40 Things Successful Individuals Wish They Could Tell Their Younger Self

Don’t leave vacation days unused

“Ever since I decided to be a lawyer, I pursued that goal with total dedication. But looking back on it, I wish I had given myself a bit of a break. I would tell my younger self to not worry so much about climbing the professional ladder so fast. As long as you stay true to your core values and strive to do the best work possible with good intentions then your work will speak for itself and you will be successful. Make time for things outside of work—use every single one of your vacation days! Go on your honeymoon! Work will always be there when you get back.” —Nikki Borchardt Campbell, JD, attorney and Executive Director of the National American Indian Court Judges Association, Paiute and Ute Indian Tribes

It’s not about weight, it’s about health

“Growing up, I was a nationally ranked equestrian, so as an athlete who was constantly competing, I was focused on riding rather than what I was putting in my body. But that didn’t mean I had healthy eating habits. And when I went out on my own that came back to haunt me. Moving to Los Angeles alone at 17 led to anxiety, and I let poor food habits comfort me. Yo-yoing between 60- to 80-pound gains, I tried every fad diet out there and while I did lose some weight, it wasn’t in a healthy way. Finally, I decided I needed to get healthy, not skinny. I made a commitment to myself to stop worrying so much about the scale and learn what my body really needs to be healthy and happy. I learned everything I could about fitness and nutrition. Over time I not only lost the extra weight but I was healthier mentally and physically. I wish I could tell my younger self to stop worrying about how others viewed me and focus on what I wanted and needed to feel my best.” —Teddi Mellencamp, co-star of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and founder of All In, a health and wellness company. For more ideas, try these 53 brilliant health tricks you’ll want to make into habits.

Quit tanning

“As a teenager, I desperately wanted a golden tan but as a pale blonde, that wasn’t going to happen naturally. So I did what lots of girls my age did: I would lay out in the sun for hours and used indoor tanning beds regularly—my friend even had one in her house that we both used at least once a week. We just wanted a ‘healthy glow,’ a phrase that makes me want to scream because now I’ve had melanoma not just once but twice. Now I know that tanning beds are one of the biggest risks for all skin cancers, including melanoma, but back then I didn’t have a clue. I just wanted to be ‘beautiful.’ Through the grace of God and excellent doctors, I’m fine now but I wish I could go back and warn my younger self to skip tanning—it’s not worth the risks!” —Lacey Adams, wife of U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams and advocate for skin cancer awareness

Spend your money on experiences, not things

“One thing I’ve learned through my own experiences and through helping my clients is that memories are far more important than things. Growing up, like a lot of young adults, I wanted all the fun gadgets and nice clothes my friends had but then I had a life-changing experience when I was hit and nearly killed by a drunk driver. Nearly dying helped me realize the true meaning of life and the importance of time. I wish I could tell myself to spend money on experiences and live as a minimalist in regards to stuff. Things break and get lost, we sell them for pennies on the dollar, yet time is something we can never get back, and memories last a lifetime.” —Dawn Burnett, CSA, therapist, divorce coach and author

Listen to your intuition

“From a young age, we are often taught to listen to others and prioritize their opinions over our own. But I’ve learned through decades of being a successful businesswoman that no one knows me better than me. I’d tell my younger self to listen to her own instincts and intuition, go with her gut. It’s still important to use your head when making decisions but don’t discount the feelings in your heart. Then I’d tell her that once she’s decided on what’s best for her, to pursue that dream with passion guts, grit, gumption, and, most importantly, grace.” —Judi Sheppard Missett, Founder and CEO of Jazzercise

Procrastination is your biggest enemy

“When I was younger I believed that I did my best work under pressure—what a joke! In reality, I was using this thinking as an excuse to delay important, meaningful work in exchange for the dopamine hit that comes from checking less important things off my to-do list. If I could go back, I’d tell my younger self to schedule distraction-free, focused time on the most critical priorities and hold it sacred. This means no email, no phone, and definitely no multitasking. Block this time as early as possible in your day. Another trick I’d tell myself is to set deadlines far ahead of the actual due date—then enjoy the sense of satisfaction that comes from getting the most important things done early and done well.” —Cameron Hill, business coach and Client Partner for FranklinCovey. Here are more secrets to excel at your job.

Make exercise a priority

“I would tell my younger self to start practicing yoga. I wasn’t super into fitness growing up, it all seemed too intense. But as an adult, I’ve discovered the power of exercise, as much for my mental health as my physical health. I first started going to yoga classes at a local gym to get more flexible but I was surprised to discover that after each class not only was I more limber but I felt a sense of peace and tranquility. I have a stressful job, and going to a yoga class at the end of my day shifted my mood from intense to relaxed. Soon I began craving these yoga classes. I began looking forward to ‘me time’ when all the problems of the world ceased to exist. I just wish I’d discovered it sooner!” —Milana Perepyolkina, author of Dark Chocolate for the Soul: Turning a Bitter Life into a Sweet Life No Matter What Happens to You

Map out a five-year plan

“I would tell my younger self to have a 5-year plan before graduating high school because I learned the hard way that if you don’t have a plan to follow, you end up going nowhere. The first year after graduation, I basically did nothing. I didn’t know what I wanted for a career, so I ended up working as a custodian for elementary schools. I discovered that this definitely wasn’t what I wanted so I decided to go to college and made a five-year plan to help me accomplish that goal. All the universities I applied to turned me down so I went to community college instead. I’m doing great now but not being prepared meant I got slapped in the face with reality and ended up wasting a lot of time.” —LaQuan “Brydell Cocky” Wilson, comedian, actor, and social media personality

You have to fail before you can succeed

“I started out as an Uber driver. Today I own my own company, Ridester, a ridesharing information company. For people who only know me as I am today, it might seem like I had an easy career path. It was anything but. I had to go through a lot of difficult times and failed businesses before I found the one that took off. But I didn’t succeed in spite of those failures, I succeeded because of them. I wish I could tell my younger self not to be afraid of failing and to embrace it. You have to experience failure and rejection because that’s how you learn and improve. Failure is an inevitable part of life and your career.” —Brett Helling, serial entrepreneur and CEO of Ridester

Start saving for your retirement as early as you can

“The biggest thing I wish I could go back and tell my younger self is to max out my 401k contribution starting when I was first eligible. Lots of people will tell you to contribute the amount your employer will match but no one told me I could—and should—contribute more than that. So, for years, I contributed just 5 percent of my salary. Of course, any amount put in a retirement account is great but I could have been saving much more money! It’s hard to think about retirement when you’re young and first starting your career but that’s actually the best time to think about it because you can start saving more earlier.” —Robert Farrington, financial expert and founder of The College Investor. In addition, check out these 9 common retirement mistakes people make.

Accepting help doesn’t mean you’re weak

“A common mistake I’ve noticed most entrepreneurs, including myself, have made at the beginning of their business set-up is trying to do everything ourselves. When I launched my company I couldn’t afford the luxury of hiring experts and paying for their services. It helped my business but the long sleepless nights took a toll on my personal life. Plus it made me rigid; I’d gotten used to doing things in a certain way and I had to learn that may not always be the best way. Connecting with other experts and accepting help only makes you and your business stronger.” —Rune Sovndahl, CEO and co-founder of Fantastic Services

It’s OK to be selfish sometimes

“I would tell my younger self that it’s important to be a little selfish. It’s great to be generous and compassionate and help others, but make sure to take care of yourself first. Meeting your mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical needs are of utmost importance. Before you assist others, you must first look after yourself because you can only reproduce what is already produced in you. In essence, you can only give what you already have, and your input determines your output. Remember: blessed people bless people; healed people heal people; inspired people inspire people; and educated people educate people.” —Damon DaRil Nailer, life coach, author and educator

Cut out toxic relationships

“Something I wish I’d known when I was younger is how much negative people will drain your energy and time—and those are limited resources so you should save them for the stuff that’s really important to you and will help you grow. I’d tell myself to stop hanging around people who are negative, waste time complaining instead of trying to change, or pull others down. It can be hard to cut ties, especially if that person has been in your life for a long time, but cutting out toxic relationships is one of the best things you can do for yourself.” —Vid Lamonté Buggs Jr., athlete, entrepreneur, and author

School isn’t the end of your education

“Like a lot of kids, I couldn’t wait to be done with school and start ‘real’ life! It didn’t take long before I realized that finishing formal school was not the end of my education. I wish I could tell my younger self that you will be a student for the rest of your life so never stop learning new things. The best part of this is that you get to learn stuff you’re really interested in, and the grades don’t matter anymore. Be a sponge for knowledge and learn now to enjoy the learning process.” —Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls. These educational quotes can inspire a love of learning.

Don’t let being in a relationship make you forget yourself

“I would tell my younger self that within a marriage it is important to maintain independence and to continue to be an individual. I think too many people lose their sense of self which they later regret because they have missed out on friendships, experiences, careers, and interests to be part of a couple. While it is wonderful to be in a marriage, I believe it is also crucial to preserve a sense a self within a marriage.” —Kari H. Lichtenstein, founding partner of Stutman, Stutman & Lichtenstein, an NYC-based matrimonial law firm

Be forgiving of yourself and others

“I’m a firm believer that you only have 100 percent to give every day, not 110 percent. Some days I am 80 percent ‘worker,’ 10 percent ‘healthy eater,’ and 9 percent ‘friend,’ with only 1 percent left over for ‘wife.’ But other days I’m 90 percent ‘wife.’ I wish I could tell my younger self that you just can’t be everything to everyone, every single day! You’ll burn out. I’ve learned to forgive myself on the days my percentages are unbalanced and to be forgiving of others as well.” —Keltie Knight, “Entertainment Tonight” correspondent and host of “The Ladygang” on E! 

Being busy isn’t an accomplishment

“This world glorifies being busy and has a narrow definition of success, so it becomes all too easy to prioritize everything else. We see extreme self-sacrifice as a badge of honor. As a mother and entrepreneur, I’ve totally fallen into this trap in the past, thinking that I need to put everyone else’s needs first. So I would tell my younger self to always make time for those things that bring me the most joy, whether that’s a hobby or a relationship or something else. In fact, I see my current business as a gift to my younger self and to other women to not be afraid to put their happiness first. —Carla Birnberg, CEO and Founder of Your Box Box

You’re beautiful the way you are

“Growing up doing competitive dance, I was always judged on my performances. Often, judgment about my body type and physique went hand in hand with that. If I could, I would go back to the first time I ever felt bad about myself because of what others said about my body, and tell myself that their opinions don’t matter. The only person who should have an opinion about your body is you. If you define your beauty by other people’s standards you’ll never feel good enough, but if you learn to love yourself, you can’t go wrong.” —Cheryl Burke, professional dancer on “Dancing With The Stars”

One bad decision will not ruin your life (even if it feels like at the time)

“If there’s one piece of advice I’d give the younger me it would be to understand that success in life is about your body of choices as opposed to one good or bad one. In this day of digital everything, it can feel like everyone is watching you and one wrong move can derail the entire trajectory of your life—but in reality, actions are cumulative. I learned this the hard way when some pictures I thought were private ended up online, sparking a national controversy, humiliation, and cyber-bullying. I thought I was finished. But then I found the strength to rise above it and fight back. I found that mistakes can force you to make other choices that can open up bigger opportunities. On the other hand, one “good” choice, does not mean “good” is here to stay. It takes mindful and constant decision making, failures, and achievements, to acquire overall success and happiness. This means lamenting or celebrating any one choice as if it is the ‘end all or be all’—like I’ve done too many times in my life—is a waste of energy and time.” —Catherine Bosley, veteran TV anchor and reporter and TEDx speaker

Try new things, especially if you think you won’t like them

“If I could go back in time to my younger self, I would demand that I step outside of my comfort zone more often! I would encourage myself to take part in activities and adventures that my initial reaction is to avoid. Eat new foods! Travel to different countries! Meet people different than yourself! During the times I’ve felt the most discomfort, I ended up learning the most. I was able to absorb the best lessons and knowledge from a different perspective. This is why traveling is so important, it helps you see and learn from an unknown, and also appreciate what you’ve taken for granted previously. ” —Shervin Roohparvar, tech entrepreneur, producer and TV personality on Bravo TV’s Shahs of Sunset.

Original Article in Reader’s Digest