can sometimes feel tiring, especially if you have been going on dates for a while and feel like you aren’t meeting anyone that you really like or get along with well. Once in a while you meet someone who seems to tick all of your boxes. However, you still have to work hard to make it work. You try to impress them. You learn about their interests. You make sure that you portray yourself as the person of their dreams as well. It’s all hard work, isn’t it? Then a couple of months into the relationship, you realise that this is never going to work – it’s too much work!

Besides dating, entering college, starting a new job, and moving to a new city, you will certainly have to make new friends. It can sometimes be awkward when you don’t know anyone. Sometimes you try very hard to get along with people. You try to fit in, only to end up feeling uncomfortable with yourself and going back to who you truly are. Making new friends is not easy, especially if you are not very outgoing. You may sometimes feel like you have to make a lot of effort to make friends or get close to someone. This can be tiring and can sometimes make you want to back off and stay home alone.

I’m sure you have been in a situation where you feel like the people you meet are not like you. With such people, you have to try hard to get the conversation going. It doesn’t flow. It’s like going on a first date with someone you don’t feel like kissing at the end of the night – it’s a little awkward and uncomfortable. And even though you manage to become friends with them, deep down, you don’t feel very happy. You just hang out with them for the sake of going out, so that you can feel like you have an exciting social life. However you’d rather just be at home curled up in your PJs watching your favourite TV shows. You would feel much happier at home…but you also feel a little bit like a loser with no social life.

Yup, I’ve been in that kind of situation several times. Sometimes it’s because you tag along with someone and you don’t particularly get along with their friends. Sometimes it’s your work colleagues, so you have to try very hard to get along with them. Sometimes it’s the people you meet and go on dates with. Things just don’t flow naturally. The conversation doesn’t flow – you have to THINK ABOUT what you should talk to that person about.

One day I got tired of this process. I decided that I was not going to get drinks with the coworkers that I don’t particularly enjoy anymore. I was not going to try to make friends with people with whom I had to THINK ABOUT what to talk about. Weirdly enough, by not putting up with this anymore and not trying too hard with people, I started to attract people who were similar to me. All of a sudden I started to be surrounded by people who were similar to me, who shared the same world view, and who had similar interests. Now, with these friends, the conversation just flows. There’s no hard work required. When we get drinks after work, it seems to go on forever until late hours, and I don’t need to find an excuse to leave.

So here’s the advice I’d like to give to my younger self:

Don’t worry if you feel like it’s hard to make new friends. Don’t worry if you feel like you haven’t met anyone who’s like you and you feel absolutely happy to be around. Just be yourself and be as open as you can. Never stop going to events or attend Meet Ups of your interests. Do your thing. The people who are compatible with you will find their way to you. They will instantly be attracted to you as much as you are attracted to them. The conversation will flow. Neither of you will feel that it’s hard work to spend time together. It might take a while until you find those people – new best friends and a mate for life – but when you do, you will know it. It’s not hard work. So, just do your thing and be yourself.


 

7. Take of leap of faith in yourself

It can be scary to feel like we have nothing or no one to rely on but ourselves. But if you have a dream, whatever that may be, you cannot rely on someone else but yourself to make that come true. The bigger our dreams are, the scarier it seems to take a leap of faith in ourselves and jump. If you have never achieved anything in your life, it can be very hard to take a big jump. However, starting with small steps, you will slowly gain self-confidence and self-esteem. And one day, you will be ready to take a big jump.

For me, it started with applying for smaller competitions. However, the first big jump I had to make was moving to Australia on my own. It was scary. I didn’t know anyone. However, with my independent nature, I did not have a hard time moving somewhere on my own. The bigger jump I had to make was in convincing myself that I could achieve anything I wanted to achieve. I decided to be a club promoter. As a foreigner, that was probably the most foolish idea. I didn’t know anyone – how would I get people to go through the door so I could get paid for it? That was the first leap of faith I took in myself, in taking initiative and making things happen. I took that challenge and found a way to make myself become well-known in the area at the time. That success led me to transition into Australia smoothly. My life became extremely exciting for a few years. Most importantly, it was the first step I took where I took a leap of faith in myself and I made it. I then knew that if I wanted something to happen, I had no one else to count on but myself – I had to believe in myself and trust in my own ability to make it come true.

The second jump I made was to become a writer. For anyone who has always wanted to write “publicly” but has only just started, or still hasn’t started yet, you know how hard it is to actually start your first official blog post, pouring your heart and brain out without the fear of being judged. That’s right. We are all scared of being judged, and that’s the fear most artists face. I always dreamed of becoming a writer. As a child, I used to write novels and pass them around to my classmates to read. I used to write stories and submit them to comic books. As I got older, I became busier with school and didn’t have time to write novels or poetry anymore. However, I still enjoyed writing essays – I really did. And only about three years ago, when I first started writing my own content instead of just sharing other people’s quotes, I dreamed of one day becoming a writer with articles published in big publications. To be honest, I didn’t think I would make it. But when I have a goal in mind, I like to strategically think about how I can reach that goal. So when I decided to become a writer, I spent time crafting my writing skills. I researched how I could have my articles published in big publications and took another leap of faith in myself. what else did I have to lose? I could just try again and again until I succeeded.

The third jump was when I decided to invest money in my current business, The Happiness Planner. I have always loved stationery, design, and branding, but somehow I was never sure how I was going to make my dreams come true. My blog has given birth to the idea of The Happiness Planner. I knew there was something missing in the market and I was sure there was a demand for it. I started doing some research, designed the pages, and took a leap of faith in myself by investing in it. After achieving smaller milestones in my life, I now believe that I can achieve anything I set my mind to and give it all I’ve got. The sale has been great so far and I’m even more excited about how I can expand the product line and inspire more people with this beautiful unique stationery line that focuses on self-development.

So here’s the advice I’d like to give to my younger self:

Take a leap of faith in yourself. You’ve got nothing to lose but everything to gain. If you fail, you’ll become smarter, If you succeed, you’ll gain even more self-confidence and the emotional and financial rewards. You’ll never know the limit of how much you can achieve until you take a leap of faith in yourself and try. Keep your focus right. Invest in yourself. Accelerate your learning curve. See life as a progressive journey. And you’ll most certainly achieve anything you set your mind to.

Mo Seetubtim

Mo Seetubtim

Founder of The Happiness Planner