We don’t exactly get handed a manual when we hit preschool (or whatever age you learned to read at), which instructs us on how to make the right life choices.
Sure, we learn math, some basic principles of science (the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell) and perhaps read a few classic novels. Pride and Prejudice ‘til your eyeballs bleed.
But 1, No one teaches about taxes, and 2, no one teaches us how to avoid life’s biggest pitfalls.
Consequently, most of us find ourselves navigating life’s complex maze through a process of trial and error. And if you’re like most people (myself included), it’s mostly error.
And yes, we hear a load of quotes about how you only regret the choices you didn’t take.
But I at least sure do feel a tinge of shame and great for a great many of the decisions I’ve made – as much as they’ve taught me.
One of the problems is that our society often values immediate gratification over long-term benefits.
We’re told to seize the day – carpe diem and all that. But, seldom are we taught to think about the impact of our present choices on our future selves.
Or otherwise known as the butterfly effect.
Young people in particular are encouraged to live fast and fearlessly; often overlooking the potential long-term consequences of their actions.
And I’m not trying to sound boring and tell you not to get on the back of that man’s motorbike (just please wear a helmet…), or go to that party, but this mentality of short term fun trumping long term success does often cause issues.
So, let’s put a stop to that.
There are many things you might look back on in 10 years and regret, and many choices you now regret but will then have forgotten.
Nonetheless, let’s explore 8 choices you can make now to help your future self.
1) Choosing not to invest in yourself
Live in the moment, sure, but also put effort into your health, wellbeing, and knowledge.
Consider yourself like a piggy bank. Or an actual investment account.
Investing in oneself comes in many forms – it could be pursuing further education and doing late night online courses, attending interesting talks or theater shows you otherwise wouldn’t even consider, or even taking the time to read books that broaden your perspective.
And it also involves taking care of your health.
This one is key.
Because I know Papa John’s is great after a night out and pot noodles are cheap, but adopting a balanced diet will do so much for not just your body but also your mind.
Increasing research shows that the gut-brain connection shows that a healthier diet leads to improved mood and a decreased risk of mental health issues such as anxiety.
So, it’s not just about nurturing your body, but also your mind.
And yes, exercising can suck. Almost everyone would rather sloth out on the sofa than run in the rain, but your body will thank you for it in the long term.
Choosing not to invest in yourself now may seem like the easy route. It’s far more enjoyable to be out partying and drinking than it is to study, but it’s one that leads to stagnation and regret.
And a decade on, you’ll look back with regret at the lost opportunities for growth; whether your fitness, your wellbeing, or your education.
2) Ignoring your mental health
Our capacity to acknowledge and prioritize mental health is one the rise, but it still has a long way to go before it becomes an accepted worldwide priority.
Many still believe that prioritizing mental health is a sign of weakness.
Going to therapy or taking antidepressants labels you as lazy or otherwise blacklists you.
However, those who recognize the importance of mental health understand that it’s not about weakness in the slightest.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite – catering to your own mental health (especially when your family frowns upon it) takes such courage and independence.
And ignoring your mental health involves suppressing emotions, avoiding professional help when required, and staying in toxic environments that breed stress and negativity.
World renowned physician Gabor Maté has linked this repression to the actual manifestation of lifelong physical illnesses and autoimmune conditions.
So, mental self-care means practices like mindfulness and meditation that help maintain emotional regulation and mental balance.
And choosing to ignore your mental health might seem convenient now and the easy option when many elements of society still label it as for the weak (plus, therapy is pretty expensive), but it’s a path that leads to unmanageable stress, anxiety, or even depression in the future.
By choosing to ignore your mental health now, you’re setting your future self up for a struggle that might have been prevented with earlier intervention and care.
And I’m not saying doing therapy now will mean you’re set for life.
But who knows – ten years down the line, you might regret not prioritizing your mental well-being, and learning the tools to cope with the ups and downs life throws at you.
3) Living beyond your means
Living in the moment!
Yachts, Dom Perignon, Louboutins, Villas…
(If you’re really throwing away the big bucks.)
People who consistently live beyond their means often consider budgeting as a sign of being boring and not enjoying the present.
And yes – live in the present. It’s a quote and mantra we are hounded by and should follow.
But in doing so, think also of future you.
Does future you want to be living in a cardboard box, unable to pay off the costs of maintaining a yacht?
Many perceive an extravagant lifestyle as a status symbol; hence why they frequently indulge in unnecessary expenses to show off, in the process accumulating a whole load of debt.
What these individuals fail to realize is that living within one’s means is not about depriving yourself – it’s about learning the tools of financial discipline, and planning for a secure future.
And it’s not just blowing your budget on a yacht. Living beyond your means can also involve the essential practice of saving and investing, and learning how to grocery shop effectively and plan for bills and invoices.
Sure, choosing to live beyond your means might seem attractive now; but it’s a one-way street to financial stress and instability in the future.
And a decade on from excessive spending, you might regret not having saved enough or having accumulated unnecessary debt when you want to get a mortgage, or start a family, or start a new degree.
4) Settling for less in relationships
“We accept the love we think we deserve”, by Stephen Chbosky. One of my all time favorite quotes.
Many of us settle for less in relationships – in romance, friendship, family life, and professionally – because we think we are worth no more than that.
Settling for less involves staying in relationships where respect, honesty, and mutual support are missing.
It also includes tolerating toxic behavior and not standing up for oneself, and often perpetuates a cycle whereby the worse you’re treated, the lower your self-worth, the lower your standards.
Sounds like hell, right?
Choosing to settle for less now might seem easier than confronting the issue or being alone – the greatest fear of all!
Hello lonely cat-lady future.
However, settling for unfulfilling relationships is a path that leads to unhappiness and regret.
Yes, you might feel a bit less lonely temporarily, but long-term, it won’t cut it.
And ten years from now, you’ll probably wish you had stood up for what you truly deserved.
5) Not valuing time
When you’re young, time seems like an endless resource.
You believe that you have all the time in the world, often wasting precious hours on unproductive activities or procrastination.
However, those who understand the value of time or now have limited time of their own know that it’s not limitless – it’s the one thing you can never get back once it’s gone.
Not valuing time involves spending countless hours on mindless social media scrolling, binge-watching shows, or zoning out and biting your nails.
This also means neglecting to set aside time for meaningful activities mentioned in the first point; learning a new skill, spending time with loved ones, or exercising.
Choosing not to value your time now might seem inconsequential, but trust me: you’ll regret it down the line/
Studies are showing that younger generations will spend more than a decade on their phones.
Another showed an average of 34 years of overall screen time per lifetime.
Do you really want to be lying on your deathbed (not to be morbid) and have only memories of minecraft?
So start today.
Value your time and make the most of it – it’s the one resource you can’t renew.
6) Avoiding difficult conversations
Arguments! How scary!
Better duck and cover, your instinct says…
Many people believe that avoiding conflict helps preserve relationships and ensures harmony.
But without those difficult conversations comes the opportunity to learn how to resolve conflict and move on from it.
Conflict avoidance isn’t about peacekeeping and doesn’t lead to the healthiest of relationships at all.
In fact, it can often be detrimental to developing better communication skills and understanding perspectives that other people try to share.
Plus, if you never argue or disagree and then make up, you harbor this lingering resentment which grows from a tiny weed into a huge, monstrous plant and soon eats you all up.
Choosing to avoid difficult conversations now might seem easier, but it’s a path that leads to fractured relationships and regret for future-you.
Ten years from now, you might wish you had been more open and assertive – to develop those skills needed to navigate conflict resolution, and to grow the confidence to say what you actually want to say.
7) Not setting personal boundaries
People-pleasing seems like an easy way to make people like you.
I know, speaking from personal experience.
By believing that always being available and accommodating others’ needs and demands will make you seem likable and kind (even if you are), you’re often neglecting your own needs and boundaries.
And setting and then enforcing those boundaries isn’t about being selfish – it’s about self-preservation and respect.
Not setting personal boundaries can involve always saying yes (even if you don’t want to or feasibly can’t), allowing others to overstep or disrespect your personal space, or not voicing your discomfort when someone is insensitive or hurtful towards you.
You start to hate yourself for not saying anything, as well as the other person.
Choosing not to set personal boundaries now might seem like the easier thing to do if you want to have lots of friends and seem kind and selfless, but it’s a path that leads to loss of self-respect and regret down the line.
Because unfortunately, people can sense that lack of self-respect. And like hounds, they will take advantage of it.
So start setting personal boundaries, even if it makes you feel selfish (which it isn’t) – you’ll thank yourself later.
8) Not pursuing your passion
Now, you want to be an artist. Your heart yearns to paint.
But your parents tell you that medicine pays better and is an all-round more respected profession.
So, you go for option B. The safe and parent-approved one.
Many believe that sticking to conventional paths and suppressing their true passions is the safer bet.
But if you have the privilege to do otherwise, take that risk.
Not pursuing your passion can involve committing to a job that drains you, ignoring your creative impulses, or not investing time in what truly makes you happy.
Cue a life where you feel stuck in a rut, and wake up thinking about what could have been…
Sure, it’s risky. But in ten-years-time, who knows where you’ll be. And I bet you’ll regret it if you didn’t at least try.
The decisions we make today significantly impact our future.
Whether it’s investing in yourself, valuing time, or setting personal boundaries, each choice plays a vital role in shaping your future.
Don’t delay until tomorrow or dismiss them altogether, as time flies.
Before you know it, we’ll be in 2033 and you’ll be thinking back and wondering why you didn’t take that risk or invest more in yourself.
So, what choices will you make today that your future self will appreciate?